Two highly experienced, senior instructors manage and team teach the kids' classes, providing both group training and individual instruction. In addition, there are adult assistant instructors to maintain an optimum student teacher ratio during the Saturday classes with the highest attendance. Instructors often pair up with kids to teach, answer questions and give encouragement. The lead instructor ensures that the teaching team is focused on the same objectives, direction and needs of the group and individual students.
During each class students train with the whole group, in smaller groups, and in pairs. In Aikido partners never do any sparring. Instead, they take turns throwing and falling. Students work to improve their own Aikido. At the same time they help their partners do their best throws and falls. Because Aikido is never competitive, the training is purely for personal development. The physical training develops the physical, social and intellectual aspects of each student and integrates mind and body. The goal is to become one's self. The kids come to understand this through the physical training, but the most important reason for kids to do Aikido is to enjoy it!
Different ages and levels train together, often with the more experienced children ( senpai ) helping the younger or less experienced ones ( kohai ). The mix of ages and children helping each other creates a warm family feeling and a secure environment for learning. The senpai are proud of their contribution to the class and enjoy watching their kohai progress. As they help others, senpai practice the fundamental Aikido movements with deeper understanding, gain a keen sense of a partner's movements, and learn to teach with their own clear movements instead of just words. Kohai are highly motivated by the attention from the older, experienced kids.
All Aikido training is self-paced, with each student developing at his or her own rate. Students are never pressured to progress too fast or train beyond their skill levels. They are encouraged to take the time they need and train in a safe, comfortable way. The objective is for all the students to thrive and do Aikido well. Each of the youngest children regularly receives one-on-one instruction from an adult instructor, together with a more experienced child of about the same age who models the movements for the newer child. As children gain experience, they are able to train in pairs with peers and senpai under the supervision of adult instructors. The head instructor consults regularly with all the students to monitor their progress toward both the group's and their own objectives.
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