With its flamboyant throws and painful looking locks, to a kid entering an Aikido class for the first time can be quite daunting. The truth is that of all the martial arts; Aikido is probably one of the most welcoming and hospitable Singapore.
When come across these kids in Singapore with strange black pants effortlessly throwing each other across the mat and twisting and turning you will be captured by the grace and rhythm of it all. It is so far removed from the other martial arts practiced, but you will be hooked.
For the first few lessons, you will be asked to wear comfortable clothes as there is no point of investing in a Gi (the heavy white robes as worn by Judo players) unless you are seriously interested in continuing. So tracksuit pants, and a light T-shirt is fine. You will also be advised to bring a pair of sandals for walking around off the mat.
One thing that can catch out a kid is that Aikido is a very traditional martial art and as such most dojo’s still observed some etiquette rules such as leaving your slippers facing away from the mat and bowing (or ray’ing) when you enter and exit the mat. Most practices also usually begin with a quick bow to O’Sensei. You Sensei should advise you of these things, but it’s not unusual for them to just leave you to figure it out! A bit of intelligent observation and chatting to some of your new classmates should ensure that you pick these things up after your first couple of lessons and you certainly won’t be reprimanded for not observing them when you are new.
Warming up is vital in aikido Singapore kids so once you are on the mat and you have finished your bowing you usually begin with 20-30 minutes of stretches and breathing exercises. This is a crucial part of the practice as it not only ensures that you reduce the risk of injuries, but also that you get used to breathing from your ‘center’ (the bit just below your solar plexus) which is another fundamental element of Aikido.
Once warmed up you will begin the practice session, and the term practice is very much what it is. You will spend the next hour and a half observing the Sensei perform a technique with a selection of partners (Uke’s) which you will then practice yourself with a partner. If the class is an odd number, you may end up practicing in a three, but it’s usual that it will just be the two of you who will take turns assuming the role of attacker and defender.
The great thing about aikido Singapore kids is that you are encouraged to swap partners for each technique. This ensures that you get to practice with a wide range of different body types and abilities. The whole point of the practice is that the techniques become ingrained into your muscle memory and become second nature so that you will instinctively perform them in the real world should you ever have to.
When you watch the video of the Aikido kids in Singapore greats on YouTube, you will notice that they hardly break a sweat, and do not even appear to be moving in some cases. This is because after 30, 40 50 years of practice the techniques are so ingrained that they develop an almost clairvoyant ability to predict attacks before they happen and position themselves accordingly.
The class will usually finish with some more bowing and a final word from the Sensei on how he feels the class went and any other updates from the club.
And that’s it, your first practice – done!
General tips and advice I would give to a kid looking to begin Aikido are:
- Don’t be rude and have a bad attitude, this will not go down well at all. Go into with an entirely open mind and be prepared to challenge your views on the world.
- Don’t expect to ‘punch’ people and do flying kicks; that’s not what Aikido is about!
- Don’t be shy to ask senior grades or the Sensei to practice with you. It’s the only way you will improve, and it’s just as important for them to practice with someone of your ability as it is with a higher grade.
- Try and get involved in the social side of the club, go out for drinks and away days. You will not only learn a fantastic martial art, but you’ll no doubt make some good friends.
- Join an online aikido Singapore kids social network where you can share your experiences and broaden your knowledge of Aikido in general.