Monday, 25 May 2015

Ryu Goto: World famous violinist and superb Budo Karateka

Goto Ryu, André Bertel & Morooka Takafumi.
Ryu Goto is at the very top of the world as a violinist and as a musician in general. His skill level is nothing less than utterly phenomenal—in the greatest sense of the word: literally, the terms
 `perfection’ and `mind-blowing' immediately come to mind. However, Goto Ryu not only possesses extreme talent as a classical musician… He is also an awesome traditional budo karateka with two decades of rigorous JKA (Japan Karate Association) training under his belt.
 Training in Kumamoto: The practice was around three hours long and I focused on the base of my late teacher’s karate. Essentially, `the maintenance, breaking and recovery of shisei (neck, back and pelvic posture)’; correct self-defence application of muchiken-waza (whip-fist techniques); the coordination of ‘koshi no kaiten’ (rotation of the hips—horizontal power); and ,‘tai no shinshuku’ (the contraction and expansion of the body—vertical power).

Goto Ryu, superb form at speed. A superb budo karateka
 In addition to kihon-waza, small sequences from kata such a Bassai Dai and Enpi were used, also a ‘non-syllabus kata’ to recapitulate the foundational aspects that we covered; furthermore, Sochin was used a means to warm up (and prepare the body for key exercises).  Overall, no time was wasted. The training only focused on critical points to maximise the development of techniques/exercises leading to ichigeki-hissatsu. Following this, Morooka San had Ryu San put into practice what was practiced (in the training) into uchikomi/kumite. This served to elucidate the need for moving the central axis down `the chushin’(linear/sliding action) and body collision; furthermore, whipping `circular action’ (deviating from the line and impacting heavily on weak points) for effective budo karate. Finally, we concluded with some stretches which emphasised the drive from the support leg and transfer of bodyweight. I apologise for lack of detail, but this is for Ryu to keep (and share on his own accord).
`Recovery' practice

 Ryu San's high level of karate skill and ability absorbed everything with rapid speed. To be frank
I was pretty astonished. Moreover, his karate spirit, humility, and great personality deeply impressed me. On the whole, it was reflective of the long correspondence we have had—I sensed a very good soul. Ryu, irrespective of what you do in the future, you are always welcome at my dojo and my home. We really look forward to seeing you again soon. Osu, your friend, André.  
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto, Japan (2015).

Sunday, 24 May 2015

Foreign Renshusei (Trainees)

The following list includes the non-Japanese karateka who have come (HERE IN JAPAN) for private lessons with me. Others have come to train, but the following have: (1) officially applied to be renshusei; (2) have been accepted; and (3) have come and completed training as renshusei:
Name                                    Country of origin               Year(s) when trained
1.      GOTO, Ryu                         UNITED STATES OF AMERICA         2015
2.     LAMPE, Peter                    GERMANY                                          2015
3.      KÖHLER, Frank                  GERMANY                                          2015
4.      SCHÖNE, Rainer                GERMANY                                          2015
5.      PINTOS, Leo                       AUSTRALIA                                         2014
6.      JORDAN, Pietro                 ITALIA (based in CANADA)              2014
7.      LEHMANN, Christa           SWITZERLAND                                   2014
8.      DILKS, Morgan                   NEW ZEALAND                                  2014
9.      RIVAS, Sergio                     SPAIN                                                  2013
10.    DUKAS, Bryan                    SOUTH AFRICA                                  2010
11.    KALLENDAR, Paul             ENGLAND (based in JAPAN)           2010
12.    JEHU, Lyn                           WALES (based in JAPAN)                 2009
13.    DILKS, Morgan                  NEW ZEALAND                                  2008
14.    LEHMANN, Christa           SWITZERLAND                                   2008
15.    KELLY, Ben                         IRELAND                                              2007

PLEASE NOTE: This list will be periodically updated and re-published when foreign karateka come and complete training at my dojo.
Application to be a renshusei: To apply please email me directly at: In your email include the following: i. your proposed dates to train; ii. full details: if other karateka will be coming with you; iii. dan rank(s); iv. age(s)—please note, those under 18 must be accompanied by a parent/caregiver; and (v) any questions/inquiries that you may have.
 © André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2015).

