The Chief Instructor - Ed McGrath, Grand Master of Isshin-ryu Karate, 10th Degree Black Belt  

 


 

                                                               

         

Hanshi Ed McGrath has 47 years experience in teaching Isshin-ryu Karate, receiving his rank from white belt to Grand Master, from the legendary fighter and Sensei (teacher) Donald H. Nagle, who was recognized world wide as the top Isshin-ryu teacher in the world, other than Soke Tatsuo Shimabuku. Sensei Nagle was also purported to be the fastest and greatest natural fighter that karate has ever had, in the modern era.

 

            Hanshi Ed McGrath began his studies under Sensei Nagle in 1958, in the first Isshin-ryu dojo (school) established in America . The dojo was situated in Jacksonville , North Carolina , outside Camp Lejeune , the home of the Second Marine Division. The dojo’s student body was made up of Marines serving in the Corps at Lejeune. It was from this dojo that Master McGrath, then a Lieutenant in the USMC, began his career as a fighter and teacher. When Sensei Nagle left for civilian life in 1959, Ed McGrath succeeded him as chief instructor, at the New Bridge Street dojo and with the Marines at Lejeune, most prominently with the famed Second Force Recon personnel and the guard detachment at the legendary Brooklyn Navy Yard. On weekends, he often drove up to Sensei Nagle’s new dojo, in Jersey City , New Jersey , for a chance to fight his teachers new students and share his knowledge with them. During his last two years in the Marine Corps, Mr. McGrath was often called upon to perform demonstrations of Isshin-ryu karate on the base, as well as, county fairs, shows such as the Auto Show in the New York Coliseum and to represent the Corps at tournaments such as those held in Madison Square Garden and seven appearances in the World’s Fair pavilion, in New York.

 

            Sensei McGrath, was released from the Marine Corps in October 1962, due to a permanent service connected disability to his left knee, while doing a hand to hand combat demonstration for the Marine Corps. In July of 1963, he began his first karate teaching outside the Marine Corps, at American Dojos, in Queens , New York . Teaching six days a week, three hours a class at the three locations in Ridgewood, Jackson Heights and South Jamaica, Queens, his student body grew quickly and the school was producing championship competitors within the first year. Eventually, these dojos would win championships in 27 States, ranging from green  belt to black belt, culminating in World Black Belt Championship, won by Sensei  McGrath’s student Malachi Lee at the famed Manhattan Center , heartland of karate competition in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Among the fighters who became champions and eventually great teachers, in their own right, were Bob Baker who Sensei  McGrath always recognizes as the deadliest fighter he has ever taught. He later became one of the all time best under cover agents with the DEA, serving throughout a career for his country. Richie Bell was a tough Marine, whose career was served as an officer with the U.S. Marshall Service. He was a champion and a teacher whose students succeeded, as he did. He presently teaches near his home in Saint Croix , U.S. Virgin Islands . Joe Burgess, was one of the fastest and most dangerous competitors, in an era where hard contact was the game. He is presently teaching in Arizona , where he also has a career as a Lieutenant in the Phoenix Fire Department.     

 

     Last, but not least among the original students of Mr. McGrath was Nick Adler, who has made extraordinary accomplishments, both in competition and as a senior teacher, with more knowledge of the martial arts than most of the teachers in America . He always had a thirst for knowledge and was not afraid to go into any dojo, anywhere and fight the best they had, in order to elevate his competitive skills. His famed fighters, the Centurions have won an astonishing number of championships.

 

            Not wishing to lose his contact with the Marine Corps, Master McGrath went to the USMC Headquarters in New York City and volunteered to help their recruiting program. As a result, from 1963, until the present, Master McGrath has been there for the Marines, visiting bases and showing his Isshin-ryu Unarmed Combat techniques, appearing at county fairs with his team, as well as recruiting days at Colleges in the New York area. At present, Mr. McGrath has been teaching Hand to Hand Combat (H2H) at the USMC First Marine District, to the active Marines and Navy Personnel at this large station, in Garden City, New York. He enjoys this ability to mix with the new generation of young Marines and prove that an old Leather Neck can still handle youngsters, using experience, guile and trickery.

