February 28 2016

Dan Harden Internal Power Seminar 1/29/16 – 1/31/16

2016-01-30 Dan Harden Seminar 3 Dan Harden from Body Work Seminars, came down for a seminar at Randall Smith’s dojo Aikido of Palm Beach County. By now, anyone reading this blog knows Dan and Randall. Two awesome martial arts guys.

So yea I am late in posting again. It’s turning into my norm. Its not for lack of going over my notes. It’s just being busy running a law practice.

2016-01-30 Dan Harden Seminar 1This was an interesting seminar. And there is one big thing I took away from it that will be the focus of this post. That is the rowing exercise.

The rowing exercise is extremely important and often overlooked because of its simplicity. But training in this exercise will increase your centeredness and stability.

I do the rowing exercise daily and have been for many years. It was good to go over it and assess how I have been doing it, which has only been slightly correct.

Dan was explaining that when you do the rowing exercise you want to be saddled evenly over your hips. This gives you stability and center.

The stance is to have one leg forward, one leg back and hips evenly displaced. You want your weight evenly distributed through out the movement.

The movement is to push your hands forward, closing your body and then pulling your hands back, opening your body. Breathe out on closing and in on opening.

On the forward row, the closing movement, you want your knee slightly passing over your foot and your rear leg stretched as if forming a solid beam from your foot up through your spine and out your crown.

On the rear row, the opening movement, you want your hips in line and balanced over femural headsyour pelvis and hips; the pelvic shelf and femural heads. You also want your your chest out and expanded, laying your scapulars flat across your back and rolling your shoulder muscles back to make that happen.

You want to move as a unified body.

This is essential to understanding the concept of bowing. Rowing out bows your back and rowing in closes that bow.

Bowing is one of the ways to generate power for your overall movements.

The most common mistake when rowing is to sit back on your hips. This occurs on your open motion when you are rowing back into your chest. Your body naturally wants to sit back on the most rear hip. This would be the hip of the leg extending back.

The problem with doing it like this is that you automatically put your self out of whack. You go to an unstable position.

Where you want to be is centered over your hips and feeling the rear leg going up through your body and head. You want to feel the connection going from your rear leg foot, up through your spine and out the top of your head.

Sitting back on your rear leg interrupts this connection. You want the connection.

By the way, your body naturally wants to rest on the hip. So you need to train yourself to move correctly. Its not easy.

I have been doing the rowing exercise with a jo. I find this helps me center my hips over both my legs.Its like the jo is a guide for positioning my pelvic girdle over the femural heads.

Which is surprisingly hard to do since each femural head and hip socket joint moves separately. I visualize them as a chameleons eyes twirling around independent.

I had three good pictures to post this time. So here you go.

2016-01-30 Dan Harden Seminar 2

January 9 2016

Dan Harden Internal Power Seminar 11/14/15 – 11/15/15

2015-11-14 Harden seminar 1 Yes I am very late in posting this. Holidays, three seminars back to back, work. What can I say. I was drafting it, just didn’t get a moment to post it.

Anyway, Dan Harden came down to Randall Smith’s dojo, Aikido of Palm Beach County, for a seminar. Let me sum it up in one word: Awesome!

It’s always great, on many levels, engaging with Dan. Besides the marital training aspect, he’s just a wonderful person to talk to. He speaks his mind and can back up his opinions with fact. It doesn’t get any better than that. I argue for a living, so I know.

Plus, we have a great group of practitioners who always show up for Dan. And its always time well spent with them. Looking at the picture above, you can see we are not pretty, but we are effective.

Let me insert a disclaimer before I launch into my learning experience with Dan. What I post on here is strictly my interpretation of what I learned from him. It may be right and it may be wrong. The memory has a funny way about remembering things exactly as they happened.

If you want authentic training, seek out Dan at one of his seminars. You can get more info at Bodyworks Seminars.

Now on to what I learned this last time with Dan.

We went over some of the core principles. This is a necessity. I need to have the basics constantly drilled into my head.

