The Baseworks Method, at its core is a movement conditioning approach. It’s also been developed with the intended purpose of promoting the deepening of introspection based on realizations that come up as a result of the commitment to the practice. 

The Transmission conversations with people from different backgrounds look at both the concrete and abstract realizations that emerge from a commitment to any kind of practice or pursuit to achieve life goals. 

The ideas get unpacked from their subjectivity, and the outcome of each conversation sets out to uncover and exhibit common features of physical and introspective experiences.

The Baseworks Transmission Reflections act as retrospective companion episodes to the Transmission Conversations.

Baseworks Quest 4 is a “quest for” meaning, drawing analogies and finding similarities across different domains in an artistically informative way. Unconstrained free-form, abstract and adventurous, Quest 4 is a visual interpretative journey over a diffused network of correlations, constructed on the go as we warp and fuse the category boundaries.

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Show Summary

In this episode Patrick Oancia talks with Ryan Hurst about his immersion into Gymnastics in Wichita, Kansas from a young age through to decades as a devoted martial artist and expat in Japan.

His immersion into the Japanese culture was shaped by these and other experiences and that all lead to his cofounding GMB Fitness in 2010.

WATCH:

LISTEN:

About Ryan:

Ryan co-founded GMB fitness in 2010 with partners Andy Fossett, Jarlo Ilano and acts as the head coach and program director for the method. 

Since 2010 GMB has facilitated the delivery of their programming to over 100,000 students in over 100 countries.

Among the thousands whom have benefited from their programming, they’ve trained Olympians,  world class martial artists, and FBI Hostage Rescue Teams at Quantico.

Ryan also holds black belts in Kendo, Judo, and Shorinji Kempo, a purple belt in BJJ, and came from a background as a competitive gymnast. 

Ryan has devoted his life to coaching others in strength and movement, but always lets his philosophy of “training for a healthy life” lead the way. 

He’s married with two children and has lived in Japan for over 25 years.

Show Notes:


3:39 – Introduction
4:38 – Initial Trip to Japan
9:40 – Why Gymnastics: Freedom of Expressing
15:35 – Gymnastics to Martial Arts
20:03 – Homestay in Osaka to Scholarship in Niigata
21:56 – Immersive Experience as an Uchideshi, Live-In Student
27:32 – Black Belt in Martial Arts and Drinking
32:17 – ShuHaRi vs Lucky Foreigner vs Dedication and Respect
38:18 – Nuances of Japanese Language and Culture
46:47 – Decadence in the 90s Japan
50:32 – The Discussion of Tattoos
56:06 – Topic of Racism
1:04:52 – Work and Martial Arts in Osaka
1:08:59 – Commitment to Judo
1:12:13 – Incubation and Evolution of GMB
1:17:27 – Building Skills instead of How Many Reps
1:22:20 – Prep, Practice, Play, Push, Ponder
1:27:51 – Role as a Movement Educator
1:30:50 – Reflecting on the Other Person
1:38:25 – Teacher, the Concept of Sensei
1:47:14 – Buddhism, the Contemplative Element
1:49:05 – Closing

 

Selected links from this transmission:

People

Ryan Hurst
Andy Fossett
Bart Conner
Jarlo Ilano
Mark Folger
Michael Sheahon
Tim Daggett
Toshio Ukisu
Yuval Avalon    

Martial Arts

Aikido
Bagua
Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
Daitoryu Aiki-Jiu-Jitsu
Iaido
Karate
Kendo
Kyudo
Kung Fu
Judo
Shorinji Kempo
Tai Chi Chuan
Taido
Thai Kickboxing    

Techniques

Bench Press
Handstand
Horizontal Bar
Muscle-up
Pommel Horse
Push Hands
Spar
Still Rings    

Gymnastics Institutions

Folger’s Gymnastics
Wichita Gymnastics Club    

Institutions in Japan

Jieitai
Meiji Jingu Shinseikan
Syudokan
Sumiyoshi Taisha    

Yoga Schools

Ashtanga Vinyasa Yoga
Iyengar Yoga    

Movies

Above the Law    

Podcasts

Yuval Avalon & Patrick Oancia    

Japanese Martial Arts Related Words

Dojo
Kangeiko
Katana
Men
Seiza
Senpai Kohai
Sensei
Shugyou
Shuhari
Uchideshi    

Other Japanese Words/Terms 

Gaijin / Gaikokujin
Haji
Inaka
Ochazuke
Ohayogozaimasu
Okagesama
Onsen
Otsukaresama
Kaette / Kaettekudasai
Kanji
Kansai
Kanto
Keigo
Kimochi
Konyoku
Muri
Setsumeikai
Tatemae
Wagashi
Yakuza    

Connect with Ryan & GMB:

Website
YouTube Channel
Facebook
GMB Instagram
Ryan Instagram
Twitter

Coming Soon!

Patrick Oancia:

Hey, it’s Patrick Oancia and I’m the founder and co-developer of the Baseworks Method. The Baseworks Method at its core, is a movement conditioning approach and a part of what’s inspired the development has come from realizations that I’ve had about the outcome to commitment to practice, and the effect that that has had on perception and quality of life. The Baseworks Transmission Conversations are exploring both concrete and abstract realizations that emerge out of the commitment to any kind of practice or pursuit to achieve life goals. The aim is to find a common vocabulary to help better describe these experiences.

Ryan co-founded GMB Fitness with partners Andy Fossett and Jarlo Ilano, and acts as the head coach and program director of the method. Since 2010, GMB facilitated the delivery of their programming to over a 100,000 students in 100 countries, and among the thousands who’ve benefited from their programming, they’ve trained Olympians, world class Martial Artists, and FBI hostage rescue teams at Quant Tico. Ryan also holds Black Belts in Kendo, Judo and Shorinji Kempo, and he’s also a Purple Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. He comes from a long background as a competitive gymnast as well, from his younger years. Ryan has devoted his life to coaching others in strength and movement, but always lets his philosophy of training for a healthy life lead the way. He’s married with two children, and he’s lived in Japan for over 25 years.

I first came across GMB Fitness in 2014 when I was researching alternative movement practices to recommend to some of our students in Tokyo as a complimentary practice alongside of the work that they did with us. At that time, I had no idea Ryan was a longtime Tokyo expat, and I really only became aware of Ryan’s background, a couple years later when we connected on Facebook. As we started interacting via DMs on both Facebook and on Instagram, I got to learn more about Ryan’s extensive background in Martial Arts in Japan. This electronic connection sustained itself right through to this episode where we actually got a chance to talk real time, and what this revealed will likely keep the conversation and friendship going for a long time to come.

In this Transmission Conversation, we talk about Ryan’s immersion into gymnastics in Wichita, Kansas, from a very young age, right through to decades as a devoted Martial Artist, an expat in Japan. Ryan had an uncommon and valuable experience of being invited to live with his Kendo teacher as an Uchideshi in Niigata Japan, and he was the first foreigner to be awarded with the Black Belt from that prestigious Dojo. Ryan’s immersion to Japanese culture was shaped by these and other experiences that we dig into, throughout our talk. We also chat about the conception of GMB Fitness. We talk about GMB being a community focused experience and how GMB’s mission is to empower anyone at any level of health to say, utilize what they get from the method programming across different practical and strategic movement scenarios. There’s quite a bit that we talk about that confirmed my ongoing assumptions about our mutual trajectories in practice and in other endeavors. And this is what led me to invite him to be a part of the Transmission Conversations. I’m sure that many of you tuning in will also discover some correlations and insights about the cultivation of practice and how it interconnects with so many things that go on in life. On the last note, there’s a lot of reference to Japan and Japanese culture, which may not make that much sense at first, but don’t worry, you can find explanations to everything in the Show Notes.

3:39 Introduction

Ryan, thank you very much for taking the time to come on to be a part of the Baseworks Transmission Conversations.

Ryan Hurst:

Well, thank you so much for having me. As we were talking about earlier, it’s about time that we chat, you know? We’ve been in Japan for so long and yet have never met in person.

Patrick Oancia:

Yeah, you know, it blows me away. Am I speaking to you in Kasai right now?

Ryan Hurst:

Yes, that’s correct. I’m in Osaka, in Toyonaka actually is where I live, but yes. Here in Osaka, yes.

Patrick Oancia:

Just so that I can recap from what I understood before, how many years have you been in Japan?

Ryan Hurst:

Total, I would say about 28 so far. I wanna say, for sure 25 in Osaka, more like 26, but the majority of my time here in Osaka.

Patrick Oancia:

Prior to that was Niigata?

Ryan Hurst:

That’s correct, yes. I was there for a few years for university.

4:38 Very First Trip to Japan

Patrick Oancia:

The initial trip to Japan was on an exchange program to college?

Ryan Hurst:

Actually, my very first trip to Japan was here in Kansai. I came over for just a very quick couple month visit, did a home stay, and did that in order to study Martial Arts. And then I went back and said, oh, I have to go back to Japan. And then I came over for a student exchange, exchange student in university in Niigata. That’s correct, yes.

Patrick Oancia:

Niigata-shi?

Ryan Hurst:

Actually is outside of Niigata-shi. It was in a place called Nakajo-machi, which the closest city is Shibata-shi. The university, college I guess, I wouldn’t call it there because it was a branch of the university, was actually a Nakajo-machi.

Patrick Oancia:

How did you like the life in Niigata? I won’t diverge too much, but how did you like the life in Niigata as opposed to life in Kansai? I mean, they have very unique qualities, both places.

Ryan Hurst:

Very much so, yes, and I absolutely loved Niigata. Of course Osaka, I enjoy it, you know, just as much, in a different way. I’m originally from Wichita, Kansas, and so I’m a country boy. So, me being in Niigata was quite familiar, in the sense that, the openness, the friendliness of people. Whereas, Kansai is just crazy.

Patrick Oancia:

If you compare Kansai and Kanto, definitely Kansai people are much friendlier and much more open than people in Kanto, but I understand what you mean about the hospitality in Niigata as well. It’s definitely unique and Japan’s such a weird, interesting place. But I mean, you’ve been in Kansai too, and if you’re in Osaka as opposed to Kyoto, it’s very different. In Kyoto, it’s the total Tatemae concept.

Ryan Hurst:

Yes, absolutely.

Patrick Oancia:

But it’s fantastic, it’s very diplomatic. That saying, I forgot, maybe you know what it is in Japanese. I’m always forgetting it. The one where people invite you over to their house.

Ryan Hurst:

Three times.

Patrick Oancia:

What was it?

Ryan Hurst:

They’ll invite you over, but the thing is, they don’t actually really want you to come, but they’re being polite. So you have to say, oh, no thank you. And then they ask again, but if they actually really want you to be there, they’ll ask you three times, and the third time means actually, ok, yes. It’s a weird thing, right?

