By Wendy Given the number of Power Rangers shows in our Netflix instant queue and Star Wars light saber battles that rage through our family room, it comes as no surprise that my 7-year-old son’s career ambition is to become a Samurai. While it seems a noble profession (assuming you have aspirations to be a Jedi Knight rather than a Dark Lord of the Sith), where does one get the hands on training to know if you’ve got what it takes?
Scanning through the on-line City of Ottawa Fall-Winter Recreation Guide in September, I was pleased to stumble upon a program for aspiring Samurai. Shoshin Kendo - the “Way of the Sword” or Japanese fencing - is offered at the Plant Recreation Complex for girls and boys ages 7-16. The cost for thirteen 2-hour classes is $125 (less than $5/hour), and the purchase of a Shinai (bamboo practise fighting sword) is approximately $35-40. The somewhat intimidating - but very cool looking - Kendo bogu (fighting armour) is not required for the first year of training, which is great if your young padawan may not be committed to making a career move quite yet.
Kendo classes typically begin with demonstrations of respect to instructors and the do-jo (training hall), followed by warm-up exercises counted out in Japanese, and drills emphasizing foot and sword work. Younger members practise strikes against bogu-clad teen/adult class mates or a mannequin, always accompanied by blood-curdling cries (great for the abdominal muscles, so I am told!). Part way through training, less experienced members are separated from more highly-skilled practitioners to receive instruction on technique appropriate to their respective skill level; the adults and teens actually engage in full-fledged fencing battles! Classes generally end with some good clean fun; playing dodge ball and other games that help develop speed and agility and that – as a bonus – leaves the aspiring Samurai perspiring and tuckered out.
In addition to providing a great outlet for energetic kids, there are many physical and mental benefits associated with practicing Kendo and martial arts in general. Improved strength and balance; respect for self and others; increased mental focus and concentration; self-discipline and self-control; goal-setting; socialization with peers; and improved self-confidence are just some of the great benefits of martial arts training - and there are a range of programs in the Ottawa Recreation Guide to choose from. Check out the Guide here for brief descriptions of their martial arts programs, which include Aikido, Capoeira, Jiu-Jitsu, Judo, Karate, Kung Fu, and Taekwondo.
No would-be Ninjas in your household – no problem! If martial arts are not your child’s passion, there are plenty of other City of Ottawa programs that span performing arts (dance, music, drama), creative arts (writing, drawing, crafts), a wide variety of team and independent sports, as well as certification programs and workshops on babysitting, being home alone and street-proofing, among others.
Registration for winter programs starting in January 2014 is ongoing. Click the following link for details, including instructions on how to get your Family PIN and Client Codes required for registering here. Note that costs cited in the Guide are typically for registration fees only, and additional costs may apply to purchase a uniform and/or equipment.
What City of Ottawa program(s) do your kids (or you) love?
Wendy is mom to Benjamin (age 7) and Evita (age 3). She achieved the level of 2nd Dan black belt in Taekwon-do before the birth of Evita, and hopes to get back into it…one day.