This is a continuation from Part 1 of the interview with Patrick McCarthy. McCarthy Sensei is ranked 8th Dan and is a well known author as well as the developer of Koryu Uchinadi.
PM: The Bubishi has been one of Tuttle’s best-selling martial arts titles in the past and I think my publisher got wind of the fact that I was planning to produce a Bubishi Companion text. Hence, asked if I would consider revising my original work. Anyway, that’s what my attorney told me. Based upon this, I produced the revised edition, and was very pleased with the final outcome; FYI, the Bubishi Companion text is still in the works.
MA: Speaking of the Bubishi, what roll do you see hakutsuru (white crane) and the Fujian Province playing in the development of ti (early karate)? Which hakutsuru kata on Okinawa are generally considered the most genuine? [Note: Hakutsuru is one of the major subjects discussed in the Bubishi]
PM: Genuine is a relevant term! Like lineage and culture, genuine doesn’t necessarily mean functional. I’ve witnessed a lot of “genuine” Japanese and Okinawans who came from impeccable lineages and couldn’t fight their way out of a wet paper bag! I call such folks, “re-enactors,” not totally unlike the Medieval Re-enactors Groups; most, not all, pay remarkable attention to various cultural details, and have the best uniforms, etc. The only one thing lacking is their functional fighting skills.
As a style Hakutsuru (i.e., Yongchun Crane), played an important role as one of the precursor methods from which several Okinawan lineages trace their origins. As a kata (e.g., Sokon’s Hakutsuru, etc.) however, I think far too much fuss has been made over its form with out understanding its function. Much of what I’ve seen being promoted as “authentic,” falls far from being functional. Those traditions established in and around the Matsuyama Park district of Naha’s Kume Village (i.e. Wai Xinxian, Iwah, Aragaki Seisho, Kojo Taitei, Xie Zhongxiang, Higaonna Kanryo, Maezato Ranpo, Matsuda Tokusaburo, Nakaima Norisato, Sakiyama Kitoku, and Wu Xianhui, etc.) and that of Uechi Kambun appear to come down from this lineage.
One of the difficulties in tracing exact lineage is the different cosmetic appearance of the style. An example of how styles, which come from the same progenitor source, change is found in detachment, the passing of time, confusion and the arrival of rule-bound practices, which emphasized form over function.
MA: Your travels took you not only to your main areas of study (Okinawa and Japan) but also to Korea, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, and China. What were you hoping to find during these excursions?
PM: Similarities, differences and contextual premises, in order to corroborate my theories and bring more meaning to what I was studying.
MA: Could you share an anecdote from those times of an experience that you found to be particularly enlightening or humorous?
PM: In November of 1990 I traveled from my home in Japan to Fuzhou, Fujian Province, China. The local martial arts association was hosting an international competition, preceded by a week long symposium with many of its most senior masters. Amid the several foreign countries partaking in the martial arts festival was a Japanese delegation with members from various fighting arts. One evening in the banquet hall after dinner, several of the groups were enjoying, “a few drinks,” and exchanging stories. In a rather lively conversation, “alleging that the Japanese misunderstood the original fighting arts of Shaolin,” one of the Chinese delegates come out with something like, “…for example, jujutsu is an application-based practice but without our old solo routines (kata), and yet karate has preserved our old routines but still don’t understand their application!”
The comment was greeted with a roaring silence, until one gentleman from the Japanese delegation responded with, “are you suggesting that each of these arts is a smaller part of a larger whole, and incomplete in itself?” As the Chinese gentleman skulled the last of his jiu (Jiu= liquor), he proudly blurted out, “Karate and jujutsu both trace their roots back here to our Fujian-based Shaolin practice, therefore, wouldn’t you all just be better off studying our original art?”