Patrick Oancia:

I also heard something like, when they offer you Ochazuke, you’ve gotta go or something.

Ryan Hurst:

Oh yeah?

Patrick Oancia:

Ochazuke or is it Wagashi? They offer you one of those two things?

Ryan Hurst:

I apologize, I don’t know. That’s a new one for me. That’s cool.

Patrick Oancia:

Maybe?

Ryan Hurst:

Wouldn’t surprise me.

Patrick Oancia:

Maybe I misunderstood. For those of you listening out there, Ochazuke would be described as a kind of a tea with rice in it. I guess that would be the easiest way, just savory. And then Wagashi, would be a sweet. So you would maybe be offered Wagashi in the context of maybe tea, having tea at somebody’s place, or somebody may bring out Wagashi after dinner. But either way, I heard something like when somebody says, “Would you like some Wagashi or Ochazuke?”, means like, get the fuck out.

Ryan Hurst:

Right, it’s time for you to leave.

Patrick Oancia:

Yeah, exactly. It’s a very unique and interesting experience to live in Japan. And such a precious one. I think that you probably agree that the culture is just so rich and diverse, and there’s so much detail. And as we’re gonna dig in in shortly here in relation to Martial Arts, and all the associated traditions or disciplines that people are practicing there, and the level that people commit themselves to those things, it’s very unique. It’s something that could be seen in other parts of the world, but it has definitely its own flavor. Maybe I’d like to sort of dig in on that. I really want to talk about Martial Arts with you because I know that’s something you’ve committed a lot of time to, in interdisciplinary practice of Martial Arts. But before we get into that, I’d like to just ask, because I had Yuval Avalon on the last Transmission and we talked a lot about his experience with gymnastics. Now, I know that you started as a gymnast, right? That was your first skill, that was your first story, wasn’t it?

Ryan Hurst:

Yes.

Patrick Oancia:

I’d like to talk a little bit about that.

9:40 Why Gymnastics: Freedom of Expressing

Why gymnastics and at what age and for how long?

Ryan Hurst:

Yeah, great. So, at quite a young age, I was in elementary school and I actually, I don’t wanna say this incorrectly, but I wanna say I was either in the third or the fourth year of elementary school. I had very influential physical education teacher, PE teacher, his name is Mark Folger, and he just made things fun. And he’s actually gymnastics coach, and kind of recruited me, and he said, “Hey, I’m a Gymnastics coach, you ought to come and try it”, and I did, and I just fell in love with it. What I really loved about it was, to be honest, the freedom of just expressing. I didn’t really realize it at the time, but the freedom of being able to express my body in different ways and individually, I think that really pulled me.

I had played team sports before and things like that, but I just do things better by myself. I know that now. At the time, he really helped me to really bring that out of me. He was my coach all the way until I was 18 years old, it’s when I stopped doing gymnastics. I actually injured my knee when I was doing Aikido. And so, when I was in high school. But going back to gymnastics, I absolutely loved the practice of it. Competition, whatever. I’ve never really been like, “Yay, let’s go compete!” But the actual practice and doing the work and just being able to see what I could do with my body just always interested me. It still does, and that’s why I do what I do today. Mark just played such an influential role in my life as a coach, a fabulous coach as well. Two times US coach of the year in the United States, and I was just really lucky to have him as my coach.

Patrick Oancia:

Why Wichita for gymnastics? Was it a specifically a hub for gymnastics in, was this being in the 90s?

Ryan Hurst:

Well, actually in the 80s. Wichita, there was what’s called the Wichita Gymnastics Club, which was kind of the place if you wanted to go to, for gymnastics around the area. Eventually Mark, I started there because he was a coach there, but he split off and he started his own place called Folgers Gymnastics, Mark Folger. But as far as gymnastics though, during that time, the Midwest was quite strong in terms of gymnastics, if you were looking at, especially Oklahoma. Oklahoma University was one of the top universities in that area for gymnastics. He actually graduated from Oklahoma and he was an alternate on the Olympic team. Actually his roommate was Bart Connor, who was actually in the Olympics, I believe it was the 1984 Olympics, and that’s kind of when there was a little bit of a boom in gymnastics.

Because that was in the United States, it was held in Los Angeles and the US team won. Tim Daggett, Bart Conner and all these guys becoming famous, and then other people were like “I wanna do gymnastics”. It was a cool time to be able to do that. I wouldn’t say necessarily Kansas is a hub for gymnastics, but it was a lot of fun, I will say that. We had a lot of opportunities to travel to a lot of different places, competed a lot throughout my time in gymnastics, especially in Oklahoma, Texas, Nebraska especially, Colorado and throughout the Midwest. It was fun. Had few opportunities to go to junior nationals and stuff like that, so it was fun.

Patrick Oancia:

How many years in total?

Ryan Hurst:

Goodness let’s see. If I started in, let’s say 3rd or 4th grade all the way up until I was a senior in high school, quite a few years.

Patrick Oancia:

What were your forms in gymnastics? What were you focusing on?

Ryan Hurst:

I was an all arounder. I would compete in everything, but my specialty, what I felt the most comfortable in, was Pommel Horse and the Still Rings. Those were my two favorite things. Did not like the Horizontal Bar. I did it of course cuz I was an all arounder, but I just didn’t enjoy it very much. But Pommel Horse especially, I absolutely loved, and Still Rings. And I think that’s another reason why I still love working out on the gymnastic rinks.

Patrick Oancia:

It’s interesting how that transformed from a very gymnastics centric thing to body weight specific fitness.

Ryan Hurst:

Exactly.

Patrick Oancia:

Super cool in a way that it’s been so popular, the Muscle-up being the culprit, if you wanna call it that. But I mean, very cool that it’s sort of sustained itself that way. I mean, it’s actually pretty easy just to throw a set of rings up anywhere and do your thing. It’s such a versatile tool to be able to use in engaging that whole body activity, relating to agility and core strength and coordination in that.

15:35 Gymnastics to Martial Arts

The gymnastics, how did that translate essentially from all those years into Martial Arts? What transitioned you? Was the next thing Martial Arts?

Ryan Hurst:

It was. I was trying to think, cuz I knew we were gonna be talking about this, and I actually haven’t talked this deep about what I’ve done throughout the years, which is kind of fun for me, kind of scary. I remember watching in this, I can’t believe I’m saying this, I’m almost embarrassed now to say it, watching a Steven Segal movie, the very first movie that I think is “Above the Law”. And I was like, “Wow, that looks pretty cool”. I was still pretty young, and cuz I knew I wanted to do some sort of Martial Arts. Wichita, Kansas was not the mecca of Martial Arts, I’ll just say that. There wasn’t a whole lot to choose from. But I just remember seeing the Steven Segal movie and then I looked in the Yellow Pages because that’s all they had back then, and there was a single Aikido place.

And I was like, “Wow, I’ll go check it out”, and I had my dad take me. It just turned out that the instructor, he’s originally from Kansas, but he lived in Tokyo for like over 25 years, worked for Nippon Steel as an interpreter there, and moved back to Wichita because his father became ill and he needed to take care of his father. Fluent in Japanese. At the time he was a fifth degree Black Belt in Aikido, Michael Sheahon. Another pivotal turning point in my life. I went and just fell in love with it. To me, of course it wasn’t easy, but it felt familiar thanks to my gymnastics. We’re looking at spatial awareness, we were looking at being able to actually use your body in different ranges of motion and being comfortable with your body, I was pretty set thanks to gymnastics.

I would go to my gymnastics practice and then after I would go to Aikido practice, so I was doing both. I just loved it and I kept doing it and I did that while I was in Wichita, and Sheahon-sensei said, “If you really wanna know more about Aikido, I think you should go to Japan”. And I got it in my head that I’m going to Japan, and that’s where things started. So, it was Aikido, but when I graduated from high school, I didn’t have the opportunity to go to other universities because I tore my knee, blew my knee out. So I ended up going to Kansas State University, a state school, hated it, just did not enjoy it. But I went, cuz you know, you gotta go to college, right? Of course, that’s what people would say.

Patrick Oancia:

This is just a college, it wasn’t on a scholarship for gymnastics or anything.

Ryan Hurst:

Wasn’t on a scholarship or anything, no, because I lost all my opportunity to be able to do that, so basically gymnastics was done.

Patrick Oancia:

Because of an injury?

Ryan Hurst:

Yes, I actually had surgery in my knee and I had this huge knee brace, and I started university at Kansas State University in this knee brace, and I had to go through rehabilitation at the university for the first 6 months I was there. When I was there, there was a Judo group. There was an Aikido group that I was looking into, of course, and I did a little bit with them, but their style was a little different than what I was used to, and there was a lot of, what’s a nice way to say, politics involved in their group that I was like, I don’t wanna be involved with.

There was a Judo group though, and I was like, “Cool, let’s check out Judo”, so I actually did a little bit of Judo there. The thing about that though was, in Aikido, I was always really interested in the sword part of it. The forms and things that they had really interested me, and I had always wanted to do Kendo, but there’s no place I could do Kendo.

20:03 Homestay in Osaka to Scholarship in Niigata

Anyway, jump forward 2 years, they finally had the very first Japanese class at Kansas State University, they offered this Japanese class. And my instructor, Mizuno-sensei, she’s just lovely, and I fell in love with Japanese language. She kind of took me under her wing, and her husband who was actually an engineering instructor at Kansas State University was very high level Karateka, so he did Karate.

He’s like, “You have to do Karate”, and I was like, I don’t wanna do Karate, I wanna do Aikido, I wanna do Kendo stuff. So she, Mizuno-sensei is originally from Osaka, here in Osaka. She said, “Would you like to do a home stay with my parents in Osaka?”, I was like, “Yes, absolutely”. And that was my first time going to, or I should I say, coming to Osaka. When I came, I had the opportunity to train Aikido with fabulous, fabulous guy here, and I was here for 2 months. I didn’t do Kendo at the time because it was just for Aikido, but I went back, and from that day on, I was like, I want to go to university in Japan. So the Martial Arts side of it, I was able to continue with that, and that was what really brought me to Japan.

At Kansas State University, they didn’t have an exchange program, so what I actually did was, applied through a different university, Southern Illinois Carbondale, and actually got the opportunity scholarship to go to Niigata, and so, went to Niigata. I was only supposed to go for one semester. I’m just completely going off now, I hope that’s ok.

Patrick Oancia:

No, that’s fine.

21:56 Immersive Experience as an Uchideshi, Live-In Student

Ryan Hurst:

So I came to Japan, I was in Niigata, and the first thing was, “Hey, is there Kendo?” And they’re like, “Yeah, not at the university, but it’s quite famous in this area, you should go check it out”, and I did. I went to the first practice and I sat there Seiza. Because they took me in and I was actually late, and they had already started, and I had this thing in my head where, oh my goodness, I have to give a good impression and sit here and just wait and show them that I can do it.

