Wow, I am really falling behind on my blog entries.
The month of August has been a busy time at the dojo. It began at the end of August, with Sensei Dennis Embert coming to visit to teach a week-long kids camp. This type of activity has been on my to-do list for some time. Quite often, when I was going up the ranks, there would be countless events that were geared towards adults. Camps, seminars, and other special classes abounded. But too often activities for kids were either completely absent or, at best, tacked on at the end. When we opened the dojo, I hoped to provide just as many special events for kids, so they could know that their place within the dojo is just as appreciated as the adults. Finally, with help from my wife (we are jokingly calling her Jensei, a combination of her name and “Sensei”, out of recognition for the work she does to keep the dojo running) and Dennis Embert Sensei, we were able to schedule this kids camp.
What a success it was! The kids learned aikido, self-defense strategies, timing games, Japanese language, orgami, weapons work–you name it. So many of the parents told me that their kids came home tired and happy. The kids themselves have kept asking when the next camp is going to be, and can it be for two weeks instead of one next time. (Answer: we’ll see.) I had the opportunity to participate on the first day of camp and the last day, and as a result I got to see the difference the entire week made. Kids who were having trouble with their ukemi were rolling around like they were born to do it, and kids that had previously had some issues with being respectful on the mat were, if not model students, then at least better representations of correct behavior at the dojo.
Speaking of which, I learned a ton about how to manage kids through watching and listening to Embert Sensei. Before I get into what I learned, a little background: in Kokikai, we are a lot less traditional than other Japanese arts. For example, we all sit wherever we happen to be in line, instead of by rank. This was true for both the kids and adult classes, until Embert Sensei came along. He instituted a lot more structure to the classes, and made it very clear to each student what was expected of them, and what would happen if they didn’t listen. I thought for sure the kids would rebel or be miserable–but I was completely wrong. The kids greatly enjoyed the structure Embert Sensei brought. He got everyone engaged, everyong participating, and everyone taking what they learned seriously. And they all had a great time too! We’ve taken to implementing many of these ideas into our everyday classes. It’s not that our classes previously were barely-contained sources of chaos–in fact, we were moving towards some of these ideas and concepts already. But Embert Sensei has a lot more experience, and he essentially leapfrogged us farther ahead in our kids curriculum than we would have been able to do on our own. As a result, the kids are learning more, being more respectful, and still having fun.
After the camp was over, Dennis Sensei and his wife, AJ, both taught a weekend-long seminar for adults. This was also extremely beneficial. I got a much deeper understanding of how relaxed movement can be extremely effective against even the most committed attacks. I don’t have this understanding fully processed, but there have been times now where techniques that I previously had trouble with suddenly became effortless. That, I hope, is at least a small indication of progress. I also learned the value of what we call ki exercises (call them posture exercises or whatever). It’s very easy to phone these exercises in; but both Dennis and AJ pointed out how critical they were to self-defense. We have much to work on at the dojo, and that’s a good thing!
Feel free to check out my family’s blog for more some great pictures of the Kids camp. (The link is over to the right.)
PS: Anyone know how to handle the plural of “Sensei?” Especially when the two people in question have the same last name? 🙂
PPS: Thanks everyone, for your kind wishes and congratulations regarding our expanding family! I was very touched by the e-mails and comments. I’ll keep you posted on how things are going, I promise. (Short update: very well–the little guy really likes to kick!)