Historically, I think the intoxicated Chinese gentleman was referring to Fujian-based Shaolin arts as the progenitor to which karate kata traces its roots, and Chen Yuan-Pin (aka Chin Gempin/1587-1674) as the Fujian-based martial artist said to have influenced the development of Jujutsu by his mid-17th century visit to Edo (Tokyo) and subsequent interaction with the Samurai class (i.e., Fukuno Hichiroemon, Isogai Jirozaemon, and Miura Yojiemon, who later influence the establishment of Fukunoryu/Ryoi Shinto Ryu, Miuraryu Yawara and Kito Ryu Jujutsu).
What happened next between a couple of emotionally charged martial artists at the table was, for me, nowhere near as important as the BFO (Blinding Flash of the Obvious) I experienced that evening. Learning that Fujian-based quanfa served as the progenitor from which came both karate kata (form) and jujutsu oyo (function) it stood to reason that the contextual premises and underlying principles which shaped this original art should also apply to any and all derivatives, including today’s practices. Furthermore, being able to prove such a thing would surely help resolve the terrible ambiguity shrouding insight to the contextual premises and application practices of kata as understood in modern karate.
This not only formed the basis from which my obsession with studying the original Fujian-based quanfa practices unfolded, but also revealed a crucial link between form (karate kata), function (jujutsu oyo), and their shared Shaolin heritage.
MA: I’d like to take a closer look at some of your main instructors. Sugino Sensei was an extremely well respected budoka, and subject of the article “The Last Swordsman”. What was training with Sugino Sensei like? Did he provide any unique glimpses into the world of Japanese Koryu?
PM: Sugino Sensei was a delightful person and it was a wonderful opportunity to be one of his direct students. In spite of also having trained Muso Shinden Eishin Ryu and ZNKR Iai under Izawa Takehiko most of my formal Koryu training was experienced under his tutelage. Like all Koryu, Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu uses identifiable attack scenarios and timeless prescribed application practices to effectively negotiate them. I could tell you many wonderful stories about this fascinating teacher but it is understanding this premise that Grandmaster strengthened my understanding of kata.
MA: Did Inoue Sensei discuss his Ninjutsu connections frequently, and did you get a chance to experience those methods during your kobudo training with him?
PM: On many occasions Sendai discussed training under Fujita Seiko, Shiyoda Gozo, Taira Shinken and Konishi Yasuhiro, and what a collective impact it had upon his learning. I used to meet Sendai early every Tuesday afternoon before regular training at the Shibuya dojo to serve him tea, and listen to him talk about his history. From time to time he would lead us through various Ninjutsu-based practices, including shuriken and tactical application of pressure points.
MA: More importantly…any regrets about wearing leopard print pants in your kickboxing match at Tokyo Korakuen??
PM: Not at all … only wish I was bold enough to wear the Leopard mask that came with them ; – )
MA: These days you are touring quite frequently to help improve people’s understanding of Uchinadi and karate in general. Where have those travels taken you, and where might people contact you if they are interested in such a seminar?
PM: I like to think of KU as a system of application practices which can fit easily under the foundation of any karate style, and radically improve the overall curriculum, without adversely effecting its cosmetic appearance.
I’ve been invited to teach KU TPAD’s all over the world ranging from North & South America, Russia, the UK, and the EU, to Africa, Japan, China, SE Asia, New Zealand and Australia. For anyone interested, I can be contacted c/o firstname.lastname@example.org but cannot always respond immediately. Alternatively, it’s best to contact our American Shibucho, Sensei Darrin Johnson c/o email@example.com.
MA: Many thanks McCarthy Sensei for your participation in this interview and for your tireless efforts to help reveal and preserve the true nature of traditional martial arts!
It’s an honor to present this interview with Patrick McCarthy, 8th Dan and founder of Koryu Uchinadi.
McCarthy Sensei is one of the world’s leading investigators in classical martial arts. He has traveled to many countries and for decades has acquired knowledge and information from some of the top instructors in various classical arts, putting together an innovative system known as Koryu Uchinadi (ko=ancient, ryu=style, uchina=okinawan people, di=hand).
