'KATA: A Riddle Wrapped In A Mystery Inside An Enigma'
Sensei Patrick McCarthy is one of the World’s most famous and popular Martial Arts Instructors. He is a prolific writer, compiling hundreds of articles in Martial Arts publications around the world, and author of many famous books including ‘The Bubushi – The Bible of Karate’. When he is not writing, he spends much of his time travelling the world teaching Seminars, whilst also continuing his research into the Martial Arts. In 2007, Emma and I were lucky enough to travel and train with Sensei McCarthy. He, I must say is a very knowledgeable Martial Artists, who is a facilitator and not a dictator in his classes, providing space for students to learn and expand their understanding. We were simply thrilled to be able to interview him. - Shaun Banfield 07
(Shaun Banfield) I know you must have answered this a million times, but could we please open the interview by asking how you first got interested in the Martial Arts?
(Patrick McCarthy) Back in the sixties, a Canadian National Film Board documentary, entitled, "Road to the Olympics," highlighting the competitive career of Canadian Judo champion [and 1964 Olympic silver medallist] Doug Rogers, was shown at my school. I immediately took up the martial arts following that documentary.
(SB) And was Judo the first Martial Art you studied? And when did you turn to karate?
(PM) Yes, I started with judo and I took my first Karate lesson in the summer of 1967.
(SB) You have travelled to Okinawa for a Summer trip to research and learn. Can you please tell us about your experience there and how it changed your understanding of karate?
(PM) That was the 1985 visit where I travelled from my home in Vancouver [Canada] to spend the summer in Okinawa. The trip was simply a wonderful experience and had a profound impact upon the way I came to understand and practice the art. Up until that time I had only ever experienced North American-based karate interpretations [albeit, sometimes from Japanese or Japanese-trained teachers], I had little firsthand knowledge of training in Japan and nothing of Okinawa, its culture or people. In those days I bought into the idea that pedigree and lineage were essential to learning the 'genuine art.' Over the years of study I had gradually become rather obsessed by the idea of learning at the source [Okinawa] and having my traditional-based practices corrected by the Okinawan masters while learning as much as I could about the original tradition.
Coming up through the martial arts during the sixties and seventies, it was commonplace to network with other instructors [from Canada and the USA], and cross-train in several different styles. As such, I didn't see why I couldn't also do the same in Okinawa. As my goal was to learn as much as possible I didn't think my experience would be best served by only training at one dojo, irrespective of how many times I could visit per week. I had learned early on in my training that not sources studied, practiced and or taught karate the same way and that much could be gleaned from working with different authorities. After I arrived in Okinawa and got settled in, I learned who was who and established a regular routine of visiting various dojo. The best known dojo I visited that summer belonged to instructor's such as Nagamine Shoshin, Yagi Meitoku, Nakazato Joen, Miyasato Eiichi, Akamine Eisuke, Shimabuku Ezio, Matayoshi Shimpo, Uechi Kanei, Nakamoto Masahiro, Higa Seiichiro, Shinzato Katsuhiko and Hokama Tetsuhiro, etc. I met other instructors, and visited more dojo, too, but these were where I spent most of my time. Of course, there were also frequent visits to Mr. Nakasone's store [Shureidos], which became kind of an informal meeting place, and, the place where I spent much of my hard earned cash!
In spite of having trained for nearly twenty years before venturing to Okinawa, I was relatively naïve about many aspects of traditional karate, including the politics. That trip, meeting and training with so many of the leading masters, and the unique opportunities I experienced, not only helped me better understand the art of karate, for what it truly is, it also taught me much about human nature and opened many new doors of learning for me. Armed with first-hand experience, I was able to speak with a little more authority about several aspects of the art. The experience also allowed me to see what I was doing wrong and empowered me to make the changes necessary. Surprisingly, the visit also validated a lot of what I had already been doing before going to Okinawa. Most importantly, the experience also let me clearly realize that Okinawa didn't have all the answers, either. In fact, it soon became evident to me that Karate in the West was terribly underrated. In truth, we tend to train harder and smarter in the West and are far more systematized, especially with regards to training outcomes.
Finally, that first of many trips to Okinawa was the beginning of a journey, which would ultimately lead me to discover lost practices, the essence of this art, and independence.
(SB) And what do you think is the real essence of this art? You mentioned that this trip ‘helped me better understand the art of karate, for what it truly is’. Can you please tell us your understanding of what Karate-Do is truly all about?
