Thursday, 25 September 2014

Body imbalance


Body balance is an area that is particularly challenging for me. Not keeping my balance but, rather, vertical and horizontal equilibrium—in relation to techniques. My problem is not my technique; rather, it is my body. In particular, from the accumulation of injuries (from karate and real altercations in the security industry) over the years and, of course, imbalances between strength and flexibility: between the left and right `hemispheres’ of the body. As many of you know, when I was very young, I suffered a very serious spinal injury, which I’ve had to work around for over 25 years.
 
Why am I writing about this today? Well, certainly not to complain, but rather elucidate that I am taking more action in my own training to mitigate these imbalances; moreover, to help those who read this (you) to self-check for such problems. Obviously, this has little value for those of you working as body guards and as bouncers whilst on the job; however, it will still be useful in your `scenario drill-work’.   

THE PROBLEM OF BODILY IMBALANCES: The problem with such imbalances is that often `we don’t want to recognise them’ in favour of our `better sides’. For example, “more flexibility with one leg that allows for `superiority with particular techniques’ with that leg”; likewise, “…significantly more power on one side that leads to an internalised bias”.

In this regard, I primarily recommend utilising the five Heian kata for study. Then Tekki Shodan. There is so much to be gained from the shitei-gata, actually too much. Worldwide I believe that if everyone properly understood (performed) the Heian kata—on a truly deep level—very few would perform kata beyond the sentei-gata (Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Enpi and Jion). If we are honest, the advanced nature of the `big four’ “…are well beyond most people in the world who are doing the more advanced kata”. You may now be thinking “How can a guy who does so many `additional kata’ say this?” Well, additional kata are simply for specialisation, i.e. – more options in a martial arts/applicative context… For instructors, this is an advantage to best assist students (as one can coach people in accordance to their specific needs).

Secondarily, I recommend kihon ippon kumite for balance. Not just for techniques but the internalisation of movements and principles. This is deep stuff if fully understood…
Conclusion: Returning to the foundation of karate-do—KIHON—we have a complete system, which perfectly connects kata, kumite and real world self-defence. Nonetheless, body balance must be consciously addressed and this requires a significant level of physical (and mental) discipline. I’d like to wrap up by saying that this is extremely worth pondering and testing in one’s training. Besides being good for every karate practitioners techniques (to optimise effectiveness), it is also essential to heighten one’s musculoskeletal health and physical longevity.
Osu, André Bertel.

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

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Talking and thinking too much: Western Karate Drivel

"Learn by doing" - André Bertel (Kumamoto, Japan).
Simplification of practice with deep meaning/study/understanding is exactly what happens, here in Japan, amongst the very top dojo (plural). In conjunction and directly pertaining to this is high level tuition, which is bolstered by a `learn by doing’ as opposed to `the overly thinking’/discussing approach (an approach which is predominant in Western nations).

Recently I was shown some videos of an American instructor who `moves OK'; however, no depth -- no real power, from a Japanese karate-do perspective. That is, lots of technical variations, lots of talk, and theories… Not to mention `sound effects' when the guy punches: yet clearly no real danger with his waza. Here in Japan, irrespective of ideas and lots of technical variations, what counts is that `one can you use their karate in a freestyle context’. In the context, of the aforementioned American, the answer is clearly “not the case”. My Japanese colleagues were laughing as we went through the videos: the comments were "what is this?". If such a person comes to Japan and enters serious training here, “that feeling” he is always talking about (which always coincides with his sound effects) will be replaced by a trip to the dentist.

This appeal in Western countries for a lot of `karate drivel’ is very interesting, and is at the heart of why Western karate is no closer—to traditional Japanese karate—than it was 20+ years ago. There are, of course, some exceptions: but very-very few.