McCarthy Sensei is a noted practitioner of Okinawan Kobudo and Karate but is also a cross trainer, integrating modern ideas and techniques into his personal skillset. He has proven himself in the realm of competitive kickboxing as well as traditional tournaments.
The following interview grants us a peek into some of McCarthy Sensei’s ideas behind martial training, as well as some of the insights granted to him by his highly skilled instructors.
MA: McCarthy Sensei, what got you into martial arts in the first place and how old were you when you first started studying seriously?
PM: When I was nine years old a highly motivational documentary film was shown at my primary school. Produced by Josef Reeve, for the National Film Board of Canada, it was entitled, “Road to the Olympics,” and highlighted Canadian Judo Champion, and silver medalist, Doug Rogers. I joined the Saint John Judo club immediately after that.
MA: Could you provide a brief overview of your training history and main instructors?
PM: I have learned from many teachers over the years but I think those who most influenced me taught me to learn for myself; John Grosdanoff [high school wrestling coach], Tiger Thompson [boxing coach], Wally Slocki [kumite coach], Sensei Richard Kim [principal karate teacher], Prof. Wally Jay [jujutsu instructor], Donn Draeger [Budo culture], Sugino Yoshio [Japanese swordsmanship], Takada Nobuhiko [shoot fighting], and Kinjo Hiroshi [karate teacher]. If you’re interested, here is a Facebook link to some of the many sources I came into contact with during the Japan years. [Note: To learn more about McCarthy Sensei's background, visit his biography page here.]
MA: What was study like under Kinjo Hiroshi Sensei? Was his focus on sparring/kata/application/etc?
PM: Keeping in mind that I was already a 5th dan and 31 years old when I met O-sensei (who was then in his late sixties), learning under him could be likened to being a university student; the lecturer delivered the target lesson and it was up to me to do the required study (training) in order to achieve the required outcome. Following this, O-sensei would check my progress from time to time and make corrections as required. His focus was always upon technique, application and contextual premise.
MA: It is said that Kinjo Sensei is a great repository of karate knowledge. Has he spoken often of karate before the integration into Okinawan school systems? What were the major difference pre/post war, in his mind?
PM: O-sensei is always a great repository of karate knowledge (now nearly 92 years old). In fact, in addition to the many books he’s written, he’s currently in the process of writing yet another! To tell you the truth, all O-sensei ever talks about is karate; he’s still very sharp mentally and remarkably fit, especially for a man so advanced in age.
He always talks about karate in general and has spoken much about the old-days, the “old ways” and many of the authorities with whom he’s come into contact with along the way. Also, my wife Yuriko and I have had the opportunity to translate many articles, either by or about O-sensei. All of this has been quite insightful. He learned directly under Hanashiro Chomo, Gusukuma Shimpan, Oshiro Chojo and Tokuda Ambun. As these men were also the senior students of Itosu Ankoh, and the principal instructors to first teach karate in Okinawa’s school system, O-sensei has a lot of interesting stories about the old-ways. As I have also spent a lot of time studying the past, with a special emphasis upon the old-ways, I can tell you that this is one topic we’ve discussed many times over the years.
One of the biggest things that separate the past from the present, according to grandmaster, is method, organization and systematization. In the old days karate training was very personalized and never as stylized or as commercial as it is today. Also, most of the local Okinawan instructors were all friends of each other and frequently enjoyed “cross-training,” and social gatherings. Little emphasis was ever placed on competition whereas today it’s virtually the opposite; competition is everything! The idea of kihon [learning strikes, blocks, kicks, punches, and postures] separately before learning kata was unheard of; this was a new concept developed in the 1920’s and 1930’s. Old-school training, prior to karate being introduced into the school system was all about private/personal training, two-person drills and kata.
MA: One of the trademarks of Koryu Uchinadi is it’s two-person tegumi drills. Can you talk a bit about how you came to establish these drills and why you chose to name them in honor of Okinawan Tegumi? In what ways do you suspect they are similar/dissimilar to the ancient version?
