What is 5-foot-9, 170 pounds with a British accent and can take down a 280-pound defensive lineman in less than a second? Meet Paul McCarthy. McCarthy, the current instructional program coordinator for UCLA Cultural & Recreational Affairs, coordinates a number of recreational sports, dance, arts and martial arts programs for the students of the university.
In addition to teaching a number of martial art and self defense classes for the university, McCarthy boasts an impressive martial arts resume with nearly 20 years experience; 10 of those years include extensive experiences in Hapkido, Jeet Kune Do, and Filipino Martial Arts. Stir in 15 years of kinesiology experience and add three years of Silat, Savate, & Muay Thai experience. The result? One bad british ninja! Although McCarthy’s vast experiences are impressive, what McCarthy is doing with his martial arts skills is even more spectacular.
Last season, the UCLA football team finished 96th against the run while adding just 14 sacks, 112th in the country; very unspectacular statistics for a competitive program in the Pac-12. In an effort to improve defensive numbers, UCLA coaches sought out McCarthy to bring something new to the table, martial art training to the gridiron.
Why would a football program seek out the guidance of a martial artist? Think about it; martial arts involve precise footwork, quick strikes, power, speed and energy reading. Using these techniques, football players will be able to gain an advantage on their opponents and, in a game of inches, these advantages can be the difference between a win and a loss.
“Martial arts training is can be critical for the team because the types of drills I sometimes see normal teams doing are not always specific in training the specific attributes the players need,” McCarthy told The Cover 4.
Instead of teaching athletes the specific martial arts, McCarthy takes the ideologies of each of the styles and adapts them toward player needs. He teaches them the down and dirty stuff that will give them the competitive edge. While McCarthy incorporates a number of diverse exercises in his training, some of the basics rely on Filipino martial Arts for timing and hand speed drills, Hawaiian Hula for strength and balance and Savate for footwork drills.
“I have seen a phenomenal change in their hand speed and their ability to pick up specific motions or techniques,” McCarthy said.
McCarthy implemented his “new” type of training and transformed the UCLA defense; a unit that finished 54th against the run, with a vastly improved 45 sacks, good for 7th in the country.
“Many martial arts base their techniques on a smaller opponent being able to beat a larger one,” McCarthy said. “By teaching these very large players to be light on their feet and be able to read the ‘energy’ of their opponent without looking, but just by tactile response, they will have a gigantic edge on other players”.
McCarthy’s martial arts and football connection initially started with his instructor Guro Dan Inosanto. Guro Inosanto used martial arts in football with the Dallas Cowboys in the 1970s and the unit registered a high number of sacks, including three defensive linemen in double digits. Additionally, urban legend states that Deacon Jones may have learned his head-slapping technique from Guro Inosanto.
McCarthy’s new techniques and different approach to archaic methods gives UCLA an edge in an ultra-competitive industry. The interesting training and teaching methods can alter the way coaches and players think about traditional sports.
“This [specialized martial arts] is not a magic button. It takes thousands of repetitions to engrain this type of training into the body,” McCarthy said.
With the growth of fitness components like yoga, ballet and cycling, teams are looking for cutting edge ways to improve their athletic programs. New styles such as Insanity, P90X and CrossFit are helping revolutionize training. There is no reason to believe that martial arts won’t be in the same category.
McCarthy’s progress with the UCLA football team is only the start of a sports phenomenon. While McCarthy worked exclusively with UCLA last season, there is no reason to think that McCarthy won’t be providing training to college and pro sports teams all around the country; rumor has it a summer program may be on the horizon. Only time will tell, but in the end, our money is on McCarthy.
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