I remember the instructor, Ukisu-sensei, coming over and saying, just go ahead and sit, relax and stuff, and I thought he was testing me, so I didn’t, of course. It was just this image of a foreigner thinking it has to be this way. That led to me not only joining that group, but me actually moving into Ukisu-sensei’s home to be an Uchideshi, a live-in student, and to this day, he’s my Japanese father. Almost every week, we communicate on the phone, and his family really took me in. His son is very high ranking instructor now in Iaido, and he lives in Nagoya and we’re the same age. It’s just pretty cool how that all happened.

Patrick Oancia:

That immersion, that was like not only a full immersion to what you’re interested in doing, but a full immersion to the Japanese culture and language.

Ryan Hurst:

Yes, and thanks to that. People are like, “Wow, you really fell into that”. I don’t believe in luck. I believe that things happen if you actually not just search, but purposely put yourself in a position to be open to those opportunities. That’s what it was. And yes, the culture, the language, now being able to understand multiple dialects, and I was the only exchange student in Niigata that actually did anything outside of the university, which I thought was wild. I was like, why would you not want to go out into the community and try and use the language that you’re learning in class and experience things? I just dove in head first like I do with everything, and I spoke no English. I was like, “I’m not here to do that”, and I wasn’t a dick about it, of course.

It was just that the people around me couldn’t speak English because I was going to these Kendo practices and at first I could understand zero of what they were saying because the dialect is so heavy there. But my instructor purposely spoke standard Japanese for me so that I could understand. He would take me on the weekends, there was a special group with the Jieitai, the Japanese self-defense force, and I got to go train and we trained Kendo with them. It’s very different style, because they would throw each other on the ground and continue to hit, and we would go and train in Niigata-shi with the police, and they tore the crap outta me, it was great. I also did Judo at the same time, I also joined the Judo club to do that because I’m weird like that.

Patrick Oancia:

The immersion thing, that was 90s or 80s?

Ryan Hurst:

That was in the 90s.

Patrick Oancia:

Early 90s?

Ryan Hurst:

Yeah, early 90s. It’s 92, 93.

Patrick Oancia:

In Niigata, right?

Ryan Hurst:

In Niigata, that’s right.

Patrick Oancia:

My first trip to Niigata was in 1989 to Nagaoka.

Ryan Hurst:

Oh wow, cool!

Patrick Oancia:

And you talking about immersion, I went into a public bath and it was still Konyoku, in the public.

Ryan Hurst:

I was just gonna ask you that.

Patrick Oancia:

Right, so I walked in as a foreigner with no clothes on, and there was women and children, everybody naked, and I was like, “Oh my god, what’s going on here?”

Ryan Hurst:

I remember that too, yeah.

Patrick Oancia:

Which just does not exist anymore in Japan. Really very few places you would have that experience of walking into, not a hot spring, but a public bath and be washing yourself stark naked with all the people you don’t know. Which is one of the charming things about the culture. But as you mentioned, that Niigata-ben, trying to sort of like, get your head around that dialect, understanding, so I totally understood. So your teacher was empathetic in that way and spoke standard Japanese.

Ryan Hurst:

Yes, and still does to me, and it’s fabulous. I remember there was one instructor that was there. To this day, I still don’t know what he’s saying, because apparently his dialect of Niigata-ben is Nakajo-ben, which, it just blew me away all the time, I was like, is that Japanese? Anyway, it was fun. There’s little things I remember, just bringing back so many memories. But basically, I did Martial Arts.

27:32 Black Belt in Martial Arts and Drinking

I remember getting my Black Belt in Kendo and Iaido, and the big joke though, was that because you’re Niigata, you might have a Black Belt in Martial Arts, but you probably are a higher Black Belt in drinking. And that culture, to me was crazy. The amount people would drink.

Patrick Oancia:

Did you indulge in it?

Ryan Hurst:

Yes, I did, because that was just what it was. You would go to Kendo practice and afterwards, everyone to go drink, and that was just how it was, and you’d wake up in the morning. Here’s a story. This is crazy. The craziest thing I think I’ve ever experienced was Kangeiko. In the winter, the practice, and it’s freezing, and they don’t use heaters or anything.

Patrick Oancia:

Freezing in the Dojo.

Ryan Hurst:

It’s ridiculous, you know. But I remember we had practice on January 31st. We practiced every day. 31st, we all, his son, I remember his son actually was going to a different university. He was in Nagoya at the time, but he came back for New Year’s. We practiced together, we went out drinking to the Shrine, and I remember we got pretty drunk, woke up the next morning because we had the first practice of the year. I remember going to, it was in Shibata-shi, and it was with other Dojos and things like that. Everybody’s still drunk. I remember doing Kendo, and multiple people, this is nasty, throwing up in their Men. It was the most horrid thing I had ever experienced. Cause I was just like, it just blew me away. It was the one thing where I was like, I can’t believe it, but that was that culture. It was crazy.

Patrick Oancia:

So that drunken integration with discipline and skill, whatever it is, in Japan, is just such an integrated part. The work hard and then go out and get shit faced and bond, and then vomit on each other.

Ryan Hurst:

Yeah, right? Culturally Japanese tend not to open up unless they’re drunk. The conversations that I remember having with people, seeing them do Martial Arts and then go drinking, it was a completely different person. Because the questions that they would ask me is like, “Ok, did I hear that right? Is my Japanese correct in thinking that he just asked me that question?” And getting used to it over time, which was pretty wild.

Patrick Oancia:

I’m curious to know, what was the timeline to the Black Belt in Kendo?

Ryan Hurst:

In Kendo, it’s pretty quick, to be perfectly honest. The other thing I guess you have to take into consideration, I was also practicing twice a day, I lived with my instructor. I had the opportunities to train with some very high level people, also the Jieitai as well as the police officers in Niigata. I think I actually within a year received my Black Belt. But it’s different. I don’t know how it is now, to be perfectly honest. When I went through, my instructor also wanted me to have a Black Belt in Iaido at the same time. That was very important to him. So, we would practice Kendo along with Iaido. And for maybe those who don’t know Iaido, the art of drawing the sword. I remember I had the opportunity once, to hold an actual real live Katana, scared the shit out of me just holding this thing. I didn’t use it, draw or anything, literally just held it. And I was like, I’m good to go here, I’m gonna give it back, but that was a big thing with my instructor. He said, “If you wanted to do Kendo, you also need to know Iaido”. And so at the same time, I actually went up and received my Black Belt in Iaido as well.

Patrick Oancia:

It’s interesting, the parallel with Kung Fu, when you’re practicing something like Bagua, and they do introduce swords as a companion or as a hierarchical progress to Bagua or Tai Chi Chuan or Push Hands. Another question.

32:17 ShuHaRi vs Lucky Foreigner vs Dedication and Respect

I like to diverge a little bit to the Senpai Kohai culture. So for those people listening out there, Senpai Kohai would translate to mentor mentee, or apprentice and master. Kohai meaning apprentice and Senpai meaning master, or how I just explained it otherwise, can have many different manifestations in Japan. Something that exists not only, well, it stems from disciplines like Martial Arts, I believe culturally, as if I’m not mistaken, it stems from it being rooted in discipline and respect for the teacher, and actually from the concept Shuhari.

Ryan Hurst:

Shuhari, exactly.

Patrick Oancia:

Which pertains to, starting as a student, developing your skills, respecting the lineage, doing as your teacher would tell you to do, and then eventually just breaking free and letting go of all, in developing your own thing. The Senpai Kohai thing in the perspective, and we’re talking about 90s now. It’ll be a little bit different to now. I’ve had my own experience, other people have had their own experiences. But going through culture in Japan, particularly when practicing Martial Arts, when showing up at a Dojo, and I think it’s maybe more, I dunno so much about Aikido or Kendo or Archery specifically, but when you show up at a, for example, Karate Dojo, what you do initially in your trainings, you don’t actually practice that much, you just clean the toilets and do other stuff. So, I’m just wondering in that way, when you showed up in Japan and started diving into Martial Arts, were you just a lucky Gaijin and you bypassed all that shit? Or did you have to clean the toilets?

Ryan Hurst:

Exactly what you said, but I was a lucky bastard, basically is what it is.

Patrick Oancia:

Were there jealous people around?

Ryan Hurst:

Yes there were, but they understood though, that I’m not the kind of person who just thinks, “Oh, I’m lucky, I’m not going to do anything”. I worked my ass off, and they saw that. That was really when things basically opened up. That’s like, for example, when my instructor was like, “Wow, you’re very serious and diligent and disciplined, how about you come and stay with me?” It wasn’t just like all the sudden, oh, a fun foreigner as a pet sort of thing. The other thing was the fact that I was extremely dedicated to learning Japanese, and not just learning Japanese, but for example, learning how to use Japanese in the way that it was intended. It wasn’t just, I’m not going to use, for example, you might know a little bit of Japanese and just think you can get by with it.

I was really, “Ok when it comes to this person, how should I speak to this person, not only just the words, but in what way?”, and trying to be respectful for that. Especially when it came to Kendo, because like I mentioned, I was surrounded by people where, although I didn’t really understand at the time who they were because it was all new for me, I could tell, “Ok, this person is pretty important in this world”, and I’ve never been one to kiss ass. I’m just being respectful. I think that’s what my instructor really saw, because there were other foreigners who were doing Kendo before me as well. I was the first one to get Black Belt in that area as a foreigner. So that’s one thing I can say that I’m pretty proud of, that there were quite a few foreigners before me that had gone to this club in Niigata that had done Kendo. I was the first foreigner of this group to receive Black Belt. I didn’t know it at the time until much later, but I think a big part of that was not only doing the work, but also being in the right time in the right place, or in the right place at the right time.

Patrick Oancia:

Would it be correct to assume that maybe you were speaking better Japanese than those foreigners?

Ryan Hurst:

Absolutely, that is it. This was also one thing about myself is that even though in the exchange program, there were other foreigners, my Japanese at that time was actually the highest of anyone in there. The other people were actually all placed in a separate class. I was in a class by myself, like literally, I had private lessons when I would go to learn Japanese because my Japanese was already high enough to be able to communicate. Which by the way, side note, my instructor was the worst instructor I’d ever had in my life for Japanese. It was her first time teaching Japanese. What they did is they just needed to find someone to be with me because the person who was the Japanese teacher was teaching that other class, cuz they just thought everyone was going over as beginners and things like that, and then I showed up and my Japanese was a higher level, so they needed to find somebody to work with me.