Using the example of Japanese technicians… Think about the likes of Naka Tatsuya Sensei. He teaches numerous variations; however, his technique is perfectly functional in a freestyle context. It transfers from the dojo to street practicality. He has very dangerous karateka. Another such karate expert is Keith Geyer Sensei. Two words, `phenomenal' and `devastating' come to mind. In actuality, all of the top Japanese JKA instructors have this quality. Why not the majority of Western instructors like Keith Sensei? Needless to say, if I lived in Australia, I would be in Melbourne to access training under Keith Sensei. Such non-Japanese true masters of karate-do are soooooooooooo rare!!!!!!!!!

Perhaps some people will not like this post, but it is literally a case of `the truth hurts’. There are, as said above, `exceptions’; nevertheless, I believe this needs to eventually be the norm-- not merely exceptions -- if Western karate is to truly advance. Unfortunately, based on what Western `karate consumers’ want, and how the majority practice karate, this is unlikely to change any time soon.
True karate is effective in the real world, not talk and theory: this is `budo karate'. This is Karate!
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2014).

Monday, 1 September 2014

Progressing in Karate-Do forward requires the full circle

Movement four of Enpi kata: hidari chudan kagi-zuki (kiba-dachi).
While I am still strictly adhering to the training programme I started in August the prime emphasis has been on “referencing everything to Heian Shodan Kata”. In this way, whether doing kihon, other kata, kumite or oyo (applications) my training is `H1-centric’.

This training is highly technical pushing me to my limits; nonetheless, it is acutely renewing my understanding. It goes without saying, Heian Shodan always does this to experienced karateka; that is, it presents the ultimate challenge in karatedo: technically, psychologically and, of course, on deeper levels.

I’ll always be a beginner of karate-do in my heart and mind, and also in my training. In saying that and encouragingly, I am far beyond where I was, since returning to Japan in August of last year, “…yet I’m back at the very beginning”. My point here is that “Karate-Do is such a wonderful art”: it pushes us to become whole via a constant cycle. As the title of this post states "Progressing in karate-do literally requires the full circle". In this regard and in this way, I only hope that one day I can truly be a `good karateka’. Despite achieving this target, or not, I’ll continue pushing toward this goal.
Kindest regards from the first day of Japan’s autumn.
Osu, André Bertel  
Movement three of Heian Shodan kata: migi gedan-barai (zenkutsu-dachi hanmi).

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

Monday, 25 August 2014

Latest self-training regime

Here is my latest karate-do training regime. I hope it finds you happy, healthy, and training hard. Especially those, enduring the cold, in the Southern Hemisphere!!! Best wishes from boiling Nippon. Osu, André Bertel       

KIHON

(A)     Stationary kihon

1.      Chudan choku zuki (hachiji dachi)

2.      Chudan gyaku zuki

3.      Chudan mae-geri

4.      Chudan yoko keage (heisoku dachi)

5.      Mae geri kara yoko kekomi soshite ushiro geri

Hidari mawashi-geri in ido-kihon practice. `Axing' with the josokutei utilising the `roll over of the hips': a traditional `basic'.
 
(B)      Ido kihon: Kogeki (Tsukiwaza to keriwaza)

6.      Chudan jun zuki

7.      Sanbon ren zuki

8.      Chudan mae geri

9.      Chudan yoko keage (kiba dachi)

10.  Chudan yoko kekomi (kiba dachi)

11.  Chudan mawashi geri

12.  Chudan ushiro geri

13.  Yoko keage ashi o kaete yoko kekomi (kiba dachi)


(C) Ido kihon: Hangeki (Ukewaza to hangekiwaza)

14.  Jodan age uke kara chudan gyaku zuki

15.  Chudan soto uke kara chudan gyaku zuki

16.  Chudan soto  uke kara yoko enpi (kiba dachi)

17.  Chudan uchi uke kara kizami zuki soshite chudan gyaku zuki

18.  Gedan barai kara chudan gyaku zuki

19.  Chudan shuto uke (kokutsu dachi) kara nukite

20.  Chudan shuto uke (kokutsu dachi) kara kizami mae geri soshite nukite

 ·        Repetitions: Stationary kihon – “40+ of each”; and Idokihon – “20+” (not including a 10 rep warm-up set).

