Sunday, 27 July 2014

Gojushiho Dai Kata: A generic outline

Practicing in a confined space after dojo training: one of my methods to specifically "review".
 Here is a general outline of my tokui-gata, Gojushiho Dai (五十四歩大). As you will know, Gojushiho Dai literally translates as `54 steps major’. The number 54 comes from Buddhism as it has special relevance, just as Suparinpei (Hyakuhachiho / Hyakuhappo) `108 steps’ does. With this in mind, there are two main reasons why Shotokan-ryu has two forms of `Gojushiho’ (Gojushihodai and Gojushihosho); these are: (a) to form ‘108’ pertaining to the aforementioned point; and (b) “…to physically balance training on the legs”—Gojushiho Dai loads the left leg (with migi ashi mae neko-ashi dachi) and Gojushihosho the loads right leg (with migi kokutsu-dachi). Lastly, but not least, I hope this outline of Gojushiho Dai helps you with your practice of it. As the longest kata amongst the 25 “official” JKA formal exercises, it is an extreme challenge—irrespective of one’s technical level. For more information on Gojushiho Dai please check out my recent article on it: http://andrebertel.blogspot.jp/2014/06/gojushiho-dai.html. I'd like to conclude that I am not a Buddhist, however, we must consider the historical/sociological contexts, which have influenced the development of karate-do. Best wishes, André Bertel. 
Karatedo Kata (Vol.4): This four book series is the current "BIBLE" of Shotokan Karate-Do Kata.
 A GENERIC OUTLINE OF GOJUSHIHO DAI KATA
REI: (Musubi dachi).

YOI: (Hachiji-dachi).
1.      Migi uraken Jodan tatemawashi uchi doji ni hidari zenwan munemae suihei kamae (Migi zenkutsu dachi).
 
2.      Ryo ken chudan morote uke (Hidari zenkutsu dachi).
3.      Ryo ken chudan morote uke (Migi zenkutsu dachi).
4.      Hidari tateshuto chudan uke (Hidari zenkutsu dachi).
5.      Migi chudan gyaku zuki (Hidari zenkutsu dachi).
6.      Hidari chudan maete zuki (Hidari zenkutsu dachi).
7.      Migi chudan mae keage (Hidari ashi dachi).
8.      Migi chudan gyaku zuki (Hidari zenkutsu dachi).
9.      Migi tateshuto chudan uke (Migi zenkutsu dachi).
10.  Hidari chudan gyaku zuki (Migi zenkutsu dachi).
11.  Migi chudan maete zuki (Migi zenkutsu dachi).
12.  Hidari chudan mae keage (Migi ashi dachi).
13.  Hidari chudan gyaku zuki (Migi zenkutsu dachi).
14.  Migi jodan tate enpi uchi (Migi zenkutsu dachi),
15.  Sasho gedan sukui uke doji ni usho koko gedan osae (Hidari zenkutsu dachi).
16.  Migi keito chudan uke doji ni hidari teko migi hiji shita (Migi ashi mae neko ashi dachi).
17.  Hidari shuto gedan uke doji ni migi keito kamae (Migi mae ashi neko ashi dachi).
18.  Migi chudan ippon nukite otoshi zuki doji ni sasho migi hiji uchigawa (Yori ashi: migi mae ashi neko ashi dachi).
19.  Hidari chudan ippon nukite otoshi zuki doji ni sasho hidari hiji uchigawa (Migi mae ashi neko ashi dachi).
20.  Migi chudan ippon nukite otoshi zuki doji ni sasho migi hiji uchigawa (Migi mae ashi neko ashi dachi).
21.  Migi keito chudan uke doji ni hidari teko migi hiji shita (Migi ashi mae neko ashi dachi).
22.  Hidari shuto gedan uke doji ni migi keito kamae (Migi mae ashi neko ashi dachi).
23.  Migi chudan ippon nukite otoshi zuki doji ni sasho migi hiji uchigawa (Yori ashi: migi mae ashi neko ashi dachi).
24.  Hidari chudan ippon nukite otoshi zuki doji ni sasho hidari hiji uchigawa (Migi mae ashi neko ashi dachi).
 