The person that they chose did not wanna do it, and we did not get along at all. So we talked and decided that I was only gonna go once a week and check in because it’s a college thing, I had to go at least to that class, I went to other classes, but with her class. All of my education in terms of Japanese was with my instructor’s family, him, me doing Kendo and all the stuff outside of that. I always taken notes, like someone would say something I didn’t understand, I would jot down that thing, I would go and I’d look it up, and I wanted to know. The people around me saw that, and they knew that I was really serious about this, so they really let me into their world.

38:18 Nuances of Japanese Language and Culture

Patrick Oancia:

What about the nuances? We both know that when you go to Japan, it’s not just about the mastery of grammar, verbs and vocabulary. It’s the non-verbal communication, the ability to sense a situation and determine whether it’s gonna be appropriate to communicate something or to not communicate. In the process of learning Japanese, and again, this is really all interwoven with a lot of philosophy and Martial Arts too, and sensitivity, perspective, it can be a complex, is a really good way to describe it. It can be very easy, very complex, one way or the other. So when you were learning Japanese and you say you were proficient and fluent in Japanese, were you taking notes on cultural nuances?

Were you sort of noting that there’s something that I just noticed that was weird. Like something maybe that related to the concept of Tatemae. Somebody saying something to somebody to sort of patronize them and make them feel good, but deep down you felt as a foreigner looking at that, that the person that was actually saying something nice and being gentle, was actually the intention behind that or something, the feeling the Kimochi deep down inside that was that, “This guy’s a fucking asshole”, or whatever, you know how it is? That’s one example of indirect communication, and it’s such an interesting thing to try and master. So, to what extent, I wanted to ask this, it’s an interesting question.

I wanna pull it out of you because I mean, I love meeting fellow friends that have been in Japan for over 20 years and as expats, we’re exposed to a lot of interesting stuff as foreigners and we’re always a little bit on the periphery as a foreigner, but at the same time, the more you get into it, the more you get into the nuances and it becomes very interesting. For Martial Arts, and that’s where the interesting thing is for me, Martial Arts philosophically in terms of sensitivity, progress, serving, serving your master, serving your fellow comrades in the practice and then outside the practice, communicating. To what extent were you actually integrating the ability to communicate both verbally, non-verbally, to also adhere to a situation in terms of communication and development of not only your skill, but the practice, your understanding of the culture as a foreigner, right?

Because you’re Gaikokujin, you’re white, you’re not Asian, and there’s always that thing that’s there, and no matter how well you can speak the language, and it’s always an element of that there. So what was it? Were you always transliterating or were you were just thinking, ok, here’s an opportunity for me to sort of adopt this element of my Martial Arts practice and lay it over the top of some, the communication dynamic with your Japanese teacher, for example, you agreed to go to her class one day a week. I’m interested to know, like how did that conversation develop or how did that agreement develop? I mean, those things like that, I’m sensing that you probably had your fair share of contemplation around this topic.

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Ryan Hurst:

I have. Even going back a little further and looking at, as I mentioned, my original Aikido instructor having spent so much time in Japan, the way that he ran the Dojo in Wichita was exactly how they did it in Japan. I remember there was a paramedic that came, really neat guy, but I always remember he would come, he’d always take his shirt off in the Dojo and my instructor, every single time, “No, we don’t do that, that’s what the changing rooms are for”. Little things like that, I just remembered, like, don’t walk on the edges of the mats. Or another thing, when there’s a sword, a Katana or whatever that’s on the ground, never step over it. Or never step in front of a person when they have their Katana in front of them. Never walk in front of a person if they’re sitting in Seiza.

Little things that I understood later, were a culture thing more so, and not just Martial Art, that came about later. The other thing too was I had that fabulous Japanese instructor at Kansas State University, Mizuno-sensei, who really taught me a lot about the culture, but I loved about her was she said the only way to do anything is to actually experience it. So that’s why you actually have to go and just make mistakes. And so I had that ok, to be able to go and do that. Now, when I was in Niigata though, I basically just said, ok, the only way I’m gonna be able to improve my Japanese get really good at Martial Art is if I just get rid of what I was, and just basically had to become a new person.

I don’t think that was actually, in the long run, that mentally kind of fucked me up down the road. But in the time though, it allowed me to get really good at a lot of different things and experience the culture on a level that, I gotta say I didn’t see too many other foreigners do. I was constantly in a state of how is that person doing it? So interesting thing was looking at my instructor, it was cool because I had so much respect for him, but I also, I remember the day where I was like, ok, he’s just a fucking dude too, he’s just a person. I remember that was a big change for me because that allowed me to then finally realize, ok, use him as a template, but then, do what he’s doing, but then understand that I eventually need to find my own style. And he would talk about this too all the time.

Patrick Oancia:

Hence the Shuhari concept.

Ryan Hurst:

Exactly, and it’s just like learning a language as well. If you think about its Martial Art. It’s anything you learn is you first find a person that you wanna mimic, right? And you’re like, ok, I want to, using this person as my template, and you trained the mannerisms, their speech patterns, intonation, like every, that’s what I did. I would just monitor and then practice and then do that and do that and do that to the point where those things became natural. Then I was able to go deeper into those things and finally change them in order to start to make them my own. So then just like language, you learn set phrases, those phrases then become very natural. Then what you do is you find other patterns that fit more closely to your character.

That’s all I was doing. This was a process while, especially when I was in Niigata, that changed and I had to do it kind of from scratch once I came to Osaka, because it was a completely different environment. But again, I was lucky in the sense that the people around me, even though there were foreigners, they weren’t where I was because none of the other foreigners were doing the things that I was doing, they didn’t want to. Why would you want to do that hard stuff? Why don’t you stay here and just drink and party and just have fun?

46:47 Decadence in the 90s Japan

Patrick Oancia:

Well, particularly, I think I’d just like to add a note there, Ryan. We’re talking about the 90s in Japan, and everybody’s got to know, this is something that we speak as being like, experienced the 90s in Japan post bubble were very decadent. You’re practicing Martial Arts waking up at 5am going to the Dojo, but the majority of foreigners that were going through Japan at that time, whether they’re expat, just teaching English.

Ryan Hurst:

Just coming home.

Patrick Oancia:

Exactly. Exiting the clubs, showing like passing out in bed and then sleeping all day. It was very decadent through the 90s, even through the first part of the 2000s. But you somehow seem to bypass that whole thing. It was also, by that time, I think you were, so Niigata, the decadence may have been there, but more within the Japanese realm of the drinking after the discipline thing. But Osaka and Tokyo, there would’ve been full on partying.

Ryan Hurst:
Completely different, and I think that’s how it would’ve been with me as well. Me saying I was lucky, like the sheer fact that I was in the Inaka, right?

Patrick Oancia:

Inaka, by the way, is countryside.

Ryan Hurst:

I was in the mountains. I remember going to Niigata city, by myself, with a friend to go to a club once, the entire time I was there.

Patrick Oancia:

My band played in Niigata.

Ryan Hurst:

Did they? Cool.

Patrick Oancia:

And they played in Niigata-shi a couple times, at a live event.

Ryan Hurst:

That’s crazy, man, that’s so funny. But yeah, that was just a thing though. I just didn’t do that. And the other thing of course, I didn’t have a car, it’s far away and, whatever. But I was really enjoying what I was doing when I was there, I loved it. I was like, I’m good. Why would I wanna do this? The other thing too, was funny, little things opened up other doors. In the university when I was there, there was a guy, a businessman who lived in Shibata-shi who wanted to practice his English. I remember the director of whatever that university was there, they came to me and said, “Hey Ryan, listen, there’s this guy, he’s on the up and up, it’s all good, but he just wants to practice his English, would you be willing to go out, he’ll take you to dinner and go drinking and stuff on a Thursday night?”

And he said, “They’ll probably pay you a little extra money if you want, would you be willing to do that?” I was like, “All right, sure”. I talked to my Kendo instructor and he was, “Yeah, that sounds cool, you should do it”. So I did it. Super neat guy. I remember he brought his friend, his friend I didn’t know who the hell this guy was at the time, but he was the president of company called Aderans, which is the wig and the hair implant company, which is one of the largest in Japan. His daughter turned out, was in one of my classes, Japanese girl, so she was in one of my classes and I didn’t really know her at the time. But thanks to the fact of other people saying, ok, Ryan is a foreigner that is on the up and up, you can trust the dude, he also speaks Japanese, he’s not gonna do anything stupid, he’s the guy to talk to for this particular business person.

Well, that president of Aderans actually offered me a job when I graduated in Niigata, just for the sheer fact that I wasn’t a douche, which I thought was kind of cool. What I mean is all of this played into part of that, and still to this day, there are people from Niigata that I’m still in contact with, which is cool.

50:32 The Discussion of Tatoos

Patrick Oancia:

I haven’t seen, I don’t see any tattoos. You don’t have any tattoos?

Ryan Hurst:

I actually do. This is the other thing that I call it my Haji. How you’d say that in English? Kind of like my embarrassing point or something, right? When I was 18, my first year at Kansas State University, buddies in Iowa, we got tattooed. I’ve got it on the left side on my back, on my lower back down by my hip. It’s very small. It’s, in English, Yin and Yang? And it’s not filled in though. It’s not filled in because I’m not complete, I’m still searching, at the time. I got this, not knowing anything about Japan of course at the time or whatnot, but once I went to Niigata and my instructor saw that, there was the discussion. Why do you have that blah blah and everything like that, “Are you gonna get more?”

And then I realized, ok, by having tattoos, I realized that in my case, it would’ve actually held me back to have certain experiences. There was a time where I was thinking about getting rid of it and I didn’t, because that’s a part of me. I think it’s important to still keep that, but even to this day, you, I’m sure have trouble going into Onsen. I have to cover this thing if I want to go into the Onsen with my family. But luckily what I’m trying to say is that it’s small enough that at the time I was able to cover it, which allowed me to go into the bathhouses in Niigata and to go into other places and do those things where some of my friends who do have tattoos can’t.

Patrick Oancia:

Just as a context for people out there watching/listening, tattoo/tattooing is very taboo in Japan. It’s most often connotated with the Japanese mafia. Although historically it’s not exclusive to the mafia, it’s definitely got its negative connotations because of that. And in the Martial Arts world specifically, and I can tell you about experience recently, I’ve had tons of experiences like it. You mentioned going to Onsen, I managed to be able to go to a few Onsens with tattoos, particularly in the 90s.

Ryan Hurst:

Oh yeah, sure.

Patrick Oancia:

I found it got much more conservative like after about 2003. I was going to a 50 meter public pool in Tokyo in the neighborhood, which I lived in Nakameguro 6-7 years, outdoor pool. And then all of a sudden one day they had these big banners and security guards, and you’d no longer could go into that pool with tattoos. Later I went to look into studying archery at Meiji Jingu, the Meiji Jingu Dojo in the back, and I knew I shouldn’t show the tattoos, but when I walked in and it was the winter I had a jacket on and everything was covered. I was just thinking, oh, I could get away. I was practicing at a Kung Fu studio, Tai Chi Chuan, and they just said cover up and it’s cool. That was recent. But the woman that I had to make an appointment to go there for Setsumeikai, which is like an information session at the Dojo, and I had to sign a paper at the front, and on the paper it says, “Sign this, I do not have tattoos, if I have tattoos, I must leave right now”.

