Re: Daitoryu Ginjukai East Coast Intensive - August 24-27, 2012
I also participated in this Intensive, and enjoyed it tremendously. (Sorry for the belated posting). I share the enthusiasm of the reviews above, and would like to provide some more details on the seminar.
By way of introduction, I should mention that I have about 20 years' experience in martial arts (most significantly, 13 years in aikido), and have been training with Popkin and Brogna Senseis for 4.5 years. I'm one of the branch leaders of the Ginjuaki in Seattle, along with Josh Drachman.
The Intensive format was excellent, offering a generous 24 hours of training over 4 consecutive days (twice the exposure one gets at a typical weekend seminar). This allowed the training to build on itself and be both broad and deep.
The 30+ participants in the Intensive had backgrounds in various other martial arts, from Aikido and Karate to BJJ and MMA; some had advanced ranks (including at least one Rokudan), and others were relative beginners; some have been training with Popkin and Brogna Senseis for years, and others were meeting them for the very first time. The atmosphere was open, respectful, and joyous. It was clear that the instructors and the participants were having a great time throughout.
Popkin and Brogna Senseis' Daito-Ryu Aikijujitsu Ginjukai is a highly effective art that is relaxed and soft, supported by a core of internal strength. They consistently displayed relaxed power, achieving kuzushi on contact and effectively leading and/or controlling their partners throughout the interaction, demonstrating a high level of aiki.
Both Popkin and Brogna Senseis are excellent teachers, and provide clear, principle-based instruction. They guide their students to develop the right feel and to understand why the techniques work as they do, rather than merely imitating a form. This helps the students' progress within the art itself, and also facilitates applying the principles and skills to the pursuit of aiki in other martial arts.
To gauge and foster effective teaching in the various Ginjukai branches, each branch leader was put on the spot several times during the weekend, and asked to demonstrate and teach various techniques in front of everybody. Before offering their own feedback, Popkin and Brogna Senseis would solicit comments from the other participants, thus training everyone to develop a critical eye.
In addition to taking turns demonstrating and explaining to the whole class, Popkin and Brogna Senseis spent significant hands-on time with each participant, allowing everybody to work with each of the instructors directly. By the end of the weekend everyone seemed to have made significant progress, and to have had a great time.
Howard Popkin Sensei and Joe Brogna Sensei are planning on holding at least two such 4-day Intensives annually, in Seattle and at the main dojo in NYC. I heartily recommend these Intensives, or at least a weekend seminar, for any budoka pursuing aiki.