Category Archives: Children in Martial Arts

Come again?

Growing up in Chester, Pennsylvania during the forties and fifties was really opportunistic. By that I mean gaining insight into a different aspect of life than youngsters experience today. In this era children have most anything they want, not to mention the freedom to try ideas not dreamed of in those days. Also, these same youngsters have several disadvantages such as extreme violence and constant turmoil.

The nice advantages: martial arts training, many more sports than existed then, and I’m not sure if this is a positive or negative, medicines. I’m not sure because there have been claims that we would be stronger with more bacterial resistance when exposed to more germs, rather than taking hundreds of antibiotics. In other words, maybe we could develop a stronger more natural resistance.

The likelihood that we may study martial arts from a very young age is extraordinary. Even when I was a teen these arts were not readily available. Of course, much of this has been abused in the last several years, just as this society has abused cell phones. So, what do I mean by abuse? With cell phones, many do not realize the danger they put others in when talking while driving, nor do they consider cell phone rudeness while out in public. In the case of martial arts, it is the 7 or 8 year old black belt. Never mind the understanding of black belt being the beginning of serious study. Of course this problem rests with instructors, not parents. But the almighty dollar speaks very loud.

I made many mistakes as a young instructor. Of the two dozen or so black belt students I produced in Quiet Storm, two were teenagers. One was fourteen and one was fifteen. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m very proud of how those young men turned out. Both are now fine upstanding family men and the younger of the two is a renown professional jazz drummer. I still think they were too young even though they turned out okay. Too much rank can put too much pressure on youngsters.

What happens when children are given too much responsibility at an early age? First of all they lose their childhood. Second, they can suffer burnout, which is what happened with a current Delaware female basketball star when she went to college this year. Or they can become difficult to deal with as tyrants later on. Parents, as well as teachers must give the child proper dosages of responsibility at correct intervals if we want him or her to grow up tall and strong. Too many activities, too many video games, too much television and yes, sometimes too much (school) homework can be detrimental to their health and growth. What goes around, comes around. Good life-lessons can be difficult to comprehend sometimes. Did you ask how difficult? How and when and where did you get your life skills?

If you think I’m off-base, take a close look at the present condition of our society. Multiple mass shootings in schools, workplaces and sometimes in the home. Rebellion and lack of parental respect runs rampart throughout the land. And these examples are slowly spreading around the world. Disciplined martial arts training may be the answer. Correct parenting skills need to be taught and practiced while dropping this crazy idea of being a pal to your child. Being a friend to your child is one thing, being a pal is not the same thing. Our children are screaming out for limits and discipline.

The same thing is true of a good teacher, whether martial or academic; he or she may not get too familiar with the student. You gain a strong insight and learn what turns them on and off and use it, but a little distance is essential to learning. Do you have another idea?

Aikido: From a Child’s Perspective

This morning I received an email from the parent of one of my young students. He is the son of Don Eastburn, 2nd dan. This young man had a homework assignment. His name is will not be listed here but he is a 6th grade student and wrote a report on his interpretation, or rather I should say his understanding of Kokikai Aikido. I copied his paper just as he wrote it and I quote:

“Aikido is a martial art based on defensive rather than offensive principles. Kokikai, a form of Aikido was founded by Shuji Maruyama Sensei in the mid-1970’s. Kokikai branched off from the art of Aikido that was founded by Morihei Ueshiba in 1942. The predominant philosophy of Kokikai Aikido is minimum effort, maximum effect.

The meaning of Aikido: do stands for method, ai stands for coordinating and ki stands for life force. A person using Aikido would use the energy of his attacker back against the attacker with either throws or pins. the person would not use kicks or punches to attack his opponent.

Kokikai Aikido is a martial art that focuses on defense not attacking. the goal is to reach minimum effort with maximum effect. You can obtain minimum effort by guiding your opponent’s energy into the technique and then guide him into a fall (maximum effect). Aikido is intended to be for any sized individual with any strength level. Even the founder of Kokikai is a smaller man, but he can throw some of the strongest and biggest guys with little or no effort.

Kokikai Aikido was founded by Shuji Maruyama Sensei. Kokikai Aikido is only one form of Aikido and it is practiced all over the world. There are many, many different forms of Aikido there are even other martial arts that are based on Aikido.

When practicing Aikido you learn to defend against all different kinds of attacks. Each kind of attack and defense has its own name. To make the name of a technique, the name of the attack is combined with the name of the defense. For example, tsuki kote-gaeshi: tsuki (pronounced ski) is the attack which is a punch and kote-gaeshi (pronounced cote-ugh-guysh) is the defense which is a throw done by torquing the wrist. Much of an Aikido class is comprised of practicing rolls (to safely protect yourself after a throw) and learning techniques.

Principles are things that you abide by to succeed in life or to succeed in something you are doing. Kokikai Aikido has 4 major principles. The first principle is to keep one point to develop calmness. One point is the center control of your body. It is around and in between your belt belt and your belly button. It is the center of your body where all your power and energy comes from. Everyone has one point. You just need to train it. Basically, the first principle means that when a person is under stress or attack he should go to the center point and draw upon his power to develop calmness and relaxation.

The second principle is progressive relaxation. Progressive relaxation means that while doing anything, a job interview or practicing an Aikido technique for example you should always strive to be relaxed.

The third principle states find correct posture in everything. This principle is very important. It means that you should always have balance in everything that you do. And it also means that you should maintain good posture, for without good posture, you would be very weak and look like the Hunchback of Notre Dame!

The fourth and final principle is also very important. It, along with the other principles, should be applied to your everyday life, not just in the dojo. Develop a positive mind is the fourth principle. It means that you should always have a positive mindset and a positive attitude in everything you do whether it is a 3 page paper about something from Japan or whether you are cooking dinner for the President. Either way, keeping a positive mind will allow you to succeed with any burdens you may have. Plus, if everyone lived by that principle in their lives every day, just think of what the world today would be like. In order to improve the world, start with yourself, and maintain a positive attitude and mindset… Then radiate that positive vibe, that positive energy that positive mind. You will see it is contagious. (Rick Berry).

Aikido is a martial art, but it is not just a martial art. You can practice Aikido not only in the dojo but also in your life. The four principles are four laws to abide by to live a much calmer and easier life.”


Stepping Off the Mat by Rick Berry. 2004. ISBN 0-7414-2075-9



Kokikai News March 2006 Newsletter.

This young man gets it. My mentor once told me that a child sees what he sees without having his mind clouded over by the trappings and add-ons from old, and/or outdated experiences. So I ask you this: Where do you see yourself in five years? Strive to get where this child is now. Why do you practice Aikido? If you expect not to be attacked, why do you train? You can experience a more efficient physical workout in a YMCA or a Gold’s gym.

For me it’s the mental discipline required in avoiding injury while deflecting attacks and experiencing the satisfaction of harmonizing with and neutralizing uke’s aggressive nature. It’s not about winning or losing and not even about competition. When I operate this way it’s not a fight, it’s me dancing life. How I feel is the beginning; how I do is cause for celebration; I am being! Human is secondary and before you claim that my writing is grammatically poor, ponder what I said for about a week. I am being! I AM!