Dear Parents:

Below is information regarding the children's Aikido program offered at Deep River Aikikai.  Its purpose is to clarify exactly what the children's Aikido program encompasses.  Please take some time to familiarize yourself with this information.  I believe that it will shed some light on the general direction and philosophy of our program.

The mission of this school (dojo), with regards to the children's program, is the qualitative development of each individual child through Aikido practice.  Over the years, I have been witness to the many positive effects of Aikido training.  In the long term, it is truly life-enhancing. This is due to the process-oriented nature of the style in which I teach and train., which emphasizes steady and patient efforts over time.  Therefore, my hope is that you will see positive changes in your child over the months and/or years of training.

Below are sections containing:

Children's Program Essentials
Etiquette for Children
Ranking and Testing
Children's Test Requirements
Children's Aikido Glossary

I realize that this is a lot of information, but I believe you will find it helpful in guiding your child in their training.  If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Thanks for your support!

Frank A. Apodaca, Jr.

Childrens' Program Essentials

The childrens' program is taught by the Chief Instructor and Assistants at all classes, and is open to children 8 years of age and older.

This is an Aikido class.  It is designed to enhance natural physical coordination, flexibility and strength.  Based on Aikido principles of the circle, triangle and square, exercises and techniques work to coordinate a child's body, mind and spirit.  This challenges children into more dynamic movements.  They learn the power of movement through the Martial Art of Aikido.  Childrens' rank guidelines are here.

Parents, I encourage you to join class in order to have an opportunity to experience Aikido with your child, limited to two times per month. Please inform me prior to the day of class you wish to attend, and wear loose fitting clothing.  Also, remember that during class it is important for your child to take direction from the instructor.  Facilitate this process by allowing the instructor to correct any misbehavior. Thank you for your consideration!

Etiquette for Children

Please bow properly in the dojo.  It is a symbol of respect and thanks.  Bow at the following times:
    Entering and leaving the dojo
    Stepping on and off the mat
    At the beginning and end of class
    Asking or thanking a teacher for instruction
    Asking or thanking a partner for practicing

Be respectful of your teacher and parents.  They are at the dojo to help you enjoy class and to learn.

Be respectful of your training partner.  You are all at the dojo to help each other train.

If you are late to class, stay by the side of the mat until the teacher tells you to join the class.

Raise your hand if you need to ask a question or talk.

Do not leave the mat during class without asking the teacher first.

Achieving a belt rank means that you must be a good example, and therefore be helpful to junior students.  This will help them and you learn together.

When running on the mat, look where you are going in order to not run into others.

Do not lay on the mat - so others won't fall or step on you.

Ranking and Testing

Our childrens' belt system befings at 10th Kyu (white belt rank) and continues through 1st Kyu.  Children receive colored belts or ranks by pasing periodic tests with specific techniques and other requirements.  These test opportunities are held three to four times a year. The following is a breakdown of our belt system:

A child is eligible to test after satisfying the following requirements:

1. Must have achieved a minimum of 30 practice hours.
2. Must possess physical knowledge of the required techniques by having them memorized.  A list of techniques by rank is avaiable here.
3. Must be familiar with certain vocabulary, comparable to their level of practice.
4. Must be familiar with this school's etiquette guidelines.

A child's ability and development are primary considerations.  These factors and others such as class participation and attitude will be indicators as to a child's readiness for their next stage.

We realize that this is a lot of information to learn.  Please keep in mind that the children are assisted in preparation for tests, and made familiar with the above information throughout class times; specifically during the technical period of the class.  This program is supportive and encouraging, particularly in the early stages of ranking so that the children gain a sense of confidence and self-esteem.

The childrens' progress and development in Aikido is very important to us.  My assistants and I are committed to helping the children learn, enjoy and benefit from classes as much as possilbe.  Ultimately, we want each child to understand and demonstrate their belt requirements at their personal best level.  I stress the importance of attending class on a regular basis.