Saturday, 9 May 2015

The core unsoku of Karate-Do

Sochin kata: very difficult unsoku requiring extremely flexible loins.
Please note, for the simplicity of this article, the context is a `left leg forward’ fighting stance (hidari jiyu-dachi), which will outline the core unsoku (leg movements) of Karate-Do. Of course, it is essential to practice `both sides’; moreover, when either opponent changes stances, it goes without saying, the situation can change immensely. Indeed, this problem further diversifies when there is more than one opponent, a weapon (or weapons), etcetera. With these points in mind, all of the kata consistently teach us “…to have both sides and `a variation’—by ‘the commonplace utilization of three steps’”. As discussed much recently on here, “one can have the best techniques in the world, but without being able to use them—in freestyle/non-prearranged circumstances (with effective distancing and timing, coupled with sufficient impact power): they are motions of uselessness”. In all cases, this point is the technical priority of Budo Karate; that is, effective application in the real world. Osu, André Bertel.

The core unsoku of Karate-Do:
1.      MOVING DIRECTLY FORWARD (ON THE VERTICAL LINE): Thrust forward from the rear leg or bring up (or ‘step through’)—the distance is dependent on the footwork, or combinations of footwork, applied. For example, tobi konde with kizami-zuki, fumidashi/aiyumibashi with jun-zuki, okuri-bashi or tsugi-ashi with gyaku-zuki etc... Essentially, this footwork is the base of SEN NO SEN.

The final movement of Bassai-sho kata.
2.      MOVING DIRECTLY REARWARD (ON THE VERTICAL LINE): This is exactly the opposite of `Moving Directly Forward’; however, it is worth mentioning one variation. A common tactic to counterattack is to keep the lead foot in place, to ‘keep the distance’ and simply move the rear foot. From this position one can immediately counterattack.

3.      MOVING DIRECTLY TO THE LEFT SIDE (ON THE HORIZONTAL LINE): The front (left) foot moves leftward and the rear (right) foot follows. This is used to deal with techniques coming from your opponents left side (coming from your right side). I.e. – hidari mawashi-geri or a left hook. Also, linear attacks such as migi chudan ushiro geri. 

4.      MOVING DIRECTLY TO THE RIGHT SIDE (ON THE HORIZONTAL LINE):  The rear (right) foot moves rightward and the front (left) follows. This footwork is used to deal with techniques coming from you opponents right side (coming from your left side). I.e. migi ushiromawashi-geri, a right haymaker punch/swing etc…

  • Please note: for `3’ and `4’, the optimal situation is to also `go in’ and employ a deai-waza; however, these methods are important when utilising a defence to avoid absorbing impact on your arm or guard. For example, allowing the mawashi-geri to lose momentum and destabilize, and then covering with haiwan uke. In sum, these methods provide the most simplistic illustration of using GO NO SEN.

5.      MOVING FORWARD LEFTWARD (OFF THE LINE): Usually this is to apply a ‘deai-waza’. Advance with left leg, for example diagonally—or more tightly for higher level exponents, then use the left foot as a pivot to re-establish a solid position (again, this is determined ‘case-by-case’). A basic example is when your opponent launches a hidari jodan zuki attack and you simultaneously attack with your own hidari jodan kizami-zuki utilising this footwork.

6.      MOVING FORWARD RIGHTWARD (OFF THE LINE): In a same side stance (with one’s opponent) this is less common, but is still used. This body shift is done by stepping through, off the angle with the rear (right) leg—again, the tighter the better, —then pivoting on the right leg into a stable/optimal position. An example is to use this footwork against a right jodan gyaku-zuki attack, haito-uchi, or right hook. Simultaneously cover with nagashi-uke and punch with your left hand. This technique is referred to as ‘nagashi-zuki’ as it is mix of both oi-zuki (jun-zuki) and kizami-zuki.

