“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” –Lao Tzu
In the fall of 2015, I decided to follow the steps of my Sensei, Hanshi Patrick McCarthy, Head Instructor of Koryu Uchinadi and Director of the International Ryukyu Karate Research Society, on his North American Tour to Calgary, Toronto and Virginia.
As one pursues the Way, it is important to pause and, like a lady does in a mirror, reflect. In order to gain further understanding of the path of the martial arts, I reflect not on what we practice, but how we engage with it and with whom.
Calgary, September 18th-21st, 2015
In Calgary, Sensei McCarthy introduced the concept of Riai Kumite.
Ri理 are the universal laws of nature and their application.
Ai合 is the principle of harmony.
Kumite組手 is grappling hands or commonly translated as sparring.
When we combine these terms together they paradoxically mean the harmonizing laws of grappling hands. The purpose of this practice is to build a continuous flow of attacks and defenses between two people, which includes all the elements of fighting, including throws and groundwork.
With practice, students can move from passive resistance to full-on resistance. In the end, this methodology builds functional spontaneity in unscripted defensive scenarios.
Sensei McCarthy started the seminar by having the group practice two or three combinations out of the Koryu Uchinadi tegumi drills, which includes checking, trapping, blocking, joint-locking, twisting bones, cavity seizing and impacting pressure points.
The lesson started with the give and take of hook punches, hammer fists, and push-hands before new elements were added, like clinching, elbows, knees and much more.
By the end, our practice of Riai Kumite looked like full on street fighting, except safe and with control.
Why Change Partners?
In Calgary, Sensei McCarthy had us constantly change partners through a line drill. With each new person you experience changing conditions, thus pushing you outside your comfort zone.
Another benefit of changing partners is you learn to apply techniques against varying body types, which brings to light the principles that make such techniques effective.
The most common principles being:
- The 5 ancient machines
- Wheel and Axel
- Wedge/Inclined Plane
- Screw (which is a variation on a wedge)
- Class 1 (Load, Fulcrum, Effort)
- Class 2 (Effort, Load, Fulcrum)
- Class 3 (Load, Effort, Fulcrum)
- 36 Habitual Acts of Physical Violence that, in Sensei McCarthy’s words, “represents the contextual premise, which Koryu Uchinadi is based on.”
- Tool, Location, Intensity, Angle, Direction = The Application Formula
I have found that these concepts are overlooked in many martial arts. Often instructors haphazardly teach as they were taught without critically looking at the laws of physics that make them effective.
By looking at martial arts as a set of principles, it allows you to transcend individual techniques and see the practice as a whole.
Yet, these are not the only things that become clearer.
The martial arts are more than the technical and mechanical elements that make it work. I feel that the understanding of these principles and how they work are dependent on understanding why we do them.
The combination of Riai Kumite and actively changing partners also brings to light the importance of intent and how it makes the difference between learning and just doing the drill for the sake of the drill.
Like looking into a hall of mirrors, the journey can seem infinite.
Stay tuned for the next step of the path with my look at the relationship between Riai Kumite, Partners and Intent.