Gasshuku Interview With Hanshi Patrick McCarthy

With the 2018 Koryu Uchinadi North American Gasshuku just around the corner, I had a chance to speak with Hanshi Patrick McCarthy (9th Dan) about what the Gasshuku means to him and what we’ll be learning at this year’s event. 

JT: Can you tell me a bit about the meaning and history of the term Gasshuku?

Koryu Uchinadi Gasshuku 2002

McCarthy Sensei: Unlike the Japanese terms Keiko[稽古], which means “training,” Renshu[練習], which means “practice,” Kan-geiko[寒稽古], which means training in [cold/winter] temperature/conditions and/or Shochu-geiko[暑中稽古], which means training in [summer/hot] temperature/conditions, the term Gasshuku[合宿] means “training camp,” but also brings the idea of lodging together while conjuring up a special feeling of camaraderie and learning through austerity. This, of course, coincides exactly with our theme for the international gathering: diligent training, improved understanding and camaraderie between like-minded people supporting common goals. Unlike the open or multi-style training seminars that I often teach around the world, the focus of our symposium is to address curriculum-orientated theory and practices. The express purpose of this effort is purely to broaden and deepen your understanding of Koryu Uchinadi and tighten our bond of friendship in the spirit of Budo.

JT: Can you tell me about the first Koryu Uchinadi North American Gasshuku? What was it like?

2002 Gasshuku

McCarthy Sensei:  Oh yes, the first two things that come to mind are what a remarkable job Sensei Brian & Helen Sakamoto did in arranging the gathering and exactly just how bloody hot it was in Toronto that summer of 2002.  I also remember the special guests who came to visit: Sensei Tsuruoka, Sensei Wally Slocki and Sensei Monty Guest. In spite of the hot weather, we had such a memorable time training together and forming such unshakable bonds of friendship.

JT: What is your favourite part about the Koryu Uchinadi North American Gasshuku?

2015 Gasshuku Go KU

McCarthy Sensei:  Ahhh, that’s easy. Just the feeling I get of being around so many who share my dream and seeing how KU empowers those who embrace it.

JT: What do you plan on teaching at the 2018 Koryu Uchinadi North American Gasshuku?

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McCarthy Sensei: Well, everything I teach is “Toolbox-orientated” [i.e. the ability to deploy effective practices against the HAPV] in what I refer to as Riai-Tegumi. That said, my focus of attention this year will be on the 48-Bubishi postures, how they are used against the HAPV, and their ritualization into templates, which are exampled in the Kata we embrace.

JT: Could you explain the significance of the 48-Bubishi Postures?

McCarthy Sensei: The 48 2-person postures represent classical HAPV and response applications. They are timeless and hugely significant to the original art as once taught, learned and practiced in old Okinawa.

JT: Could you explain Riai-Tegumi in a bit more detail, for those who are not familiar with this practice?

McCarthy Sensei: Riai-Tegumi[理合手組] is an unscripted/random exchange of HAPV attacks, escapes & counters [using our RRCCR/receive, respond, capture, control & release concept], with varying levels of aggressive resistance, which starts from a stand-up position after, “crossing hands,” and includes the clinch and the ground, and most preferably all three areas.

JT: If you had one piece of advice to give, what would it be?

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McCarthy Sensei: Don’t be afraid to believe in yourself, follow your heart and enjoy life!

Message from the Director

Sensei McCarthy

“Dear students, instructors & colleagues,

I have long been passionate about the traditional fighting arts but prefer functionality to impractical ritual. By going out on my own, and establishing Koryu UchinadiI not only challenged the existing status quo, I succeeded in ruffling many a feather within our tradition. Nowhere was this sentiment more evident than with the zealots who believe the art is the exclusive domain of the Japanese [i.e. Okinawans]. My knowledge of Japanese language and [Budo] culture, unique experience and technical competency represented the kind of progressive independence, which seemingly threatened the control and insecurity of the powers that be.