(PM) Perhaps I can best respond to this question by paraphrasing a passage by D.T. Suzuki, which appears in the foreword he wrote for Eugen Herrigel's wonderful little publication entitled, "Zen in the Art of Archery;" In Japan, the martial arts are not practiced solely for utilitarian purposes, such as fighting or self-defence. Budo [of which Karatedo is an integral part] is also meant to train the mind and bring it into contact with the ultimate reality. If one really wishes to be master of an art, technical knowledge of it is not enough. One has to transcend technique so that the art becomes an “artless art” growing out of the Unconsciousness. In this way, Karate becomes a path to learning about ourselves, others, and life itself.
Okinawa was the first place I learned that it was possible to establish such a symbiosis with Karatedo that my life could become as much a product of the art as the art would be a product of my life. The experience also opened the door through which I ultimately came to see that human weakness [a universal goal to overcome] was an internal issue, not an external problem. This helped me realize that before I could ever truly master this art, and myself, the direction of my ultimate journey had to be inward, not outward. Finally, two lessons, which helped govern the way I embraced the art, were Bunburyodo [the concept of balancing physical arts with literary arts] and On Ko Chi Shin [studying the history/evolution of the art in order to better understand its modern interpretation].
I was very inspired by this philosophy and over the years which have since past I have tried [not always with overwhelming success] to exemplify this learning and let it shape the way I train and teach.
(SB) Your journey has taken you to discover lost practices. Can you please tell us a little about them and how they have in turn influenced you?
(PM) Like most enthusiasts who read books and magazines, I had long known that the Shaolin Temple was regarded as the cradle from which Karate traced it roots. What I did not know, and what was not common knowledge twenty-five years or so ago, was just exactly which progenitor methods/practices formed Karate's foundation. In studying the pre-history of Karate I discovered that China [i.e. Fujian Province] and SE Asia [Siam/Thailand] were the original sources from which much of Okinawa's old-school fighting arts [defined here www.koryu-uchinadi.com/original_five_fighting_arts.htm] came. As such, I travelled to those places with the expressed purpose of locating precursor sources by networking with local schools and instructors and cross-comparing styles and training methods with the kata and supporting practices handed down through the Higaonna Kanryo and Itosu Ankoh lineages. [Note: I also used the Sanchin, Sanseru and Seisan brought back from China by Uechi Kambun, too].
Initially, I was fascinated by the vibrant way old-school adepts moved their body when performing drills and kata and sought to better understand it, especially when this was very much frowned upon in modern karate. I had enjoyed a little taste of this kind of dynamic movement with Mr. Kishaba during my first trip to Okinawa, at Prof. Shinzato's school in Yanabaru, but knew little more about it. It soon became evident that stepping and sliding, vibrant hip-torquing, breath control, floating and sinking [as described in the Bubishi] represented a fundamental mechanism in the generation power in many of the local schools I visited. I was especially taken with the two-person re-enactment drills and the realistic contextual premise on which prescribed application practices were embraced. I had never experienced this collective style of learning before and it was having a big impact on me and the way I practiced. I took it upon myself to identify the fundamental mechanics and learn about the principles, which supported of the dynamics, application practices and two-person drills. Unconsciously, it all began to influence my own training until this learning permeated most everything I did.
(SB) The culture of Okinawa must have had a serious effect on your practice and understanding. What was it that you loved about the Okinawan culture and has it changed the way your practice the Martial Arts?
(PM) Okinawa is just a great place to visit. It's weather; beaches, food, festivals and shopping are all great. Best of all, the Okinawan people are generally very friendly and hospitable, too. I just never ever felt threatened there. In fact, the same can be said about Japanese culture in general. Especially in contrast to the West, where, for example, if you looked at a person the wrong way they're all over you. Moreover, it's pretty hard to find a sarcastic Japanese or one who will insult you at the drop of a hat. There's virtually no threat to one's insecurities. Even though Okinawa is part of Japan, and clearly epitomizes Japanese culture in every way, it also has it's own native culture [and language] which, in the past twenty years or so is being more vigorously cultivated. Okinawa is also an island, and one must expect some island mentality, too. In short, they're generally much more laid back when compared to their mainland counterparts. Together, with a tropical island backdrop, the blending of these two cultures makes for a wonderful place.
I enjoyed the laid back approach to life, and training, in Okinawa which, I think works very well for highly motivated learners. Personally, I don't like lazy students/teachers -- or those who talk about training but rarely do it! The reknown Okinawan fighter, Motobu Choki, had an interesting term he used to described those who talked the talk but couldn't walk the walk, he called them "Kuchi Bushi," which roughly means, "mouth warriors!" The Japanese simply say, "Fugenjiko;" which means, "show me don’t tell me," or, "less talk more action," or "action speaks louder than words."