25.  Migi chudan ippon nukite otoshi zuki doji ni sasho migi hiji uchigawa (Migi mae ashi neko ashi dachi).
26.  Hidari haito hidari sokumen gedan uke doji ni migi shuto suigetsumae kamae (Kiba dachi).
27.  (Migi ashi mae kosa).
28.  Ryo sho migi sokumen jodan bo tsukami uke (Kiba dachi).
29.  Migi haito migi sokumen gedan uke doji ni hidari shuto suigetsumae kamae (Kiba dachi).
30.  (Hidari ashi mae kosa).
31.  Ryo sho hidari sokumen jodan bo tsukami uke (Kiba dachi).
32.  Migi keito chudan uke doji ni hidari teko migi hiji shita (Migi ashi mae neko ashi dachi).
 33.  Hidari shuto gedan uke doji ni migi keito kamae (Migi mae ashi neko ashi dachi).
34.  Migi chudan ippon nukite otoshi zuki doji ni sasho migi hiji uchigawa (Yori ashi: migi mae ashi neko ashi dachi).
35.  Hidari chudan ippon nukite otoshi zuki doji ni sasho hidari hiji uchigawa (Migi mae ashi neko ashi dachi).
36.  Migi chudan ippon nukite otoshi zuki doji ni sasho migi hiji uchigawa (Migi mae ashi neko ashi dachi).
37.  Migi gedan shihon yoko nukite (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).
38.  Migi uraken tatemawashi uchi (Migi zenkutsu-dachi).
39.  Hidari gedan shihon yoko nukite (Migi zenkutsu dachi)
40.  Hidari uraken tatemawashi uchi (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).
41.  Migi gedan washide gedan otoshi uchi (Migi zenkutsu dachi).
42.  Migi jodan washide tsukiage (Migi zenkutsu dachi).
43.  Hidari jodan mae keage (Migi ashi dachi).
44.  Saken chudan zuki doji ni uken hidarikata maeue (Migi ashi dachi).
45.  Hidari Jodan yoko enpi doji ni uken koho gedan uke (Hidari hizakutsu).
46.  Migi keito chudan uke doji ni hidari teko migi hiji shita (Migi ashi mae neko ashi dachi).
47.  Hidari shuto gedan uke doji ni migi keito kamae (Migi mae ashi neko ashi dachi).
48.  Migi chudan ippon nukite otoshi zuki doji ni sasho migi hiji uchigawa (Yori ashi: migi mae ashi neko ashi dachi).
49.  Hidari chudan ippon nukite otoshi zuki doji ni sasho hidari hiji uchigawa (Migi mae ashi neko ashi dachi).
50.  Migi chudan ippon nukite otoshi zuki doji ni sasho migi hiji uchigawa (Migi mae ashi neko ashi dachi).
51.  Hidari haito hidari sokumen gedan uke doji ni migi shuto suigetsumae kamae (Kiba dachi).
52.  (Migi ashi mae kosa).
53.  Hidari tateshuto chudan uke kara migi chudan tateshihon nukite doji ni hidari hiji yokohari saken hidari koshi (Migi ashi dachi kara kiba dachi).
54.  Migi haito migi sokumen gedan uke doji ni hidari shuto suigetsumae kamae (Kiba dachi).
55.  (Hidari ashi mae kosa).
56.  Hidari tateshuto chudan uke kara migi chudan tateshihon nukite doji ni hidari hiji yokohari saken hidari koshi (Migi ashi dachi kara kiba dachi).
 57.  Migi uraken Jodan tatemawashi uchi doji ni hidari zenwan munemae suihei kamae (Migi zenkutsu dachi).
58.  Hidari kentsui chudan uchimawashi uchi (Kiba dachi).
59.  Migi chudan jun zuki (Migi zenkutsu dachi). – Kiai
60.  Ryo hiji suihei ryoken ryochichi shita (Hachiji dachi).
61.  Ryo kentsui koho chudan hasami uchi (Hachiji dachi).
62.  Ryo hiji suihei ryoken ryochichi shita (Hachiji dachi).
63.  (Hidari zenkutsu dachi).
64.  Ryote ryogawa gedan kakiwake (Migi ashi mae nekoashi dachi).
65.  Ryo keito haneage uke (Migi ashi mae nekoashi dachi).
66.  Morote chudan ippon nukite otoshi zuki (Yori ashi: migi ashi mae nekoashi dachi).
67.  Migi keito chudan uke doji ni hidari teko migi hiji shita (Migi ashi mae neko ashi dachi).
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto-ken. Japan (2014).