PM: I first came across the term, “Tegumi,” while I was still residing in Japan and working on the Nagamine Shoshin book translation “Tales of Okinawa’s Great Masters” for Tuttle publications. The term is made up of two separate ideograms; Te – meaning hand or hands, and gumi/kumi, which holds several meanings, such as braid, construct, assemble, unite, cooperate and grapple. More interesting was identifying that the term was also kumite written backwards! Learning this I remembered that as a young kungfu student*, my sifu used the term, “crossing hands,” in the same way that swordsmen used the term, “crossing swords,” as a way to describe fighting.
Asking Master Nagamine about it, he told me that the original, and far more brutal practice of Tegumi had fallen quietly dormant during the end of Okinawa’s old Ryukyu Kingdom Period [c.1879]. Following it’s demise, a modified rule-bound version of stand-up clinch wrestling ascended from it called Okinawan Sumo. In spite of several efforts to popularize the more modified version, the new cultural recreation fell short of gaining widespread recognition.
Considering myself more than a novice history buff, and having spent considerable time in Okinawa, I was surprised that I’d never come across the term “Tegumi” anywhere before. One only need look around at the publications of that era to clearly see that the term “Tegumi” was not in use anywhere within the karate community. As I was also occupied with searching out the origins of various two-person strength and conditioning exercises**, used in old-school karate practices, you can probably now imagine why I liked the dormant term straight away. Having traveled to Fujian in search of what southern kungfu styles used these two-person hand practices, I’d learned a wide range of drills and was searching for a user-friendly name under which to deliver them to others. What better name for such two-person hand practices than Tegumi?
MA: You often suggest that kata are mnemonic templates that are “geometrically choreographed” to elicit understanding of techniques that can be used against habitual acts of physical violence (HAPV). Can you break that down a little more and explain what that means?
PM: As karate is a defensive tradition, what could be more important than learning to identify which acts of physical violence it was developed to defend against? Wouldn’t the ability to defend oneself be left entirely to chance otherwise? Only a naïve mindset imagines that all “fighting” is about standing toe-to-toe with an opponent! Even then, this approach concludes one has the luxury of facing their attacker! The KU approach varies drastically.
The original idea that karate is a defensive art presupposes that if an “opponent” was facing you, irrespective of whatever threatening gestures and verbal taunts were being made, unless you were literally set upon, the better (wiser) person also learned to evade the potential threat, hence preventing the need to harm someone. As such, the need to actually defend oneself arose only if and when an attacker actually seized a hold of you.
In civil/domestic circumstances***, “one against one, empty-handed unwarranted acts of physical violence” (HAPV) represents the contextual premise upon which the art of self-defense was originally forged. My research revealed that pioneers developed various engagement scenarios****, so that novice students could safely rehearse prescribed application practices. In KU TPAD [Koryu Uchinadi Two Person Application Drills], aggressive resistance serves as the catalytic mechanism through which learners are able to achieve functional competency. By bringing together various prescribed application practices into solo routines, something greater than the sum total of their individual parts appears; kata! In KU, this is how we see kata as mnemonic; i.e., a practice that culminates the lesson already learned in TPAD. Moreover, as creative mechanisms through which to express individual prowess, kata also serve a popular means of strengthening one’s overall mental, physical and holistic conditioning.
As such we believe that the HAPV premise crosses the boundaries of time, culture, and gender and therefore are as valuable now here in the West as they ever were in the beginning.
MA: One of your primary methods of exploring bunkai is reverse engineering using HAPV. Do you suspect that karateka of generations past spent far less time exploring bunkai because the applications were introduced first, with the kata then coming after to reinforce those already established lessons?
PM: I do, in fact. With few if any of the distractions, as exampled in today’s highly commercial-based traditions, old-school training methods focused much more upon prescribed application practices.
That said, tradition was never meant to be about blindly following in the footsteps of the old masters, or even preserving their ashes for that matter. In principle, tradition has always been about keeping the flame of their spirit alive, and continuing to seek out what they originally sought. This timeless message is how practices are kept functional, and it is why tradition should inspire learners, not inhibit them!
