West Hempstead Martial Arts & Fitness | Popkin-Brogna Jujitsu Center

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Lawrence McGrandles reviewed Popkin-Brogna Jujitsu Center
via Facebook

Lawrence McGrandles reviewed Popkin-Brogna Jujitsu Center — 5 star
June 7, 2016 ·
Aiki Connections
A two-day seminar with Howard Popkin and Joe Brogna

As martial artists we tend to walk a fairly similar path. We try out a style, find it is a good fit for where we are at that time and we either stick with it, or as our life and needs change or we look for something new. I started in Judo, passed through Karate and ended up at Jiu Jitsu so clearly I am not averse to trying something new or different. This meant that when a good friend and respected Aikidoka suggested (strongly) that I “must” attend a weekend seminar on Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu being given by Howard Popkin and Joe Brogna, I figured I “must”. For those who may be unfamiliar Daitō-ryū Aiki-jūjutsu it is the parent art to many of today’s popular arts. Its founder was the now legendary Takeda Sokaku who taught Aikido founder Morihei Ueshiba. Other Daitō-ryū students went on to become the founders of Hakkoryu, Shorinji Kempo, Hapkido, and many other popular modern arts.

With my interest suitably piqued I signed up for the weekend and began to wonder exactly what I had let myself in for. I had heard about the Aiki at the core of this system, it’s effectiveness making it possible to unbalance, redirect and control an attacker while using little or no muscular strength. This intrigued me.

The dojo, located in the Swan Centre in Ashford, Kent was a great location for the seminar. The dojo was a large, light and airy hall with great mats and enough room for the thirty or so participants to fit comfortably. Our host Phil Eyers of Genryukan Aikido (Dover) introduced our teachers for the weekend, Howard Popkin and Joe Brogna. Howard and Joe, both long time students of Okamoto Seigo the founder of Roppokai Daitō-ryū who was a student of Horikawa Kodo Sensei (the longest serving student of Takeda Sōkaku himself!) and both teachers of Daitō Ryū in Long Island, New York. This was to be the third annual visit by Howard and many of the participants were back for exactly that reason.

Howard and Joe spoke briefly on their background and then we were into it. Howard demonstrated a technique and explained with eloquence and humour exactly what was happening. He also acknowledged that from the outside it was very easy to misinterpret what was happening as, what I like to call, “uke acting” but with everyone getting a chance to feel the technique from either Howard or Joe you soon realize there is no acting just a hell of a lot of technique. This was softness taken to a whole new level. As someone who practices a fairly “street” form of Jiu Jitsu I am used to the idea that my kotegaeshi is going to put you on the floor because otherwise your wrist is going to come off. The lightness with which Howard and Joe executed the technique meant that on a number of occasions I found myself laughing as I fell to the floor a little unsure of quite how I had ended up there.

Mine was not a unique experience, as Howard and Joe mingled among us on the mat checking, correcting and congratulating. One Aikidoka performed a technique then exclaimed, “that was ridiculously easy” which Howard happened to hear and asked him to repeat to the room. “This”, Howard pointed out to us, “is the only flaw in the system, because when you do it right it feels like nothing”. I went back to my hotel that night desperate to retain what little of the “nothing” I felt I had been able to learn.

The second day built on the lessons of the previous day and we added some Jo and Bokken to the mix attempting to apply our techniques with the same lightness we had experienced the day before. Always the lessons and demonstrations were fueled by humour and clear concise descriptions of what was actually happening anatomically.
Howard and Joe were always open to questions and constantly watching as we practiced.

Of course all too soon it was over and finally we sat down on the mats as a group to ask questions and take a final opportunity to steal a little knowledge. Howard and Joe gave us their insights willingly and without ever making anyone feel they had asked a “wrong” or “stupid” question. They treated everyone on the mat regardless of age, sex, colour or grade exactly the same way, and that speaks volumes about them both, not only as teachers but people.

As I drove back to London, tired but very happy, I chatted with my fellow attendee, an Aikidoka of some years and we both agreed it had been a memorable event filled with friendly people and one that we were both looking forward to attending again next year.

Milton Cadogan reviewed Popkin-Brogna Jujitsu Center
via Facebook

Phenomenal: I'd give 10 stars if possible! Without a doubt, serious martial arts! Senseis Popkin and Brogna are the real deal, they have extensive traditional martial arts training rooted in true Japanese tradition( mainly Daito Ryu Aikijujutsu, and many others). Their teaching is outstanding( funny and playful, even) in how they can distill the fundamentals of a technique for even a beginner and continually add nuance where needed . The kind of Jujutsu that's taught is both for the self-defense seeker, and for those interested in having fun learning about their own body mechanics. It's a rare privilege when I get to train with these gentlemen!