KUMITE


i. Kihon Gohon Kumite (Jodan, Chudan and Mae geri).

ii. Kihon Ippon Kumite (Jodan, Chudan, Mae geri, Yoko kekomi and Mawashi geri).

iii. Jiyu Ippon Kumite (Jodan, Chudan, Mae geri, Yoko kekomi and Mawashi geri).

·        Note: All defences and counters `the most foundational’: i.e. kihon-ukewaza followed by gyaku-zuki). Focus on kakato chushin in attacks, and kime in general. Repetitions: Five sets of each form of kumite including one `warm-up set’.

KATA


Main focus: Shitei-gata (Heian Shodan, Heian Nidan, Heian Sandan, Heian Yondan, Heian Godan and Tekki Shodan).

Secondary focus: Sentei-gata (Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Enpi and Jion).

General—interrelated focus: Tokui-gata (Gojushiho Dai).

·        Daily breakdown of kata training based on my typical ‘seven day routine’ with focus on one or two different kata per practice session. Repetitions: If one kata, approximately 20 reps; and if two kata, around 10 repetitions of each (depending on daily condition).
Hidari yoko-keage doji ni hidari uraken yokomawashi uchi: Movement six of Heian Yondan Kata.
 © André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto, Japan (2014).

Wednesday, 20 August 2014

Motivation for the `long haul'

Self-practicing `hidari kizami mawashi-geri' (ido-kihon) yesterday.  
 Often people ask me “what is your key to my motivation in karate-do?” and, while I’ve talked about this before, I’d like to reiterate my mental approach today. I’d like to emphasise here that this is not `something new’, or a `new revelation’ for me. It is reflective of my training since I was very young.

Fundamentally, I believe that “…if we let go of our egos, we become liberated”; and consequentially, we gain a level of motivation which doesn’t waver and `much deeper satisfaction’ from our karate practice. Those who are better than us, we admire and respect; likewise, we do not compare ourselves to those we have surpassed (or are ahead of on the karate path).
This means that that “Your karate then truly becomes `your karate’”; thereby, setting the stage for you to bolt forward and `to really win battles against yourself’. Irrespective of whom you are, what your goals are, and any other factors, I believe this is the ultimate key to motivation in our wonderful martial art.
The ambitious junior or competitor as `a motivator’… As the lyrics of `The Fly’ by U2 go, “It’s no secret that ambition bites the nails of success.” Some see this as a good thing, but I personally disregard this as well (as it only works to a certain level and takes one psychologically away from the highest level of motivation). Again, I’ll say it again, “motivation to me should not be about others”. That way, regardless of outcomes, the process is always emphasised over the product (or result). To me personally, this is the MEANING OF KARATE-DO: the WAY or PATH of karate. Truly, it is THE PROCESS, and quality (and authenticity) of this process, that matters most.

Well wishes for all the competitors and nations attending the 2014 JKA World Championships: I’d like to wish everyone who is competing in the 13th Funakoshi Gichin World Championships, here in Japan in October, the utmost best. Also, I hope you remember my words in this post. Enjoy the tournament, and just do YOUR BEST. To me, just by entering this event—the most prestigious traditional karate-do event in the world—you have already ‘won’ from my perspective. While I’ll not be attending, I admire every person who is entering: whether they go out in the first round or end up contending for world titles. 

By and large, as I wrote in my 1996 karate-do memoirs “…don’t set the bar too low, nor too high. Set it at a height where you are challenged, but not so much that it is an impossibility”; furthermore, and just as important for motivation (and as discussed today), don’t worry about whether some can jump higher than you, or have `yet to reach your heights’. They (others) are insignificant when it comes to your karate! What matters is that “YOU KEEP PUSHING FORWARD without letting your ego becoming puffed up, nor flattened”. Focus on the process: the process of self-progression, which can only be maximised when it is "...devoid of ego that is steered and swayed by comparisons".  This, of course, transcends karate-do.
Kindest regards and best wishes, André.
Movement four of Seiryu kata during my self-practice.
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto, Japan (2014).