MA: When exploring bunkai do you have personal checks and balances to determine if you’ve let your creativity veer too far away from the core concept of the kata? How do you keep your imagination inline with the kata’s intent?
PM: Aggressive resistance is one “check” that helps keep us within the boundaries of reality. Another is simplicity; methods that require cognitive thought in the midst of unpredictability and all hell breaking loose, tend to be time-consuming and have little place in practical application. Finally, if and when the prescribed practice meets these criteria, its solo representation MUST still resemble the kata mnemonic. There’s a cute little saying we use in KU about ambiguity; “If it has feathers, quacks and flies, it’s a duck!” So too, if the said prescribed template (i.e., a group of self-defense techniques from the kata) meets the criteria, and looks exactly like what’s in the kata, then until someone is able to show me/us something “more functional,” I/we consider this, “the application!”
Incidentally, this does not suggest that the said template cannot be used in another context exactly the same way, only that the premise doesn’t have to be the same!
MA: Do you still practice kata in your personal training? What value do you derive from it these days?
PM: Oh, yes! I love kata…it is the true art of karate and I am very much inspired by its continued study.
MA: Were there many cultural barriers to overcome in order to integrate into Okinawa and dojo life? Any communication difficulties?
JL: At the time I was in Okinawa, it was still under American administration and many of the locals worked on the bases. Most of them could speak English and were used to the Americans. There was a large number of Military and US Civilian workers in Okinawa, so the locals were used to that.
When I first started in the dojo, Sensei didn’t speak much English and some of the Okinawa students didn’t, but as I stated before, several dependent kids were fluent in both languages and there was no problem with communication. After a month of so there, I began to learn a little Japanese and Sensei began to speak English to me directly.
I suppose it was probably more of an advantage, than disadvantage that my first lessons were in Japanese. I had to use my eyes to visually understand what I was being taught rather than having to hear the words and try to watch at the same time.
MA: Could you share an interesting or funny anecdote that reveals a sense of Oyata Sensei that people might not have heard before?
JL: We did several demonstrations while I was stationed in Okinawa and they all included breaking. As I had observed during my first demonstration as emcee, the breaking was a little different than I had witnessed or read about. Boards were broken across the outstretched arm, leg, stomach or back rather than breaking a stack of boards.
Logue Sensei Withstands the Board
Sensei and I were doing a series of demos for a company in Koza that was selling time-shares in Florida to American Servicemen. As part of the presentation, they hired Sensei to do a karate demo a couple of times a week.
So, after class, we’d drive to Koza and he and I would do the demo. Sometimes he asked me to do an empty hand kata or weapons kata. He also threw me around with some self-defense and then we’d do the breaking. He would break a two by two across my out stretched arm, leg, back, and stomach. One particular night, he was breaking one across my right arm. Smack, it didn’t break. He tried again to no avail, then he tried the left arm, my back, my stomach and then my leg, still the board did not give.
His face began to redden in anger and he placed the board against the wall and kicked it only to have it push him back. Without saying word, he walked outside and broke the board across the corner of the building. I believe that I could feel the building shake under the power of this strike.
He walked back in smiling and laughing. “sometimes board no break”. As we drove back to the dojo we laughed about it as he explained, “It’s okay board not break. If it break every time, everybody think fake!”
MA: When you returned to the United States in 1971 and ultimately opened your first dojo in 1973, what kind of challenges did you face at that time? What was the general perception of karate and how did it manifest itself through the students you first attracted?
JL: When I returned from Okinawa, most of the local dojos were either Tae Kwon Do or American Free Style. I wasn’t used to this concept, so I kept to myself. I found a few dojos to visit and was seeking others to spare with bogu; however, this was when the “safety chop/kick” was in vogue and no one was interested in really getting hit.
I noticed there were not very many people doing weapons except for Nunchaku popularized by the Bruce Lee movies. I tried to get some interest in the weapons, but it was so foreign to most everyone that again no one was interested.
