Contributed by Michelle Manger Keip
Over 50 people came to the pioneering seminar for exploring ways of teaching Aikido to children, held on April 1 & 2, 2006 in Virginia. Participants came from the east and west, the north and south of the USA, as well as from numerous Aikido associations.
With vision and decision, Aviv Goldsmith Sensei of Aikido in Fredericksburg (VA) designed and orchestrated this exceptional event. Nine sensei offered workshops addressing a range of concerns for Aikido teachers of children including: safety, developmental learning stages, ukemi, warm-ups, games, drills, weapons practice, and ways to work with the very young and teens. Starting off each day with laboratory learning, children of Aikido of Fredericksburg got on the mat for 2 "live" classes. Many of the other workshops had participants jump in and pretend to be kids, an easy invitation for this group of young at heart aikidoka.
Aviv Sensei's preparatory and overnight homework, working breaks and spontaneous sessions for trouble-shooting and focused sharing kept a dynamic momentum going, guiding us to maximize the benefits of the weekend. We did get to kick back without agenda and enjoy a delicious feast at Aviv and Donna Goldsmith's beautiful home on Saturday evening. Aviv Sensei even had the foresight to ask for volunteers to write articles for leading Aikido websites. Hence, the piece you're reading now is only one of several points of view available online, each endeavoring to express the rich inspiration of this landmark event.
For our closing circle we were asked to share concisely about the value of our experience and our vision for the future. I was impressed by how little repetition followed. The diversity of our perspectives reflected the climate of creativity and respect we had generated together. The joys expressed could stand alone as an inspiring article on teaching Aikido to kids.
Sitting in the circle and listening to each person speak from heart and hara about the gifts received, I felt a vibrant communion of caring and competence in the room. It is said "It takes a village to raise a child". Like new parents holding a fussy baby, many of us came to the weekend looking for support and training in the frontier territory of teaching Aikido to children. We found it in each other. Now we all know that this "child" is alive and well and has a loving extended family that is committed to the long path ahead. May we continue to empower each other and our children to practice the Art of Peace.
What's next? Aviv Sensei says he plans to hold another such seminar in 2 years. Stay tuned at www.gashuku.net. Here on the west coast, many Aikido teachers of children are eager to grow a network for co-creating seminars, camps, curriculum etc. If you're interested in this, contact Robert Kent at Aikido Kids. For info on my activity book for ages 4 to 8, SHAPE, inspired by Aikido, please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org