7.      MOVING REARWARD LEFTWARD (OFF THE LINE): While one can push with the lead (left) foot to move leftward to the rear—when in a left jiyu-dachi—the more common, and effective method, is the step rearward with the lead leg. Like all other forms of footwork, the length of step and angle will be determined ‘case by case’; however, the correct technique is to move just enough to render your opponent(s) attack useless and, ideally, execute your own technique, i.e. – migi mae ashi-barai or perhaps migi kizami mawashi-geri: to their head, torso or a gedan target. This movement is particularly useful against a renzokuwaza (flurry of attacks/combination).
An example of kizami mawashi-geri
8.      MOVING REARWARD RIGHTWARD (OFF THE LINE): The common method used for this body shift is to thrust with the lead (left) foot and move the right leg on an angle to the right rear side; subsequently, the left foot follows. Again, this method is useful against an aggressive charge of one’s opponent. Avoid by breaking the line, and compress; then, apply your own attack. I.e. – tai sabaki kara (tai no shinshuku) gyaku-zuki. It is once again noting here that the maai will determine the counter i.e. – close range might determine an enpi-uchi/hiji-ate is utilised; alternatively, a long distance may call for a chudan mae-geri. In any case, what a matters is an immediate response with an `ippon-waza’.

Beyond the EIGHT GENERAL DIRECTIONS OF MOVEMENT... Beyond the eight `generic directions’ of movement/footwork there are the following: (A) Ducking and dropping to the ground/floor on the various angles i.e. – the two mawashi-geri from the ground in Unsu kata; (B) Jumping up directly or in various directions i.e. – tobi yoko-geri (kesa-geri); (C) Spinning/Rotation and reverse rotation (i.e. – movement 9 of Heian Sandan); and (D), a combination of them all—using all available movement and space—in automatic response to the opponent(s) attack.
An example of kaiten uraken in a kumite match.
In sum, UNSOKU/ashi-hakobi (leg movements/footwork) and HOKOTENKAN (changes in direction)—in relation to distancing and time (timing)—along with effective impact power, literally defines “technical excellence” in karate-do. Insofar as body movements go, these must be usable in the unpredictable; that is, a non-prearranged context. You will probably notice my emphasis on `freestyle’ lately in my articles. The reason being is that the non-prearranged context establishes the `martial’ in the art. Without this understanding and technical capacity, karate is nothing more than `art for art’s sake’. Karate is first and fore-most a martial art of self-defence and, indeed, this is why it came into existence. Karate is not a dance or performance art, both of which have no meaning beyond the realms of the karate dojo. Best wishes and good training, André.
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2015).

Friday, 1 May 2015


Stationary practice of Tekki (Shodan - Sandan). Focus on the `three axis's' for rotational power.
Shime means to squeeze or choke. In contrast to the criticality of relaxing, the idea of shime—in the technical sense/technique-wise—seems to create a paradoxical situation. In actuality, this technical paradox elucidates the need for shutting down ‘in one part (or parts of the body)’ through the application of power, whilst dynamically utilising another part (or parts of the body).

Off the top of my head, let’s consider some very basic examples (the most blatant are when leg techniques are applied whilst various kamae (postures), uke (receptions/blocks), tsuki (thrusts/punches) or uchi (strikes) are held motionless. For example, basic mae-geri-keage and yoko-geri-keage practice in heisoku-dachi and with gedan-kakiwake; movements 17 and 20 of Heian Nidan—mae geri keage with chudan uchi uke fixed in place; the three fumikomi in Heian Sandan; movements 14-16 of Heian Godan (especially during `sasho ni migi mikazuki-geri’ where `hidari tekubi hidari sokumen chudan kake uke’ must not move); and throughout the nami-gaeshi in Tekki Shodan when executing the sokumen-uke. Of course, “…shime also occurs without the involvement of leg techniques”; however, pedagogically speaking, the combination of tensing the wakibara whilst delivering ashi-waza is `typically’ the initial stage of learning this fundamental aspect of karate-waza. In doubt, it is probably worth examining (or more likely, for most Shotokan people, re-examining) the works of the late Shuseki-Shihan (Chief Instructor), Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei.
The axis in gyaku zuki is aligned with the lead shoulder; thereby, not moving the body rearward and making the tsuki weak.
Obviously, without shime in the wakibara, when snapping out kicks, the arms inevitably will flail around or move superfluously (most commonly `pulled down’, `pulled back’ or worse still, both!). And, needless to say, such superfluous action has numerous negative effects. For example: (1.0) telegraphing leg techniques and, consequently, leaving one `more open to being attacked’ whilst kicking; (1.1) creating the inability to immediately attack again `directly’ (that is, make an ‘optimal renzokuwaza/combination attack’); and, (1.2) generally speaking, a lack of self-awareness/self-control. Of course, this list of negatives could go on and on…