Monday, 18 August 2014

REBOOT

Every so often I make a complete return to the start of my karate-do training. These days I like to describe it as `a self-reboot’.

Technically, at least for me—because I’m not a naturally talented karateka, not physically big, nor strong—I really need to do this; that is, to go back to the critical details of kihon and work on them in the most detailed way. Needless to say, I am also doing this via yakusoku-kumite/kihon-kumite (especially gohon and kihon ippon, but also jiyu ippon kumite); and—of course, within the `so-called basic kata’ (Heian shodan, nidan, sandan, yondan, godan, and Tekki shodan). Basic... YEAH RIGHT! Humble pie... Yes, certainly!!!

Beyond technique, I use these periods of `starting karate-do all over again’ to assess what karate-do is to me `personally’, and what karate-do truly is: in the traditional Japanese context. This aspect is something I began to do when I first came to Japan for training, at the JKA (Japan Karate Association), 20+ years ago...

At present, while I am doing this `self-reboot’, I'm continuing to practice my current tokui-gata; the four sentei-gata; oyo-kumite; and jiyu-kumite. However, these aspects are currently overshadowed by the aforementioned focal points.
 
For those, whom have followed my blog for the last seven years, you will know that this strays from my previous `reboots’; nevertheless, I am also attempting `to keep the momentum up’ from my previous months of practice. In this way, `this reboot is doing something a little different’; and therefore, adding a little spice to my training.

This process began on August 15th with a vigorous three day training stint, to commemorate eight years since the passing of my late teacher. I have much kansha for the 13 years I personally learned from him.
OSU,
アンドレ バーテル

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

Friday, 8 August 2014

Deutschland Seminar Video

Below is a video from my last seminar in Germany in 2012. Like the previous video, from the United Kingdom, these YouTube uploads have essentially been to clean up my files and, hopefully, offer something useful to karateka around the world. As I always say, “we must talk with our karate-do”. In this way of thinking, via photographs and videos, I've aimed to verify my understanding; thereby, giving legitimacy to my writing/articles. The reality is that "....so many say so much, yet we never see their actual karate!"


By the way, many people are saying that since I re-joined the Japan Karate Association (JKA) I’m no longer doing what I have learned over the last 30+ years… I’d like to assure everyone that: (a) I am dedicated fully to JKA; and (b) that I practicing everything I was taught prior to returning to JKA.
Taken as a whole, JKA has been encouraging me to continue practicing my karate in the way I was: prior to re-joining. All the very best from Japan, André Bertel.

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

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Spanish karateka comes for private training

A karateka from Spain, Josu Duran, recently travelled to Japan for one-on-one training at my private dojo. He flew directly from Spain and travelled Aso-shi. During his time here I have the covered essential kihon (namely, the core Shotokan waza “… especially techniques in zenkutsu-dachi” with different unsoku/ashi-hakobi; ‘kakato chushin’; shisei/postural alignment; koshi no kaiten; tai no shinshuku; and so forth).

Expanding on this, I used several kata to work on the above mentioned kihon-waza (and generic principles). However, the main focus has been on ‘reworking’ Josu’s tokui-gata, which is currently Chinte.

On the kumite front, I have again `honed in’ on the technical points stressed in kihon. Consequently, in an attempt to reinforce this teaching, I have utilised Kihon ippon kumite and Jiyu-ippon kumite.

Kumite: jodan ushiromawashi-geri.
Overall, I can see it has been a real challenge for Josu. But what is admirable is that he has fronted up to training with me. Besides his punctuality, in regards to training times, he is a good bloke. With continued practice of the critical points, I have taken him through, he will certainly improve. Good luck (Ganbatte) Josu!!! – André Bertel.
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2014).

Teaching Josu how to do kihon ippon kumite and jiyu ippon kumite correctly; moreover, their specific training 'purposes'.

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).