February 5 2017

Howard Popkin & Dmitri Deglas Daito Ryu Seminar 10/14/16 – 10/16/16

Popkin Sensei of Aikijutsu Ginjukai  and Deglas Sensei of Shindai Aikikai came to Randall Smith’s dojo, Aikido of Palm Beach County to give a Daito Ryu seminar.

Before I start, let me mention a couple of things. This seminar was a few months ago from the date of this posting. It’s always a pleasure getting to see and train with both Popkin Sensei and Deglas Sensei. Especially at the same time.

I am going off of the notes I had put down the day of the seminar and my recollection, which is becoming more difficult to refresh.

I am becoming a real slacker to posting on my blog.

There were three concepts I put down and that I wanted to write about.

The first concept is to reduce 20%. From what  I remember, Popkin Sensei was saying to scale back on two things, the amount of energy in your touch and the amount of pushback you give when your opponent touches or grabs you.

For instance, when you are grabbed and you reduce the autonomic pushback, your opponent falls into an empty spot and his center is compromised. The best part is they don’t realize it happened.

What we want to do automatically when grabbed is to tense up and thereby giving support to your opponent. It then becomes a fight. You gave out too much information.

Its the same concept when touching your opponent. Reduce the amount of your touch so that your opponent doesn’t have the opportunity to react by tensing up.

Popkin Sensei also said to practice the reduce 20% concept by consciously reducing your touch 20% every time you are touched or touching someone.

The reduced touch is an unexpected response with devastating impact. I have noticed it creates the effect of making your opponent stick to you.

The second concept is head past feet. Its one that Popkin Sensei has discussed a number of times over the years and it comes up in every seminar. But it’s crucial and deserves constant discussion.

The idea is simple. Get your opponent’s head past his feet so he is unbalanced.

I have written about this before.  It is literally is the practice of unbalancing your opponent by consciously and physically manipulating his body so that you can see his head go past his feet.

Once you see that happen, your opponent is going down. Simple. Sublime. And requires no strength to make it happen.

The third concept is to breathe through your belly and suck your navel into your spine.

It had to do with making your stomach rise and fall to the rhythm of your breathing.

Popkin Sensei was saying how Okamoto Sensei would place a glass of liquor on Popkin Sensei’s belly and make him raise the glass so the he could reach it and take a drink. Pretty funny visual if you know Popkin Sensei.

I have to admit, this third concept is going to take me a while to mull over in my brain. It’s not a new concept to me, but one that I have never been able to get my head around.

There was a good turn out of the usual characters. And they are a good group of people. Dedicated to honing their craft and supporting the survival of this awesome information.

December 24 2015

Florida Aikikai Winter Aikido Seminar 11/6/15 thru 11/8/15

2015 FL Aikikai Winter SeminarThe annual Florida Aikikai Winter seminar was a smash. This was the 35th anniversary. I was told this was the highest attended seminar we have ever had. Check out their Facebook page too for great info and pics.

There were no Japanese shihan present this year. Bummer. Yamada sensei was scheduled to be there but he was having health issues and did not attend.

The lack of Japanese shihan was not the cataclysmic end of the world that I had worked up in my head. To the contrary, it is was a prophetic sign of things to come. The next generation of aikido leadership, currently made up of the technical committee, is the future and it is in the here and now.2015 Aikido Technical Committee

The biggest thing I saw in this seminar was the imparting of knowledge by the teachers. Everyone of them took the time to explain and show in great detail the moves they were doing. I don’t ever recall that happening before at a winter seminar.

It has always been my experience that the teachers show a move then walk away and leave us to ourselves to figure it out. They of course walk through the throngs of sweaty aikidoka and critique what we are doing. It’s effective but hugely different than having a teacher show the whole class from the beginning what it is they are doing and how to do it.

I attended on Saturday and caught every class on the mat. I did not attend any of the outdoor weapons classes. I was more interested in what was going on inside; both2015 Kamiza figuratively and physically. I want the internals and I got it.

Berthiaume Sensei was the first class at 9 a.m. What is there to say about this sensei except that he rocks. Every class I have ever taken from him has always been a learning experience.

He was particularly focused on getting your opponent off balance. This idea being the integral portion of the movement.

Off balance, kazushi, IS the recurring theme. Until it happens naturally, primarily and automatically, it will remain the as the theme.

None of the moves we did stand out as anything extraordinary. In other words, we did basic moves. But sensei delved into great detail about  manipulating your opponent in the course of the move to get their balance.

For instance, on a tsuki kotegaeshi, he explained to let the tsuki (punch) move past you and in so doing, your opponent then is off balance in a forward position. From here, you can go into a variety of throws. Or just help your opponent keep going in that direction and hit the floor.

The next class was Zimmerman sensei. He kept the information flowing.

As far as movements, we did basics. But sensei went into detail regarding body form and manipulation. He made a point to the effects of joint manipulation effect other parts of the body.

For instance, ho2015_logolding an opponent’s elbow from a tsuki and pushing it across his body and pointing it up and out has the effect of moving your opponent’s hips in the direction the elbow is pointing too. Simple enough but as a practical matter, never done by us underlings.

Next was Demko sensei. I am always intrigued by him. Physically, he’s huge. He’s a massive guy but he’s light in his movements.

He kept the information flowing too. He made points regarding slowing your movements down to increase the flow with your opponent.

The next class was Pimsler sensei. He kept the information flowing too.

But, he took a different approach than the previous sensei’s. He was brutal, in a good way.

I think he was the most concerned with imparting the minute details to what he was showing. He concentrated on making sure what he was explaining was understandable; that us laymen could take what he was saying and apply it.

The last class of the day was Konigsberg sensei. What can I say. He’s the bomb.

All in all, the seminar was excellent and I like the direction Aikido is going. It’s evolving and I like it.