It is clear that shime is an important skill not only to make clean kihon and kata, but it is also imperative in kumite and, indeed, valuable in self-defence. To give one reason `why this is the case’: “…if one develops the capacity to autonomously use shime appropriately, in any situation and especially under extreme pressure, their techniques will be direct and their defence will be far more efficient.
The opening of Kanku Dai. Shin kokyu practice.
 As an analogy, imagine `energy flowing through your body like electricity powering an electrical appliance’. Shime would be where you could `shut off the electricity in certain areas, and channel it/express it elsewhere’. That being said, shime inherently goes far beyond this; for example, limiting power or `distributing the power’ differently. One simple illustration of this is the completion of `movement 21’ of Heian Godan (Migi sokumen jodan uchi uke doji ni hidari sokumen gedan barai), which is, of course, mirrored in `movement 23’. In the case of the sokumen gedan barai 70% of power is applied and, thus, only 30% to the sokumen jodan uchi uke). How about the slow and coordinated action of forming migi kokutsu dachi with `hidari haiwan hidari sokumen jodan yoko uke doji ni migi zenwan hitai mae yoko kamae’ (‘movement one’ of Heian Yondan). In this case, shime must be applied to correctly achieve `te-ashi onaji’. In this case, shime is fully applied to the right leg (through tai no shinshuku), whilst the un-weighted left leg glides—ever so slightly above the ground/floor—to its proper position. Some may argue that this is not shime, but here in Japan, such movements are well recognised as being so by senior instructors. Accordingly, this further elucidates the “constant seeking of technical simplification and, thus, ever-greater technical depth”, which leads to ‘autonomously functional budo-karate-technique’. 

A simple application to test in jiyu-kumite: Lastly, consider trying this in jiyu kumite. When you attack with gyaku-zuki, apply shime to the wakibara of your lead arm and delay the withdrawal of your kamae (as you punch with your opposite hand: to prolong and maintain a firm cover). If you do this with the correct maai, and place your lead foot as close to your opponents lead foot as possible, “your defence and offence at the moment of attack will be optimal”. Still, as always, it will then come down to your capacity to authentically produce kime. Looking at this exercise, from a different angle, and you will also see that it will also give you `an honest evaluation of the efficacy of your fundamental techniques and kata’. Again, it can never be emphasised enough that, in traditional Budo Karate: kihon, kata and kumite are one.

Taken as a whole, I’d like to offer a word of warning… The main point of shime, like all other aspects of budo karate, is functionality. With this in mind, it transcends `the look’ of techniques. A simple test and understanding, which we always emphasise, is that “…kihon, kata and yakusoku kumite always relate, and lead, to effective jiyu kumite and goshin-jutsu”.  Indeed, when this fails to be the case, the movements of karate cease to be a true martial: irrespective of how strong or impressive they appear.
Unambiguously, this only scratches the surface level of shime and fails to address the other essential aspects of shime, such as the constant yet varying energy in the seika tanden, how this relates to ones kokyu (breathing), and so on. That being said, I hope that this short article helps you to address—or readdress—your understanding of shime in Karate-Do; moreover, in the greater context of Budo (Traditional Japanese Martial Arts) in general.
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2015).

Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Trainees from Germany: Peter Lampe, Frank Kölher & Rainer Schöne

Between April 17th and 19th, three karateka from JKA Germany came for training at my private dojo: Peter Lampe (4th Dan), Frank Kölher (3rd Dan) and Rainer Schöne (1st Kyu). Peter, Frank and Rainer completed two hours of private lessons on Friday evening, three hours on Saturday, and two hours on Sunday; furthermore, informal practice and explanations were given outside of the dojo as well. This included trips to the famous Aso Jinja; Kokuzou Jinja where I regularly self-train; Kumamoto Castle; the grave of the legendary swordsman Musashi Miyamoto; and to Shototakuhirokan (my instructor, Nakamura Masamitsu Shihan’s dojo), which serves as the `Central Kumamoto City Branch of the Japan Karate Association’. Due to their excellent manners, Nakamura Shihan even invited them for tea in the dojo and greatly enjoyed talking to them.

