In the early days of running a full time Aikido dojo (Japanese for training hall), I encountered some challenges with teaching children. I had no experience teaching Aikido to youth, but I felt it was important to provide a space where families could practice together if they wanted to.
Although the idea of a family oriented dojo appealed to me, I was seriously considering dropping the youth program because it was too demanding on my psyche to deal with children. During a conversation with one of my mentors about teaching youth, he asked me if I were as happy teaching kids as I was teaching adults, would I do it. After a bit of reflection I couldn’t say no.
Without knowing how to teach these little ‘monsters’ and having been struggling up to this point, I decided to go for it. This simple commitment changed everything.
Two weeks after I had genuinely made the commitment to teach Aikido to children I found myself in the middle of the mat, with a dozen kids running like crazy everywhere. This was not an uncommon experience, but what happened next was new to me.
I found myself observing them and everything slowed down. There was nothing else, just me observing a bunch of kids doing what kids do.
I felt free from the grip of the usual chaos and delighted in the lightness I experienced. I felt calm and relaxed and the children appeared to me as bundles of joy and energy.
Shortly after that experience, I made a lot of changes to the youth program that felt not only more natural to me, but also acknowledged my ‘aiki-juniors’ with their own unique presence.
Over time I was able to build a strong connection with the children, allowing me to challenge them more. It was a win-win situation for all, true to the wisdom of Aikido.
The impact of the event that day on the mat left me with the knowledge that I don’t have to control the situation and that it is safe to trust events will turn out fine without me interfering. I refer to this knowledge as ‘Ren’.
I intuitively know that I can’t lose ‘Ren’, and I have found that practices like natural breathing, somatic movements, and a state of wonder help facilitate ‘Ren’ to arise.
I am curious to find out if you can relate to my story and if you have a similar experience. And if so, how do you know your ‘Ren’? What brings it out for you? How does it serve you?