Here at the frontier, the leaves fall like rain. Although my neighbors are all barbarians, there are still two cups at my table.


Ten thousand flowers in spring, the moon in autumn, a cool breeze in summer, snow in winter. If your mind isn't clouded by unnecessary things, this is the best season of your life.

~ Wu-men ~


Saturday, March 14, 2020

Daito Ryu Isn’t Aikdo

Below is an excerpt an interview with Roy Goldberg, from the Aikido Journal. Mr Goldberg is one of the highest ranking teachers of Daito Ryu in the US. The full interview may be read here. Enjoy.

Roy Goldberg is one of the highest-ranked Daito-ryu Aiki Jujutsu practitioners outside of Japan and the senior student of Hayao Kiyama Shihan, the President and Chief Instructor of North American Daito Ryu Aiki Jujutsu Kodo Kai (NADRAKK). Goldberg Sensei was awarded the rank of 7th dan and certified with the “Kyoju Dairi” teaching license by Inoue Yusuke, the Kodokai Menkyo Kaiden. In June 2016 the Hombu Dojo presented him with the prestigious Hi Ogi, the third scroll in the transmission of Daito Ryu Kodo Kai. He is the first and only non-Japanese person to receive this honor from the Hombu Dojo in Kitami, Japan. In March 2017, Goldberg Sensei officially separated from Kodo Kai in Japan and now heads an independent branch of Daito-ryu. He leads a number of study groups throughout the US and abroad and teaches seminars around the world.

Aikido Journal (Josh Gold): Can you tell us a bit about your martial arts background?
Roy Goldberg: I grew up in the Bronx in the 1950s. It was kind of a tough neighborhood for a short, Jewish, asthmatic kid. I wasn’t a good student, but I always had to be moving and was always good at sports. I did baseball and played paddle ball obsessively. My dad taught me to box, mostly by knocking my block off. In college I started wrestling and pound-for-pound I was really strong. I wrestled off different weight classes to challenge myself. And many times I was wrestling individuals who started years before me, and even though I was stronger, what they had was technique. That was really the beginning of starting to understand how important technique is. Eventually I got into Columbia University — I think my parents just badgered them into letting me in — and when I started to take anatomy it all just clicked. Not that I didn’t struggle, but the body just made sense to me and I found I had a good memory if it was something I was passionate about. And that served me well as a physical therapist.

The summer before I got to college I was a lifeguard and one of the head lifeguards introduced me to Shinan Antonio Pereira at the Tremont dojo who did Miyama ryu jujutsu, which was a lot of judo, some hard jujutsu, and some aikido, but all modified to be for the street. These were a bunch of very rough guys in the south Bronx who were not playing. They were trying to kill each other. After getting dan rank, we worked with real knives in the dark, that sort of thing. Pereira originally trained in Japan with both Kotani Yasuyuki, the famous 10th dan Kodokan judoka, as well as with O’Sensei. I believe Ueshiba even gave Pereira a teaching license in aikido. So, I thought I should try aikido.
So I went to NY Aikikai to train with Yamada Sensei and his senior students. I discovered that some of my jujutsu was difficult to apply on really good aikido people, which was extremely frustrating. They had technique I didn’t understand and much better structure. Since I trained early in the morning, I didn’t get a lot of mat time with Yamada Sensei, and the classes were small. Sometimes as few as 2-3 people. The instructors were extremely knowledgeable and I learned a lot about movement. I mostly trained with Harvey Konigsberg, Steve Pimsler, and Hakeem Luqman a lot; he really understood my jujutsu background, so we got quite close (I think he is in Morocco now). To this day Konigsberg has some of the best aikido I have ever seen. He’s just like water. His irimi nage is just completely in your face.
Thinking back on it, I unfortunately think I was sort of a dick back then. I was so confident in my jujutsu, and I was young and challenging. Too cocky. During my shodan exam, part of the test was to do freestyle randori with 4-5 people, but in my morning class we never really had enough people to practice that, so when the ukes came at me in the test I reacted with jujutsu, not aikido. I went a little too hard, and Yamada Sensei stepped in and stopped the test. He was definitely a bit annoyed with me. In retrospect, I really appreciate what they gave me and regret that I wasn’t a more respectful student. Since then I have come to train with a lot of aikido people that I have really enjoyed meeting and working with.
Around that time was when I started doing Daito-ryu with Kiyama Shihan. I did several seminars with Yonezawa Sensei, who was really the first to introduce Kodokai-style Daito-ryu to the United States, and Kiyama was his uke. I was just blown away. When I felt Kiyama’s technique it was like nothing I had ever felt before. And I just couldn’t explain it. Kiyama invited me to train with him, and I became obsessed. He was and is one of the most naturally gifted martial artists I’ve ever seen.
“So I went to NY Aikikai to train with Yamada Sensei and his senior students. I discovered that some of my jujutsu was difficult to apply on really good aikido people, which was extremely frustrating. They had technique I didn’t understand and much better structure.”
I started regularly traveling back and forth to California to train at his house and following him to Japan. I turned my life upside down to go train with this guy because I knew he was the real deal. And to this day, I still regularly travel out to California to visit with him. He’s like a second father to me. And even though I officially left Kodo Kai, we are still very close.
That’s partly why today I don’t have a lot of patience for people who can’t make the effort to go to a seminar that’s a couple of hours from their house. My students travel because that’s the only way you are going to get this. If you have access to a good teacher, like my friend Dan Harden, or Howie Popkin (who started Daito-ryu with me, but ultimately trained very closely under Okamoto Sensei of Roppokai), or somebody like that, then you do what it takes to get there and train with that person. Because you aren’t getting this by sitting at home and commenting on Facebook.
Traveling the world teaching Daito-ryu, what do you see as some of the most common misconceptions about the art?
I think in some areas Daito-ryu has the reputation as just hard aikido. Like it’s the caveman version of aikido or something. I actually heard someone say once, “If there isn’t pain, it isn’t Daito-ryu.” And that’s just nonsense. It’s true that Daito-ryu has a large number of brutally painful pins and immobilizations, but real Daito-ryu has a softness that is nearly unmatched. It can be brutal if it needs to be, but that isn’t the goal.
A lot of people have started to use aiki like it’s a buzzword, or think they can take a single Daito-ryu technique and throw it in their bag of tricks. But it isn’t a cafeteria — you can’t pick and choose. You have to get the whole meal. That’s why the whole “sharing secrets” thing doesn’t bother me — it isn’t about a technique or a trick.


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