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Play and Practice

by Dash (age 12, 5th kyu) and John (Dash’s dad)

Dash has been studying Aikido since he was six years old. He has happily set aside the practice time to devote to the classes at the dojo twice or sometimes three times a week. He has really enjoyed his training and has developed in many ways beyond his ever increasing Aikido skills.

The children’s classes that he began with were full of fun and easily accessible movements that kept him interested and enjoying each lesson.  Dash says of his early sessions, “The teachers in the kids classes were really great with the play and practice ratio. It was exciting and fun to join the Aikido classes. At the beginning I didn’t always want to come to class but by the end of each class, I was always glad that I had. I had learned new things and it was great practicing new techniques.”

This spirit of learning and playfulness in classes kept him coming back year after year. The instructors obviously realize that incorporating games and play into certain aspects of Aikido encourages the young students to be more engaged and interested.

Of course, it is not all just fun and games. The sense of respect, dignity, fairness and grace that is inherent in the study of Aikido has become a part of Dash’s character and deportment.

Each instructor has his or her own approach to teaching a class but in every case there is a high degree of care, respect and dedication shown to every student. The calibre of the teaching is consistently excellent. The classes progress from simple warm ups and basic techniques to more complex and intricate moves.

Dash continues to flourish in this environment and now practices in the adult classes. In the past six years  he has grown steadily in his physical strength, balance, centeredness, coordination and agility. He has also developed his ability to focus and concentrate. Rolling safely with elegance and certainty has helped him with many of the games he plays in the school yard. He has also developed his self confidence; being able to calmly and capably throw adults twice his size has helped with that.

The community at the dojo is really impressive. From the start, Dash was embraced as a member of the community and treated as an equal to the highest ranked members at social events and seminars. Dash recalls, “I have always felt accepted and am never afraid to speak my mind or ask for help in the dojo.” It has definitely helped that the members of the dojo study Aikido seriously but also have a great sense of fun. Holiday parties and potlucks really help to build a connection between the dojo members; the Christmas party White Elephant gift exchange is good example of that.

In the past year, Dash has been attending the adult classes. He has adjusted well to Aikido training without games and play being a part of the sessions. Initially he found it challenging to practice with adults, most of whom were much bigger than him. However, with perseverance and the support of all of his fellow students he has come to really enjoy training with the grown ups. He is now on par in skill level with many of his older classmates, even if he is much younger and smaller. It has further enhanced his ability to stay focussed; he likes to challenge himself by working with older and more experienced partners.  He is treated with respect and openness by his fellow students and says “They seem to like the challenge of having to practice with someone much smaller. It prepares them in case they are ever attacked by a whole bunch of little people!”

Dash looks forward to continuing his Aikido training and further developing his skills, physical ability and confidence.  Thanks to Aikido Shugyo Dojo for providing Dash with a safe and welcoming environment to learn a martial art that promotes diffusing conflicts rather than promoting them.