Monday, 21 July 2014

UK Seminar Video

Here is a new video from my seminar in Blackpool (England) back in 2012. All the very best, happiness, good health and good training, André.
 
                                      © André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2014).

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

`A-E' TRAINING

Photo gifted to me from Hanif Jelani Robinson of Orlando, Florida (USA).
Kihon-geiko: the beginning, end and full circle of Karate-Do.
Fundamentally speaking, traditional karate-do functions to progressively acquire “ever more control over one’s actions”. It is not that “every technique or movement is something you can ‘directly use’—in a self-defence scenario”—clearly that is a ridiculous notion; however, ‘collectively speaking’ (in the technical sense), via increased control, “…all techniques do indeed contribute to an increased capacity to defend oneself”. The late Shuseki-Shihan of the JKA (Japan Karate Association), Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei, emphasised this revealing point when he stated that “karate-do masters all bodily actions”. What he was meaning is that `by mastering all types of movements, and grooving the optimal ways to move into our sub-consciousness, we will respond to any given situation appropriately`.  This transcends any `style’. Unambiguously, if this `technical level’ is achieved, inevitably the ultimately trained martial artist will be produced.



Movement 44 my tokui-gata: Gojushiho Dai.
True karate-do is budo, not gymnastics, nor a game of points: The techniques of traditional karate-do have never been about accumulating points or `merely appearing to be strong’; rather, they are all about achieving ichigeki-hissatsu (the capacity to `finish an adversary with a single blow’). Consequently, this means that, in the technical sense “…the body must be controlled, as much as possible, to heighten one’s chances of achieving `ippon-waza’”. Naturally instructors have differing methods for developing this acute level of control (via their self-training and, indeed, when they instruct classes). Today I’d briefly like to share my generic approach/training methodology, which underpins my practice of karate-do. It is what I’ve dubbed ‘A-E training’ and is based on ‘everything being broken down into five distinct parts’; furthermore, it coincidentally (and amusingly) relates to the acronym `AE’ (Accident and Emergency). Needless to say, this is the hospital department you should be aiming to send an attacker (or attackers), should you need to use your karate in self-defence.

What is `A-E training’? `A-E Training’ is quite simply breaking down all karate techniques into five segments or parts. These are as follows: A. Pre-movement; B. Initiation/start of movement; C. Mid-movement; D. Impact point (target penetration); and E. Completion of movement (a decisive return to stillness). Accordingly, this practice forms a full circle, from inaction returning to inaction: with the technique existing `in the middle’. In this way, it addresses ‘not telegraphing’ your movement; the order of joints/muscles used in your action; the complete trajectory of your technique; the point of impact; and the follow through ‘to completion’, which intrinsically pertains to ‘balance’ and, ultimately, `recovery’. Of course, you could say that `A-E training’ also addresses other areas, and it certainly can; all the same, from my personal experience, the aforementioned technical aspects ‘are best optimised through this form of practice’. As I always say to my students in New Zealand, and around the world, “don’t listen to me, try for your selves”.
Enpi kata: Migi jodan age-zuki.

