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Old 08-18-2009, 06:40 PM   #1
George S. Ledyard
 
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Daito Ryu Roppokai


The Daito Ryu Roppokai Study Group at Aikido Eastside just completed its second weekend seminar of the year with Howard Popkin Sensei,direct student of Okamoto Seigo, head of the system.

The thing that has most struck me about the Roppokai training method is the way they use exercises that are very precisely targeted to elucidate specific principles and ingrain the proper body connections to use those principles in waza. This was quite different from the way I learned Aikido. When I started Aikido class back in 1976, I simply joined in and tried to do what the other students were doing. I think the first technique I tried was shiho-nage. The amount of complex body skills required to actually do that technique effectively made it virtually impossible to do anything but fall back on some basic body mechanics and muscle power.

The Roppokai methodology really stays away form applied waza in favor of paired exercises which allow the student to identify and practice very specific skills. One can practice achieving a balance break forwards, backwards, sideways, angles, etc without the distraction of worrying about the various applications that might come off that balance break. This focus on what I would call the "entry" keeps the stress of practice down and associates the motor skills with a relaxed mind.

Execution of these various balance breaks ranges from extreme slow motion in which one can examine every minute detail, fell the result of each change on angle of the hand, every movement of the hip or bend of the knee, to faster execution in which flow becomes most important. Popkin Sensei consistently reminds one to not be attached to the success of a technique but rather to choose one or two specific principles and be very mindful of just those elements. I find this approach incredibly effective. It is virtually impossible to keep all of the elements, even the essential ones, in ones mind simultaneously. In our Roppokai training we might do a certain exercise one day focusing on one or two elements, then turn around the next day and do the same exercise putting attention on a different set of elements.

Instruction is totally body centered. Do this with your elbow and that happens with your partner, move your hip this way and your partner tips that way. I have this discussion with Aikido friends who were trained as I was... we were expected on some level to "steal the technique". Our teacher would do something completely incomprehensible and we were supposed to figure it out by seeing it or feeling it. The problem with this is that when you start talking about so-called internal power, the movements are, well, internal. If no one teaches you what to look for and what that feels like, you'll simply miss it. Our brains largely filter out things we don't have names for or things which don't fit the dominant paradigm under which we are currently functioning.

It's rather like the experiment they did with the bouncing ball and the gorilla. A group of folks was asked to watch a guy bouncing a basketball on a TV screen. They were instructed to count the number of bounces until told to stop. At one point a man in a gorilla suit ran across the screen. Most of the participants failed to even notice him.

So in Aikido waza, if you do not already have an idea what to be looking for, you will most likely not see or feel it, even when it is being done on you. One teacher of aiki, whose name I can't remember, said "If you understand what was just done to you, it wasn't aiki." With principles functioning on such a subtle level, only the most extraordinary person would be likely to both perceive the essential principles of high level technique and be able to translate them into specific muscle movements, joint alignments, or energetic shifts.

This is, more than anything else, the most important thing I have gotten out of training in the Roppokai system thus far. You are not taking anything away from the student by providing very specific instruction. You are training them to be able to see. By ingraining an understanding of the various principles functioning into both the conscious mind and the body you create a student who can look at almost any teacher's technique and see the essential elements functioning. Rather than coming in Friday night and leaving Sunday night no wiser, a properly trained seminar attendee should be able to take full advantage of exposure to a high level instructor. Even when a teacher has a different style or approach, the student who understands principle based practice should be able to see what principles are functioning. The principles are universal even though the outer form may be different.

Anyway, every time I train with Popkin Sensei, I come away tangibly improved and with a greater understanding, not just of the Roppokai techniques on which we are working, but of what I am trying to do with my Aikido waza. I am increasingly basing my Aikido instruction on a methodology which strives to accomplish the same thing.

So, once again, I find my head swimming with technique, principle, body connections, etc. I doubt I will have digested more then a small portion of it all before Popkin Sensei returns in December. I'm already looking forward to that return.

