“Of Kid and Child,” by Drew Gardner

There are four mind sets that an Aikidoka can possess. They are the kid, the child, the adult-child, and the adult. Only two of these roles lead to success in learning or teaching Aikido. These two are the child and the adult-child. There is no place for the kid mentality or the all-knowing adult mentality in either the novice ranks or advanced echelons of Aikido.

The kid simply plays around in the dojo, as if it were recess from elementary school, even if he has learned how to keep the appearance that he is in-line. Usually, he knows he has a poor mentality, yet he often thinks he is tricking senpai or sensei. Others on the mat know his fool-around-mentality from day one, and the odds suggest he will never alter his foolishness. The kid may in fact learn and advance in the Aikido ranks, all the while relishing in his condescending air. This mentality is one of immaturity, and I have trained with single-digit-year-olds who surpass adult kids in the field of maturity. If kids make it to black belt, there have surely been mistakes in either Aikido, the representative school, or in dojo sensei themselves. These kids belong in a sandbox in which they never share their shovels with others, not in the yudansha ranks of respected Aikido schools. Even if the kid strives to become something more while teaching, he was a kid during every technique he learned. Therefore, the kid inevitably becomes a poor teacher and poor role model. Flashing his dark belt will work only in the short run, if that.

The kid and the child both connote youth, but the child is much different from the kid. A child, especially one who finds the opportunity to train with fine sensei, accepts being a beginner. Even if for a glimpse he has a technique down pat, he immediately reminds himself that his senpai and sensei are there to erase such complacent thought for the better. He also realizes early on that he will not master a single technique before he passes away in the perhaps multiple decades to come, but he does know that by looking up to his skilled sensei and respectful senpai, he will become better at technique, and more importantly he will grow as a person.

The adult-child is an extremely important personality type who began as a child, always kept that essence, and – through ascension of rank – has found himself to be a sensei. These are the best of teachers. They keep a light heart but are still able to execute sharp techniques with precision. They can get angry occasionally and be stern with their students, yet it is out of love. They often have a sense of humor, even if it shows itself seldom or they have different humorous styles than most of their students.

The all-knowing sensei, commonly an alpha male adult, needs only to understand three words in George Leonard Sensei’s “The Way of Aikido: Life Lessons from an American Sensei:” “Only don’t know.”


  1. I would like to add a brief biography. One I mention in the essay, which is George Leonard Sensei’s book. He also mentions in this book the prospect of the “Eternal Kid,” which might well have helped motivate this essay topic. The other is a song I have listened to literally more than a hundred times. It is called “Spirit of a Boy, Wisdom of a Man,” by Randy Travis. In the title, the artist perhaps allows for both at once, whereas in the song, it’s always one or the other when facing decisions, the “constant contradiction” as he sings: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cf_AIK9e6Hc

  2. Realist…A person who sees the world as it really is and Not as he wishes it to be…not many realist in Aikido.

  3. Bogdan Chivulescu says:

    Hi Drew,

    It is quite refreshing to find out that are still people like who have got a healthy approach to Aikido. Sadly there are some people out there who out of their twisted mind and unbalanced emiotions have been trying hard and long to transform Aikido into a kind of Spartan style activity suited for the emotionally crippled ones.

    I have enjoyed a lot reading your comments and articles posted on the forum. Thank you so much for writing down such fine points about the art of Aikido.

    Kind regards,

    Bogdan C

    Alberta, Canada

  4. Thank you, Bogdan.

    When I get thoughts that inspire writing or painting, it feels good to me to share. Many Aikidoka are wonderful people, probably at a rate moreso than the total population. That makes this a fun place to post my thoughts that have something to do with Aikido, yet often with universal messages not exclusive to Aikido as well.

  5. Bogdan Chivulescu says:

    Hi Drew,

    What school of Aikido are you practicing?



    Alberta, Canada

  6. Bogdan,

    I have trained with the USAF and ASU, mostly the latter.

  7. Bogdan Chivulescu says:

    Hi Drew,

    A few weeks ago I have come across with some debates about what Aikido should be in real life. Below is my comment to that topic. Since the dawn of the humankind brutish and callous history, there have been scores and scores of males and females on this planet whose only pathetic aim in life was to inflict pain to others in order to satisfy their low life mentality…Sadly, martial arts were one of the tools to accomplish that primeval thirst…

    Bogdan Chivulescu writes:

    Jun 30th, 2010 at 11:47 pm


    I have read with great interest you comments about how Aikido training “should be”. Well, while I strongly agree with the fact that Aikido has to be real,I do not think that your “approach” is a natural one.

    Your “approach” has nothing to do with the real principle of non-resistance. Your approach conveys a message that Aikido is not so much different than the one undertook in the past by the Spartans whose minds were like a rock. In order to develop this non resistance feeling the mind needs to be soft and gentle. I do not think that your mind has got that quality.

    It is because of some people like you, that the naive public want nowadays more and more to practice Aikido for self defense and fighting purposes. Aikido is not meant for that. It is not meant to create idiotic warriors in hakama. A warrior(modern or old) has a mind like a rock, and he/she will always be full of emotional tension & fear no matter what he pretends.

    I think that having a harsh background like yours, can make one to wrongly belief that Aikido training is meant to create this type of person, with a mind like a rock.

    To cut a long story short, I think that what Eduardo J and Drew Gardner have tried to convey has more meaning to the art of Aikido than your Spartan(army)style approach to life.

    Posting one’s Aikido performances on You Tube shows that person is still plagued by the venom of vanity.

    Posting one’s performances on You Tube is a matter of showing off and nothing else. It is a sign of narcissism.

    Sadly this is a trait found too often in the western mentality in general and in North American culture in particular. Showing off no matter what…and on other expenses.

    You are part of this western cultural mindset tainted by much arrogance and vanity. Whatever Aikido training are you pursuing it has not helped you to get rid off this defilement.



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