Younger Aikido Summer Day Camp 2021

Posted on by Sensei Steve Erickson

BigRock Aikikai's Aikido Summer Day Camp for kids 9yrs and under - July 19th to 23rd, 2021


Our exciting day camp for students 9 and under took place on July 19th - 23rd, and was quite a blast for all participants! Each day was filled with around four Aikido classes, lessons on awareness and harmonious defense skills, as well as one, giant, hour-long game at the end of each day!

Every morning at 8:00 AM sharp, kids began venturing into the dojo with thrilled smiles and eager enthusiasm. We started each day with many fitness challenges that included pull ups, squats, push-ups, and core workouts, all of which the students were keen to participate in. Although these exercises were extremely hard, the students persisted, strengthened, and improved their form throughout the week!

We also created four groups for the participants and ITP! Everyone was split into four teams, and each one was ensured to have a fair mix of senior and junior students, as well as senior and junior instructors. Team names and cheers were created, and all four groups worked hard to gain as many points for their team as possible by behaving well, having good form, being nice to fellow students, and participating in activities. The kids definitely enjoyed this, especially when they made up their creative team names. There was group one, named Bob’s Dino-Nuggies, group two as Epic Bacon, group three dubbed Cookie Monsters, and group four called Dragon!

The Aikido classes packed into each day were definitely something to look forward to. Not only did they start with extremely intense and fun drills, but they also had dedicated time each day to work on their techniques and build up their Aikido practice hours for their next test. By the end of the week, many students were either close to testing, in the testing stage, or test completed! Three brand new white belts started on Monday, and by the end of the week, all of them were awarded their yellow belts. We also had two of our instructors officially promoted to the rank of Junshidosha, which is the level of a Junior Instructor. 

The ITP worked hard to ensure that everything was prepared for the morning snack and lunchtime. Fruit was chopped up and placed into bowls, dishes were washed and ready to go, tables and chairs were positioned across the freshly-vacuumed upstairs floor. At around 10:30 each morning, the students would have a well-deserved morning snack break, filling themselves up with healthy fruits and veggies before the next few hours of hard work. Lunchtime, in the afternoon, was often something to look forward to, considering how hungry the kids were after so many Aikido Classes. 

Four senior ITP also lead a special class every day to help kids learn about harmonious behavior when interacting with others. Monday’s class was spotlighting awareness, where the students played games designed to sharpen their awareness skills. All of these had to do with paying close attention to each other and concentrating on everyone’s actions in order to stay in the game. All participants seemed to enjoy it, so it was definitely a hit class.

Tuesday’s special class was focused on what we dubbed ‘Ai Kamae’, which was the lesson on how to harmoniously behave with others. The ‘Ai’ in the name means harmony in Japanese, and ‘Kamae’ translates to stance. We talked about different conflicts you might get into at your home, school, dojo, and community, then got together with our teams and created different skits to demonstrate harmonious behaviour during a conflict. Students performed two versions of their skits, one being an inappropriate way to handle the conflict, and one as an appropriate way.

On Wednesday, we discussed the topic: Verbal Defense. Through participating in a program called Budo Accelerator, the four senior instructors learned about Assertive Communication. We learned about a strategy that can be used to calm down an aggressive situation with our words before the conflict escalates into something further. The senior instructors named this tactic the Three I’s. There are three steps in this Assertive Communication strategy. To start, you say ‘I see…’, where you acknowledge that you understand what is happening in the current situation. For example: I see that you want to borrow my passport. The next step is to say ‘I feel…’, where you tell the other person how you are truly feeling about the predicament, like being uncomfortable or bothered by their request. The last step is to say ‘I need…’, where you tell the person what you need them to do in order to end the escalating situation. For example: I need you to go ask your parents to get you your own passport. This strategy was talked about, then practised as a group. All participants really enjoyed it.

Our last special class was on Thursday, where we discussed Physical Defense. We talked about how this was a last resort in a bad situation, and what kind of quick techniques to use if it comes to that. Everyone also participated in a fun activity to practise using quick defenses, where random, previously chosen students would inconspicuously attack another, and the defender would have to think of a fast technique to get away from the attacker. 

However, though these special classes were all very enjoyable, the students seemed to really love the big games at the end of each day. Monday’s game was Battleship, where each team made themselves a ship platform using blue mats, and had to sink other ships by knocking down their foam pillars with dodgeballs! On Tuesday, we played Fortnight, where everyone builds a big fort, hides in it, and both Sensei and his ITP try to knock them down in the dark. Patrick’s game has all of the students trying to steal treasures without Sensei or his ITP catching them, which was played on Wednesday. Thursday was Cat’s Elimination, a game of Hide and Seek in a maze with the lights turned off. 

And Friday was probably the best day of all. Every student was waiting to play Snow Leopard all week, where Sensei charged in the dark through a maze of blue mats to try and tag the participants. Everyone was so hyped up for this game, and when it finally came to an end, their excitement didn’t cease. After all, the rest of the day was filled with pizza, treats, and movie watching, to celebrate their hard work and a wonderful day camp. 

This 9 and under camp was a high success. Everyone had a spectacular time and can’t wait for next summer to do it all over again!

- Cassie Chan