Further practice – utilising `A-E training’: On the sheer `physicality’ front, acceleration/deceleration from `A-B’, `B-C’, `C-D’ and `D-E’ can be studied. For example, full-speed then freeze on the four points following `A’ (the pre-movement position). It is worth mentioning here “…that one in theory could make this `10 part practice’ (i.e.  `A-J training’)”; however, I’ve generally found that beyond ‘five-part-practice’ tends to be unproductive. By and large, this can be best be found when practising with explosiveness (accordingly this is because the range of motion is too short when one exceeds `the three active stages’ of karate techniques; that is, ‘B to D’); hence, beyond `A-E training’ I prefer to deconstruct the drill from A-D, A-C, A-B, then utilise `fluid’ practice.

`A-E training' with jiyu kumite no kihon.
Yet… further practice utilising `A-E training’: I won’t discuss this too much in depth; however, it involves applying each `active stage’ against a makiwara, sandbag and so forth. In this way we can drill techniques to be effective at varying ranges; moreover, subconsciously understand their strengths and shortcomings depending on timing, and maai (meeting distances).



The late and great JKA Shuseki-Shihan, Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei.
On the whole, and at the very least, I hope this article has offered some food for thought; moreover, that is goes beyond the realms of your thoughts and leads to the physical improvement of your karate. All the best, André.

© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto-ken. Japan (2014). 

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Light training: a way to proactively recover from injury

Over the last week I have had to train lightly in order to recover from my injury. In saying that (and in line with my last article `Turning negatives into positives’: http://andrebertel.blogspot.jp/2014/07/turning-negatives-into-positives.html), I’d like to emphasise that “…an extended period of light training can periodically be highly beneficial”. Furthermore, light training is not necessarily `easy training’! On the contrary, it can still be made `very difficult’. For example, light training can be more endurance focused i.e. – distance or uphill jogging as opposed to doing wind sprints; isometric based exercises as opposed to doing plyometrics, etcetera. Needless to say, light training is probably the best way to acutely concentrate on exact form (the “A’s, B’s and C’s” of every movement in karate-do) without `being distracted’ by speed and power.

Light training doesn’t automatically mean `easy training’: By and large, when we try sitting in a proper neko ashi dachi for ten minutes each side our comprehension of `light training’ becomes a little different… Of course, this is just one example. I guess my point here is that “…no matter what condition we are in, we can still practice karate-do”. All we ever need is: (a) the will to practice; (b) the determination to continue; (c) common sense (especially pertaining ‘to not injuring ourselves’ or, like in my present situation, doing things that make existing ailments get worse); and (d) perhaps a little creativity (in formulating a self-appropriate  training regime, drills and/or exercises) to achieve this.

One more thing, which I have failed to add is, “the need to have good communication with your Sensei and/or training partners”. Essentially, this relates to being able to participate in group trainings without doing anything harmful to your body. This also requires self-discipline… Ironically, “the first thing that most karateka want to do—is `what they are not supposed to/should not do’”! For example, if they have a strained hamstring the first thing they want to do is kick jodan; if they have a broken wrist, the first thing they want to do is punch the makiwara; and so forth… I assume that this phenomenon is probably human nature `with a light echo of Looney Tunes playing in the background’.

Anyway, today after eight days of being injured, including my worst Unsu/kata ever in a tournament last Saturday (due to being in a lot of pain and literally being unable to move) I finally trained a little more freely this evening. I could actually kick with full range of motion and did not need to tense-up/shorten my movements: to protect my injury. Step-by-step! I would like to wrap up by thanking everyone for their support. I am very sorry to Nakamura Shihan and JKA Kumamoto that I performed so poorly in the kata (at the JKA Kyushu Championship), but I promise to make up for it. Lesson learned for overtraining in the week prior to the tournament.

That being said, “light training” has helped me to recover, whilst physically pushing me in other ways. All the best from Kumamoto, Japan. OSU, André.

© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2014). 
 
 

Monday, 7 July 2014

Turning negatives into positives!

I competed in the JKA Kyushu Senior Karate-Do Championships this weekend. However, I was unable to perform well, actually I bombed out, as I was in too much pain from my recurring spinal injury. The bad timing of this recurring injury really is an understatement! On the morning of the tournament (and three days prior) I could barely walk, which now only happens every few years. Consequently, it was truly the worst performance of Unsu kata I have ever done in a tournament... My back was locked tight, my movements short (from the pain) and all muscles contracted (to self-protect / not over extend).

