Little House In Ise

All Japan Children’s Aikido Training
July 21, 2009, 17:41
Filed under: Aikido, Japan | Tags: , , ,

Each year the Budokan hosts a series of enormous, day-long, martial arts training events for children. The martial arts are Sumo, Karatedo, Shorinji Kenpo (Japanese Kung Fu), Jukendo (way of the bayonet), Kendo, Naginatado (way of the glaive/halberd), Judo, Kyudo and Aikido. On Sunday, swarms of Aikidoka from elementary school age through junior high (US 8th grade) crowded the Kudanshita train station outside the Budokan. Many wore their keikogi on the train, others carried bags and furoshiki crammed with gear. Here and there sensei from different schools with little flags herded their troops to appointed meeting areas. This year the chaos was much more contained than last year when we had to parade around a bit to kill time before being allowed in. This time everything went smoothly and the kids were in their seats minutes after arriving.

To open the event, there were speeches praising the kids for their choice of Budo and thanks to teachers and organizations and then the kids did warm-up exercises en masse. The sea of arms and legs moving not-quite-in-sync was beautiful and disconcerting. Each age group then did about 30 minutes of training led by a different Sensei. After a technique was demonstrated the mass would split into five blobs each centered on different Honbu Shihan who would then repeat the demonstration for their own group to see more clearly.

The moments when little kids were picked out of the crowd to demonstrate techniques were particularly fun. After doing back rolls as a group, one first-grader was picked out of the mass to demonstrate shiko (膝行: knee walk). In response, he did a very cute, rather awkward, back roll which generated giggles throughout the crowd. Toshio Suzuki sensei, who led the youngest kids made it clear that making a mistake was NOT the same as being wrong and that the little guy had done a fine job of demonstrating even though it wasn’t quite what had been requested. With a bit of encouragement the first grader screwed up his courage and did shiko just fine.

After the training ended, many schools gave demonstrations which ranged from kids just messing around to excellent often with both on the same mat at once. Some of the schools had only one or two students present so it wasn’t uncommon to see a pair of white belted elementary school students demonstrating alone in the center of a mat usually reserved for famous shihan! The kids-will-be-kids atmosphere was fun for me but I was surprised that so many non-parents stayed through the whole event. Beyond the support of parents and members the most impressive aspect of the whole event was the logistics that allowed all this to work so very smoothly.


The Best Aikido on TV
July 6, 2009, 17:10
Filed under: Aikido, Japan | Tags: , , ,

This week’s episode of Sanma’s Karakuri TV had a wonderful Aikido demonstration. The show has a regular segment in which a small group of elementary-school/junior-high aged girls, shepherded by a male interviewer, visit businesses run by women. The girls then “interview” women from the various businesses. The premise is that this is all to help determine what kind of jobs the kids would like when they grow up. Since this is a Japanese comedy show, you might guess that the real goal here isn’t empowerment. The kids tend to come up with the most ridiculously embarrassing questions so the audience gets to laugh as the women being interviewed squirm. How this relates to Aikido is AWESOME.

This week the woman they interviewed runs a candy shop and, right up to the end, all her questions had been pretty softball. Finally one of the girls asked if the woman was worried about getting fat. She responded quite seriously that it was a real concern but she did Aikido regularly and so it wasn’t a problem. The little girls thought this sounded cool and asked her for a demonstration.

The candy shop lady agreed but said that she would need a volunteer to help. At this point all of the little girls literally turned on their shepherd. No matter how good the candy was THEY weren’t about to risk it. After a little hemming and hawing the guy agreed. So, still wearing her long white lab coat (pharmacist style) she said the Japanese equivalent of, “OK, grab my wrist, no, HARDER, yeah like that…” Then she cranked his arm and laid him flat on his back with a very clean shihonage omote. The interviewer was SHOCKED. It brought tears of joy to my eyes!

I don’t know if the kids learned anything about the candy business but I am certain they will remember what happened to the big guy who grabbed the candy shop lady!

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