2015 FL Aikiai winter seminar group pic

 

November 20 2015

Peter and Penny Bernath Aikido Seminar in Havana Cuba 10/16/15 – 10/17/15

2015-10-17 Havana Cuba AikidoOh man. I don’t even know where to begin with this seminar. How about totally awesome? This seminar was a life learning experience. It bridged the point where Aikido became life instead of being just a part of life.

There is a lot I could blog about regarding this excursion. But, I am going to keep it focused on the Aikido aspects.

Let me get the specifics taken care of. Peter Bernath Sensei, Penny Bernath Sensei 2015-10-01 Bernath Senseisand a few members of Florida Aikikai went to Havana Cuba to practice with our Aikido brothers and sisters at Asociacion De Aikido Aikikai Cuba.

The first thing I have to blog about is my sensei, Peter Bernath. I have never been to a seminar of his outside the annual Aikido winter seminars and the ones we have at our dojo.

Peter Sensei is the real deal. I saw a side of him I have never seen before. He was massive and powerful in his movements and more importantly in his intent. I was in fear and awe of the guy. He’s a true warrior shihan.

Peter Sensei taught the moves I have seen him do a million times. But this time, he added more information and specific details about what he was doing. He was giving us all his secrets about movement.

For instance, on Friday night, we were working on tsuki movements. At home, Peter Sensei shows us the move with some instruction and we go at it. In Havana, he went into great detail about breaking your opponent’s form. Taking your opponent’s momentum and power and driving it right back into them. Taking the elbow and pushing it down into your opponent’s hip and disrupting their center. It’s a sublime and powerful move.

On Saturday, Peter Sensei was using utemi like I have never seen before. He was using utemi to manipulate mai and space in order to get his uke off balance. But he never lost connection. I have seen him do this a million times, but this was the first time I ever saw it!

I have always known the guy is a natural. Watching him in Havana reaffirmed that knowing.

I guess I am spoiled having been taught by him since 1998. You never realize what you have until you get out of yourself and see your life from a different perspective.

Let’s just say that the Havana dojo is male dominated. It’s a guy’s place.

Friday night Penny Sensei was working out with the general population. In other words, our Cuban brothers weren’t giving Penny Sensei an inch and she reciprocated. They were making her battle and I am sure they didn’t know who she was.

On Saturday, Penny Sensei came out and taught the first class. I looked around the guys on the mat and most of them had looks of dread on their face. Their expressions gave away their thoughts and if I had to guess, I bet they were thinking, in Spanish of course, “Oh no! what did I do? I was beating up on the shihan!”

During her class, Penny Sensei proceeded to beat the tar out of her ukes. I know, I was one of them. She was on fire. She was showing us that being a warrior isn’t just for men anymore.

I must add that our Cuban warrior brothers and sisters were a strong bunch that knew2015-10-17 Cuba aikidoka how to hit and liked to hit. They played hard and hit hard.

I don’t have a problem with this for three reasons: 1. it keeps it real, 2. the harder the opposition goes, the easier it is for me to get them off balance, and 3. it gives me an opportunity to work on softness and integrated body principles.

I could go on and on about this trip. There is lots to talk about. I originally started writing this post the week I got back from Havana and have been working on it since that time. The hardest part was reducing it down to just a few hundred words in order to make it bloggable.

I will sum it up this way: it was an awesome seminar, trip and life experience. I can’t wait to go back.

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October 10 2015

Howard Popkin, Joe Brogna and Dimitri Deglas Daito Ryu Seminar 9/19/15 – 9/20/15

20150919_180702Sensei Howard Popkin and Sensei Joe Brogna from Daito Ryu Akijutsu Ginjukai came to Shindai Aikikai in Orlando for a weekend Daito Ryu seminar. Sensei Dimitri Deglas was present too. He teaches at Shindai. Dennis, a Daito Ryu instructor from Jacksonville, was also there teaching. Forgive me, but I can’t remember his last name. Bad huh? I remember his technique and teaching though.

Lots of the same faces were present. Many thanks to our martial brethren at Shindai for hosting the event. They have a very nice dojo and are good folks.

There was one major theme for the weekend and it was this: HPFF (head past f%$#$ foot). This is akin to what my old judo teacher used to tell me; the body follows the head. HPFF is more focused than that, but the concept is the same.

In practice, the idea is to move your opponent so that his head is vectored such that it is past his foot. This produces kuzuchi. Makes sense right?

We worked HPFF from many different angles and techniques. In a basic example, to help visualize it, we did it from a same side wrist grab where you let the grab happen. You then move your opponent’s hand past his legs so that his head is positioned in that spot over past his shoulder and behind him. It’s a sublime move with great impact.

We worked on another move where you catch your opponent’s hand as if he is strikingPopkin-september-2015-791x1024 you with an open hand, like a slap. You accept it only slightly in order to suck your opponent in, taking his center and balance. You then move back in the same direction yet underneath to the oncoming energy. Its surprisingly disabling and workable from about any angle or technique. Think aiki agi aiki sage.

There were a lot more techniques that we worked on. But this seminar seemed to hit a new, higher level in that it was all about accessing aiki. And that’s a hard thing to do. I hit it a couple of times, but I need lots more practice. I want to have it just happen in all my martial moves. Well, more really, all my moves, martial or otherwise.

At the end of the seminar, one guy asked a question about moving your hips and generating power from them. To my surprise, Sensei Popkin said that in Daito Ryu, you don’t move your hips; you don’t use them to generate power. He did clarify that your hips obviously move since moving your body will make that happen. But you don’t move your hips to generate power how you would in karate for instance, when you are punching or kicking.

As usual, it was great watching and being taught by Sensei Howie and Sensei Joe. I am always amazed at how easy they make it look.