The basics being spiraling, bowing, center, and all directions. If you don’t have these, you got nothing.

Dan tested us on our knowledge and use of the basics. Yes, he tested us.

Dan had us all stand, lengthen our spines, and extend energy in all directions. He then came around to each one of us and gently pushed to see who would topple over. Of course, I caved. I didn’t have it. And I think all but three of us failed.

After Dan determined who didn’t have it, which was the bulk of us, he had us re-align ourselves and concentrate on accessing from the center. It worked like a charm. We all held steady upon the attempt to push us off balance.

Sounds like small stuff. But its essential. Without understanding the concept of extending your energy in all directions, you can’t move onto more complex things.

For me, practicing this exercise, extending energy in all directions, actually has the feeling of stretching my fascia in conjunction with feeling my center. The two are connected.

Dan showed a us a new exercise that I have since implemented into my daily solo training. Its this really cool bicep spiral training exercise.

The idea is to stand straight, aiming your biceps straight ahead, gently closing your fists with your index finger pointing forward. Its important to have your biceps and index fingers lined up in the same direction and to keep them that way during the exercise.

So after you get lined up, you concentrate on moving only your bicep muscle. You spiral it to the outside and then back. Its important to make sure its your biceps moving and not your index fingers.

I have been practicing this since I learned it. The effect is that it has given me a better understanding of bowing and shoulder movement. Its subtle and powerful.

Dan also gave two quotes that stuck with me:

  1. Leave the front in front
  2. Leave the center in center

I can’t elaborate on the quotes because there is no elaboration. There is only the processing of their meaning.

I think it would be appropriate to start referring to Dan quotes as “Danisms”.

For anyone interested, Dan is scheduled to come down to  Aikido of Palm Beach County on January 29, 30 and 31 for an Internal Power Development Seminar. For more information contact Randall Smith.

I can’t wait to train with Dan some more. I consider myself extremely lucky to have such continued and consistent access to him.

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.

Category: Aikido, Home | LEAVE A COMMENT
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.

 

September 13 2015

Dave Merrell Systema Seminar 9/12/2015

2015-09-12 Dave Merrell seminar 1We had a one day intensive Systema seminar with Dave Merrell at Aikido of Palm Beach County and sponsored by Systema Boca. It was awesome. There was a good turnout and the bulk of the crew were Systema practitioners.

This is the first time I met and trained under Dave. I have heard lots of great things about him over the last few years and they seem to be true. He’s completely into this and it shows.

A few of things I took away from yesterday’s seminar are; 1. accepting what you are given, 2. body alignment and 3. breaking form.

Accepting what you are given is in essence absorbing your opponent’s energy. But it is also not giving back to your opponent any information that you have his power.

For instance, if you are grabbed on the wrist, let the wrist and your whole arm go sorta limp. I say that because its akin to being limp but you still have some energy and power to your wrist/arm but not enough to trigger a response in your opponent. You then move towards your opponent while keeping your non-response operative.

I was amazed when Dave demonstrated this and I grabbed his wrist. It was as though he wasn’t there. And because I was receiving no feedback from him regarding my grab, it tricks your autonomous being into thinking that the grab is working. But the opposite is true.

Dave’s response to my wrist grab was to move towards the grab and capture my hand. At the same time, he moves around the point of energy and in a sublime way, takes control of some other point of my body. Which flows into breaking form.

Breaking form is the practice of monopolizing points on your opponents body to disable him. In Systema, the areas you want to concentrate on are head, shoulders hips, knees and ankles. Its these areas to watch because if your right shoulder moves back, then your left shoulder will be moving forward.

Its how the body works and it points out an open spot. When this happens, its doesn’t take much to control that open spot because your opponents weight has shifted in order to compensate for his movement.

There is another important element to breaking form which is that once you get the open spot you move it to the contrary part on your opponents body. The practical application of this and how it was taught, is if you have your opponents left shoulder in control, then you drive that down and through him to this right hip. The same would be  if you had his right hip, then you drive that down into his left knee and so on.