Roman Panek reviewed Popkin-Brogna Jujitsu Center
via Facebook

I have 20 years of martial art experience, I'm 6'4 220 pounds male. Working with Howard, I felt like I was a newbie. His skills are amazing and he is an outstanding educator. Clear instructions in plain language complimented by his sense of humor and personality. One of the best schools I ever visited in my whole life (and I traveled the world). 5 stars only because I can't give six. Try it! ;-)

Priya Shah reviewed Popkin-Brogna Jujitsu Center
via Facebook

My oldest son has been coming to this Jujitsu center last year and I like every parent was skeptical - this was not our first experience with a martial arts center but this is surely our LAST stop....WE LOVE IT!!! All the sensei's - Howard, Joe & Steve and sempai Stephanie are professional, mean business and yet a pleasure to deal with. It does not get any better than them they take an interest in all the kids while in class and even outside of class - thanks to their private closed group pages in social medias they give kudos to kids, post pics up and give them tips and shout outs. Thier extra activities - like the halloween party, kickpad seminars, star wars party are just so well received by the kids. This is a place where the kid and the parent enjoy coming. I have seen such a difference in my son - his listening skills, focus, confidence and overall strength has improved. He takes pride in his work ....which is such treat for me. I love it so much that I have now enrolled my second son who just turned 4...and I am confident that he too will excel. Thank you to everyone at Popkin-Brogna you guys are just the best.

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Build character and leadership qualities

Martial arts classes benefit growing children far beyond the dojo and in many real-world scenarios. Our structured classes are meant to help develop coordination, physical fitness, mental strength, as well as gain valuable social skills. Through positive reinforcement, we can bring out the best in your children to help them succeed in life.


My 4 year old daughter started at the dojo less than a month ago. I never expected to see results so quickly! From the second we walked in, my shy and anxious daughter was chatting up a storm with Sensei Steve and Sempai Stephanie. She sat and observed the other children the first day and by the second she jumped right in. I have never seen my daughter so excited about an activity; she asks to go every day, even on the weekends. This has actually brought tears to my eyes! As a social worker who specializes in young children, I have been extremely impressed with all of the staff. My daughter is learning skills such as impulse control, having a higher self esteem, discipline, social skills and so much more. Between the pictures, the videos and the educational fb lives the PPJJC community shares, I am proud to be a member of the family.

Rena English

My son has been going to the dojo for about 7 months. We’ve had great experiences in class, Parent class, outings, and monthly events. The instructors are so positive and affirming. They truly care about the kids. The photos, compliments in class, videos, support group, weekly live FB wisdom for parents and most of all we just received the sweetest voice message this week as my son was recovering from the flu. His face lit up when he heard that everyone is wishing him well and missing him. Thank you for making such a positive influence on our lives!

Lisa Corrao Barbato

Incredible experience with Popkin-Brogna. My kids have never been more enthusiastic about anything. They love going to class, it's never the typical parent struggle we've often had attending other activities. Amazing experience, and I look forward to seeing them grow! Thank you!

Kelly Rooney Berube

This is an amazing center. It is family oriented and especially kid oriented. Fun yet disciplined. My son has been a student there for 4 years now and he is strong and confident because of what he's learned from the dedicated Sensei. We also had a birthday party for my son there. The party was excellent and everyone raved about it. It was fun and engaging, kept the kids busy and active. And my son being able to cut his birthday cake with a samurai sword is still something that he brings up! Overall, we are very happy we decided to send our son to such an amazing school.

Andrea Scaturro Shinsato

My grandchildren, twin boy and girl, celebrated their birthday there. The center did a beautiful job. It was very appropriately done for 6 1/2 year olds. Everyone enjoyed themselves and cutting the cake with the sword was the hit. Great party.

Gladys Jankunas

Our son has been apart of the dojo for a little over a year and the changes we’ve seen in him are amazing. Beyond the martial arts training, which had helped him physically, he has learned discipline, patience, hard work, dedication, kindness and understanding. Everyone at the dojo is family. They are there for you no matter what and truly care about all the children (even their siblings who too young to be members now). We just had our son’s birthday party there and it was beyond outstanding! All the kids had a great time and even the parents got involved for a game of dodge ball! They even provide invitations, decorations and goodie bags! All we had to bring was the cake! The smile on our son’s face throughout the party said it all! We couldn’t have asked for anything more. We are truly grateful for being apart of this family and wouldn’t give it up for anything. So if you’re looking for a place for your children to have a great time learning martial arts and valuable life lessons Popkin-Brogna Jujitsu Center is definitely the place to go!

Jaime Gaddis Bender

We love this Dojo. My son has shown tremendous progress in self discipline, confidence and stamina. He attends all the special events for kids, he has made friends and has great respect for all the instructors. There are times that we address issues at home and at school and work through them with support from the staff. They are of the growth mindset approach and very child centered. I’ve witnessed over the past 9 months the PBJJC consistently keep it interesting and exciting for all. Give it a try you will not be disappointed!!

Jeanine Gallina

From the moment we entered the dojo for the first time, we were greeted as family. My girls have learned so much, both on the mat and off. They have been taught technique, strength training, and personal goals and values. There have been lessons in discipline which extend to home and school. I couldn't be happier with all of the senseis and sempais. The Senseis encourage the parents to speak to them about any and all issues your child may be having and they work with them to help in any way they can. They follow through on their lessons. They even contacted me when my child was sick to see how she was doing! They certainly care about their students!

Kelly Dean Lackner


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