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What is “traditional”?

by George Mattson
What is “Traditional”. . .
When we speak about martial arts?
This is another of those taboo topics where strong opinions are held by all. I get a kick out of those from any of the opinion camps, who can’t rest until everyone understands and approves what they do and why they do it!
Today I read with interest a post on Bill Glasheen’s forum by a person I respect a great deal, who seemed a bit shocked over Max Ainley’s posts revealing that he practiced nothing but Sanchin kata for three years and makes a practice of teaching this method to his students!

Max has been documenting his training philosophy posts on the “Heart-Mind-Spirit” forum on a regular basis for awhile, describing in detail his very unique and disciplined training practices.

Max never preaches that what he does is better or worse than any other method. But to Max, his very unusual (at least to modern Uechi practitioners) training practices are part of his “traditional” Uechi-ryu.

Interestingly, few readers frequent the H-M-S forum, so Max has been posting away for years without anyone ever questioning his methods or proclaiming that what he does is “not Uechi”! But by posting on Bill Glasheen’s forum, at least one person has questioned. . . in a very nice manner I might add: “Is that all you practiced for during those first 3 years? No drills, sparring etc?”

I’ve known Max for many of the 33 years he has been practicing. I even offered to publish a book, should he decide to put his training thoughts to words. In private correspondence, years before he became active on the forums, Max confided in me all the trouble he had in England with teachers who tried to dissuade him from pursuing a training program that Max believed was the way Kanbun Uechi studied karate.

I’ve also heard from other teachers in England who, in spite of following a different “traditional” path, respected Max for his dedication and . . . his Uechi-ryu ability! They all agreed that Max was one of the toughest martial artist in Liverpool, a town filled with accomplished fighters. And Max was not just respected by the Uechi community. He was well known and respected by all the martial artist and fighters in this very tough town.

Max is considered a well-rounded and accomplished martial artist. . . grounded in the basics which shows in his advanced karate techniques and applications.

Max is someone I both respect and admire. He is not a blowhard, bragging about how tough he and his students are. He doesn’t brag about the fights he was in to justify his unusual training methods. Max is probably as close to a modern Kanbun Uechi we are likely to meet today.

We may not all follow in Max’s training footsteps, but there is no reason that anyone should criticize him or claim that his Uechi-ryu is not “traditional”.

I wish more martial artist would read Max’s training philosophy and in the process, possibly become a bit more sensitive and open-minded when evaluating other “traditions”. Who knows, maybe in a few years someone will be writing about what you are doing that in 2007 seemed “odd”! 🙂

My “tradition” is simply practicing and teaching a style of karate passed along to me by Kanei Uechi and Ryuko Tomoyose. As an impressionable youth, I intensely disliked much of the work that required patience and couldn’t get enough of the fighting elements. However, I never forgot the lessons and the “core” system of Uechi-ryu drilled into my subconscious and as I grew older, modified my teachings to incorporate those basics. When I teach classes or seminars, most of my time is on this “core” of Uechi. I’m sure the youngsters in these classes would prefer I teach them the “secrets” of Uechi-ryu. . . especially the one where they could kill a ferocious, charging Tiger! 🙂

Hopefully they, like me, they will remember what is taught and one day it will all make sense.

I know Max understands this. 🙂

I promised the students at my classes in New England last month that I would post a couple clips of the class. If you would like to check out the entire two hour dvd, it is available here in the Uechi store.

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