The result is that your opponent just melts into the ground. This is not a muscling technique. Done properly you should expend very little energy. This is body alignment.

One thing that I liked and want to mention is the warm up. We did some stretching but Dave emphasized how important it is to work your core. We did a number of pushups, regular closed fist and twenty count, then leg raises focusing on your stomach muscles and finally squats, regular and twenty count paying attention to keeping your back straight. The whole time lecturing us on proper breathing in order to control your body. Needless to say, we were all sweating and out of breath before instruction even began.

For the last hour of the seminar, we did kick response; your opponent kicks you and you respond. Which seemed to me a variation on the principles of the above. For instance, a front kick is coming at you and you move slightly out of the way without stepping and move your opponent by moving his kick with your knee to a spot he doesn’t want to be, off balance.

These are the three things that stuck out. A lot more was taught and I may update this post as I recall more. But for now, this is it and it was a Saturday afternoon well spent.

As Dave explained, you need to watch the body. It will tell you everything you need to know.

 

 

Category: Systema | LEAVE A COMMENT
August 17 2015

Claude Berthiaume Aikido Seminar 8/15/15 – 8/16/15

2015-08-15 Berthiaume seminarClaude Berthiaume Sensei gave a seminar this past weekend: August 15 & 16, 2015. What can I say except this guy rocks.

I threw my back out a few days before and could not move without severe pain. But, I did not want to miss this seminar.

Berthiaume Sensei really has a deep and innate knowledge of Aikido and body mechanics which is borne from experience. For instance, when he was showing techniques, he broke it down to individuals parts: opponent grabs wrist, then your elbow goes around the power of the grab instead of directing your energy into the oncoming assault. Its crushing to your opponent.

To look at a wrist grab in its totality, it’s easy to miss the subtle things that make it really work.  But its the great practitioners that make it look effortless and then enunciate it to wanna-bees like me.

Another move he did, that I like and see it as a Chiba sensei technique, is to respond to a wrist grab by folding your arm into your chest and elbow going around the power of the grab. Your hand goes one way into your chest while your elbow goes the opposite way, not unlike a fulcrum.

Outcome, your opponent feels like he opened a door and fell through unbalanced. Exactly like that situation when you go to open a door and someone on the opposite side happens to open it at the exact same moment you do. You lose control and fall into the open room your balance all out of whack and your brain at a loss in its response.

Berthiaume Sensei also made a point of keeping your elbows in close to your body, in certain instances. 2015-08-15  Claude BerthiaumeThis has the effect of bringing your opponent into your comfort zone and eliminating the fight. It keeps your center and takes your opponents center. Plus, it guards your innards from any stray punches to the mid section.

I must point out that he also said to keep your opponent at a distance by not folding your elbows in. Elbow power is a situational dynamic.

What I took as the essence of his seminar is to break down the whole into its parts and reconstruct it with fuller and more integral meaning. Use more intent and less power to become dynamic.

Paradoxical thinking right in line with a martial art that calls itself non-violent. As usual, a great seminar.

 

Category: Aikido | LEAVE A COMMENT
July 4 2015

Rick Merrell Systema Seminar 6/27/2015

2015-06-27 Rick Merrell Systema SeminarRick Merrell gave us a great Systema seminar. We trained specifically for defensive knife fighting. Very interesting.

Let me first state that if you are ever unfortunate enough to be in a knife fight, expect to be cut. It’s going to happen.

That being said, this was an eye opener for me. I like the Systema philosophy that you need to flow with your opponent. For instance, in this seminar, Rick kept saying to feel the point of the knife, where it is pointing and move it that way.

You don’t move it by force or fight, but rather by flow. You disable the blade by getting the flat side engaged. It’s not easy, but it is doable. Its also contrary to the automatic fight or flight response.

The seminar was not about attacking someone or learning how to cut with a knife. It was about feeling the flow of energy in a very material and concrete way.