TRAINING: The private lessons I taught covered key points of authentic Budo Karate, as taught here in Japan, and the theme was “All Karate must work towards effectiveness in a non-prearranged context”. That is, techniques/applications ‘for demonstrations sake’—without them leading to effectiveness in a real fight “…are nothing more than showmanship”.  Hence, generally speaking, the lessons were based on “the necessary ingredients needed for traditional budo karate”. While I won’t precisely go into what I taught (as this was/is for Frank, Rainer and Peter) I’ll briefly outline the techniques/points that were covered:
Rainer, Morooka San, myself, Peter and Frank after the final training.

 A brief outline of the private lessons for Peter, Frank and Rainer

 TACHIKATA: * Zenkutsu dachi hanmi and shomen; * Kokutsu dachi; * Transferring from kokutsu dachi to zenkutsu dachi; * Transferring from zenkutsu dachi to kiba dachi with yori ashi; * Tenshin (kaiten shinagara) in both shizentai and zenkutsu dachi in relation to basic koshi no kaiten and precise positioning. In sum, `position is for optimal efficiency’ and `sinking combined with te-ashi onaji’ are essential in body shifting.

TSUKIWAZA AND UCHIWAZA: (1) Choku-zuki (use of `snap energy’ and seiken); (2) Gyaku-zuki and (3) Kizami-zuki (Koshi no kaiten, Tai no shinshuku and transfer of body weight with snap); (4) Jun-zuki/Oi-zuki (Koshi no kaiten, ashi hakobi and timing); (5) Oi-komi gyaku-zuki (Collision power, timing, foot positioning and targeting); (6) Precise use of ‘chikara no kyojaku’  power in uchiwaza (the concept of muchiken with shuto and haito); and (7) Jun kaiten vs. Gyaku kaiten—via the teaching of correct kaiten uraken/kaiten enpi.

UKEWAZA: The basic ukewaza of Shotokan with focus on the following points: (a) Position of the elbows; (b) use of tekubi/the wrist; (c) Movement—avoiding `over action’ and correct distance of the ukewaza from the body; (d) projecting the energy forward; and (e) `optimal positioning’.

Rainer, Peter and Frank: serious about their karate and really nice guys!!! Here pictured at Kumamoto Jo.
KERIWAZA: The main focus was mae-geri keage; however, the points given (in relation to the use of energy in tsukiwaza) perfectly applies to all of the other kicks of Karate-Do. Yoko geri kekomi was also briefly shown/detailed in this regard: Here is an overview of we covered: (i) Josokutei/Koshi action; (ii) Kicking forward the rear and high/tight compression; (iii) applying the bodyweight whilst maintaining lateral and vertical posture; (iv) Ratio of speed in hiki-ashi: 30:70; and again, like tsukiwaza and uchiwaza, (v) correct use of power.

I first met Peter in 2010 when teaching my first Karate-Do Seminar in Ahrensburg, Germany.
CORRECT KUMITE: Applying everything applied and the perfect interrelationship’ between kihon, kumite and kata: the technical essence of Traditional Japanese Budo Karate.  The maxim that “jissen-kumite (actual fighting effectiveness) is the heart of karate technique” was constantly emphasised. In order to achieve this, Gohon Kumite, Kihon Ippon Kumite and ‘Jiyu kumite no uchikomi’ (focusing on hand attacks) were utilised.

Guest instructor – Morooka Takafumi San: While I taught on the first two days, on the final lesson I asked my training partner, Morooka Takafumi San (JKA 4th Dan), to instruct the class. He kindly agreed, and travelled to Aso-shi with this family (even though he is currently injured). Needless to say, what Morooka San taught was completely consistent with the previous two days of practice; thereby, and not surprisingly, it perfectly further reinforced what I’d taught. Overall, Morooka San took an excellent session to wrap up the weekend.