Why am I posting this? Well basically speaking, besides the suffering, I think it was a great experience! I guess, a kind of “trophy” in my Karate-Do life for “performing a kata so badly”… Yes, it was truly that bad! Nonetheless, and as just alluded to, I learned some great lessons! I'd like to share the three main ones with you today.

 Lesson One: When my back injury flares up don’t use Unsu (even if told to)! :-)

Lesson Two: I still won 3rd Place.., so, as I have always professed—since starting this site—(and somewhat contradicting `lesson one'/the first statement) “just do `whatever' when you enter competitions”. In this way, you develop as a martial artist `from competing' as opposed to the often short-lived gains of shiai.

Lesson Three: I have learned more about myself from this championship (a long term gain). Before, `performing such a bad Unsu would really disturb me’… Now, I can turn such an experience into a positive learning opportunity. What I am trying to say here is that "if you ever have a bad day, please `think of this post'"... Think of André Bertel bombing out with his Unsu. Smile, work around any problems and keep training! Always remember that Karate-Do is LIFETIME BUDO, and both failures and success are natural (and indeed, `imperative' for long-term development) 

I’d like to wrap up by saying that, “I thoroughly believe that, even if I was not suffering, I still would have gained third place in this tournament”.  Overall, there are no excuses in karate-do, only training and moving forward from the experience of this training. Osu, André.

© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto-ken. Japan (2014).

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

A reverse look at kihon-centric karate: the karate-do of contemporary Japan

Kihon training: the beginning and end of Karate-Do.
One of the common criticisms of modern day Japanese karate, by Western exponents, is the “high level focus on kihon”—and purported lack of `street effective applications’ (especially pertaining to the kata). In response to this, many Western karateka have put a huge amount of effort into developing oyo (applications) and, in some cases, have become dedicated to this aspect of karate. Today I’d like to offer my opinion on `kihon centric karate’, which essentially is that “the extreme focus on kihon—in contemporary traditional Japanese karatedo—is a major improvement on the karate of the past”. Furthermore, that it is consistent with the original (traditional) objective of karate techniques: ichigeki-hissatsu…to develop the capacity ‘to finish an attacker with a single blow’.   


Before I go on, I’d like to stress that I also practice and teach the applications of kata; what is more, I wholeheartedly emphasise that “…not `physically and instinctively understanding’ effective oyo turns kata into what I dub “TTW’s” (`Training-Time-Wasters’)”. Nevertheless, I believe that KIHON is the first and fore-most priority in karate training, without which any `effective application of karate’ will very limited—“especially in the multidimensional blur of a violent encounter”.  Put another way, when someone starts `smashing into you relentlessly’, all the fancy stuff goes out the window; hence, kihon becomes the most essential `technical point’ in determining one’s self-defence capabilities.
Hidari chudan gyaku-zuki.
 
 
Let’s take a trip back to the time `before kihon’, where it is alleged that training was exclusively kata. Suddenly Funakoshi Gichin Sensei introduced kihon, simple kata (namely, then three Taikyoku and Ten no kata), and very simple yakusoku-kumite (prearranged sparring). He even reduced the number of kata down to 15 (in addition to the aforementioned four that he, and/or his son developed). While it is regularly argued that Funakoshi Sensei was making karate into a `less dangerous’ martial art (from what he learned in Okinawa), I do not believe that this provides a full picture. Certainly, on some levels, this idea has some truth in it; however, I think you will agree that ‘nothing in life is black and white’. Accordingly, I believe that he: (a) improved karate for his `introduction’ of it on mainland Japan; (b) made karate more accessible for a wider spectrum of society—karate as a ‘do’ form; and (c) also made karate ‘more combat effective’ based on traditional concepts… This `killing of three birds with one stone’ was achieved via his introduction of (and extreme emphasis on) kihon training.