She asked me, do you have tattoos? And I said, well, yes I do. And she’s going, “Muri, Kaette”, she’s like, leave. I thought it unfortunate. I really wanted to study archery. I think there are places in Japan you can study archery with Monks. Because I think in some Buddhist traditions, specifically at Temples where they’re offering archery classes, they may be not so specific. But that particular Dojo has a historical significance in Tokyo, and the great teachers. Even though I was supposed to meet the teacher for the Setsumeikai and he seemed very interested to meet me. He saw me, he was in the distance, and I could speak Japanese too, and he was like “Ohayogozaimasu”, he was really happy to sort of see me come in. But then the woman, she was actually very rude.

Ryan Hurst:

The gate keeper, yeah?

Patrick Oancia:

“Muri, Kaettekudasai”. Just no, sorry, leave, get out. And I wasn’t showing any of my tattoos, so I said, “Ok, I understand”, I left. And in Martial Arts specifically, and I can’t say for all Martial Arts it’s the same thing, in certain Karate Dojos, there’d be people covered in tattoos. At least that’s my experience in Tokyo, and maybe similar in Osaka. And another newer sort of iterations of Martial Arts, for example, like Thai Kickboxing or something where that became really popular.

Ryan Hurst:

Absolutely.

Patrick Oancia:

A lot of tattooed people in Thai Kickboxing, also competing. I think now in Martial Arts too, depending on the Dojo, you could also have tattoos. But what you said, so that significance is, your teacher said, hey, what’s that, and what are you doing?

Ryan Hurst:

He was cool with it, he was completely cool with it.

Patrick Oancia:

Maybe again, but this is just this thing because you showed such…

Ryan Hurst:

I think that’s what it is.

56:06 Topic of Racism

Let’s be honest. Everyone will look at our skin and judge, no matter what, even if they think they’re not, they’re going to judge, and we all do it to each other. I’m not just talking about in Japan. It doesn’t matter if you’re of a different race, color, right away, you’re gonna have this preconceived notion in your mind.

Patrick Oancia:

Even better yet, an ideological belief, nowadays.

Ryan Hurst:

Exactly. Which is crazy if you think about it, cuz kids don’t have that. Whole other topic. In Japan especially. Here’s the story. I had another friend, his name is Chris, this is the coolest guy. He was jacked too, I remember, and this is relevant because it has to do with the story. He is a black dude, he was from University of Illinois, he was also an exchange student there. The exchange students, they would go over, it was only for a semester, but again, I was there for a few semesters, so I would see multiple groups of people come through. Foreigners. Chris was actually in the first group that went through. And I remember people, especially in Niigata, looking at him and being like, “Oh my god!” Right away, you could see this fear in their eye.

But this is one of the sweetest, nicest guys you could ever meet, but he was jacked, and that was the thing. Just huge, and I remember, he always wanted to go work out, which is cool, of course. And there was this gym, and I remember going to this gym with him. I’m not a big guy, you know. He is, and he would start, doing his thing and people would leave cuz they got scared cuz he was lifting weights. It was just one of those things too, where in Tokyo or maybe Osaka is different, but the sheer fact that we were in the countryside, in the mountains and these two foreigners right away, Japanese were like, I’m getting out here. It was just crazy to me. But that was a good experience for me as well, because that’s when I really was like, “Wow, this country is racist”. I’m not gonna compare it to the United States, of course, but what I mean in a way where it’s been so closed off for so long that they don’t realize that they have that way of thinking.

Patrick Oancia:

This is an interesting thing too, the racist topic because coming from a Western mindset, when we think of racism, and again, it’s depending on our belief system, the ideological belief system that follows that, it’s very polarizing these days. People can be considered racist for saying something that they don’t think is racist, but because of the connotations to it, right now we don’t. I had a conversation with a good friend the other day, and I mentioned, my mom’s being cared for here in a nursing home, and there’s all staff from all different countries, from African countries, from the Philippines. And I was just making a comment about my experience in Japan for so many years, knowing so many Filipinos, and having great friends as well, and then also meeting these Filipinos that were actually care home staff of the place too, and I was just saying that they’re very conscientious.

And I was told by my friend, she brought it up very politely. She said, “You know, that’s racist”. And I said, “Well, I suppose it is”, but my intention isn’t necessarily stemming from racism. I’m not thinking all the Filipinos are nice and they can do a good job, I mean, that wasn’t. There were Filipinos, there were Africans, there were South Americans. I was just like, out of all those people, they were all very nice, but of all these people that particularly I thought the Filipinos were very conscientious with my mother.

So that was something, a comment that I’d made that I felt like it was just worth saying. And in Japan, it’s a similar thing. Japanese will make comments about people of color, people that have tattoos, or people from other Asian countries. It’s not necessarily that they’re thinking about being racist in the comments that they make, but the reality is that, like you say, it’s been closed off for so long. It’s so normal for people to make those associations and references whereby if some people were really racist and xenophobic towards people from other cultures and countries, it wasn’t necessarily transferring across to everybody despite what they’re saying. Gaikokujin, the word foreigner, is actually quite racist.

Ryan Hurst:

Person from another land, right?

Patrick Oancia:

Yeah, exactly. Outsider.

Ryan Hurst:

Outsider, yeah, exactly.

Patrick Oancia:

Outside of our realm. I thought that was particularly interesting and we have to let it go because we can shout and scream, oh fucking racism, till the cows come home, or we can start to understand that this is deep rooted, it’s been there for a very long time. Things change as the times change. In Japan, it won’t really deep change over the long term, but how long will it last before, you know, we know this. So that topic of standing out and it hitting home with you, like wow, ok, I am a foreigner and people do perceive people of color this way. And for example, I’d be the same thing. I walk into a fitness club with my tattoos and…

Ryan Hurst:

Oh, sure, yeah.

Patrick Oancia:

Before you know it, like people would walk away, I’d have the Bench Press to myself. In a way I kinda liked it because I just walk in with a tank top on, and I’m like, fuck, I don’t have that much time, I wanna get my three sets in, and they leave.

Ryan Hurst:

That was something too. Reminds me of way back when, this was in Niigata, there were two incidents, which I thought were pretty funny, that reminded me of this. I remember getting on the train and I remember a little girl with her mother turning and looking at me and turning to her mother and saying, “Why is there a foreigner here?” Not, “Look, there’s a foreigner”, but “Why is there a foreigner here?” I kind of laughed and I think the mother then realized that I understood Japanese and we ended up talking. The other thing I remember is getting on a train and me sitting down and the people beside me moving, and I was like, ok. At first I was like, “What the fuck?”, but then I was kinda like, well, actually this is nice, I have this to myself now. You know what I mean?

Patrick Oancia:

I’ll tell you, my own story with that. My mother, the first time she visited Japan was I believe in 1993, and we were doing very touristy things. We were going to the Tokyo Imperial Palace, my mother was very tired, so I said, “Ok, hold on”, took off my jacket, and I went over to a bench and sat down. Everybody got up and left. And I said, “Come on mom, sit down”. She was laughing, she was like, “How did you do that?”

Ryan Hurst:

Magic, right? It’s magic, exactly.

Patrick Oancia:

It’s a bit sort of naughty. At the same time it’s a little bit disturbing in a sense, cause you think, wow, hmm, I’m being really judged somehow.

Ryan Hurst:

Yeah, right.

Patrick Oancia:

I got the whole seat to myself. I wanna sort of start to move towards chatting a bit about GMB because…

Ryan Hurst:

Would love to talk about GMB.

Patrick Oancia:

I’ve known about GMB since 2014. But before we go to GMB, you’ve practiced a lot of Martial Arts. Where did Karate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, I know where Judo fell into it, because you say you started to practice Judo when you went to college. Perhaps that would’ve been the initiation into any kind of wrestling specific type of Martial Arts, like BJJ or whatever. Where did BJJ and Karate come in? I’m sure they came in at very different times.

Ryan Hurst:

Yes, they did. After I graduated, from Niigata and Kansas State University, I thought I wanted to work in Niigata, but to be perfectly honest, there was no jobs. I had to go back to Kansas State University because it was an exchange program. You do your thing and then you go back and you have to complete one more semester, which was hell for me by the way. I was just like, ah, cuz I wanted to go back to Japan. During that time though, I realized that there were no jobs in Niigata.

1:04:52 Work and Martial Arts in Osaka

I don’t remember what it was called, but basically there was the Japan recuruiting conference or something, it was held in Boston. What you did was, you created tons of resumes in Japanese, you go to this career day, I don’t know what it’s called, but basically there’s just a bunch of companies from Japan that are looking for bilingual people who are also skilled in other things.

I went and interviewed with a few companies, and this company pulled me up, so I ended up moving back to Osaka and I worked for that company for a year. During that time, I continued to do a little bit of Kendo, but the actual work I did was hell, I hated it, a suit every day, it just wasn’t me. After that though, I ended up getting hired at Sumiyoshi Tasha, which is a Shrine because they had a Martial Arts complex within the Shrine, and I ended up working at that Martial Arts complex for 8 years. Some of the best years I’ve had here in Osaka, in terms of work, I loved it.

There were so many fabulous Martial Arts instructors, and I got the opportunity to go to all the classes. I would, for example, of course I was still doing Judo, Judo was my main thing at that time. I was doing Judo, not only there, but I was also doing Judo on the police team, of course civilian. I was at the police hall here in Osaka, and I was on their team doing it. I also got to train at Osaka Castle, which is Syudokan, which is super cool. But then I would also do, for example, Shorinji Kempo, Daitoryu Aiki-Jiu-Jitsu, I remember doing Kudo, they had Iaido and stuff. So I had the opportunity over those 8 years to be able to do those Martial Arts.

My boss at the time, who ran the Martial Arts complex, he said, “Hey, you gotta quit, you gotta do your own thing”. I was like, ok, so I stopped and I ended up starting my own company. I just continued with Judo and I was doing Judo. That’s when I had my injury in Judo. Blew my shoulder out, had reconstructive surgery on my shoulder, and I was done competing, basically. I was competing all the time, just all the time, it was just too much, but I loved it. Blew my shoulder out and I still wanted to do Martial Arts. So I actually started doing Shorinji Kempo because that was something I had done when I was at the Martial Arts complex. Found a wonderful instructor that also was just really good to me, and knew my situation and my background with other Martial Arts.