 To conclude, I’d like to say that Peter, Frank and Rainer are really great guys whom I am honoured to have met through Karate-Do. They train hard and are serious about their personal development of Budo Karate technique. Accordingly, they really did their best (and did very well) to take in what was being taught to them ‘during every second of practice’. And, outside of the dojo, they were a lot of fun to spend time with. It was a wonderful time of karate keiko and camaraderie. Moreover, they not only made a very positive impression on me and my family, but also Morooka San, and Nakamura Shihan. We certainly look forward to seeing Peter, Frank and Rainer again in the future here in Japan, not only as karateka but as friends. Osu, André.
Kokuzou Jinja, Aso-shi.
 © André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto, Japan (2015).

Thursday, 16 April 2015

Not representing Kumamoto-Ken

Competition is to test oneself. Winning is irrelevant.
 While I won the Kumamoto Prefecture title, in the men’s individual kata, I have decided to not compete for Kumamoto at the JKA All Japan’s at the end of June.

There are several reasons for this, but the prime is that I cannot justify dedicating "all of my practice to kata" between now and then; and hence, I’d be doing JKA Kumamoto an injustice. Secondly and connected to this, only one person can enter the individual kata at the JKA All Japan’s (for Kumamoto Prefecture); thus, if I enter I will be taking away a ‘Kumamoto no senshu’ from being able to represent their province. To me, even though I won, this is simply not right.

My purpose for entering—“to test myself”: Lastly, my purpose in entering this year’s JKA Kumamoto Prefecture Championships was never to win but, rather, to simply test my karate. To win or not win the title is never my concern. Of course, it is great to win in Japan, due to the technical standards: but that is nothing more than a bonus. My karate is not, and has never been, for tournaments. While I will certainly compete again to test out my skills—and fully respect those dedicated to ‘Budo karate competition’, I’ll only enter so when it doesn’t interfere with my overall Karate-Do objectives.

Morooka San will compete in the dantai kumite.

So who will represent Kumamoto at the All Japan Championships? This year’s medal winners, at the JKA Kumamoto Prefecture Championships (in the men’s individual kata), were as follows:
1st Place (Yusho): BERTEL, André
2nd Place (Jun yusho): KISHIGAMI, Kazuto
3rd Place: MOROOKA, Takafumi

Honourable mentions:          NOBORU, Tanaka & IWAMOTO, Hiroshi

Therefore, this years `Jun Yusho' (and several years undefeated prefecture kata champion)—Kishigami Kazuto San—will now be going. I wish him the very best of luck in his kata preparations for the 58th JKA All Japan Karate-Do Championships. Moreover, I wish my training partner and friend, Morooka Takafumi San, all the very best in the dantai (team) kumite. I’m looking forward to training with him towards this event. Osu, André.
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2015).

Wednesday, 15 April 2015


Tekki Shodan in the Shitei-gata eliminations

Over the weekend the 34th JKA (Japan Karate Association) Kumamoto Prefecture Championships were held in Tamana-Shi.
Result: YUSHO!!! – Men’s Individual Kata Champion
Actually, the Shototakuhiro Dojo (JKA Kumamoto Chuo Shibu) won a total of nine medals at the prefecture championships: Five gold, two silver, and two bronze. Of course, the real thrill is to see these youngsters and their talent. Here is a list of the club members who won titles and/or placed:
·         Kento Hiyoshi – Elementary School 4th Grade Boys Individual Kata – Champion
·         Shiki Uchida – Junior High School 1st Grade Boys Individual Kata – Champion
·         Hyuga Takamori – Junior High School 2nd Grade Boys Individual Kata – Champion
·         Aiko Omori – Elementary School 5th Grade Girls Individual Kata – Champion and 3rd Place Individual Kumite
·         Saki Hirai – Elementary School 5th Grade Girls Individual Kata – 2nd Place and 2nd Place Individual Kumite
·         Takafumi Morooka – Men’s Individual Kata – 3rd Place
·         André Bertel – Men’s Individual Kata – Champion
Heian yondan in the shitei-gata eliminations

I’d especially like to offer my thanks to Nakamura Masamitsu Shihan and Akiyoshi Sensei, and also to my training partner, Morooka Takafumi San. Domo arigato gozaimashita. Osu, André

© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2015).