(Original blog post may be found here.)
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Old 08-19-2009, 05:34 AM   #2
Ryan Seznee
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Re: Daito Ryu Roppokai

That sounds like an interesting approach, and it keeps balance taking first, then?
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Old 08-19-2009, 08:47 AM   #3
Howard Popkin
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Re: Daito Ryu Roppokai

Depends on the mood
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Old 08-19-2009, 12:35 PM   #4
phitruong
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Re: Daito Ryu Roppokai

Quote:
Howard Popkin wrote: View Post
Depends on the mood
mood swing and hot flashes when practicing roppokai DR, is it? i guess if you don't have girlfriends or wives, that should be ok; otherwise, it would just be hell.
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Old 08-19-2009, 01:22 PM   #5
MikeLogan
 
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Re: Daito Ryu Roppokai

We were fortunate enough to host Popkin Sensei for a weekend early this year. I got thrown a lot, he said it was because the audience enjoyed it. Also, my expression when paying close attention sometimes looks like a scowl (say, of disbelief), so he wanted to make sure I felt it.

Did I ever. It felt like all the harmonizing i was trying to do out and around uke was being performed inside of tori.

p.s. Greetings Sensei, i never realized how close your dojo was to manhattan. Will hopefully make it for one of your weekend classes next visit in town.

If way to the better there be, it exacts a full look at the worst.

- Thomas Hardy
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Old 08-19-2009, 08:04 PM   #6
David Orange
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Re: Daito Ryu Roppokai

Quote:
Mike Logan wrote: View Post
It felt like all the harmonizing i was trying to do out and around uke was being performed inside of tori.
Just wanted to set that quote apart for closer inspection by all who hit this thread.

Nicely said.

Thanks.

David

"That which has no substance can enter where there is no room."
Lao Tzu

"Eternity forever!"

www.davidorangejr.com
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Old 08-19-2009, 10:35 PM   #7
Howard Popkin
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Re: Daito Ryu Roppokai

Mike,

About 40 minutes by train from the city. Stop by any time.

I had a great time with George and the gang. Thanks for all the hospitality.

Keep training !

Howard
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Old 08-20-2009, 07:22 AM   #8
phitruong
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Re: Daito Ryu Roppokai

Quote:
David Orange wrote: View Post
Just wanted to set that quote apart for closer inspection by all who hit this thread.

Nicely said.

Thanks.

David
you meant it done INTERNALly? *gasp* Blaspheme! that's not aiki! how could you suggest such thing!
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Old 08-20-2009, 12:00 PM   #9
Cliff Judge
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Re: Daito Ryu Roppokai

Here's a link to that video for those of you who haven't seen it. Though if you haven't seen it, George has spoiled it for you.

http://viscog.beckman.illinois.edu/flashmovie/15.php
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Old 08-20-2009, 12:28 PM   #10
Cliff Judge
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Re: Daito Ryu Roppokai

George,

I've been thinking about this recently as I've been paying more and more attention to the topic of internal power and how to develop it. Two anecdotes for your entertainment:

ASU DC Summer Camp 2007, when Kaiwa Sensei (the Itto Ryu guy) was guest instructor, I was on the mat for one of Ikeda Sensei's classes with Kaiwa Sensei's deshi, Kohno san, who trains Roppokai in Tokyo.

I remember focusing really hard on trying to make a light connection to his center and holding it while trying to get my body shifted around so I could do a kokyu lift right on the "seam," as you call it. I can make this work but I still go through a lot of mental and energetic histrionics.

It was his turn and he said, "oh no, no, no...this is very simple. We call it 'Aiki Age' in Daito Ryu and we spend the first year of our training doing mostly this. Here...just relax."

And each time I grabbed him, no matter what type of energy or structure I gave him, he said, "Just relax." and effected a very nice aiki lift without using his arm muscles that I could tell.

So it was interesting because he clearly had a very simple mental "icon" for what he wanted to do, and he unconsciously organized his body and energy around it and just did it. Kind of like how when you learn to walk, you don't have to stop and think about it when you suddenly have to walk on a curved or slanted surface.

Second anecdote, I had a friend I know from online visit with me for a few days this week. He does Kokikai in the Bay Area. We did a lot of training and talking and one of the things that really struck me was the difference between the Kokyu Tanden Ho I do, and the Kokyu Dosa he does.

In my experience the "rules" of Kokyu Tanden Ho practice are that uke has to hold onto nage's wrists, and it is somewhat uncool for uke to let the grip loosen or shift...Nage's goal is to receive the attack, touch center, extend uke, and we finish it up with some rotation and a pin to make it feel martial.

