A huge congratulations to the students of Manor Lodge School who successfully passed their grading. It was a success for me too! My first term as an instructor at the school went remarkably well and ended on a high.
I have to admit it was pretty surreal to walk into Manor Lodge Dojo for the first time and imagine that Soke stood on these mats over twenty-three years ago! Occasionally he likes to remind us that he did teach children. I can imagine he was a lot less scary back then. But I couldn’t help but think… was he a little nervous on his first day too? Thankfully I had Sempai Jack’s hand to squeeze should the thought of twenty-five children racing towards me put me into phantom labour.
I was amazed at these little people. Every day they burst through the door, armed with as many as five bags, the weight of all that education dragged into the dojo. I remember I walked to school with nothing more than a pen stuffed in my pocket. Things have changed but the children haven’t. It’s all about attitude and my trusted pen gave me A Levels and a degree but a lot less backache. But no amount of studying could stop the children of Manor Lodge extending their day a little longer to learn ju jitsu.
I walked into a hectic term as Years 1, 2, 3 and 4 channeled their energy into perfecting the techniques they would be asked to perform to pass their grading.
Wednesday’s Y1 children, Georgia, Luca and George, were about to embark on their first grading and this would be an excellent opportunity to put to the test some of the ju jitsu they had learnt over previous terms. As for me, it was a fabulous opportunity to witness the children’s enthusiasm for martial arts.
As I got to grips with learning the names (over one hundred!) of my new little friends, every week they would try to pull the wool over my eyes as they gently tugged my gi and cheekily asked me for their next belt (obi).
This term the children practiced groundwork, specifically three escapes. Year 3 and 4 learnt an additional technique, the takedown. The children showed a real enthusiasm to learn these new techniques and at the end of each class were eager to express and demonstrate their new skills.
It was impressive to see the children pick these up so quickly but the grading day wasn’t going to be that easy. Sempai Jack and myself were determined to ensure that each class was put through its paces.
As their grading day arrived, there was a flurry of excitement as the children were eager to impress us with their new set of skills. As soon as they walked into the dojo, they were asked to be silent. Now we all know that this is a pretty big test for any child but incredibly they quietly went about preparing themselves for their big day. We were off to a good start and it continued as they recited the dojo kun enthusiastically. Our typical half an hour class always begins with the children reciting the dojo kun and learning to bow (rei) properly. The respect children learn, whether it’s bowing, feet together and hands by their side or waiting for the next command, benefits them tremendously and contributes to their behaviour in school.
We split the children away from their normal training partners. This surprised a few faces and you could see a little of their confidence ebb away with the realization that they didn’t have their usual training partner to rely on. But they easily forgot about any lack of confidence as they whizzed through a quick warm-up that included fighting stances and front rolling, left/right side as well as front and back breakfalls. Now we were into general techniques and specifically three ground techniques that required three different escapes. The older students had an additional take down to perform. At this point, I would have to admit that I was more nervous than the children. As I watched their stern efforts to get the techniques right, I was determined that not a single student would fail because that is a possibility – unfortunately not every student passes their grading. But the children performed exceptionally well. A few were asked to re-test but that is quite normal especially as some get a little nervous under these conditions. Finally, the children impressed us with their knowledge of ju jitsu and correctly answered questions relating to Ishin Ryu Ju Jitsu, our history and Japanese terminology.
Sempai Jack and myself were pleased to announce that they had all passed. A special mention goes to Year 4 who not only demonstrated the techniques required to pass but impressed us with demonstrating all the techniques they had learnt in previous terms – that deserves a big thumbs up.
We ended the term with a little fun and why not they deserved it! The children got the opportunity to test out their new groundwork skills. After a little warm up on each other, the grappling session extended to an opportunity to wrestle with Sempai Jack and myself. I have never seen the children so eager to jump into the ring. Of course most of my bouts were with children bigger than me! But I had the advantage of being a little more experienced and whilst they desperately tried to push me out of the ring, I managed to survive as I gently tossed each one of my opponents out to screams of delight.
As the children lined up to be presented with their new certificate and obi, the look of anticipation on their faces made me smile with pride. As each child stepped forward, bowed and enthusiastically collected their new obi, it was great to bear witness to the start of a life-long habit of exercise and fun.
Classes at Manor Lodge have now ceased for the Easter break and will re-commence on Monday 27th April 2015.