My rationale for believing this does not need to be explained, insofar as making karate `more accessible to everyone’ and `putting safety catches’ on techniques (this is all very well documented online and, of course, in numerous publications); that being said, his increasing of karate’s combat effectiveness obviously does. 
Essentially, Funakoshi Sensei realised that karate cannot compete with Judo in a grappling situation, nor was it like boxing… He did not believe in karate `for fighting’, and only believed it should ever be used `when no other option was available’. From these ideas, which can be found throughout his writing, it is clear that the karate-do of Funakoshi Sensei was not “a watered down beast”… On the contrary, he wanted his students to become more effective in a life or death self-defence scenario. His answer was to practice `the most effective techniques, over-and-over again`… KIHON TRAINING WAS BORN.
Morooka Takafumi San (JKA 4th Dan) performing his `budo karate' Sochin kata.  
Funakoshi Sensei was a clever man—a school teacher and deeply inquisitive martial artist; consequently, he conjured up pedagogically sound methodologies that could extensively advance karate as a martial art. Firstly, that “…by repetition, key points become more instinctive”; thus, quicker technical progression is imminent. Secondly, that training kihon increases ones ‘physicality’ to execute techniques. And thirdly, from these previous two points, one can more efficiently apply the oyo-jutsu embedded in the kata.
Another phenomenon also occurred, which led to kihon-centric training in contemporary karate practice… Via `kihon-centrism’ Funakoshi Sensei saw an unprecedented rise of technical skill amongst his students in Tokyo. This new breed of karateka “…was `physically and technically exceeding anyone’ he had ever encountered’’. By and large, his `kihon practice methodology was verified as being a superior training method’. Further highlighting this point, the `kihon curriculum’ of Funakoshi Sensei was soon `being mimicked’ by all of the other ryuha and kaiha (schools/styles of karate). This point should not be overlooked, as it was well before the existence of competition karate.
 
On the whole, I’d like to emphasise that understanding the oyo of kata is absolutely essential; however, kihon is even more essential. Analogically speaking, you can think of kata as conventional power, and kihon as atomic power. I will leave you with this thought. Osu, André. 
 
 
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto-ken. Japan (2014).

 
 

Monday, 30 June 2014

Morgan Dilks Sensei visits Aso-shi, Kumamoto, Japan.

This week my good friend Morgan Dilks Sensei and his family came to visit, and practice karate-do, here in Aso-shi (after training with his teacher, Fukamizu Kennichi Shihan in Takanabe, Miyazaki). Morgan is currently living in Singapore, for his work, but will be moving back to Palmerston North (New Zealand) later this year.

The conclusion of movement 44 in Unsu kata. 
We had an absolutely wonderful time catching up and had an excellent three hours of advanced karate-do practice on Sunday morning. Morgan taught the first part of the session focusing on turns; namely, 270 degrees (from zenkutsu-dachi into zenkutsu-dachi (shomen/zenmi and hanmi), kokutsu-dachi and kiba-dachi. He also went through oi-zuki/jun-zuki and chudan shuto-uke (zenshin)—primarily focusing on timing. Excellent practice and a great sign of things to come: especially for karateka back in `Palmy’. I then took over and went through the full oyo-jutsu (applications) of Gojushiho-Sho kata, then covered Unsu in depth, again also, with its respective oyo. We wrapped up with individual renditions of Unsu working on timing for effective technique/practical application.

Here are some of the previous links, on this site, with Morgan Sensei:
After training...Morgan Sensei outside Aso-shi Budojo, Kumamoto, Japan.
 

Via Morgan Sensei, I trained with his instructor -- Fukamizu Shihan -- in 2010: http://andrebertel.blogspot.jp/2010/02/karate-practice-in-miyazaki.html

Away from karate-do, and as always, Mizuho and I had a really fantastic time hanging out with Morgan, Yuko and the girls. The only question is “where in the world will we catch up next time?” I'd like to wrap up by saying that I am deeply honoured to be a friend of Morgan, Yuko and their children. Thank you all for coming to visit us in Aso-shi. Osu, André.
Morgan Sensei will `fly back' to Palmerston North later this year.
 © André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2014).