I wasn't terribly taken with the militaristic approach to training nor did I find much use for mindless repetition of incongruous exercises. Early cross-training opportunities had really appealed to me so found the entire idea of working application-based practices with other like-minded enthusiasts much more rewarding.
BTW, for any of your readers who are looking to better understand Japanese mentality may I [strongly] recommend Boye De Mente's wonderful publication, "Kata, - The Key to Understanding and Dealing with the Japanese," located here http://www.koryu-uchinadi.com/boye_de_mente_insights.htm It's just the best book on the market.
(SB) Am I correct that you became very disillusioned with the 3k type of karate approach?
(PM) Of course, who isn't? However, I don't mean to say that 3K-style training is/was worthless, as it is not---certainly it serves an important, albeit rule-bound purpose. I personally became disillusioned with 3K-style training simply because it was not possible to achieve the more functional outcomes I wished to cultivate. The focus of my attention had shifted from repeating style-standard rule-bound rituals to attaining functional application practices within traditional kata.
(SB) Do you believe many systems place unnecessary boundaries around the 3K practice and how have you therefore adapted your training to become more functional?
(PM) Yes, I believe that there are unnecessary boundaries surrounding 3K-style practice, however, to the best of my knowledge this is how JKA-based karate achieves its outcomes. Nowhere, that I know of, does the JKA expect more from its followers than what is prescribed from such training, so in this regard there's little need for change. Personally, I have embraced a far more flexible menu to suit my needs. FYI, I do place great emphasis upon kihon [the fundamental tools of percussive impact, seizing, and break-falling], kumite [based upon HAPV these are two-person re-enactment practices which deal with receiving & delivering percussive impact, the clinch, joint manipulation & limb entanglement, choking & strangulation, balance displacement, grappling & groundwork, pressure points and escapes & counters], and kata [which originate from the same Higaonna/Itosu-Asato sources as do Shotokan kata]. FYI, I have restored many traditional-based routines [adversely effected by both pre-war inflexible Japanese Budo culture and further modified by modern karate's competitive area more interested in form than function] by bringing back the fundamental mechanism in the generation power such as stepping and sliding [where applicable], opening the hands back up which were closed as fists [where applicable, e.g., Miyagi Chojun’s sanchin, etc.] vibrant body mechanics, hip-torquing, and floating and sinking. And, if some of your readers are thinking that this is blasphemy or that I should be criticised for doing such a thing, I am afraid they'll have to get in line :-)
(SB) A Muay Thai instructor once told me that many traditional Arts breed an overconfidence and lack of understanding of realistic situations. What are your feelings behind this, and how do you think Shotokan practitioners for example can further modify their training to defend well on the street whilst not losing the Shotokan fundamental principles?
(PM) I wouldn't disagree with what he said. In fact, I share similar feelings about TMA in general and common Shotokan-based mentality, in particular. This, of course, opens an enormous can of worms, mostly political, of course, but a change of perspective in training and a realistic contextual premise for application-based practice would do Shotokan a world of good. There has been such a tradition of narrow-mindedness, conceit and misunderstanding for so long at the source that I am confident the masses will never truly welcome such change, much less ever see the need for one. On the brighter side of things, from personal conversations I've enjoyed with senior non-Japanese Shotokan authorities, such as Stan Schmidt, Ray Dalke, and Paul Perry, etc., such changes are vigorously being embraced, if only by a few.
(SB) What would you say are the keys to effectively understanding and defending against a truly violent attack?
(PM) There are several factors that surround these issues. A lack of education about the nature of violent people and the dynamics of their habitual acts of physical violence along with inadequate preparatory practice is what prevents most learners from establishing the competencies necessary to effectively negotiate truly violent attacks.
(SB) Shotokan places much emphasis on stances and stance training for power. For street style fighting however pulling out a full-length zenkutsu-dachi would not be the way to go. Even though you have gone in a direction that does not adhere to one style or system, do you still practice or promote such traditional stance training or line training at all?
(PM) Posture-training is a vital component of traditional karate and let me call perspective to the reader's attention for a moment. While standing toe-to-toe with an attacker and slugging it out may represent some part of physical violence I am certain it does encompasses the entire spectrum. Take for example the clinch and struggle for control when all hell breaks loose during an assault. The idea of having a fixed posture strong enough to effectively deliver percussive impact [or a combination of impacts], negotiate balance displacement, or possibly execute limb entanglement or even a choke/strangulation is an asset, not a liability. Most folks think in terms of the classical boxer's face-to-face position during "a fight" when, in truth, if there's a "space" in between you and the attacker, should you be thinking about getting the hell out of Dodge, rather than burning off the testosterone? Stances, in application, should be no different from any other combative form; the purpose of which is to be functionally mobile, in order to effectively negotiate an attack, while also supporting the transfer of kinetic energy, either for percussive impact or seizing-related manipulation.