On one of my trips back to see my parents, I noticed a dojo advertising Okinawan karate. This turned out to be Ridgely Abele and he invited me to come teach at one of his camps in the mountains of North Carolina. There I was sort of back in my environment where I met many others who trained Okinawan karate. Through these seminars I met others such as Doug Perry Hanshi, Bill Hayes Kyoshi, Phil Koeppel Kyoshi, Kimo Wall Kyoshi and many other influential Okinawan karate practioners.
Doug Perry, Jim Logue, Kimo Wall, Bill Hayes
MA: How did you manage to maintain an active relationship with Oyata Sensei after you came to the states? Was it difficult to continue your learning?
JL: After I returned to the states, I was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas until I got discharged. At that time, I was corresponding with Albert Geraldi, Bill Wiswell and Greg Lindquist as we worked on forming the American Federation of Ryukyu Kempo.
We maintained some contact with Oyata Sensei, but could not train directly with him. From 1972 until 1977 when he returned to the US, training was on my own except for an occasional meeting with the former students mentioned above. When Oyata Sensei was in the States, his students made a 8mm film with all the basic empty hand kata that we used as a guide for our continued training:
When Oyata Sensei returned to the States, he spent a couple of weeks with me refreshing what I had been taught in Okinawa and introducing me to new concepts. My students and I traveled to Kansa, where he lived; staying a couple of weeks each time and he drove to South Carolina a few times for more personal training.
In 1981, I hosted a seminar at my dojo and I invited several friends I had made from other Okinawa systems. This set off a wave of seminars for Oyata Sensei and we also began to hold summer and fall camps.
I’ve managed to train with Sensei at least every three or four months and sometimes more often since he has been to the states. I always go to the summer and fall camps early to get a heads up on the training that will be conducted so that I can better help him teach. I also travel to many of the seminars he does across the US.
MA: Were you surprised when kyusho became such a focal point surrounding Ryu Te? Has it been difficult preserving Oyata’s kyusho while “magic kyusho” (no touch knockouts and things of that nature) continues to gain popularity?
JL: Karate in the US had become stagnate, there was nowhere for it to go. The only emphasis was on the sporting side of karate and it was moving further away from the old ways of life-protection. The introduction of tuite and kyusho jitsu has been good for karate overall, in that it’s sparked a new interest in finding the meaning behind kata other than the kick/punch definition that most have.
Unfortunately, some have found a way to “fool” everyone into false knowledge through “magic” tricks. It hasn’t changed the real meaning of tuite or kyusho jitsu, but has hurt in that people try to associate themselves with Oyata Sensei, saying they learned his “secrets”.
People are really gullible believing that a life-time of study can be learned by attending a few seminars. There is no magic button as people think and those that teach these things are no more than “snake oil” salesmen.
MA: What emphasis is placed on weapons in Ryu Te? Is it seen as a companion to karate, and when is it introduced to students?
JL: Oyata’s first lesson consisted of training with the bo and other weapons. It’s my belief that weapons and empty hand go together. The same principles and concepts apply as far as footwork, angles, shifting and etc. If you watch the way the hands move using the weapon and imagine using only the hands, you can see no difference in empty hand.
Ryute Eku and Nunti
There are differences in how each type of weapon is used. i.e. Bo and eiku are used differently even though they are long weapons. Just as a fork and knife are used different to eat, so are the weapons. Of course, as with any tool, the weapon multiplies the strength and power of a blow.
MA: Ryu Te seems to have a strong contingent in Poland. How did that come about?
JL: One of our members, Petior Ciecwerz (aka, Peter Polander) who lives in Bethesda, MD is from Poland. He was on their national Judo team when they were still under communist control and he also trained in Shotokan. After moving to the US, he sought out Oyata Sensei after hearing about him. He has a small organization in Poland and travels back and forth conducting seminars and camps. Many of the Polish contingencies also travel to the US for training.
