Continued from the previous newsletter: http://systemasydneytrainingresources.blogspot.com.au/2014/03/kids-in-systema.html
…You shouldn’t focus too much on stationary work. It’s much better to encourage constant movement; crawling, rolls, walking, or running. It’s not worth relying on strength; rather work through relaxation and mobility.
Classes with kids should also include practice with your eyes closed – training for sensitivity, hearing, a sense of direction, memory, the ability to make decisions in complex situations, etc. Kids love working with their eyes closed and do it easily – think of the popular Russian game “zhmurki” (“blind man's buff”), in which one blindfolded person is “it” and tries to catch 3 to 10 other participants in a limited space.
It’s always helpful to provide as much physical contact as possible using a variety of games.
The beginning of the class should focus on physically challenging activities involving a lot of movement, followed by work to slow and calm the class, such as slow push-ups or squats, in a game format. All of this is intended to shed surplus energy, allowing you to spend a productive 30-40 minutes working on your chosen topic for the class. At the very end, you should conclude with an entertaining activity or game to leave off on a high note. The most important thing is to avoid formalizing the classes or using rigid constraints. Improvise more. Let the kids release the tensions and fly free – they have more than enough constraints already at school and at home.
As an example, here is helpful game I often use when working with kids 9 years or older at the conclusion of classes called “the elephant.” The game is played in groups of eight kids or more.
Divide the group into two equal teams. In the middle of the room, draw or mark a circle about four meters (12’) in diameter. You can mark it by drawing on the floor with chalk, or by laying out a rope. One of the teams designates one or two “guards,” and the rest are “elephants.” The elephants stand in the middle of the circle, put their arms around each other’s shoulders, and lean their heads in. The goal for the team outside the circle is to jump onto any of their opponents’ backs (including the guard’s). If a guard has someone on his back and leaves the circle, the person on his back has to get off. The guard’s goal is to tag the opposing team on their leg below the knee before they can climb onto the “elephants”. All the while, at least one of the guard’s feet must be in the circle at all times. There’s no limit to how long you can stay on top of someone, but the fun part of this game is trying to get on top of the opposing team as many times as possible. As soon as one team member gets tagged, the teams switch.
This game is very fun and involves a lot of movement. After 2-3 rotations I pause the game, point out players’ mistakes and give some advice, then let the game continue. 10 minutes is usually more than enough for the group to cheer up while getting a fairly intensive workout.
Working with kids is fascinating but at the same time requires pretty intense control. To grab and keep the kids’ attention, it’s necessary to maintain a fast pace of the class and a positive attitude. Still, you forget the taxing nature of the work when you see the sparkling eyes and the happiness of the children! Then you realize that you have made a contribution, however small, to a proper childhood and upbringing for them.
At Systema HQ school in Toronto, Youth classes are held regularly for ages 8 to 16. Some Systema schools around the world offer instruction for younger age groups as well.
I will discuss and practice methods of working with kids of various ages in more depth at the upcoming Full Immersion Systema Camp 2014. Teaching Systema to Youth will be one of the topics presented to Systema instructors and will be optional for all the other Camp participants.
Good luck to everyone, I hope to see you soon!
About the Author:
Konstantin Komarov is a Major in the Russian Special Service Police Force, professional bodyguard for Moscow's elite and a PhD in combat psychology. He will be coming to Toronto from Russia in August 2014 as one of the master instructors at the Full Immersion Systema Camp 2014
Thankyou again for your insights Konstantin,
Systema Sydney Russian Martial Art