Incidentally, as you mentioned that I have gone in a style-free direction, I'd like to add the following. I am confident that the change of direction in which I am presently travelling is much more in line with the teachings left to us by the pioneers of our art than the conformist mentality, which forms the foundation of modern karate. "Tradition is not about preserving the ashes but keeping a flame alight." - Jean Janses. The only way to do this effectively, especially in lieu of such widespread ambiguity, is continually exploring that which we don't understand by using any and all means available to us. This is what I'm doing, it's the guiding light of the IRKRS, and it's also what I believe the pioneers of our tradition embraced and meant for all learners to accept as true.
(SB) As you mentioned, you are the founder of the International Ryukyu Karate Research Society. Can you please tell us a little about this?
(PM) During the years I resided in Japan I wrote quite regularly for several magazines [FAI, Black belt, Australasian, etc.] and established a group of like-minded international pen pals, of sorts. Over the years I had literally corresponded with hundreds of people from all over the world and bringing them together to address many of the issues at the forefront of our tradition, became an outgrowth of my continuing efforts to help others. Beyond Donn Draeger's multi art-based group, JMAS [i.e., Japan Martial Arts Society, which I had been a member of since 1985], which fell quietly dormant, in 1991, to the best of my knowledge the IRKRS was the first non-political karate/kobudo research group catering exclusively to non-Japanese learners.
To date, we've become an on-line network for intellectual exchange among its members. Our principal activity focuses on mentoring learners and teachers of Japanese/Okinawan Karate/Kobudo [both classical & contemporary] through dialogue, lecture, journals, instructional DVD and special-interest activities. We have successfully built bridges uniting like-minded learners all over the world for the past decade through eliminating ambiguity, and imparting the true origins and evolution of Karate while specializing in the functional application practices of ancestral and traditional-based Kata. [Excerpted from www.koryu-uchinadi.com]
(SB) Who of the Shotokan Instructors that you've trained with have inspired you?
(PM) I have been, in one way or another, inspired by various Shotokan instructors; Masami Tsuruoka, Nakayama Masatoshi, Nishiyama Hidetaka, Kanazawa Hirokazu, and of course my teacher, Richard Kim --- who not only served on Nishiyama executive committee [and taught along side him every year at the San Diego summer camp], but also personified the man in every way.
(SB) Can you please tell us a little about Richard Kim and his influence on you and your karate?
(PM) Richard Kim was many things to many people and enjoyed a long, prosperous and multi-faceted career. To me he was an eloquent speaker and an insightful mentor capable of inspiring even the most stubborn people to embrace change...I speak from experience. For those interested, I wrote more about my relationship with him here www.koryu-uchinadi.org/Richard_Kim.pdf. Mr. Don Warrener, of Rising Sun Productions, has recently published a new book [www.risingsunproductions.net/catalog/product_info.php?cPath=25&products_id=1017] about the life and times of this man of mystery.
(SB) You have translated the 'Bubishi', which I imagine must have been an incredibly daunting task. Can you please tell us a little about the Bubishi and how you came to translate it?
(PM) Sometime in the mid-1970's, during the years I resided in Toronto [Canada], I purchased a copy of "Karatedo Kenpo," which I later discovered was actually a Taiwanese pirated copy of Mabuni Kenwa's, "Seipai no Kenkyu," ["The Study of Seipai"]. In the later section of the publication appears Mabuni's version of the Itosu Ankoh-lineage Bubishi. Time went by, however, before I actually came to understand the importance of the Bubishi and it's connection to our tradition. In 1979 I relocated to Vancouver [Canada] but continued to be quite active on the Canadian/American tournament scene, where I met Teruo Chinen --- a Goju Ryu instructor from Spokane [WA]. After training with him a few times he invited me to visit his home/dojo in Spokane. I enjoyed training with him and learned a lot. Moreover, I developed a friendship with him and went on to host him at my dojo in Vancouver and have him stay at my home as a guest. During a 1985 conversation we had in Bermuda he promised, if I would meet him at Ozawa Sensei's tournament in Las Vegas, he would show me something he said, "had been a long-kept secret in Karate."