17th Century Haiku Master, Matsuo Basho, summed up tradition nicely when he wrote, “Seek not to [blindly] follow in the footsteps of the men of old but rather continue to seek out what they sought.” This timeless concept says so much about keeping tradition alive, rather than blindly adhering to, “Exactly how the master did it 75 years ago!” Citing the wisdom of Thomas Moore, “Tradition is not the worship of ashes, but the preservation of fire.” Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything. The only way to do this effectively, especially in lieu of such widespread ambiguity, is the continual exploration of that which we don’t understand by using any and all means available to us. This is the guiding light of the IRKRS, and I am confident that the direction in which we are currently travelling is much more in line with the teachings left to us by the pioneers than is the conformist mentality that shaped the dysfunctional modern interpretation of this art.

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Koryu Uchinadi represents the culmination of my life’s work. It is a uniquely contemporary tradition meticulously constructed from the remnants of four classical practices [Tegumi手組, Ti’gwa手小, Torite捕り手 & Kata型], once vigorously embraced during Okinawa’s old Ryukyu Kingdom Period. For many years, I dreamed of a way in which to reach out and help other people find their way through the historical, cultural and technical ambiguity, which tends to shroud understanding the essence of this art. The International Ryukyu Karate Research Society has become a worldwide movement bringing together like-minded people in pursuit of common goals. Celebrating empowerment, personal achievement and camaraderie has become the hallmark of our movement.

This Gasshuku is one of the most important annual gatherings of our organisation. To have such dedicated and like-minded people come together in camaraderie and support of common goals is nothing short of wonderful. I would also like to express my appreciation to all local participants and especially those who will travel from out-of-town, the USA and overseas. Some of the supporters here have been with us since our very first Gasshuku in 2002. I am especially grateful to Sensei Helen Sakamoto for her years of unwavering support. I’d also like to say thanks to Renshi Mike Coombes, his team, and the entire Toronto Study Group who do such a great job co-hosting our gathering. Also, a very special thanks to our co-instructors [Renshi Paul Lopresti, Renshi Cody Stewart, & Shidoin Darrin Johnson] for agreeing to deliver our target lessons this year. I am confident that you will be very happy with the experience delivered through their insightful lessons.

Welcome to our 16th annual North American Gasshuku, thank you for sharing my dream and helping to make this annual gathering such a wonderful learning experience.

Patrick McCarthy

Director

Join us for the 2018 Koryu Uchinadi North American Gasshuku!

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5 Phrases That Need To Be Used MORE In The Dojo

5 words that need to be used more in the Dojo-4

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The Web Master: Spinning Concepts with Sensei Paul Lopresti – Part 2

It’s better to have a tool and not need it than need a tool and not have it.

This point summarizes the necessity of adding grappling to our fighting repertoire. And as I mentioned in the first part of this series based on my learning experience with Sensei Paul Lopresti, grappling is a common aspect of self-defence overlooked by many karate practitioners. I find this especially frustrating because so many kata techniques are applicable on the ground, as illustrated in my previous discussion of kokutsu dachi and knee on belly position.

Sensei Paul Seminar-Group

Another standing technique found in karate and other striking arts is the hiza geri (knee). If someone is properly executing a hiza geri with all their body weight moving into the technique and the hips driving forward, one can very much see the mechanical similarity of the hips in shiko-walk.

The shiko-walk is a common grappling technique used in a double leg take down or the knee cutter guard pass to kesa-gatami, in which you press your knee onto the inside of the opponent’s thigh.

With that said, Sensei Paul spun further applications of hiza-geri through his presentation of a ground drill of his own creation, completely committed to the bottom position, called Ura Ne-Waza. Based on my understanding, the creation of the drill was a critique of common grappling practices. Most BJJ clubs teach grappling from a superior top position and rarely address ways of being successful while on one’s back.

The inspiration for ura ne-waza was one of Sensei Paul’s female students. She constantly found herself on her back against bigger opponents—the type of opponent a woman is most likely to find herself against. With ura ne-waza, students can protect themselves against larger opponents by using various restraining techniques and submissions, like the guillotine or kimura, from their back.