 

            In 1969, Sensei McGrath moved to Long Island , New York , with a dojo in Bellmore Long Island , where he again turned students into champions, with fighters like Barry Steinberg, whose speed and skill spelled quick defeat for his stunned opponents. Over the years, he fought for and won numerous championship matches throughout  the country and having started with Sensei McGrath at age 12, he now lists his own teen age son as one of his top students. Along the way he also managed to obtain three PhDs and now operates for the benefit of children as a Facial-Maxillary Surgeon, who travels to various countries, at his own expense to operate on children who otherwise would not have this opportunity. That dojo also became the home school to Al Wilder and Dennis Bootle, who followed their Master out to Bellmore and fascinated the other students, with the longest, toughest and most dramatic matches on the deck.

 

             In 1972, Mr. McGrath moved his school to the Lindenhurst, Long Island YMCA and was blessed with a new group of students that would stay with him through several other dojos in the coming years, in Bayshore and presently at the Kioto Dojo, on Sunrise Highway in Oakdale/Bohemia. Among these students are some of the best in Master McGrath’s career, many of whom are now Masters and teach with Mr. McGrath, as well as on their own. Among them are; Frank Klos, felt by Master McGrath to be on a level of skill with both Bob Baker and Barry Steinberg. Frank is now a Seichi Dan, seventh degree black belt. He teaches with Mr. McGrath. Dan Vena, who is an indomitable fighter, who will not stop, but move forward at all times. He doesn’t know the meaning of the word quit. He is presently a Roku Dan and Mr. McGrath’s trusted partner and teacher at the Kioto Dojo. He has also trained champions and continues to evolve and improve as a student and teacher. Additionally, we have Lou Luceri, one of Mr. McGrath’s senior students in both time and rank in Isshin-ryu, as well as a Master in kata, he too is a Roku Dan. My other ranking teachers are Frank Black, a Roku Dan who has turned out some of the best pure fighters in Isshin-ryu and who, at 6’8” and 315lbs., has incredible speed and power and is a main stay within my group; John Pinghero, Ku Dan whose speed and defensive skills are unparalleled, making him the complete package and combined with his mastery of kata makes him an excellent teacher; Steve Dilorenzo, a Go Dan, 5th  degree black belt, has been with Master McGrath since 1972 and proved to be one of the smartest and most devious fighters he has ever taught. Just when the opponent feels that he has Sensei DiLorenzo where he wants him, he reverses the situation and wins the match. He is a joy to teach and a revelation to watch.

 

            During all of this time, Master McGrath had become a favorite with the martial arts magazines, appearing on the covers of Marine Corps papers and the cover of Official Karate a number of times. The writer of one article mentioned that during Master McGrath’s initial two years of training, he worked out five hours a day,

  seven days a week and took on any fighter he could find with a strong reputation. He often appeared to contest with the students of other teachers, fighting as many as 20 or more opponents, without a rest between matches.

 Simultaneously, Master McGrath, having filled in for a missing announcer at Gary

   Alexander’s first tournament, found himself in demand as the master of ceremonies and blow by blow announcer at tournaments al over the country. Eventually, he became known to the magazines and fans as the “Voice of Karate.” In this capacity, he became good friends with many of the contestants and performers, such as, Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee, Joe Lewis, Tom LaPuppet, Mike Stone and the great Broadway star, Gregory Hines.

 

   That background came to the attention of Leeming-Pacquin Corp. and they designated Mr. McGrath as their representative for their new product, “Hai Karate” After Shave Lotion. His hands appeared on the bottle and he was on the gift box, doing a flying side kick. Master McGrath appeared for the product throughout the country, doing exhibitions and speaking to the audience about the product and karate.