In Las Vegas, Teruo Chinen invited me to his hotel room where, away from the prying eyes of others, he showed me a hand-drawn copy of the Bubishi, and told me of its great value. From that time forward I came to realize the importance of this work and set about to fully understand it. As I could not speak, read or write Chinese or Japanese, I decided to seek out those who could be of assistance to me. During the Vancouver years, prior to migrating to Japan, I sought out and received translation assistance from three people; Misao Batts [a Japanese translator from the University of British Colombia], Sifu Ken Low [a local expert of Chinese MA's and the president of the Western Canadian Chinese Kung Fu Association] and Miyahara Yuriko [a Japanese business-woman working for Tokyu Corporation in Vancouver]. Ultimately, I decided to embark upon studying the Japanese language myself and enrolled at Vancouver's Japanese Educational Centre, where I studied directly under Egawa Machiko. In the years that followed my relocation to Japan, I married [Miyahara Yuriko, the Japanese business-woman who worked for Tokyu Corporation], continued studying Japanese, and travelled extensively [SE Asia, Taiwan, Fujian, Shanghai, Shaolin, Okinawa, etc.] in pursuit of mastering the fighting arts, and better understanding its culture and related studies.
As I continued to work painstakingly through deciphering the Bubishi I brought my wife on board to assist me. My infatuation with this old anthology, and passion for fighting arts, also brought me into personal contact with many senior Japanese/Okinawan and Chinese authorities who, in one way or another, helped open many locked doors of understanding with the Bubishi project. The most recognizable names and sources included, Li Yiduan [President of the Fujian MA's Association and board member of the southern Shaolin monastery], Tang Shifeng Shifu (Shanghai Chin Wu old-boy), Si Yanpu (chief instructor of Monk Fist boxing at the main Shaolin monastery), Liang Yiquan (Shaolin monk---retired--- and director of the Shaolin Quanfa Research Society), Gao Shifu (Yangshuo Quanfa academy Guangxi), Guo Kongxi (3rd generation Tiger quanfa and the grandson of Zhou Zihe), Jin Jingfu (3rd generation lineage singing crane head master of Xie Zhongxiang aka Ryu Ruko), Liu Songshan (3rd generation head master of feeding crane) Siaw Joonfa (4th generation white crane teacher, Persatuan Kebudayaan Jasmani Ming Chung Hok, East Malaysia), Cai Chuxian (Fujian, Cai family fist), and Wu Bin (of China's MA's Federation of Asia "Research & Teacher's Dept.").
Japanese/Okinawa sources included: Yamaguchi Gogen [founder of Goju Kai, who had previously published one version of the Bubishi], Ohtsuka Tadahiko [President of Goju Kensha, and IMO, one of three leading Japanese authorities of the Bubishi], Nagamine Shoshin [historian, author, and the founder of Matsubayashi Ryu], Konishi Takehiro [2nd generation head master of Shindo Jinen Ryu and my source of Mabuni's completely hand-written copy of Itosu's Bubishi], Kinjo Hiroshi [regarded as one of Japan's senior most Okinawan masters of karate and my teacher], Hokama Tetsuhiro [Higa Seiko-lineage Goju Ryu and president of the Okinawan Martial Arts History Museum], Dr. Iokibei Tsutomu [TCM practitioner], Prof. Takara Kurayoshi [University of the Ryukyus, Faculty of Law and Letters, Languages and Cultures], Higaonna Morio [founder of the IOGKF] who wrote the foreword for my 1990 edition], Hisataka Masayuki [President of the Shorinji Ryu Kenkokan who wrote a foreword in my 1994 edition], Fujiwara Ryozo [a highly regarded Japanese martial art's historian/author], Takamiyagi Shigeru [a highly regarded Okinawan martial arts historian/co-authored with Uechi Kanei, "Karate-do, Sono Rekishi To Gihon,"], Miyagi Tokumasa [a highly regarded Okinawan martial art's historian/author], Kinjo Akio [a highly regarded Okinawan martial art's historian/author], Tokashiki Iken [a highly regarded Okinawan martial art's historian/author, president of the Gohakukai, and present head master of Tomari-te], Nakamoto Masahiro [a highly regarded Okinawan martial art's historian/author, and president of the Bunbukan], and my colleague, Iwae Tsukuo [a highly regarded Japanese Martial art's historian/author].
Collectively, my wife and I were finally able to deliver a finished product by early 1994. It was this edition that caught the attention of Alex Kask, then Tokyo editor for [the martial arts section of] Charles E. Tuttle Publication Company, who published the book the following year. FYI, I have been working on a follow up publication entitled, "The Bubishi Companion," which will detail my research into this historically important publication along with describe how to study its contents.
(SB) What an exciting journey that must have been and Emma and I look forward to reading the follow up. This was not the only project that you worked with your wife for though am I correct? Can you please tell us about some of your other work?