My friend was showing me the way those guys practice Kokyu Dosa. Uke just grabs and is supposed to provide completely stable, neutral energy. Nage is simple supposed to extend from his center into uke's center. Just a progressive amount of energy that is entirely linear. When nage "wins" the technique, uke generally gets a little "lift" and is uprooted like a tree.

Anyway it struck me how our method of doing this technique requires the same general type of thing, but we have a more complicated phrase to make with it and there is some technical stuff to worry your head. I consider Kokyu Tanden Ho to be a "puzzle" that needs to be solved each time.

The Kokikai people have stripped this down to something that is much more like a developmental exercise.
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Old 08-20-2009, 12:34 PM   #11
ninjaqutie
 
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Re: Daito Ryu Roppokai

I would love to train with this person since I used to do aikijitsu. I miss my old style.

~Look into the eyes of your opponent & steal his spirit.
~To be a good martial artist is to be good thief; if you want my knowledge, you must take it from me.
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Old 08-21-2009, 08:39 AM   #12
Lorel Latorilla
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Re: Daito Ryu Roppokai

Nice write-up George. This makes me want to train with the Roppokai group out in Osaka now. There's also some guys who come from Nishikido's line. Anyone know if these guys are good?
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Old 08-21-2009, 09:06 AM   #13
Howard Popkin
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Re: Daito Ryu Roppokai

Lorel,

Forgive me, I don't know the Osaka group, so I can't vouch for them. Every style has good people and not so good people, so its a good idea to check it out for yourself.

As for Niskido's people, I don't know them either

Sorry I couldn't be more help.

Howard Popkin
New York Roppokai
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Old 08-21-2009, 09:29 AM   #14
Lorel Latorilla
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Re: Daito Ryu Roppokai

Quote:
Howard Popkin wrote: View Post
Lorel,

Forgive me, I don't know the Osaka group, so I can't vouch for them. Every style has good people and not so good people, so its a good idea to check it out for yourself.

As for Niskido's people, I don't know them either

Sorry I couldn't be more help.

Howard Popkin
New York Roppokai
Hey no problem Howard . It's fun to find out whether these guys will be good to play with.
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Old 08-22-2009, 09:32 AM   #15
George S. Ledyard
 
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Re: Daito Ryu Roppokai

Quote:
Cliff Judge wrote: View Post
My friend was showing me the way those guys practice Kokyu Dosa. Uke just grabs and is supposed to provide completely stable, neutral energy. Nage is simple supposed to extend from his center into uke's center. Just a progressive amount of energy that is entirely linear. When nage "wins" the technique, uke generally gets a little "lift" and is uprooted like a tree..
This is just one way, I think. We generally grab strongly and most start with one partner pinning the hands to the lap. That little "lift" you refer to can be both of your shoulders smacking you in the head while your neck feels as if it got whiplash, then your face heads down towards the floor at high speed.

This is one thing I have realized recently. This emphasis on strong grabs can allow people who don't understand their techniques to apply the force from larger muscle groups against their partner and sort of drag them around. The attack with less force, especially a touch of the hand in which the partner doesn't close his grip. is a great way to force yourself to use connection rather than physical power to move the other partner.

We have everyone giving the grip of death... it's silly. When was the last time you saw someone win a fight by turning his partner's hand purple? Then we yell at them if they let go... If the technique is right, it shouldn't feel hard to keep the grip, in fact it should be hard for them to break connection. This isn't even an application of Roppokai principle to Aikido, its just common sense.

George S. Ledyard
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Old 08-22-2009, 04:20 PM   #16
Pat Togher
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Re: Daito Ryu Roppokai

Hi George and Howard,
sounds like the seminar went well. Sorry to have missed this one, I was out of town with family. Hope to catch up with you later this year.

Pat
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Old 08-22-2009, 07:12 PM   #17
Howard Popkin
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Re: Daito Ryu Roppokai

Thanks Pat,

Be well.

Howard
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Old 08-25-2009, 11:41 AM   #18
Pat Togher
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Re: Daito Ryu Roppokai

More to the topic,
I've had the opportunity to train with Howard and George at seminars several time over the last year or two. Both of these men are truely gifted instructors. If you get the chance to train with either (or both) of them, go for it!

Pat
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