Aikido coach Sensei John Ratnam says he has a mission that goes beyond teaching children self-defence. He believes he's instilling a sense of discipline from a young age, while having fun.
About 20 children between 6 and 12, of various nationalities, were put through their paces during a beginners class one Sunday afternoon in Dubai.
They began with a short warm-up routine, followed by forward rolls, and then moved on to basic blocks and throws - the cornerstone of Aikido.
Ratnam told me why Aikido is the perfect martial art for children to learn. "It's different to other more physical martial arts in that it uses the opponents strengths against them with simple blocks and throws.
Therefore, it doesn't require great physical strength - anyone can do it."
Ratnam explained why his classes were not only about self-defence. "Aikido teaches kids self-control and discipline from when they arrive at the Dojo (training hall) and have to remove their shoes, to sitting quietly and listening to instructions. These are skills they can take into the real world, to school, to home, to anywhere."
The pupils' respect and love for their teacher Ratnam became clear at the end of the hour-long session. After he dismissed them with a customary bow, several pupils rushed over to give him a hug or say a quick thank you.
And that brought a big grin to Sensei John Ratnam's face.
Aikido classes are held throughout the week at Dubai Karate Club on Al Wasl Road, Jumeirah. For more information check out their website www.aikido-uae.net
What is Aikido?
Aikido is a Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba (often referred to by his title 'O Sensei' or 'Great Teacher').
On a purely physical level it is an art involving some throws and joint locks that are derived from Jujitsu and some throws and other techniques derived from Kenjutsu.
Aikido focuses not on punching or kicking opponents, but rather on using their own energy to gain control of them or to throw them away from you. It is not a static art, but places great emphasis on motion and the dynamics of movement.
Upon closer examination, practitioners will find from Aikido what they are looking for, whether it is applicable self-defence technique, spiritual enlightenment, physical health or peace of mind.
O Sensei emphasised the moral and spiritual aspects of this art, placing great weight on the development of harmony and peace.
"The Way of Harmony of the Spirit" is one way that "Aikido" may be translated into English.
This is still true of Aikido today, although different styles emphasise the more spiritual aspects to greater or lesser degrees.
Although the idea of a martial discipline striving for peace and harmony may seem paradoxical, it is the most basic tenet of the art.