(PM) Yuriko has always assisted me with most of my Japan-based research, translations and publications, and continues to do so. What takes me hours to accomplish takes her minutes! A lot of my work can be found on my website here http://www.koryu-uchinadi.com/amazon_bookstore.htm, here http://www.koryu-uchinadi.org/McCarthy_PR_%201.pdf, here http://www.koryu-uchinadi.com/thinking_outside_the_box.htm, here http://karate.thepodcastnetwork.com/2006/02/05/applied-karate-episode-001-hanshi-patrick-mccarthy/, and here http://www.koryu-uchinadi.org/McCarthy_PR_%202.pdf, with past interviews and articles archived on our member's-only website. BTW, I noticed that you have one article [On Ko Chi Shin Studying the Old to Better Understand the New] listed on your Shotokanway website. Good for you :-)
(SB) You mentioned when we trained with you that Self Defence should be based on the instinctive and not the cognitive. Do you find too many people think too much when they train, or even when they fight?
(PM) Personally, I don't believe anyone has the luxury of "thinking" when all hell breaks loose. In the midst of the chaotic unpredictability of physical violence I believe conditioning and instinctive reaction has to be one's principal mechanism. Surfing the net these past ten years, I have discovered that there is an never-ending stream of martial arts enthusiasts keenly interested in discussing the minutia of physical violence, right down to which angle a punch or kick might best dispatch an attacker in a fight. This kind of "thinking" is all good especially when it leads a learner to consider more functional training practices. All the fighting arts, which have not lost touch with functionality, advocate training methods, which cultivate instinctive aptitude. Speaking from experience, I can say for certain that instinctive reaction is bred from training methods which bring its learners into regular contact with the chaotic unpredictability of physical violence.
(SB) Do you have any exercises or methods of learning that fellow instructors can use to improve their ability to deal with the ‘chaotic unpredictability of physical violence’ in their classes, which could help make their techniques more functional?
(PM) We use many drills to cultivate this process, and, it is important to understand that, it is a process, which, in addition to determination, takes time, dedication and patience --- usually lots of patience. Not everyone becomes a recipient of its value simply because the training process requires something that many learners are not used to nor willing to endure; i.e. willingly face the threat of real injury, pain and the feeling of complete helplessness, incompetency and prolonged frustration. Here's a little something you can try on your students to get a "feel" for the practice: Get them to find a partner who is larger than they are -- the bigger and stronger the better -- and tell the learner the he/she's going to be bear hugged from behind on the count of three [but quietly tell the big partner to actually seize a hold of the smaller learner by the hair from behind, on the count of one--- when they're not ready--- and "man-handle" by shaking the be-Jesus out of them while dragging them to the ground. This opens the door for beginning the process.
(SB) The UFC is now a worldwide hit. What are your feelings behind it and its promotion of the Martial Arts? Positive or negative and why?
(PM) Personally, I like the UFC, and I like BJJ and MMA, too. They offer realism in their engagement practices -- this is something that karate lacks. I was amidst the first generation foreign submission fighters in Japan and came to understand, and appreciate, the value of this perspective. What Bruce Lee, Ninjutsu and Kick-boxing did for the martial arts in the 1970's and 80's, so too is the UFC doing today. I don't think there's any danger in the two ever intersecting each other but there certainly is a lesson to be learned for those who can think outside the box.
(SB) I know this may be a difficult question because of your diverse background, but what is your favourite kata and why?
(PM) That's not such a difficult question, as I don't actually have a favourite kata. I was always taught not to specialize or favour one technique nor one kata over another. FYI, I do, however, really like Nepai [precursor to Nipaipo], Yara's interpretation of Kusanku [precursor to Kankudai], and Aragaki's Niseishi [precursor to Nijushiho] largely because of the signature templates and the abstract way each pioneer choreographed their routines.
All my studies surrounding kata have lead me to believe that these time capsules were not originally developed to teach self-defence but rather to culminate the lessons already imparted. Please see my HAPV-theory and two-person drill mechanism here; http://www.koryu-uchinadi.org/KU_HAPV.pdf Of course, this is not to suggest that kata, as a solo practice [with or without understanding its application theory] is not without value; I am sure everyone is well aware of the immense physical, holistic and introspective benefits of kata practice. By introducing the contextual premise associated with the individually prescribed defensive theme [i.e. the individual templates which make up a kata] learners are brought into immediate contact with the brutality of each act of physical violence [in a controlled learning environment] for the purpose of analyzing its dynamics and understanding the application process, along with its variables. This premise allowed learners to engage each other with varying degrees of resistance [passive to aggressive] while recreating each identifiable act of violence and re-enacting the prescribed application practices. Aiming for combative functionality, the end result witnesses the learner being able to choreograph said [mnemonic] templates into wonderfully dynamic routines not only culminating the fighting lessons already learned but also forming solo exercise expressing physical prowess and abstract creativity.
