Sunday, May 23, 2010

Mac McNease on gari vs gake

My favorite judo teacher of all time was the late, great Mac McNease of Beaumont TX. Great man, great friend, and great martial artist.
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If the stories (legends? apocrypha?) I've heard are true, Mac didn't start judo until he was around 40 years old. He started judo to be doing something with his son, who eventually dropped out, but Mac kept going and ended up being very highly ranked in both judo and aikido.
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[UPDATE 2/26/2013 - I just found out from his son that Mac would have been around 31-32 when he started judo, and his first instructor was Hal Hubbard (around Nidan at the time)]
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Mac was an amazing competitor (folks joke that he was the reason they outlawed kanibasami) and an outstanding teacher. Mac is remembered by many folks by his smile and his laugh and his amazing ability to flatten your spleen on the mat or to come within millimeters of pulling your arm off. I remember fondly his tokuiwaza of throwing uke out of jigotai using oguruma and his outstanding haraitsurikomiashi. Mac was also a great guy to sit on the porch with and drink whiskey with and listen to.
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Mac was responsible for my personal tipping point in judo. For years I had beat my head against judo and had just gotten more and more frustrated. Mac came along and told me, "Pat, if it's not easy then you're doing it wrong. Judo is supposed to be the gentle way. You have to try to do it unnaturally to make it hard." The light went on for me and I started reorganizing my judo around that maximum efficient use of power ideal instead of just paying lip service to that ideal, and it made all the difference in the world in my skill and in my enjoyment of the art.
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I suggest that if you ever get access to a sensei and friend like that, take time to sit with them and ask questions and listen, because you won't have them forever.
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Regarding gari vs. gake, Mac told me one time something along the lines of, "You have limited practice time in judo, so don't worry about gake. Practice gari instead." For years I took that advice at face value and disregarded gake completely, but by the time I was pretty comfortable with gari and ready to think more about gake, Mac was dead. So I never got to find out the details behind why he wanted us to disregard gake in favor of gari.
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What do y'all think about that? Why do you suppose Mac told us that?


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Patrick Parker is a Christian, husband, father, martial arts teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: mokurendojo@gmail.com or phone 601.248.7282 木蓮
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