           During the forty two years that he served faithfully for Grand Master Nagle, his excellence in fighting and teaching were rewarded with promotion, although Mr. McGrath never toiled for promotion as a goal, but simply loved teaching and being on the deck to fight, as often as possible. In the old days, prior to leaving the Marine Corps, Mr. McGrath would travel from Camp Lejeune, to other States, with Sensei Nagle in order to fight top competitors that Sensei Nagle heard of, coming back from Okinawa or Japan. On one week end, Sensei Nagle told Mr. McGrath to pick him up with his car. Upon picking Master Nagle up, McGrath was told to drive to NYC. Upon arriving, McGrath was told to find Master Urban’s China Town Dojo. When they entered the dojo Master Urban told McGrath to get his Gi on and come back to the deck. At that point, Master Nagle told Mr. McGrath that he was to fight Mr. Urban’s student body with no rest period between matches and that he was not to lose. Mr. McGrath did what he was told and fought over twenty matches without losing. When this grueling evening was over, Nagle told McGrath to get dressed, because he had to get right back to Camp Lejeune . This was despite the fact that, McGrath was fifteen minutes from his parents home. McGrath did what his Sensei requested and they arrived back in Jacksonville, early on the next morning, Saturday. That afternoon, Mr. McGrath would have to be at the dojo for the Saturday class for three hours. Sensei Nagle never mentioned where we had gone or what we did for that evening. There was a picture taken of the two of us going back to our car in Manhattan . Sensei Nagle came as close to complementing me than he ever would, by saying, “You did pretty good tonight.” That was it. I was thrilled and told Bohan and Niemira, when he got to the dojo, that Nagle said he did well. Sensei was never effusive in his praise. However, when he chastised you, because you blew a technique or a kata, he always mentioned a spot during your performance that went well. He was an excellent leader and teacher.

 

            Finally, in November 8, 1997 , Master Nagle promoted  Mr. McGrath to Ku Dan, ninth degree black belt. At that point, with his teacher and best friend Don Nagle, as 10th degree black belt and Grand Master of Isshin-ryu Karate, Mr. McGrath was content that he had reached the apex of his career, having originally aspired to become a brown belt. Unfortunately, that was not to be, for in August of 1999 Master Nagle suddenly passed away, naming Mr. McGrath as his successor, just before his death.

 

            Grand Master McGrath, because of his forty five years of service to the martial arts, Isshin-ryu Karate and his Master Donald Nagle, has gained recognition and numerous awards, such as:  

    Halls of Fame :

  Isshin-ryu Hall of Fame - August 12, 1994

  Marine Martial Arts Hall of Fame - February 8, 1997

  International Association of Martial Artists Hall of Fame - April 6, 1997

  Grand Master Don Nagle’s American Okinawan Karate Assoc. - September 26, 1997

 

   NAC Okinawan Isshin-ryu Karate Kobudo Hall of Fame - August 10, 1997

  OIKKA Isshin-ryu Hall of Fame - July 16, 1999

  World Karate Union Hall of Fame - July 1, 2000

  Awards :

 NAC Man of the Year Award - 1979

 NAC Lifetime Achievement Award - 1993

 Man of the Year Centurion Eagle Award - 1996

 American Cancer Society Award - 1998

 Commendation from Colonel Krance, USMC for participation in Marine Recruiting over a decade of tournaments and performances for the recruiting of new Marines.

 

  Grand Master McGrath, beyond the goal he has to teach the people of his

  community, children, teenagers and adults, how to competently defend themselves from harm, has now set another goal and that is to unite in fellowship all of the elements which comprise Isshin-ryu karate, within the United States . He also intends that the instructors be given the knowledge required to bring about a

   renaissance in Isshin-ryu, maintaining and increasing the fighting spirit that was an essential element in every student, the pride of perfection in kata and loyalty to both the art and it’s teachers. Isshin-ryu has always been through many changes, just as every art must evolve and the Masters must see to it that change is always to the benefit of Isshin-ryu and it’s students. Mr. McGrath is there to see that our pride in Isshin-ryu's past, will remain as a banner to follow in the future, just as his teacher and friend, Grand Master Don Nagle did, before him.      


Questions or Comments? please e-mail: thedojo@aokaincmcgrath.com