If I favour anything, this then would have to be it.
(SB) Many leading authorities have noted that Shotokan is often not a complete fighting system as not enough people place adequate attention on the locks, throws and grappling. While training with you however you explicitly illustrated that kata is full of these ingredients. Do you think the Shotokan kata has all of the ingredients needed for a fully functional fighting system provided people are willing to look deep enough?
(PM) Oh, absolutely I do -- Shotokan is a dynamic method of training with an abundance of possibilities. As I mentioned earlier, contextual premise is everything and I sincerely believe in order to achieve the kind of functionality we're talking about a change in mindset is mandatory.
(SB) Coming back to the application of locks. When we trained with you, you spoke about the use of a fulcrum, saying there were three different ways of using this. Can you please explain to the readers what is meant by a fulcrum and the three main methods of applying locks?
(PM) I was describing the three categories of levers [class 1, 2 & 3] and why understanding the mechanics which support them are important in the process of limb entanglement.
The point upon which a straight bar pivots is known as a fulcrum or pivot point. A fulcrum can be moved depending on the weight of the object to be lifted or the force with which one wishes to exert. Thinking in mechanical terms, how much easier is it to lift a heavy object by placing the bar and fulcrum underneath it? Pushing down on one end of the bar results in an upward motion on the opposite end of the fulcrum. By placing one end of the bar under an object, and making a fulcrum under the bar close to the object makes lifting it effortless by pushing down on the other end of the bar. This is because a class-one lever has been created. In helping to define the mechanical advantage and principles of leverage, third century BC Greek mathematician, Archimedes, told us that the effort multiplied by the distance from the fulcrum is equal to the resistance lifted, multiplied by its distance from the fulcrum, and the resistance divided by the effort.
A class-one lever is established when the fulcrum is located between the applied-force and the resistance-force. A class-two lever is established when the resistance-force is located between the applied-force and the fulcrum. And, a class-three lever is established when the applied-force is located between the fulcrum and the resistance-force…the opposite of a class-one lever. A familiar example of a class-two lever is a loaded wheelbarrow. The weight of the load is the resistance-force, and the upward lift on the handle is the applied-force. Because in this arrangement the force is always farther from the fulcrum than the resistance is, a small force can easily lift a larger weight.
As already mentioned, class-three levers are made with the fulcrum and the resistance-force at opposite ends to each other with the applied-force being in the middle. The problem with class-three levers is that they don’t always provide a mechanical advantage, but they do allow for extra speed in place of power. The applied-force is always greater than the resistance-force, but the resistance-force moves farther than the effort-force. Imagine shovelling a load of pebbles from a pile on the ground into a hole. The resistance-force is located at the end of the shovel. The applied-force is exerted between the resistance-force and the fulcrum. The effort expended is greater than the load, but the load is moved a greater distance. In other words, effort is sacrificed in order to gain distance. This is an ideal way to move an opponent if and when you get their hand trapped against your body and apply force to their elbow. Therein, lies the value of a class-three lever.
In the application of every joint manipulation, throw, strangle etc., a base or fulcrum will be required to make the technique effective; therefore, it is important to keep in mind where the body weight is situated and whether you’re seizing a garment, a hand, a wrist and or an arm to support the transfer of energy.
(SB) Also, during our session with you, you spoke a little about pressure points, which of course is covered in the Bubishi. What importance has pressure point training got in your approach to the Martial Arts?
(PM) While I suppose it could be argued that the entire human body is a valid target for the valid percussive impact and seizing techniques of karate, however, there are just some areas which are simply more susceptible to pain than others. The knowledge of understanding where these anatomically vulnerable areas are located, how and under what circumstances they're best attacked, can assist any learner a to be better equipped to respond to the HAPV.
(SB) Are there many examples of Pressure point targeting in the Shotokan Kata? If so, would you please tell us a few and explain to us their consequences?
