This is an except from an interview with Ken Ota Sensei, originally published online by John Sing on August 30, 2001.
Q: Sensei, what is the importance of teaching Aikido to Children?
Ota Sensei: In today’s incredibly fast paced world, a child’s path to growing up represents vast challenges to:
- Become confident
- Become capable
- Build a healthy sense of self-esteem, community
- Develop willingness and ability to help, lead, and teach others
- Appreciation of value of discipline and ability to focus and achieve
- Ability and willingness to work hard to achieve worthy goals
Young minds are like gelatin. We want to put in good things before their minds firm up and harden for adulthood; we must put good principles in their mind before that mind becomes set. Aikido for Children offers a powerful tool to teach these life lessons to our children. Giving them an experience of Aikido blesses them with profound gifts for the future and all the people they will touch…… in ways we’ll never know.
Q: What are your goals for Aikido Children classes?
Ota Sensei: The vital, effective skills that we want to teach our Aikido children is not the techniques themselves; it is what to do BETWEEN the techniques (whether on the mat or off). The techniques are not as important as what happens in the time in between the techniques, just before them, or just after them. On the mat, these between-the-technique skills are
The ability to move, and lead, and always stay just out of reach of their attackers (this produces real skill and effectiveness regardless of size differences)
Constantly sense their surroundings accurately and easily be able to naturally perform quick, effective, spontaneous Aikido movement
Naturally and spontaneously perform Aikido techniques with grace, power, and speed
Do everything in a kind, gentle, yet powerful way
Q: What is in it for the adults that teach the classes?
Ota Sensei: In order to complete your Aikido training, you must be able to powerfully transfer your Aikido skills to children. Teaching Aikido to children is not really about teaching Aikido techniques (although you do that and learn more than you ever dreamed possible about your own technique in the process), it is about you learning about how you appear and who you are as a person and a human being to the most honest people on the planet: young children.
The children will be your ultimate teachers about yourself as a human being. The children will test and prove your knowledge and effectiveness of your Aikido teaching skills and your ability to apply Aikido principles and philosophy to life. Children are honest, they don’t lie; if they like you, if they learn quickly from you. If they don’t, they don’t come back. Koichi Tohei Sensei has said, “Doing 10-man randori is not impressive if no one in your life likes you. When everyone in your life loves you, when you create Loving Harmony everywhere in your life, when children always like you, THAT’S Aikido”.
The children tell it best as to the value, here’s what they have to say:
To complete your own Aikido training, you must give back to others. Someone helped you when you first started. When you start to help others, and especially children, you yourself will then know how well you have learned the lessons that were passed on to you. You will find infinitely pleasurable ways for further refinement.”