September 29th held incredibly exciting classes for all the students of BigRock Aikikai! It was none other than Bring-A-Friend Day, where every student was encouraged to invite multiple friends to the dojo to participate in their class. The Child, Youth, and Teen classes all engaged in this event, and with the tremendous help of our ITP, every class, jam-packed with around thirty kids each, were able to run smoothly.
When a new friend arrived at the dojo, they would be handed a personalized name tag to stick onto their shirts, and after being shown how to bow onto the mat by an instructor, a white belt would be tied around their waist. All already-participating students would sit beside their friend in the seiza line and get to stay with them the entire hour.
To start off the class, everyone gathered into groups on one end of the training space. Sensei and the senior instructors spread themselves out around the mat, holding one or two pool noodles each. The students had to do an animal race all the way to the other side of the training space without getting tagged by the pool noodles, or they would have to do exercises! All of the participants seemed to be enjoying themselves and having lots of fun.
We then moved into some Aikido techniques and skills. The class was divided into four groups, each with a number of ITP assigned to lead the practice. Everyone learned some basic skills, like shikko (knee-walking) and yoko ukemi (sideways rolling), then some Aikido techniques, where the students were taught how to pin an attacker from a grab. In the older classes, they learned how to defend themselves from a wide punch too!
Afterward, there was a demonstration on what Aikido looks like with years and years of dedicated practice. Sensei and one of our senior ITP, Lauryn, did a spectacular demo in both the Child and Youth classes. In the Teen class, we had four of our senior instructors, Natalie, Cassie, Sally, and Lauryn, do a multi-person free-style technique demonstration called randori, translating to ‘chaos taking’.
We finished off the class with a couple rounds of dodgeball and an exciting treat! Sensei led the students upstairs for popsicles and ice cream sandwiches, as well as a number of other tasty snacks for everyone to enjoy for the final ten minutes of class.
Each of the classes seemed to have a great time during our Bring-A-Friend Day. The new participants did a fantastic job throughout the hour and were encouraged to keep their white belts at the end of their class. Some students even had colourful stripes added to their white belt for mastering certain yellow belt skills! The treats at the end of the classes seemed to be especially enjoyable for the participants and turned out to be nice for everyone to connect and bond with each other. Overall, this event was a huge success and a great way to welcome new faces into Aikido!
-Cassie Chan, Junior Black Belt, Seishidosha Candidate