MA: What was the impetus for writing “Ryukyu Kempo History and Basics” and what were your goals for this book? Is there a place where readers can purchase your book and Oyata Sensei’s RyuTe no Michi?
JL: One of my students, Robby Collingwood, was attending graduate school at Emory University in Atlanta, GA. He began teaching a college credit course in karate that had to have a text book to get accredited. The book initially was intended for use in this course.
After others in the association learned of the book, they wanted to use it as a basic training manual, so it was published as such. It was never really intended to be a public document although it has become so to some extent.
The “blue book”, as it is often called, is no longer being published for several reasons. The name “Ryukyu Kempo History and Basics” doesn’t reflect the name change to the system, and I have gained much more knowledge and experience since the initial publication. I’m in the process of updating the book as “The Essence of RyuTe – Legacy of Okinawa’s Ancient Warriors.”
MA: It seems as if you have maintained Nakamura Shigeru’s tradition of contact sparring with kendo-inspired bogu gear. What is your sense on the importance of sparring, and why have you chosen to continue the use of the original equipment?
JL: Sparring and pulling punches is like target shooting using blanks. Your technique might be good, but you don’t know if you really hit the target. Likewise, getting hit with a full power blow lets you know, without injury, how it feels to really get hit.
There are limitations to any type of sparring: gear confinement, limiting strikes to ‘point zones’, etc; however, being able to move at full speed without limitation (and reacting to the same) trains the reflexes much better than never being hit or never being able to hit.
I know some say, “We do full contact, but don’t need the protection of the gear. We can take a full power punch or kick.” Over my many years of training, I’ve run across many who say such things. It has been my experience that after they received properly placed kicks or punches; they quickly change their mind about that.
Like kendo is to sword fighting, so is bogu to kumite. No one wants to be cut with a live blade and no one wants their ribs broken from a punch or kick.
MA: If you had to list just a few highlight moments or accomplishments regarding your propagation of karate in the U.S., what would you include?
JL: I think helping Oyata Sensei with his seminars and conducting seminars of my own. It’s surprising how much you learn about what you’re teaching when you have to teach others. Teaching beginners is much different than teaching experienced martial artists. Beginners are a clean slate and you teach from the bottom up. With experienced practitioners, you often have to overcome built-in prejudices in order to get them to overcome preset ideas.
I find you have to be a little more diplomatic and “politically correct” when you teach experienced people. You can’t tell them they are wrong about their approach to a particular technique or they will not listen. You must approach it such that you get your point across and they must decide whether it makes sense to them or not.
I learn as I teach. I watch how people move and how they approach a technique. I’m not trying to learn what they do, but to better understand what I do. I think by sharing these ideas that we all gain further knowledge into that which we study.
MA: What is your vision for karate’s continued expansion? How do you think current generations can help keep the old ways alive while avoiding modern trappings that move us away from the core principles of the arts?
JL: Unfortunately, I believe that the “old ways” are being lost. The generation that was close to the “old ways” (Oyata’s generation) is getting old. Many are already gone and those left to propagate these arts have been caught up in monetary gains.
MMA, American free style, and all sorts of made up and combined systems are movements away from the old ways of karate; however, there are a few of us out there that try to adhere to the old ways. Those that trained in Okinawa in the 1960’s and early 1970’s were exposed to these old ways. The training was for training not for monetary gain or to see how many trophies you could win.
I’ve often talked to Perry Hanshi, Hayes Kyoshi, Wall Kyoshi and others who trained directly in Okinawa about how we are the last of a generation. It’s a scary thought to know that this knowledge and experience lies with us.
Hopefully, we’ve instilled in our students the same sense of duty and obligation to keep the art as pure as possible. It is my desire that this experience, history, and spirit will remain for many generations.
One of the purposes of re-writing my first publication is to capture forever in words those experiences I had on my journey in learning the old ways of karate.
I would like to extend a great thank you to Logue Sensei for creating these very thoughtful and meaningful responses.
To learn more from Logue Sensei, check out the following resources: