Aikido for Kids in Carbondale
by Ann O’Brien
Cooperation. Focus. Confidence. As parents, we wish our kids embodied these qualities 100% of the time.
We may feel like broken records. “Remember to share. Give your friend a turn.” Or, we wish the shy ones would stand up for themselves. We may wonder if they’ll ever self-motivate enough to get their homework done, or get out the door on time.
Here in the Roaring Fork Valley, kids ages 5-14 are learning the Japanese martial art of Aikido. Also known as “The Art of Peace,” Aikido teaches them to find harmony in the face of conflict. One student will punch, grab or strike, and the other performs a technique designed to defend him or herself without harming the attacker.
In order to protect both themselves and the attacker (called their “partner” in Aikido), practitioners need to find their own center. It is only with solid posture and presence of mind that we stay calm in the face of an attack. Of course, we don’t actually hurt each other in class, but we use the techniques as opportunities to learn.
Aikido teaches students how to work with strong energy. That punch coming in may represent a friend excited to play just as much as it could a fight. For those who feel shy or easily overwhelmed, discovering we can handle it brings so much more relaxation and confidence!
It teaches assertiveness. For those afraid to “attack” or put ourselves out there in life, it shows us that it’s safe to do so. It gives us the opportunity to find joy in connecting with others, sharing more of ourselves.
To the observer, Aikido looks a bit like dancing. This is because we learn to blend with whatever comes our way, rather than run away or fight it head on. A general rule of thumb in Aikido is to “get off the line” of attack. In practice, that may look like simply stepping a few inches to the side, still facing your partner yet not colliding head-on. This is what allows us to connect and find creative solutions.
Because Aikido comes from Japan, it also includes a lot of bowing and other traditional elements. Kids seem to enjoy the ritual, and it teaches respect in a way that Western culture sometimes forgets.
Still, classes are not all serious! Younger kids classes also include games that teach awareness, balance, timing, and other relevant skills. We keep it fun and let them burn some energy!
Roaring Fork Aikikai offers kids classes for ages 5-14 on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Carbondale. New students welcome anytime; 1st class FREE. For more information visit https://www.rfaikikai.com/kids/.