Hanshi Ed McGrath has 45 years experience in teaching Isshinryu Karate, receiving his rank from white belt to Grand Master, from the legendary fighter and Sensei (teacher) Donald H. Nagle, who was recognized world wide as the top Isshinryu teacher in the world, other than Soke Tatsuo Shimabuku. Sensei Nagle was also purported to be the fastest and greatest natural fighter that karate has ever had, in the modern era.
Hanshi Ed McGrath began his studies under Sensei Nagle in 1958, in the first Isshinryu dojo (school) established in America. The dojo was situated in Jacksonville, North Carolina, outside Camp Lejeune, the home of the Second Marine Division.
The dojo’s student body was made up of Marines serving in the Corps at Lejeune. It was from this dojo that Master McGrath, then a Lieutenant in the USMC, began his career as a fighter and teacher. When Sensei Nagle left for civilian life in 1959, Ed McGrath succeeded him as chief instructor, at the New Bridge Street dojo and with the Marines at Lejeune, most prominently with the famed Second Force Recon personnel and the guard detachment at the legendary Brooklyn Navy Yard. On weekends, he often drove up to Sensei Nagle’s new dojo, in Jersey City, New Jersey, for a chance to fight his teachers new students and share his knowledge with them. During his last two years in the Marine Corps, Mr. McGrath was often called upon to perform demonstrations of Isshinryu karate on the base, as well as, county fairs, shows such as the Auto Show in the New York Coliseum and to represent the Corps at tournaments such as those held in Madison Square Garden and seven appearances in the World’s Fair pavilion, in New York.
Sensei McGrath, was released from the Marine Corps in October 1962, due to a permanent service connected disability to his left knee, while doing a hand to hand combat demonstration for the Marine Corps. In July of 1963, he began his first karate teaching outside the Marine Corps, at American Dojos, in Queens, New York. Teaching six days a week, three hours a class at the three locations in Ridgewood, Jackson Heights and South Jamaica, Queens, his student body grew quickly and the school was producing championship competitors within the first year. Eventually, these dojos would win championships in 27 States, ranging from green belt to black belt, culminating in World Black Belt Championship, won by Sensei McGrath’s student Malachi Lee at the famed Manhattan Center, heartland of karate competition in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Among the fighters who became champions and eventually great teachers, in their own right, were Bob Baker who Sensei McGrath always recognizes as the deadliest fighter he has ever taught. He later became one of the all time best under cover agents with the DEA, serving throughout a career for his country. Richie Bell was a tough Marine, whose career was served as an officer with the U.S. Marshall Service. He was a champion and a teacher whose students succeeded, as he did. He presently teaches near his home in Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands. Joe Burgess, was one of the fastest and most dangerous competitors, in an era where hard contact was the game. He is presently teaching in Arizona, where he also has a career as a Lieutenant in the Phoenix Fire Department.
Last, but not least among the original students of Mr. McGrath was Nick Adler, who has made extraordinary accomplishments, both in competition and as a senior teacher, with more knowledge of the martial arts than most of the teachers in America. He always had a thirst for knowledge and was not afraid to go into any dojo, anywhere and fight the best they had, in order to elevate his competitive skills. His famed fighters, the Centurions have won an astonishing number of championships.
In 1969, Sensei McGrath moved to Long Island, New York, with a dojo in Bellmore Long Island, where he again turned students into champions, with fighters like Barry Steinberg, whose speed and skill spelled quick defeat for his stunned opponents. Over the years, he fought for and won numerous championship matches throughout the country and having started with Sensei McGrath at age 12, he now lists his own teen age son as one of his top students. Along the way he also managed to obtain three PhDs and now operates for the benefit of children as a Facial-Maxillary Surgeon, who travels to various countries, at his own expense to operate on children who otherwise would not have this opportunity. That dojo also became the home school to Al Wilder and Dennis Bootle, who followed their Master out to Bellmore and fascinated the other students, with the longest, toughest and most dramatic matches on the deck.