He was very open to me training with him and also incorporating some of my throws and things when we would Spar, which was very cool. I ended up going all the way up to, Sandan, third degree Black Belt in Shorinji Kempo with that. Politics got in the way, and my instructor there said, “Hey Ryan, you should quit because the politics are gonna get really messy here in Shorinji Kempo”. That’s when I went into Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I’ve always loved grappling my Judo, and everything like that. So now all I really do is just Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and have a lovely group that I’m a part of. It’s very open.

Patrick Oancia:

How many years?

Ryan Hurst:

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu is actually not that long. I don’t know if we can count Covid, because during Covid we all kind of had to take a year off. But in total, I would say maybe 5-6 years in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

Patrick Oancia:

Relatively short period compared to all the other.

Ryan Hurst:

Yes, exactly.

1:08:59 Commitment to Judo

Patrick Oancia:

Can I have an understanding, how long were you committed to Judo?

Ryan Hurst:

Judo, I did that the longest. I would say under 20 years, but yeah, for quite a while. Some fabulous experiences. I got my ass thrown by some pretty cool people. I was never great at Judo or anything. I just enjoyed it. Again, another situation where when I would train at the Syudokan, the Osaka castle, you have to be a Black Belt in order to train there for this open class. I was the only white boy there and there’s just so many people that would train there. I remember going in there and I would kind of dread it cuz I was just like, oh my god, this is gonna be rough. But I would go, I just got my ass kicked, like every single time they would just wipe the floor with me, but it was cool.

And they got used to seeing me, especially a lot of the police officers, they’d be like, “Hey, come over here” and they’d pow, pow, pow, pow and do that, so it was pretty cool. I will say the most, I wouldn’t say brutal, but the coolest Judo bout that I’ve ever seen wasn’t at, for example, the Judo Championships or anything like that. It was between a police officer and a Yakuza at the Syudokan, and they went at it. And it was cool cuz everybody kind of knew that they were kind of going at it.

Patrick Oancia:

Did the Syudokan allow? I mean obviously I think there was some association there right? It was ok for gangsters to go in?

Ryan Hurst:

Yeah, but it’s one of those things where, don’t tell, it was one of those things. I don’t know how it is now. This was quite a few years ago, but I just remember that was just fucking awesome. Yeah, I was just like, aww.

Patrick Oancia:

I’m really curious about that. So the police officer and Yakuza were Sparring.

Ryan Hurst:

They were just Sparring.

Patrick Oancia:

They were going at it. Was there any kind of sense of animosity, or was it more just like technique? They both had really good technique and they were going at it?

Ryan Hurst:

It was as just really good technique, and they did not wanna lose. It’s like that, this is how it always was with me and Judo as well. Judo comes from Japan, whenever I would sit on the mat, there was no light Sparring with me, because heaven forbid a foreigner throws you, you know? I mean the Japanese did not wanna lose even when we were in practice. It’s their thing, so that was kind of what it was with this police officer.

Patrick Oancia:

It’s really strong pride, isn’t it?

Ryan Hurst:

It’s pride, yeah. But it was great because again, I got really good because these guys were really going after me. I got injured all the time, of course that’s not a cool thing, but hey, you know? It was great.

Patrick Oancia:

The adversity shapes the skillset for sure, and I totally get that.

1:12:13 Initial Impression of GMB

So listen, I’ve known of GMB I think since 2014. I wanna dig into it a little bit here because for those people who don’t know GMB, for one, I’m gonna ask you to explain it in a second, explain what GMB is and how it started. But my initial impression of GMB came at a time when I’d already been sort of delving in a lot of interdisciplinary practice that stemmed from all the years experience that I had in practicing Yoga and doing Martial Arts and just intuitively exploring a lot of other movements, specific practices on my own, borrowing from the areas that sort of coined themselves as functional fitness, holistic fitness, whatever, and then how that transferred.

And then I saw GMB and a lot of the references. I think I told you in our email correspondence that we were conducting Teacher Training courses in Japan, some of our teacher trainees were interested in ways to try and stimulate a faster strength and flexibility progress in what they were doing in Yoga. And I was like, for one, and you’d agree with me with this in Martial Arts too, and I can attribute it the same thing to Yoga, is to really progress you have to bake it in. So there’s two things. There’s no shortcut. But what I saw, I couldn’t refer them to too many different things, but I couldn’t say go off and go to the gym and hire a personal trainer because that wouldn’t have been feeding the purpose. That would be just like focusing too much on whatever a fitness routine would be focusing on. Nor could I tell them to do Martial Arts because there would be, specifically if it was contact Martial Arts, there’d be a lot of getting ass kicked. But both fitness and Martial Arts would definitely compliment, and they have complimented my progress and not only Yoga, but various other different things. And I came across GMB Fitness randomly, and I thought, look, there’s this online practice.

Ryan Hurst:

Weird guy doing…

Patrick Oancia:

Yeah, weird guy, weird guys, doing this kind of interesting cross disciplinary movement practice specific. And I was referring all our students, look, I think this is interesting because they’re focusing on quality and variability of movement and how that stimulates outcome across a variety of different circumstances depending on a person’s adeptness and whatever they’re doing. And I’d like you to explain GMB in a second, because from what I see, particularly from the GMB from that time until now, what I’m seeing GMB is that it is very community focused. It’s not super sensational. There are videos of you on Instagram doing really cool stuff, but you get your students to post shit on Instagram and post their progressions and basically it’s everybody with every body type, and every kind of limitation you can imagine, going through your programming and building some sort of skillset where they feel empowered by the experience that you can really see that in the people that are doing that.

That really intrigued me and I thought, well, that’s a really healthy compliment to what I could recommend our students to do. So, what I wanna know is, and could you please explain to people, I just kind of gave a bit of it away, where did GMB incubate and for what reason did it incubate?

Ryan Hurst:

Absolutely. So first off, thank you very much. Very happy to hear that. Lots to unpack there. What you just asked me. First off, GMB is completely different from what it originally was, but it is the same in the sense that it’s not about me, it’s not about my business partner Andy, nor is it about my business partner, Jarlo Ilano. It’s about how can we help others do the things that they want to be able to do in their life? Because it’s not about doing more exercise, it’s about having the physical autonomy to know exactly where you are in your body so that you can do more of the things you love. Again, not more exercise, more of the activities that you love. And so, in the sense things have changed from how we now present programs, how we present thoughts, concepts. More refined. We’ve gone deeper into the method now and really nailed that down, compared to back when we first started, a lot of the things that we talk about now, were very difficult to talk about.

We originally released our first program Rings One, and during that time, as a matter of fact, my business partner and I just yesterday, we were discussing this and shooting some videos about this. If we were to have presented Rings One, using the method that we have now, it wouldn’t have jelled with that community because they weren’t ready for that at that time.

1:17:27 Building Skills instead of How Many Reps

Basically at that time when you were looking at training, it was how many sets, how many reps, and basically like, this is gonna build muscle or not. Whereas with us, we’re about building skills. And rather than saying, ok, I don’t care how many repetitions you can do, I want you to do this one time as beautifully as possible, bringing as much awareness into the movement as you can for the purpose of you being a little bit better and just simply having an understanding of that movement.

It’s not about nailing a movement or crushing it or whatever the new term is they want to use out there. It’s why are you doing this? How does this serve you? So when you mention, it’s about community, hell yeah, it’s about community. Because again, I am the dancing monkey, in the sense that I’m demonstrating these movements and showing them, but again, it doesn’t serve anyone for me to have my shirt off doing all these flashy skills saying, look at me. Since the most important thing is, ok, these are simply examples for you to be able to use in order to better yourself. That’s all really we’re after is how can this help you?

That’s why we’re really looking at not taking my shirt off. I know that sounds funny. Or me demonstrating when I’m wearing jeans. A lot of people are just like, oh my god, I can’t believe you’re wearing jeans. I’m like, well that’s because you have this preconceived notion that when you exercise you have to change your outfit and you have to do certain. No, we’re doing this stuff for life, for the things we want. We’re all different. So how can you take this and apply it to what you need? I talked a little bit about the method, but we’re looking at building strength, flexibility, and control, which is something that a lot of places don’t talk about. But the kind of strength that we’re after is not how much you can bench, but the kind of strength where, how do you need it in your life?

Do you need it to be able to better pop up on your surfboard to catch your wave? Do you need better strength to be able to play with your kids? It’s very specific, depending upon that person. And that’s why we can’t say, ok, here’s the GMB standard that you need to be able to do and you’re a bad person if you can’t do this. You’ll never hear that from us. It’s always, ok, how does it serve you? Again, it just really comes down to that. So we’ve got the strength, flexibility, and control, and then what we use is our Triple A Framework, where we assess where you’re at, and we give you tools to be able to see where you are, then we address what you need. There might be, for example, I mentioned strength, but it could be maybe you’re lacking in terms of range of motion in a particular position.

Ok cool, let’s address that. And then we apply the protocol in order to help you be able to do it. Basically you do the work, and that can also be dependent upon where you are in your life. It doesn’t mean you’re gonna work out for one hour every single day and you’re gonna X, X, X. No, it depends upon your lifestyle. What can you do, and simply step on the mat and be able to start with a little bit of progress in order to get where you wanna go. It could be 15 minutes, it could be 30, it could be whatever it is. But the important thing is having these tools to understand that this is where you start and we’re all different and you’re perfectly fine not being able to do this thing. And if you would be able to do it, then you probably wouldn’t be here with us.

So, hey, understand that you’re going to suck in the beginning. Embrace the fact that you will suck and take that weight off your back and just simply try and trust in the process and enjoy it a little bit for the activities you wanna do. And then we also now of course have in our method, the actual way that we go through a session. We don’t really call it a workout, a session. We’re always looking at the practice portion of this. This is really coming back to the Martial Arts side of Andy, Jarlo and I, cuz we’re all Martial Artists. Jarlo with his Filipino Martial Arts, he’s also a Brown Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Andy’s a sixth degree Black Belt and Taido. We all have this extensive background in Martial Arts. Our programs are not specifically for Martial Arts, but people would benefit by from using our programs in order to help them with their strength, flexibility, and control, but the way that we have it laid out is, again, we’re looking at practicing movements.

1:22:20 Prep, Practice, Play, Push, Pounder

We start with a Prep. What are the things that you need to do in order to help you to quickly get into the practice portion of your session? You’re not gonna spend 30 minutes just foam rolling and doing all this stuff. What are the joints, the major joints, what do you need to do in order to make sure that you’re ready to start practicing something? You mentioned Yuval. For example, one thing, Handstands in GMB, if you’re interested in learning the Handstand, well, you have to practice the Handstand. You’re not just going to, I’m gonna do a hundred repetitions of the Handstand. Doesn’t work that way. If it’s, for example, a movement on the ground, if you’re looking at rolling on the ground, how many reps do you do with that?

