December 10th, 2005.
Written by Thomas Dammen Sensei
Nippon Kan Youth Program InstructorThe Nippon Kan Youth Program year-end promotion class was held on December 10th. This special class was a celebration of achievement shared by students, families and friends.
Over fifty students received certificates signed by Homma Kancho with ranks awarded ranging from Youth 10th kyu to 3rd kyu. This occasion included demonstrations by students from the advanced class as well as adult hakama members. These demonstrations are important on several levels. The demonstrations serve to inspire our newer students and allow them to see what lies ahead in their training. These demonstrations (which are voluntary), also challenge students to perform in public and to express themselves by choosing what techniques to showcase. The key to progress for all students at Nippon Kan is “motion and sweat”. Therefore the philosophy of Homma Kancho regarding promotions is simple; if you come and practice you will advance.
This approach flies in the face of the business practices expressed by the average American martial arts school. The profit motive which operates at the core of most schools dictates that promotions be based on testing and the fees that testing creates.
How fortunate we are that Homma Kancho provides us with a dojo which is not ruled by this profit motive.
In his book “Children and the Martial Arts, An Aikido Point of View” Homma Kancho points out that children learn best when they are at play. This philosophy lies at the heart of Nippon Kan’s teaching method in the youth program. One clear indicator that our students are playing are the smiles on their faces. The Nippon Kan Youth Program classes are a balance between the discipline required in martial arts training and the freedom of the recess yard. In our general youth class, we strive to teach Aikido techniques that promote an understanding of balance with safety being of the highest importance. Ukemi is a primary focus because falls remain the greatest threat to our children’s health and safety. (As a side note I am pleased to report that there has not been a serious injury in the youth program during the seven years I have been involved in teaching.)
With promotion certificates in hand to show to proud parents and a new belt stripe or color to show the new rank; our youngest members tumble off the mat with hearts full of joy. Everyone is a winner, everyone can be proud and everyone looks forward to coming to the next class. This youth program promotion class is special happy day in the life of Nippon Kan, our dojo, a place of the Way.