Generally, classes are divided into four sections:

Class begins with a few minutes of silence, called "quiet time", then:
1. 15 minutes of warm-up exercises and stretches for flexibility.
2. 15 minutes of "Animals," or conditioning exercises for strenght and balance.
3. 20 minutes of technical Aikido practice from the requirements sheets.  Quiet must be oberved during this time in order to maintain the childrens' focus.
4. Remaining minutes playing a movement game or Aikido-related game.
Class ends with a few minutes of "quiet time."

Our method of advancement is based on a process-oriented way of teaching, which means that a greater emphasis is placed on the process of learning, enjoying and benefitting from practicing a martial discipline.  The student, then, progresses from one level to the next by showing an internal grasp of Aikido techniques.  Such internal knowledge expressed by their movement is the real indicator of progression.

My assistants and I work patiently with the children so that over time they begin to understand how to move circularly - which is characteristic of Aikido movements.  Aikido does have defensive and offensive strikes (punches and kicks).  First, however, the student learns defensive movements from basic grabbing attacks.  As the children advance to the upper childrens' level belts (6th Kyu and above), they begin to learn defenses from striking attacks.  In addition, the defenses at this level have the potential to cause harm.  As a professional Aikido teacher and their instructor, it is my job to study and watch over the physical development of all the students and to know when and how to graduate them to the next level, and to keep the practice safe.

Upper level childrens' techniques require that the child student demonstrate a level of sensitivity, proficiency and a caring attitude for their fellow practice partners.  Only at this point will my assistants and I begin to instruct students in upper level techniques.

As children reach the age of 11 or 12, they will ofter naturally show the ability to understand more quickly due to maturing mentality.  The policy at this school is that if students have attained the upper childrens' belt levels, and are ready for our young adult / beginners' adult program, then they will be awarded 5th Kyu adult rank and continue from there.  This honorary promotion is given because of the experience and achievements made in the childrens' program.  The young student will begin in the young adult program at an advanced rate and therefore be eligible for on-the-spot promotions, or may well be ready for their next adult level test at an earlier time.  The expectation at this level is to develop and progress at a young adult rate rather than by childrens' standards.  A student's progress, then, depends on their motivation and determination to continue practicing and studying on a regular basis.

Glossary for Children

This is a broad spectrum of terms that the child Aikidoist will come to understand over a consistent training time span.  It is recommended that parents aid their children in reviewing new words learned during class time.

Dojo -A school and place to learn about your mind, body and spirit through the martial art of Aikido.

O-Sensei - Morihei Ueshiba, founder of Aikido
Sensei - The teacher.  The word literally means "the one who is born before," which regards the transmission of an art or craft through physical means from generation to generation.
Nage - The defender.  The person who throws.
Uke - The attacker.  The person who falls.
Sempai - Senior student.
Kohai - Junior student.

Waza - technique
Tachi-waza - techniques done from a standing position
Swari-waza - techniques done from a kneeling position
Seiza - sitting position

Hanmi - triangular stance
Gyaku-hanmi - left-to-right on right-to-left ("toe to toe")
Ai-hanmi - right-to-tight or left-to-left ("cris-cross")

Body Movement / Footwork
Irimi - entering, forward movement
Tenkan - turning, pivoting on front foot
Omote - movement in front
Ura - movement behind
Kaiten - rotate ("wheel")
Uchi - inside
Soto - outside
Ushiro - behind
Ukemi - protective falling and following

Dori - grab
Katate-dori - one-hand grab
Kata-dori - shoulder grab
Ryote-dori - two hand grab (grab both wrists)
Morote-dori - grab one forearm with both hands
Shomen-uchi - strike from the top to the center of the head
Yokomen-uchi - strike from the side to the side of the head (temple)
Tsuki - punch

Ai - blending, harmony
Ki - energy, spirit, breath
Do - path, way
Gi - dojo practice uniform
Hakama - black or blue split pants worn over gi pants
Kyu - basic level, white belt ranks
Dan - black belt ranks
O-negai-shimasu - "please practice with me"
Domo-arigato-gozai-mashita - "thank you very much"
Ichi - one
Ni - two
San - three
Shi - four
Go - five
Roku - six
Shichi - seven
Hachi - eight
Ku - nine
Ju - ten