(PM) I'll do even better than that...let me recommend you and your readers to Funakoshi's personal explanation: There's a new Japanese-to-English translation of Funakoshi's, "Karatedo Kyohan," by Neptune Publications, which, if you have not already purchased, you must. I am confident that those who follow the current pressure-point trend will be more than suitably impressed with Funakoshi's penetrating insights [pp232-245], which most certainly pre-date anything previously written on the subject, especially by contemporary sources. Also, to see included the letters of support by dignitaries such as General Oka Chikamatsu, Colonel Tagashira Tomokazu, Mr. Higaonna Kanjun, Dr. Hayashi Ryosau, Prof. Yoshikawa Hideo, and Mr. Sueyoshi, of the Okinawa Times, helps bring new understanding to the importance of both Funakoshi's contribution and his position in Japanese society. As you can imagine, I was very pleased with the Bubishi-related section [pp259-262] simply because the clarity of the translation provides a whole new perspective, and not just to Shotokan, but also its relationship and importance to our tradition in general.
As I made my way through this very easy to read translation I couldn't help but feel as if I were a part of Funakoshi himself as he set forth the little known Okinawan practice before his Japanese audience. In spite of an era now referred to as the "Roaring Twenties," it's nothing short of amazing to realize just how revolutionary Funakoshi Gichin must have appeared during Japan's terribly conservative interpretation of that period of modern history. His publication helped nurture the evolutionary direction of karate from its humble beginnings in provincial Okinawa to the mainstream of Japanese society by establishing a synergy between its national pre-occupation with mind-body-spirit harmony and the daily practice of karate. No where is this more evident than in the written words of the Master as co-delivered by translator, Harumi Suzuki-Johnston, and editor, Paul Argentieri. Having enjoyed the pain and pleasure of working on my fair share of Japanese-to-English translations over the years, with my wife Yuriko, I know only too well what a collective effort it is to bring a work of this quality to light. I congratulate their collaborative effort as it captures more than just Funakoshi's intended message ---it reveals his personality, too. I remember during the translation of the Bubishi how we struggled with antiquated ideograms no longer used in modern writing and needed to call upon the assistance of Chinese language experts in Fujian for assistance. Therefore, I was not surprised to learn that Neptune needed to take similar steps to ensure the most comprehensive translation possible. This is just one more reason why this publication stands in a category all by itself. Rather than take you on a chapter by chapter description of this new and exciting publication, I'll simply recommend visiting Neptune's website located here www.neptune-publications.com.
(SB) Emma has just finished her teacher training to be a teacher for high schools, and when you mentioned during your session that you were a University Lecturer she was not surprised at all, as you have a wonderful pedagogical skill. In your classes you clearly try and facilitate and create an open environment. As a teacher, what do you think is the key to creating an environment conducive for development?
(PM) Thank you for sharing Emma's kind thoughts, very much appreciated. When it comes to the appropriation of new information [as opposed to what I was previously explaining about the process of gaining functionality with the unpredictability of physical brutality] I am confident that establishing a relaxing atmosphere is one very successful way in creating an environment more conducive to retention-based learning. As we are all stronger in some areas than others, I go to great lengths to stimulate visual, auditory and kinesthetic demonstrations and make absolutely certain that everyone is clear [from the outset] that I not only encourage questions, I ask that my answers are questioned, too, especially if and when I say something that either doesn't make sense to the listener, or doesn't jive with what they know to be true. Also, I tend to teach through association; i.e. teach techniques and mechanisms which work in conjunction with each other [as opposed to reaching something unrelated]. Finally, I also tend to lean heavily upon NLP anchors, too.
(SB) At one point in the class a young lad hurt himself, and you encouraged everyone not to pander him, informing us that this was one of life’s lessons that he will learn from. Do you think training in the Martial Arts develops the human spirit as well as the human body? And how has it developed you?
(PM) As I recall his younger brother accidentally hit the boy while he was working on a ground technique, the injury was superficial [it actually amounted to a bump in the face] and he was in absolutely no danger. His prolonged crying was, in my opinion, a call for attention, and unnecessary, but provided a great opportunity for an important "life lesson" to be imparted. If the boy had been hit the same way [remember the inadvertent impact was sustained while rolling on the ground and probably shocked him more than anything] in the school yard and chose crying over defending himself he would open himself to serious harm. The lesson was simple, there is always the potential for injury in our tradition --- unless it's something that requires immediate medical attention --- sometimes you just have to accept the pain and move on keeping one's spirit intact.
Taught responsibly, the fighting arts play an important role developing human spirit. In fact, as an art, I believe Karate provides more opportunity to cultivate one's humanity than it does in perfecting one's character.
Formal learning can teach you a great deal, but many of the essential skills in life are the ones you have to develop on your own.
(SB) May I just say what a privilege it has been to interview you and we wish you every single success for the future.
(PM) Thank you for the encouraging thoughts and for being so polite and respectful --- it's truly refreshing especially during a time where modesty and manners are rare in our tradition.