1 July 2014

Emma Sandall Looks at Putting the Fun Back into Fitness

IKO Goju Ryo karate: A complete mind-body workout. 
Recently I met and filmed Sydney-based karate teacher Pete McGuire. It was a fascinating experience for me, an ex-dancer, because the movements and training are so familiar – except that their purpose is fundamentally different. Where dancers learn and practice patterns of movement to entertain an audience, karate practitioners practice them to fight an opponent. What I observed was beautiful – fluid, rhythmic and articulate; strong, powerful and obviously quite addictive. Watching Pete made me feel the same way I felt after watching the 1984 film Karate Kid – my brother and I left the cinema and practiced the moves we saw all the way home, and probably for days after. I asked Pete about karate and what inspired him to begin …

Pete McGuire
Pete McGuire
What sorts of people are drawn to karate? Karate attracts men and women from all walks of life. It really has no age limit – we have people starting  at age 5 and at 55. It allows people to train well into their 80s and 90s or older and combine all aspects of functional movement and achieve good physical condition. I commenced training in IKO Goju Ryu Karate in 1978 and I have continued training to this day, enjoying it as much as ever.
How does karate influence your everyday life? I enjoy the discipline for both mind and body. This allows me to be very focused in my work and personal life. It’s wonderful fitness for all ages, and offers a complete body and mind workout.
What led you to karate? I was thirteen and the Bruce Lee boom was sweeping the world. I vividly remember my first class on the 20 October 1973 (the day the Sydney Opera House officially opened). I went to a studio where there were more than 50 students training. It was very crowded, but I learned some techniques and I was hooked from that day.
How long did it take you to achieve your current rank? I was recently graded to 6th Dan – “Renshi Shihan” and it takes approximately 4 years to achieve 1st Dan Black belt and then a further 2 years for 2nd Dan and then a further 3 years for 3rd Dan and then a further 4 years for 4th Dan and then a further 5 years for 5th Dan and then a further 6 years for 6th Dan. 
What do you like most about teaching karate? I enjoy sharing knowledge with students and watching them improve and build new skill sets that they can use in their everyday life. Our classes include aerobic conditioning, functional movement, pilates and yoga as well as karate.
What differentiates karate from other martial arts? Karate is an “open hand” art. It is functional in its movements and incorporates jiu jitsu, takedowns and throws, punches and kicks. It was introduced to Okinawa from mainland China more than 100 years ago.
Do you take part in actual fights? Karate is a martial art designed to protect you in a manner that would “hopefully” allow you to get out of trouble or use to protect yourself and loved ones. We do have “kumite,” which is fighting or sparring and this can be non-contact, semi-contact and full-contact. As with any contact sport, there are injuries.
What is IKO Goju Ryo karate? The IKO originated in Tokyo. Its founders were senior students of Gogen Yamaguchi Sensei of the Goju-Kai Karate. The masters of the IKO are 60-year veterans of the art and are graded to the highest level attainable -- 10th Dan. It is a global association. In Australia we have 5 branches and senior grades from 5th–9th Dan. Our senior instructors each have more than 35 + years’ experience and are highly regarded in the karate world.

Emma Sandall is an ex-ballerina turned fitness and health guru. She teaches and coaches dance, fitness and Pilates and writes and produces video for all things movement related. Emma owns Body Playground, a space to activate and inspire body and soul. Email: emma@bodyplayground.com.au