Gojushiho Dai in the final
Gojushiho Dai Kata - Kentsui hasami uchi
It is very hard to win in Japan, especially for foreigners. A gaikokujin winning at prefectural level here is unprecedented.
Unfortunately Morooka San was given shikaku (total disqualification). His opponent was sent to the hospital.
The Shototakuhiro Dojo (JKA Kumamoto Chuo) Team.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Key terminology for the traditional kumite match

In addition to competing, in the men’s black belt kata, at the upcoming JKA (Japan Karate Association) Kumamoto Prefecture Championships I’ll also be judging. In light of this, I thought that today I’d outline the key terminology for the traditional kumite match; furthermore, the whistle commands for match officials.


1.    Senshu seiretsu: Announcing the competitors to line up before or after a karatedo match/event).

2.    Shomen ni rei: Asking competitors to bow to the front.

3.    Otagai ni rei: Asking competitors to bow to each other.

4.    Shobu ippon hajime or Shobu sanbon hajime: Beginning either a one point (elimination) match or three point (finals) match.

5.    Yame: To “stop” a match (to award points, warnings or penalties etcetera) to or conclude it.

6.    Moto no ichi: Telling a/the competitor(s) to return their start positions.

7.    Tsuzukete hajime: To restart the match.

8.    Tsuzukete: Telling the competitors to `fight on’ (continue) if one or both stops during the match.

9.    Ato shibaraku: Alerting the competitors that there is only 30 seconds of time left in the match.

10. Aka / Shiro: Indicating the `red’ and `white’ competitor.

11. Jodan: To indicate an upper-level/head attack.

12. Chudan: To indicate a middle-level/torso attack.

13. Tsuki:  To indicate a punch.

14. Keri: To indicate a kick.

15. Uchi: To indicate a strike.

16. Renzoku-waza: To indicate a combination technique.

17. Waza-ari: To indicate a half point (“not quite an ippon”).

18. Ippon: To indicate a full point (a blow with the potential to `finish’).

19. Awasete ippon: To indicate that score added together makes a full point.

20. Torimasen:  Indicating no point is to be awarded.

21. Hayai: Indicating that one attack is faster than the other (in an exchange of blows).

22. Aiuchi: Indicating simultaneous attacks; thus, no score.

23. Maai: Indicating that distancing was wrong; hence, no score.

24. Ukete-masu: Indicating that an attack was blocked.

25. Nukete-masu: Indicating an off target attack; and therefore, no score.

26. Yowai – indicating that an attack was too weak; and accordingly, no score.

27. Keikoku: Cautioning one or both of the competitors.

28. Chui: – A formal warning.

29. Hansoku: Disqualifying a competitor. (Note – the announcement of `shikkaku’ is used for more serious disqualifications).

30. Mubobi: Indicating non-defending.

31. Jogai: Indicating out of bounds.

32. Hantei: Indicating decision time.

33. Aka no kachi / Shiro no Kachi: Indicating red or white is the winner.

34. Hikiwake: Indicating a draw.

35. Sai Shiai: Indicating a rematch.

36. Sai-Sai Shiai Indicating a secondary rematch.

37. Sakidori: Indicating a “sudden death” match, in a second rematch situation; that is, the first competitor to score will win the match.

38. Shobu hajime: To begin a “sudden death” match.

39. Shugo: Indicating a call a meeting between the corner judges and centre referee.

40. Kiken: To indicate a withdrawal of competitor/competitors.



a) Long whistle blow followed by a short whistle blow (Start / Hajime).

b) Two short whistle blows (Stop / Yame).

c) Three short whistle blows (Call to have a judges meeting / Shugo).

d) Long whistle blow followed by a short whistle blow (Decision time / Hantei).

e) Short whistle blow (Lower flags or score boards).


a) Five short whistle blows to stop the match.


a) Long whistle blow (Full point / Ippon has been scored).

b) Short whistle blow (Half point / Waza-ari has been scored).

c) Five short whistle blows (Attention call to the Head Judge).

I have been slowly going back and renewing my qualifications with the JKA and hope to increase my judging skills this year. My target, in this regard, is to return to being an A-Kyu Shinpan (Judge) and also `reach the roof’ with my other qualifications (as a JKA Godan). But, of course, training is always the `number one’ priority. Step-by-step… All the very best from sakura covered Japan. Osu, André

 © André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2015).