This fall the new teaching structure I have been talking about for few years is finally out !
The concepts of this structure have been progressively formalising in my mind over my last 20 years of children teaching.
One of the key influence has been the teachings of Toshiro Suga and his innovative approaches to teach Aïkido to Occidentals. He has focused on the understanding of Aïkido in each step of the learning but also as a whole as part of the larger Japanese culture and history. Many of his classes include explanations of Japanese traditions, history or philosophy for a proper understanding of the class content and purpose in order to avoid mimicking some gymnastic without purpose.
Another influence is coming from an experience I ran in the teenager classes few sessions ago: I asked each student in turn to tell me one of the story they have learnt during Aïkido classes. I thought this would be challenging… I was wrong: I had to stop them from telling more and more stories! They knew and remembered most of the stories I have been telling over the last few years and with surprising details.
Many of these stories are classic Budo tales that present historical character (Momotaro, Musashi, Bokuden etc.) or key cultural elements important for Aïkido but also for general culture (Tokugawa period, WWII in Japan, Confucius and Mencius etc.).
So all this concurred to design integrated stories and cultural content to a classic technical curriculum.
All the kids’ classes will be structured in 3 weeks elements. Each element covers physical skills, technics, cultural aspects and stories. At the end of each element they will be a min-test to evaluate acquisition of the content. The sum of all these mini tests will translate into belts progression at the end of a session. The progression will be recorded on booklets indicating what element each student has followed and how they did.
For the next session, new elements will be offered as well as some that have turned out to be challenging for the children.
So this fall, the kids will experience this new format and finally see what is that screen hanging on the Dojo wall for...