Well, that’s silly. It’s not a matter of doing reps. It’s how well are you doing that movement? How much understanding are you able to bring into it? Where are you lacking? Where do you need work? And then you practice that. And so what we do is we have a duration of time and what we say is, ok, let’s say 10 minutes. And it doesn’t mean you do that movement the entire time at all. It simply means that, again, you try the movement, bringing awareness, then you step away from it, shake things out and think, ok, how’d that go? What do I need to do for this next attempt of this movement? And then you do it. And when your form starts going down, then you understand, ok, I think I’m done practicing, it’s time to move on to the next portion of the session.

Now, depending on what’s going on in that session, you could have a Play section. It’s Prep, Practice, Play. Play is not something you hear a lot of people talk about, right? It sounds like you should just be on the playground running around with your hula hoop or something like that. But Play is where we explore, and this is a lot of times where the aha moments happen and you can really learn more about yourself. But we never explore or Play with a movement that is new to us. We always look at a movement that we’re already comfortable with, a movement that we practiced, a movement that we can say, ok, I’ve got a handle on this. And now, what we can do is in that Play section say, all right, now I know how to do this movement, what if I were to X?

It could be simply a matter of reframing and saying, ok, rather than moving in a different position, it could be, what if I were to bring more focus to my anterior pelvic tilt when I’m performing this particular movement? Completely random, but that can be exploration. Just a reframe of how you view that particular movement. It could even be for example, where you’re actually taking yourself out of alignment a little bit just to see what happens when you do that. And by kind of expanding that box, but doing it in a way that’s still safe and allowing you to do it, you’re expanding everything then and you’re learning more and you’re still bringing more awareness. This is really what we’re after, is going and leading towards that physical autonomy, knowing more about what we can do with our bodies and it maybe even more importantly, what we can’t do with our bodies so that we can start working on shoring up, hate to say, those deficiencies that we have, that we might need for the activities in our life that we want to do.

Patrick Oancia:

What you said there, it also overlaps, and I guess this has something to do with all of your experience in committing to Martial Arts, it also dials back into this Japanese concept Shuhari, where basically the Ri in the ShuHaRi is where you’ve explored the technique and it’s time to play. It’s time to make your own flavor of the experience, it’s time to express that and explore and adventure with it. And that Play concept I think is really healthy, it’s inspiring to hear that a strong component of what you’re doing. When I first heard about GMB too, I didn’t feel like there was a lot of other stuff like it happening.

Ryan Hurst:

No, so this is something else. At the time, there was no other people.

Patrick Oancia:

Not online.

Ryan Hurst:

Online zero, right?

Patrick Oancia:

Yeah.

Ryan Hurst:

Yeah, so it was interesting, during the whole Covid thing, you saw pretty much everybody going online, and good, great for them. But we’ve been doing this stuff forever. For us it was just kind of like, ok, you know what I mean? And we were in a good place for that to happen. I gotta say one thing was, not upsetting, but sometimes little frustrating because there was a lot of crappy information coming out online, all of a sudden everybody thought that they were like online gurus and stuff, which was kind of funny. But, coming back to what you’re saying though, it’s our community, is the most important thing and how can we better help these people? So, the way that we have these things laid out, we’re trying to educate people on seeing that there’s a different way.

1:27:51 Role as a Movement Educator

Cuz we are educators, that’s what we are. We’re physical education teachers, that’s it. If I’m in an airplane and somebody’s like, what kinda work do you do? I’m not gonna say, I’m a fitness consultant and try and make myself sound like some Guru. No, I’m just a PE teacher to be perfectly honest. I just want to help people to move in the way that they wanna move and actually enjoy the process. The other thing too is our fourth area, which is Push. So we’ve got Prep, Practice, Play, Push. Push is typically where the majority of people live in their workouts. Cuz they’re like, I’m gonna go and hit the weights, or I’m gonna crank out a hundred pushups or something. That’s the Push section.

And for us in Push, we’re not performing a movement at the highest level that we can in terms of the most difficult. We’re actually bringing things down to a level that’s kind of similar to Play in the sense that we know this movement already, therefore we can literally Push ourself harder, increase the intensity, and therefore by doing this we can do it and still keep good form. That’s the most important thing. We keep that form and we continue to Push ourself in order to improve our strength, our flexibility, and our control, even during Push. So many different ways to do this, it can be a matter of literally just getting stronger in a position. It could be looking at improving your strength endurance through the use of adding multiple repetition of jumps in order to expand your capabilities of what you’re able to do when you do that, and then finish off with Ponder.

This is extremely important, and this is where you actually reflect back on how did things go? What did I do well? What could have I done maybe a little better? What do I need next time? Basically for Andy, Jarlo and I, it’s how we practice our Martial Art as well. When we practice, we start off and we prepare our body and there’s a particular technique that we wanna practice, and then we get with our partner and we try out some variations of it or something like that, and then we Spar, that’s the Push section of it, and at the very end we sit and we reflect, you know? Again, I’m not saying that our things are like Martial Arts, but because what we’re talking about today is the Martial Arts topic, I think you can see how our influence and things have come from that.

Patrick Oancia:

I’m glad to hear all this, it’s the first time we’ve actually had a chance to talk. I could kind of sense it a little bit in a lot of what you’re presenting.

Our trajectories are very similar, that’s one of the reasons why I wanted to talk to talk to you on Transmission. I’d like to sort of like turn this towards wrapping up our first conversation. I’m hoping that we’ll have many, many more in the future bit.

Ryan Hurst:

I would love that, yes.

1:30:50 Reflecting on the Other Person

Patrick Oancia:

I’d like to turn this toward the Ponder, a little bit more. In relation to you yourself. So Ponder, it translates to contemplation, and that’s if I’ve understood it correctly, just in my own practice too.

Ryan Hurst:

Absolutely.

Patrick Oancia:

A huge component of contemplate practice anyway. So, we work at something, we challenge, we find a playful element of it, and then we reassess.

The reassessing, I find that that can kind of overlap over a lot of other things that go on in life. I know we didn’t have a lot of time to talk about it today, but I know you’re a dad, you have kids. And from listening to the conversation we’ve had today about the relationships you’ve had with your Japanese friends, your teachers in Japan. Obviously I’m guessing there’s a lot of elements of that stuff that have been very formative in shaping what you do more from a metaphorical perspective, what influences you as an educator in GMB Fitness? I’d like to just ask what elements of the interpersonal relationships are you having, and that could be with the kids, it could be with the past teachers, what elements of those things, to leave off, and this may take us some time to talk about, but what elements of those things are integral in your life to this day?

I’m not just talking about like spending time with people and enjoying it, but what are the aspects of the mirroring of these situations with your teachers, with your kids, with your family, with your friends, with your coworkers, with your students that you have all over the world practicing your method? What, with a few sort of like conceptual nuggets, what can you share with us about that integration?

Ryan Hurst:

This is fabulous, I’ve never been asked this before. Fabulous question, but it’s actually something I’ve thought a lot about because I’ve had to. In terms of relationships, and this is something that people might see from a distance, but only really the three of us can comprehend, and that’s my relationship with Jarlo and Andy in the sense that we’re still together. Let’s be honest, it’s tough to run a business even by yourself, but with other people it can be extremely tough. We’re all one third owners of the company. First started off we’re all just like, “Hey, let’s try this”. And it is now what it is, which is crazy. What I’m getting at though, is that the only way that we’ve been able to survive is by reflecting on the other person.

We fought and disagreed and just so much stuff, but we’re still together. Doesn’t mean that we’re still best friends and everything. No, people grow and they grow apart a little bit. But I think there’s also the other aspect of, like I mentioned with my Kendo instructor, that respect. Also, that day when you realize this person is also a person, he’s a human, he’s gonna fuck up. I fuck up all the time. For me to think that my shit doesn’t stink is wrong, right? Especially when we’re looking at in a business sense, there are things I do that I know Andy and Jarlo is like, “Oh my god, again, seriously?” But we’re accepting of each other, if you will. And that’s I think especially now, as we grow older. I’m 49 years old, in October I’ll be 50.

You basically have to reflect and realize that it’s not about me. Like I said before, and when I say it’s about our community, this isn’t just lip service. Literally it has to be that way, or else it’s not gonna work. There’s a big part of me that’s selfish and of course I want things out of this, and Andy wants things out of it, you know, and Jarlo. But the thing is, if it were only about me it wouldn’t work, is what I’m trying to say. And I think that’s the same whether it be in a marriage, your best friend, or anything. Your best friend and they’ll do something just completely fucking stupid, but you’re there for them and you say, “Man, what are you doing?”

Cuz it’s out of love, and cuz you want them to do the same for you. I think as we get older, we start actually allowing conversations to happen, that maybe might not have happened earlier when we were still brash and extremely ego driven. Not that we’re not ego driven now, cuz we all have an ego, right? It’s only human to have that, but I think it’s a matter of maybe taking that wall down a little bit and not thinking that you have to be so defensive and making it all about yourself. Again, I’ve been really lucky to have some great teachers and see them as real people, and I think the biggest thing was the fact living with your Kendo instructor is so much different than just going and see them when they’re doing Kendo and thinking they’re a god.

Actually seeing them sometimes at their worst, for me at least, makes me respect them more in the sense. Also, I understand that I don’t have to pretend, and that is I think also very important. In GMB what you see is what you get. If you go to a video, I’m not pretending to be whatever. And I think that we can be real, and I think that’s extremely important with GMB in our relationships is, Jarlo’s Jarlo, Andy’s Andy, I’m me. We’re open to each other to be able to do that and we want each other to be that way. I’m rambling, but yeah, there’s so much, for me.

Patrick Oancia:

Ryan, the rambling’s fucking awesome. So listen, there’s a couple things I’d like to add to that. For one, the definition of love is often people are misunderstanding, not misunderstanding, the perception. I don’t want to say misunderstanding, people can perceive things however they want. The perception of love is that we love, love is perfect, but the reality is that how we measure love is altogether dependent on how tolerant or willing one is to forgive, and that’s something that a lot of people take for granted. They think that if love isn’t perfect, then fuck it, we’re out and we’re gonna abandon this shit, and we’re gonna move on to the next person where we can find that perfect iteration of love.

1:38:25 Teacher, the Concept of Sensei

I really like what you were saying, but there’s something I like to add conversely to that. We know, cause we’ve been in Japan for so many years as teachers and as practitioners, and you were lucky to have that experience with your teacher and you saw him as a human being in what he was. But tell me that you haven’t seen the other side of that. I don’t wanna be so controversial about it, but the fucking guru, the master in Asia, and in a lot of different disciplines, he’s put up in the pedestal that he has to uphold and if he fucks up, you know, and I’ve experienced it. I’ve always been one to deflect that reasoning. I’ve always been one to wanting to show people that I’m far from being perfect and I to blurt out whatever comes outta my mouth.

