On the 21st May 2007, Emma and I were lucky enough to spend an evening with Sensei Patrick McCarthy, hosted by John Burke and the Keiko Karate Academy at their Newton Abbot dojo.
Over the years we have heard many things about Sensei McCarthy, and his name is certainly one that commands respect from all who speak of him. Furthermore, I had read his translation of the ‘Bubushi’ a few months ago so was terribly enthusiastic to train under him.
Five minutes before his arrival and everyone was inside chatting and generally getting to know one another. When everyone caught a glimpse of him through the window however, the mute button was pushed as we watched him enter the dojo. This act of respect was clearly very much appreciated by him but he assured us that we could speak. Immediately, Emma and I knew we were going to enjoy training under Sensei McCarthy.
From the get go it was obvious that the class was not solely made up of Karateka, with a few practitioners in attendance from many other Martial Arts. This is clearly testament to the far-reaching influence of McCarthy’s teaching, so much so that his reputation transcends style or system.
At the beginning of the session, he pointed out that he had specifically designed the session to suit the needs and experiences of all of the systems, and throughout the evening he made repeated references to the many overlapping elements that can be found in all fighting systems whether it be Japanese, Chinese, Korean or the many other homelands.
As Sensei McCarthy was teaching he mentioned that he was a University Lecturer, and for Emma at least everything seemed to click into place. McCarthy is very in tune pedagogically, and he has a very approachable way of divulging information whilst making sure the students completely understand. Such teaching skill and deep understanding of the Martial Arts; technically, historically and philosophically is not only rare but also completely enthralling.
The course from the outset was very educational, and at first we practiced some very simple attack and blocking movements and flow drills. He outlined at the beginning that he would start out simply and build up from there. He reiterated that he wanted to look at the instinctive and not the cognitive approach to self-defence, something he repeated several times throughout, and much of the seminar considered the natural instinctive reactions that all we have.
The earlier part of the seminar dealt with a combination that involved many fundamental principles that McCarthy had discussed. He highlighted deflections, but also very interestingly, deflections that turned the tables on the opponent going from disadvantage to advantage, all simply coming from the block soto-uke. The combination developed to being escapes from many types of grabs, but interestingly enough all, he pointed out that the all so common escapes from grabs can be found in kata such as Unsu in the form of the tate shuto – gyaku tsuki sequence and the keiko-uchi movements. This I found very interesting, as I’m sure everyone else in the class did.
Another very interesting aspect of the class focussed on arm and leg locks. Using two punch bags and a wooden sword as apparatus, he brilliantly demonstrated the three different ways of applying locks and therefore bringing the opponent to their knees (Quit literally in some instances). Using an easy to understand language, he was able to explain the mechanics of the techniques so we could all put them into practice effectively. Also fascinating was, as he noted, that the many examples of this can be found within Chinte, Jion and Unsu.
By the end of the seminar of course, this had developed to involve some very interesting application of locks whilst involving pressure points to successfully destroy the opponent.
In his line of research and work, McCarthy has spent much time developing a clear understanding of the habitual acts of violence. Kata however has the answers. Such explicitly is the case where an opponent runs at you to rugby tackle you to the ground. Here he had us use the knee raise and subsequent drop to the floor from Kanku Dai as the defence, which he then turned into a neck and leg lock.
The course was planned to go on from 6.30-9.30, however all who attended were so enthusiastic and enthralled that the session ran 45 minutes over, and guess what, no one complained! How many instructors can teach for almost four hours without boring you senseless? Not many I would imagine, and I will most definitely be on the next course available with him.
The course was completed with a very educational chat around a white board where Sensei McCarthy shared memories and his thoughts, followed by a fantastic demonstration by McCarthy’s top students. This was very exciting and made us all realise that we had simply touched the tip of the iceberg that evening.
This course report could go on for days, but fear of boring you with my writing I will finish here. I mentioned at the beginning of the review that McCarthy transcends style and system, and I must say, after training with him, I can clearly see why.
His future dates here in the UK will most definitely be noted in my dairy.
Shaun Banfield – May 2007
Please watch out for our Exclusive Interview with Sensei McCarthy which will follow here in TSW in the next couple of weeks.