Jen And Anthony

One position in the drill is called “knee in guard,” which uses the exact same body mechanics of a standing knee strike or shiko-walk.

In this position you stick to the opponent’s body by:

  • Under-hooking the left arm with your right arm and grabbing the opponents right wrist with your left hand
  • Pressing your left knee into the crevice of the elbow and bracing the bottom of the left foot on the right side of the opponent’s hip.

Josh And Ray

In doing the “knee in guard” position, you prevent the opponent from attempting a series of punches towards the head. It also acts as a potential transition into a multitude of submissions, such as omo-plata or the kimura.

Through these controlling positions, I learned that as the opponent struggles like prey within a web, you have a better sense of where they will turn next and can capitalize on their position.

Also, the hip rotation used to generate power in all striking techniques, strongly emphasized in Koryu Uchinadi Kenpo Jutsu, is another way to create space to escape holds and to transition into other submissions on the ground.

For example, in transitioning to the guard when the opponent is in a mount, explosive hip movement is paramount to accomplishing an escape. This movement is comparable to expanding into any standing striking technique. The feet plant on the floor as the arms push the opponent’s knee out, and one side of the hip drives forward while the other side retracts back, just like a gyaku-tsuki.

Furthermore, the strength of hip and core rotation is a necessity for all transitional movements. The ability to interweave a series of movements, such as how you move into your arm bar or your kimura from the guard, determines your success. Whenever there is movement, there is potential for space, and with space comes the potential for the opponent to escape or counter your efforts.

As I learned while going through Sensei Paul’s arm bar and kimura series, knowing how to create and limit space is fundamental. In the arm bar and kimura sets, Sensei Paul taught several different ways of getting into these techniques. The web of fighting starts when we are given several different options from a single position. In doing so, we learned to recognize specific situations that could allow us to transition from the guard to our desired submission. As we moved from the guard to our submission, we integrated a hip swivel to adjust angles and isolate the joint we were attacking, necessitating that we rotate our hips just like in our usual standing practice.

Hip Swivel

Throughout the seminar, Sensei Paul not only demonstrated his understanding of the body mechanics of ground techniques, but also demonstrated his ability as a teacher and coach. Sensei Paul taught individuals of varying backgrounds, such as BJJ, wrestling and karate. He explained techniques in a way that could be understood by individuals of any martial arts background. He is both patient and intellectual in his approach to teaching a group or an individual.

I feel we benefitted the most from Sensei Paul’s instruction in two ways. The first was through rolling. At the end of the seminar, we were given the opportunity to experiment with the variety of techniques we learned via two-minute grappling sessions. While rolling, we were told to go at different intensity levels, for example 60 percent, so everyone could practice in a safe and fun manner.

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The other opportunity we were given to gain knowledge was to ask questions. In Sensei Paul’s seminars, he gives everyone the opportunity to ask him about their experiences, what worked for them or didn’t work for them in the past as well as in the rolling session. In this way, Sensei Paul can tweak the techniques to fit the individual style, strengths and size of the student.

Although most karate practitioners do not pursue ground techniques, their standing technical knowledge operates on the same body mechanics as ground techniques.

You can observe the connective thread between standing and ground techniques through:

  • Kokutsu dachi and knee on belly position
  • Knee strike in comparison to both shiko-walk and “knee in guard” position
  • Hip rotation while doing a hip escape from the mount or transitioning to an arm bar from the guard

The body, of course, can only move in so many ways. We should expect that how we generate power standing can be applied the same way on the ground. Yet many karate practitioners continue to turn a blind eye to the importance of ground work and grappling,  even when common sense dictates that the principles of physics and body mechanics are applicable no matter what position someone is in.

The concepts found in our standing repertoire cannot be completely understood unless we recall karate’s true purpose: self-defence. To claim the art as self-defence and not address all the Habitual Acts of Physical Violence causes many to get stuck in one corner of their web. True martial artists must explore the concepts found in their systems with a critical gaze to see how the threads of their own practices connect with all other styles.

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