In the context of, if you wanna learn, you gotta learn for one, that I’m not perfect, I’m gonna make mistakes. And these mistakes are a reflective tool for you to be able to understand that it’s not that I’m better than you, it’s just that we’re reflecting different, in our approaches to do things. As a teacher, I can show you tech, but I can also show you the idiosyncrasies of the human experience. In Asia, and I don’t mean to complain about it, but I had so many students in Japan, and maybe you’ve had similar, and GMB is a different story cause you have students all over the world and maybe there’s a little bit, like you say you’re showing yourself, but in Japan specifically, teachers are put on a pedestal.

The teacher is a fucking God. And like if the teacher makes a mistake, that’s fucking it. He’s canceled, right? And that happens sometimes, that’s something that I feel. It’s really inspiring to hear that you guys, right? It’s not that I’m criticizing this. I think that in this concept of Shuhari, for example, that we talked about, the initial parts of that dev are very much focused on listening to what your teacher says, not questioning the teacher, and he knows what is right. And I fucking agree with that. I will do only as the teacher tells me to do. I’m not gonna start throwing my own opinions on to a teacher when he is trying to teach me something about something he knows better than me. And that way, from the Martial Arts and Yoga practitioner perspective, from my experience in the past, I’ve never questioned or argued with the teacher. But there was a stage in that Shuhari process whereby I’ve learned all that I’m gonna learn from this person. Okagesamade, Otsukaresamadesu. And it’s time for you to express yourself and have that iteration. What you have dialed into GMB I think is a very healthy thing.

Ryan Hurst:

Thank you so much. Yeah, to what you just said, I completely agree. One thing that actually does bother me sometimes is when, especially in a Martial Art or whatnot, is when a new student comes in and thinks they know better, having not actually spent the time to see what it’s about. So that’s when I think people should just shut the fuck up and just do it. Yeah, right?

Patrick Oancia:

This is more like the Gijin mindset in Japan.

Ryan Hurst:

I’ve seen so many foreigners, like when I was working at that Martial Arts complex because I was there, it’s like interpreting, and so we would have people, foreigners come. There’s so many times where I was just like, “Dude, you need shut the fuck up because you have no clue what you’re talking about right now, ok?” It’s tough. I get it that they were only there for a short period of time and they, rather than drinking from the drips, they wanted the whole fire hose of information, but it doesn’t work that way. Even in GMB, we’re not gurus of course or anything like that. All we’re trying to do is leak out the information in a way that’s going to be what we feel good for that person at that time, so they’re not overwhelmed, so they can focus on that thing and actually get good, rather than saying, “Ok, well that’s cool, but I wanna be able to do this”.

Well, ok, I get it, but if you don’t do this, you can’t do that. So coming back to what you said, shut up, put in the time, just focus on doing this one single thing, then what’s gonna happen is that time, where in my case, which has happened every single time. It wasn’t me saying, “Oh, I think I’m ready for my Black Belt”. I’ve never, “Hey, I think I’m good, I need my Black Belt”. No, it’s not that way. It’s, “Here’s your Black Belt because you’ve earned it”, and then, that’s when the real next stage happens. Because that’s when, in my case, my instructors then go, “Hey Ryan, what do you think about this?”

And things change. Where you go actually from that teacher, like knowing all of everything, not saying that I was ever going to be equal with him because they’re a Sensei. Which for those of you listening, Sensei uses two characters, which is Sakini Umareta, which is the person who was born before, and so just the person born before me simply means that they have more experience in this thing than I do. But you do find a level where if you have a great teacher, they’re still gonna be looking at things with the mindset of exploration and wanting to learn, and I’m sure you’re the same. I learned so much from my students. I teach something and they do something, I’m like, “Oh, that’s pretty fucking cool, I never thought about that”. Then you can explore. And so again, in shooting how when you’re looking at that, there comes a time where yes, you might go out on your own, but the thing is, is that’s also a great opportunity for you to be able to have deeper conversations with your instructor if your instructor is open to exploration and continuing to learn and look at things that way.

The reason I left Shorinji Kempo is because my instructor was so open to the things I was doing, but the top brass in the organization weren’t. They wanted to just keep it, it’s gotta be this way because we’re blah. That’s when he told me, he’s like, “You need to get out of Shorinji Kempo because it’s just becoming political and just stupid”. Lots of unpack there, but we’re looking at culture, we’re looking at where that individual is in their life path, their previous experiences, there’s so many things coming in there. But I do think that if I go to one of your classes, I’m not gonna show up to one of your classes and you show something and I say, “That’s wrong”. No. I’m gonna learn why you do it that way. Shut the fuck up and do it to the point where I’m just like, “Ok, now I get why he’s doing it this way”. I can’t tell you how many times Yoga instructors have told me that my plank is incorrect, and I’m just like, “Ok, that’s from the context of what you are doing”, I do this for a different purpose.

Patrick Oancia:

Yoga teachers, they really don’t, so I don’t mean to be critical of, cause I practiced Yoga for so many years, but my initial experience with Yoga was with a very anarchistic teacher that just was totally anti-system.

He’s from India, he wasn’t a part of any specific lineage, but he was very passionate about what he was doing. That was my introduction. But then I left him, and I went into very dogmatic Yoga practice for years. In those dogmatic Yoga practices is where met the politics that you’re talking about, essentially, in a couple of the newer iterations of what became popularized Western Yoga. Two methods in specifically Ashtanga Vinyasa and Iyengar Yoga, there’s a lot of politics in both of those. I’m not saying that to be critical cause I think that there’s a lot of people that benefit and have fantastic practices.

Ryan Hurst:

Absolutely.

Patrick Oancia:

And have a great teachers that have a wealth of knowledge and really, but it just goes the same. They think irrespective it being Yoga, irrespective it being Martial Arts, there’s a point as which your teacher said, and he was so humble to be able to notice that point that you were making, just nowhere for you to go from here because of the politics, so time to move on.

This is also maybe a bit of a sensibility that also sort of finds its way through. We didn’t talk about that today, but we do have to wrap up.

1:47:14 Buddhism, the Contemplative Element

Buddhism. We didn’t talk about Zen Buddhism, we didn’t talk about Buddhism in particular, but how much of an influence Buddhism maybe has on the contemplative element of what we’re doing with our practice.

Ryan Hurst:

Absolutely.

Patrick Oancia:

And that sensibility like the monk, the master, the master monk, whatever he’s doing in his practice, Shugyou, basically developed his skill. Whether that’s sitting under a waterfall that’s freezing cold in the middle of the winter, or walking barefoot up a mountain in the snow, or just sitting and meditating for days on end.

It’s all about stripping away the sense of self. We know this. It’s so cliche to talk about this, and we’re not going to that extreme, I don’t think in what we’re doing. We’re not stripping away, as you mentioned. We have things that we want, we wanna do them and this is there, therefore we’re not Buddhist monks. But the sensibility and Buddhism, what can teach us, to be able to strip away this like, you know what, I wanna do this, I wanna do it now, I wanna fucking do it better than you. This is what exists in Yoga, this is what exists in Martial Arts, this is what exists in all this movement practices all around the world these days. I’m not criticizing. People need to go through that process. But this bringing it down to earth and making it palatable for anybody from any walk of life, and not make it some sort of you know what, in order to do this, you gotta do that and you’re not gonna be able to do it because you’re not in good shape, bad person, or whatever.

I think I’d like to extend on that topic the next time we have a chance to talk, because Buddhism is something that I’d like to discuss because you have practiced Zen Buddhism and we both done it probably our fair share of meditation.

Ryan Hurst:

Yes.

1:49:05 Closing

Patrick Oancia:

I’d like to continue talking, but we’ve almost gone two hours I’m guessing by now, but what I’d prefer to say is that, look, let’s pick it up again.

Ryan Hurst:

Sounds great.

Patrick Oancia:

This is like a really good, I’m really happy we had this talk. For everybody, we haven’t talked before and this is our first meeting and we’re brothers from Japan, but we never met each other. We were both there for 30 years.

Ryan Hurst:

That’s crazy.

Patrick Oancia:

It is crazy. And I’m hoping that there are many more conversations like this, Ryan.

Ryan Hurst:

Me too.

Patrick Oancia:

I will put it in the Show nNotes, but obviously people can find you at?

Ryan Hurst:
Just basically go into the interwebs and type in GMB Fitness, we’re everywhere. The easiest thing is if you went to gmb.io and before you buy anything, go check out our YouTube channel, GMB Fitness, we got tons of videos to share.

Ryan Hurst:

And you can just see my teaching style by watching some of those videos and you know, hey, send us a message to, that’s another thing with us. If you send an email, howdy@gmb.io or info@gmb.io, you’re always going to get a reply from a real person.

Patrick Oancia:

I’ll also put your Instagram handle here as well, but is there anywhere else that people can find you on social media outside Instagram? Or are you focusing it predominantly Instagram and GMB YouTube?

Ryan Hurst:

It’s YouTube, we’re basically everywhere. We’re not on TikTok, but we’re on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, I’m sure there’s some other places, but it’s basically GMB Fitness, type it into anything and we’ll pop off.

Patrick Oancia:

Ok. I’m gonna put all that in the Show Notes and listen, Ryan, it was a great honor and pleasure to talk to you today on Baseworks Transmission, Otsukaresamadeshita.

Ryan Hurst:

Otsukaresamadeshita.

Patrick Oancia:

I’m sure there’s gonna be many more conversations to come and, look man, thanks again.

Ryan Hurst:

Thank you, cheers.

Patrick Oancia:

Thank you very much for tuning in today. And again, please consider liking and sharing the episode with others, if it resonated with you. You can also subscribe and set up notifications anywhere you listen to or watch this to get real time updates about all future uploads. And please email us a brief voice memo letting us know what inspired you or pushed your buttons to ideas@basesworks.com. To benefit from exclusive content delivered right into your inbox, consider signing up for our newsletter from the footer on any page of our website. To know more about Baseworks specifically and everything we’re doing, visit our website at baseworks.com.

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asia shcherbakova on her back on the floor demonstrating a baseworks movement specific task
Dec 07, 2022
Knowing the terms describing the method's movement vocabulary is essential to understand the instructions. This VS introduces Baseworks-specific terms... more
Satoko Horie, rolling from her hips onto her back on the floor demonstrating different movements of the spine.
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In this VS, we will explore ways in which we can enhance the mobility of our spine and bring awareness to it.... more
Patrick Oancia demonstrating a Baseworks form from a back view. He has hims arms interconnected and he is leaning backward.
Dec 21, 2022
This VS will focus on how we sense the body’s position in space utilizing the Baseworks gridlines and Symmetry principles. ... more

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