Parents who bring their kids can stay and watch classes with other parents and kids on the dojo couch. Parents are equally important to the community, joining in activities, helping out at barbeques; even joining classes themselves on occasion.
Dojo etiquette teaches children respect for their space, their practice, their partners, their teachers and themselves. [They even learn a little basic Japanese] Within the structure, kids learn to practice respectfully regardless of a partner’s age, size, ethnicity or gender. Children work with any child who bows to them to initiate practice [bowing is a sign of respect but children who cannot bow for religious reasons, are still welcome]’. For some children, even the act of initiating practice with another child, can be a challenge in itself [never mind tying their own belts]. Aikido is based on shared learning. Senior students enhance their own learning by mentoring new beginners, helping them with techniques and guiding them in safe practice. In this way, their capacity to guide and work with others is broadened; they gain an understanding of how their own bodies move and how it affects their partners. Aikido practice heightens children’s self-confidence in their physical and interactive capacities.
Children are tested by the lead instructors in front of their peers based on a specified number of in-class hours in tandem with their observed readiness. Certificates and a range of coloured belts are awarded as their level and skills increase. When they bow [with a big grin] to their peers upon receiving a certificate and belt, they have good reason to feel proud.