“.. how one should approach working with kids vs. adults. Systema for an adult is typically a question of personal safety and a confidence builder. These are not yet important for the young kids. They don’t care about the end result as much as they enjoy the training process itself. Of course, that changes with teenagers, and goal-setting starts to play an important role.
The goal of your classes for this age group should be the discovery and development of important physical and psychological traits and the cultivation of basic skills. For example:
– Harmonious body development, correct body form;
– Natural movement, ability to control the body, and overall coordination;
– Correct breathing;
– Moving without unnecessary tension, ability to relax as needed;
– Control of emotions and psyche;
– Ability to fall smoothly and safely, overcoming pain;
– Sensing and understanding distance;
– Interacting productively with a partner;
– And the list goes on and on…
All of these things can be taught through simple games and exercises, both individual and with a partner / group. A large part of this work should hinge on interaction rather than competition, sensing rather than understanding. It is difficult for kids to grasp abstract concepts, but they are good at feeling things.
It’s helpful to do much falling, working on the floor, crawling, especially from under a partner, pushing, wrestling, and, in general, work with a lot of physical interaction. This teaches sensitivity to your partner, providing the right amount of effort and general body awareness. Don’t be afraid of these types of work: it’s not injury-prone. Kids fall more softly and more naturally than adults. The goal is not to teach kids classical acrobatics or prescribed ways of falling, but to achieve free, easy, and safe transitions from the ground and back up again, removing fear of falls from the body and psyche. Prescribed moves or structures will make kids stiffer. Give them freedom, let them do exercises to the best of their ability, and eventually, with small suggestions and corrections, they will be doing it right.
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 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.
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