Re: 10/26 - 10/28 - Daito Ryu Ginjukai Seminar - Bellevue, WA
To add to Ledyard Sensei's comments about the seminar:
This was indeed a fun and instructive seminar, just as expected. We had a good turnout, with our Study Group members joined by several aikido practitioners from other dojos in the area.
Along with Josh Drachman, I have the privilege of leading the Seattle study group at Aikido Eastside under Popkin and Brogna Senseis. Their visits here several times each year are a cornerstone of the practice, providing us with encouraging (and sometimes humbling . . .) feedback on our progress, and deepening and broadening the study. The principle-based, hands-on instruction is very effective both for experienced and for brand new seminar participants.
A consistent feature of the daito-ryu technique so capably demonstrated by both Brogna and Popkin Senseis is achieving kuzushi on contact, and maintaining the kuzushi throught the interaction, all while having the practitioner stay centered and relaxed. This is one of the central qualities that I've been pursuing in my training (in both aikido and daito-ryu); Brogna Sensei demonstrated again and again how to achieve it, then offerred detailed verbal and tactile feedback to each participant on their practice toward this goal.
About half of the practice time in the seminar was spent not in pairs, but rather in "lines". This may be an unfamiliar training format outside daito-ryu, so I'll describe it. Everyone lines up in rough order of seniority, and the most senior person gets attacked sequentially by everyone in the line, executing the same technique on each attacker in turn. He or she then goes to the end of the line, and the next person steps forth to be attacked by everyone in the line. (Sometimes everyone in the seminar makes up one long line; other times the participants divide into several shorter lines.)
There are several intriguing features of this practice format. First, the person executing the technique gets many repetitions in rapid succession (not having to wait for one attacker to get up before facing the next attacker). Second, he/she has to adjust each interaction on the fly to the particular attacker of the moment -- speed, power, intention, body type, etc. Third, every person in the line gets to attack, and to take ukemi for, every other person. Fourth, everyone in the line gets to watch multiple executions of the technique, learning to develop a critical eye; since the first people to execute the technique are the most senior ones, they hopefully set a solid example for everyone else in the line.
This makes an interesting and useful complement to the paired practice that is used the rest of the time during the seminar or the study group sessions.
The seminar ended Sunday evening, but superstorm Sandy caused cancellation of all flights to NY, resulting in Brogna Sensei getting stuck in Seattle for several days. We were eager to take advantge of the opportunity, and Brogna Sensei was happy to oblige, and taught further classes on Monday and Wednesday evenings. He continued to remind us of the key principles behind his technique, to demonstrate how these are expressed in each and every technique, and to patiently guide all of us towards improving our execution of the waza. All in all, an educational and enjoyable experience.