In 1972, Mr. McGrath moved his school to the Lindenhurst, Long Island YMCA and was blessed with a new group of students that would stay with him through several other dojos in the coming years, in Bayshore and presently at the Kioto Dojo, on Sunrise Highway in Oakdale/Bohemia. Among these students are some of the best in Master McGrath’s career, many of whom are now Masters and teach with Mr. McGrath, as well as on their own. Among them are; Frank Klos, felt by Master McGrath to be on a level of skill with both Bob Baker and Barry Steinberg. Frank is now a Seichi Dan, seventh degree black belt. He teaches with Mr. McGrath. Dan Vena, who is an indomitable fighter, who will not stop, but move forward at all times. He doesn’t know the meaning of the word quit. He is presently a Roko Dan and Mr. McGrath’s trusted partner and teacher at the Kioto Dojo. He has also trained champions and continues to evolve and improve as a student and teacher. Additionally, we have Lou Luceri, one of Mr. McGrath’s senior students in both time and rank in Isshinryu, as well as a Master in kata, he too is a Roko Dan. My other ranking teachers are Frank Black, a Roko Dan who has turned out some of the best pure fighters in Isshinryu and who, at 6’8” and 315lbs., has incredible speed and power and is a main stay within my group; John Pinghero, Ku Dan whose speed and defensive skills are unparalleled, making him the complete package and combined with his mastery of kata makes him an excellent teacher; Steve Dilorenzo, a Go Dan, 5th degree black belt, has been with Master McGrath since 1972 and proved to be one of the smartest and most devious fighters he has ever taught. Just when the opponent feels that he has Sensei DiLorenzo where he wants him, he reverses the situation and wins the match. He is a joy to teach and a revelation to watch.
During all of this time, Master McGrath had become a favorite with the martial arts magazines, appearing on the covers of Marine Corps papers and the cover of Official Karate a number of times. The writer of one article mentioned that during Master McGrath’s initial two years of training, he worked out five hours a day, seven days a week and took on any fighter he could find with a strong reputation. He often appeared to contest with the students of other teachers, fighting as many as 20 or more opponents, without a rest between matches.
Simultaneously, Master McGrath, having filled in for a missing announcer at Gary Alexander’s first tournament, found himself in demand as the master of ceremonies and blow by blow announcer at tournaments al over the country. Eventually, he became known to the magazines and fans as the “Voice of Karate.” In this capacity, he became good friends with many of the contestants and performers, such as, Chuck Norris, Bruce Lee, Joe Lewis, Tom LaPuppet, Mike Stone and the great Broadway star, Gregory Hines.
That background came to the attention of Leeming-Pacquin Corp. and they designated Mr. McGrath as their representative for their new product, “Hai Karate” After Shave Lotion. His hands appeared on the bottle and he was on the gift box, doing a flying side kick. Master McGrath appeared for the product throughout the country, doing exhibitions and speaking to the audience about the product and karate.
During the forty two years that he served faithfully for Grand Master Nagle, his excellence in fighting and teaching were rewarded with promotion, although Mr. McGrath never toiled for promotion as a goal, but simply loved teaching and being on the deck to fight, as often as possible. Finally, in November 8, 1997, Master Nagle promoted Mr. McGrath to Ku Dan, ninth degree black belt. At that point, with his teacher and best friend Don Nagle, as 10th degree black belt and Grand Master of Isshinryu Karate, Mr. McGrath was content that he had reached the apex of his career, having originally aspired to become a brown belt. Unfortunately, that was not to be, for in August of 1999 Master Nagle suddenly passed away, naming Mr. McGrath as his successor, just before his death.
Grand Master McGrath, because of his forty five years of service to the martial arts, Isshinryu Karate and his Master Donald Nagle, has gained recognition and numerous awards, such as :
Halls of Fame :
Isshinryu Hall of Fame - August 12, 1994
Marine Martial Arts Hall of Fame - February 8, 1997
International Association of Martial Artists Hall of Fame - April 6, 1997
Grand Master Don Nagle’s American Okinawan Karate Assoc. - September 26, 1997
NAC Okinawan Isshinryu Karate Kobudo Hall of Fame - August 10, 1997
OIKKA Isshinryu Hall of Fame - July 16, 1999
World Karate Union Hall of Fame - July 1, 2000
NAC Man of the Year Award - 1979
NAC Lifetime Achievement Award - 1993
Man of the Year Centurion Eagle Award - 1996
American Cancer Society Award - 1998
Grand Master McGrath, beyond the goal he has to teach the people of his community, children, teenagers and adults, how to competently defend themselves from harm, has now set another goal and that is to unite in fellowship all of the elements which comprise Isshinryu karate, within the United States. He also intends that the instructors be given the knowledge required to bring about a renaissance in Isshinryu, maintaining and increasing the fighting spirit that was an essential element in every student, the pride of perfection in kata and loyalty to both the art and it’s teachers. Isshinryu has always been through many changes, just as every art must evolve and the Masters must see to it that change is always to the benefit of Isshinryu and it’s students. Mr. McGrath is there to see that our pride in Isshinryu’s past, will remain as a banner to follow in the future, just as his teacher and friend, Don Nagle did, before him.