2015-06-27 Merrell Systema flyerI have never worked out with Rick. Against advice from Scott and Tom, the Systema instructors I train with on a regular basis, I had to push Rick to see what he was about and what he had.

Oh man did I learn. Rick quickly disarmed me and used the knife against me. Even though I continued to fight, he had me spun around such that I was bending backwards while he was holding my chin and exacerbating the bend in my back.

I still fought. Rick responded by slamming my chest so that I fell to the ground with the wind knocked out of me.

It was not a hit he used either. It felt more like a concrete block hitting me. The energy came straight down and connected. Pretty cool.

I will be working out with Rick again. He has weekly Wednesday night classes in West Palm Beach.

Anyway, the underlying lesson, which runs through my whole martial arts experience and which I need to fully integrate into my being, is to flow with the energy of the attack.

I have to really learn how to feel it. Which means peeling away layers of the onion and reworking my automatic responses.

Systema has a more integrated way of doing this than other martial arts. So much so, that it appears completely free form to the outsider. But it is not.

It’s a System. And it works very well with my other martial arts training.

June 27 2015

Harvey Konigsberg Aikido Seminar 6/13/2015

2015-06-13 Konigsberg seminarKonigsberg Sensei came down for a seminar. I can’t remember how many of his seminars I have been to over the years. They are always awesome.

An aikido friend of mine once referred to Konigsberg Sensei as a “burning ember”. This always stuck with me and made sense. He is such because his movements are explosive. He stays in stasis until something causes him to respond. Just like an ember that can ignite into flame.

The teaching I took away from this seminar was to keep my shoulders down and move from your hips. Access your body centrally and in a unified way. This is the dominant theme in my martial arts life.

HK-2015Konigsberg Sensei was stressing the point that you must engage and move from your center and also engage and move your opponents center. You must enter the dynamic sphere.

Crandall Sensei I have never met before until this seminar. He taught the first hour class.

Crandall Sensei was very good. He is a physically powerful guy who used small movements. His style is similar to Konigsberg Sensei.

Crandall Sensei stressed movement to center and demonstrated a real nice technique of aiming your thumb towards your own center from a wrist grab.This completely destabilizes the strongest opponent. It catches you off guard without a doubt.

Its like when you reach for a closed door and someone on the other side happens to be opening it at the exact moment you are opening it. You get that feeling of falling off a cliff. Your balance is falling forward and you are gone.

I already knew of this technique, but it was nice to be reminded of it again. And his version was quite effective.

 

Category: Aikido | LEAVE A COMMENT
January 31 2015

Dan Harden Seminar 1/23 thru 1/25/2015

Harden 1 25 15Dan Harden came down to Aikido of Palm Beach County for a seminar last weekend. It was awesome as usual.

I was only able to attend Saturday and Sunday afternoon because of family obligations. Family first.

Apparently Dan showed alot of above top secret stuff that I missed. Bummer.

Dan did seem to be in a real serious mood this time. He wasn’t his regular jovial self. I expect that is because he was teaching the more intense stuff.

Dan did say at the end of the seminar that he was showing our group more stuff because its the same regulars continually showing up. And that most of them are showing marked improvement.

I don’t think I made the cut this time however. I wasn’t doing much right this seminar.

I did take one important thing from Dan this time that I have not heard before. He said the point of practicing sword cuts is to get your dantian moving, its not to build your shoulders. Which means that your real strength and power comes from your insides, your center. Not from just your muscle.

THere was also another exercise Dan did that had to do with raising your arm/hand to meet your attackers oncoming grip. But the purpose of it was to learn how to connect to a different set of muscles instead of just using your shoulders. The idea is to get your shoulders rotating in their sockets and to have the muscle over your shoulder and down your back moving your opponent.

Nice to know after doing years and thousands of sword cuts. Needless to say, I will be changing my sword cuts to make sure this happens. I am also changing my solo practice to connect deeper with the internals.