Tuesday, 24 March 2015


One of the commonplace traits of Western karate is the misguided belief in `grafting on’ kihon and kata from all over the place; that is, grafting `the perceived best bits’ of others technique onto to their own karate (to attain a `better style’ or `more impressive look’ when they perform karate). It is clear that many see this as a positive training methodology; nevertheless, I believe it is the main contributing factor of reducing martial arts development  of karateka (in the practice of kihon and kata). I’d like to add here that many senior Japanese karateka, here in Japan, also voice this view, and indeed recognize it “as the biggest anchor holding back non-Japanese karate practitioners”.
BACKGROUND: Before I go on, I will need to qualify this view and the perspective from which I come from:
·         The first thing I’ll need to do, to achieve this, is to define ‘what is karate?’ Rather than give a definition personally I’d like you to read the definition made by the JKA (please follow this link: http://jka.or.jp/en/karate/philosophy.html). This philosophical definition assertively defines authentic karate.
 ·         Based on this correct understanding of what true karate is “…it is unequivocally clear that kihon and kata are for kumite: the trinity of karate-do. And kumite, in budo is not limited to prearranged drills; but rather, it directly pertains to proper jiyu-kumite, traditional shiai (competition) and, indeed, actual self-defence”. Therefore, the idea of ‘grafting’ or `sourcing’ bits and pieces from a variety of individuals, styles, organizations—`FOR STYLES SAKE’—has NO RELEVANCE for authentic budo karate.

 ·         It is important to point out that jiyu kumite is different in this regard—grafting is fine. Grafting is a part of the unique character of developing jiyu-kumite skills. For example, we may find a technique or tactic that is useful then steal it (this is why it is called `free’ sparring; nonetheless, clearly in the context of jiyu-kumite, it is not `art-for-arts sake’). I.e. – the assimilation of an effective variation of tsuki, unsoku/ashi-hakobi, keri, a shimewaza (strangulation technique) etc. Nevertheless, I must stress again that kihon and kata should never be grafted/multi-sourced. To reiterate let’s now consider “Why would someone want to graft different ways of doing kihon and kata?”


Here are the main reasons people `graft’:
1.      Their focus is on `performance’ as opposed to seeking effectiveness; thus, they seek to put together the best `moves’ for `display kihon and kata’.

2.      If they find something difficult or awkward grafting on another approach can help them get around the challenge: once again, this is not related to true budo/martial arts—rather, just karate as some form of abstract `art’.

3.      They are not sure about the correct way, so they play around with techniques, learn from books/online resources etcetera (or instructors who have done this). This is a major discrepancy between karate in Japan and the vast majority of karate outside of Japan. Essentially this is the propagation/handing down of ‘guesswork’ (cosmetic karate) as opposed to first-hand knowledge. It is worth noting here that first-hand knowledge always leads one down the path to martial effectiveness in jiyu-kumite and, certainly, beyond the realms of the karate-dojo.

4.      Grafting is also done by instructors who lack first-hand knowledge of budo karatein order to create a vast array of `shallow technical repertoire’. This is literally ornamental karate, which is unambiguously not focused on the technical objectives of budo karate. As I have stated recently, this type of instructor (and these types of organisations) have gained popularity as they offer a fluffy version of karate.

a.      Grafting kihon and kata is actually the ‘main way’. When you see a karateka perform a kata with a mix of techniques (i.e. - JKA, SKIF and sports karate), or someone dropping the traditional mawashi-geri—from their kihon—in favour for a ‘flicky’ one, it is pretty obvious that ‘the performer’ is merely a ‘dancer’ seeking to look prettier. 
b.      More deeply, and as stated before (and as emphasised on the JKA Homepage), “…when kihon, kata and kumite do not form the trinity”with the technical purpose of downing the opponent with a single blow—the technique is shallow. This is actually very easy to see, but many don’t want to as it is `not so fun’ and means that training becomes intense; repetitious; and the levels of danger inevitably increase.

c.       Another obvious way to recognize shallowness is a lack of proper jiyu-kumite (please follow this link if you would like to read more about this: http://andrebertel.blogspot.jp/2015/02/the-criticality-of-jiyu-kumite-in.html). As discussed, extensively in the past, a lack of high quality and challenging jiyu-kumite means `a lack of testing one’s techniques in an open context’.  All kihon, all kata and all forms of yakusoku (prearranged) kumite must lead to effectiveness in a freestyle context.

d    Competition: if done in the budo way like the Japan Karate Association (i.e.  – the J.K.A. tournaments here in Japan, such as prefecture championships and the JKA All Japan's) kata and kumite tournaments can provide a great test of technical depth. However, I’d like to stress here that “games for `points’ cannot achieve this”. The only competitive kumite context—where true karate can be tested and applied—is under shobu ippon rules, as this runs in-line with the maximum of achieving ippon-waza (and the quintessential essence of Traditional Japanese Budo Karate). If you have ever seen the JKA All-Japan Championships compared to other karate tournaments, and you will fully understand what I mean here.

While, I have said that competition is not `absolutely essential’, you will notice that all of the authentic budo karate instructors in the world have all competed in Shobu ippon. Of course, not all are—or have been—`champions’ (or competed at the highest levels), but have tested their techniques in these events. Moreover, many, including myself, have worked in the security industry experiencing numerous violent altercations. In sum, those who haven’t put their bodies on the line either in competition, the experience of fighting in the real world, or both, cannot have anything but shallow karate. This is the nature of beast—the nature of martial arts. Yes, karate is an art, but real karate IS NOT ONLY an ART.

No one here in Japan, who practices budo karate, thinks “I will change my kihon or kata to make it easier for myself” or “I’ll copy and graft on so-and-so’s different way of doing this technique, and this other organisations method of doing this kata (because it looks cool)”. These ideas are `off the radar’ for budo karateka. Why? Because budo karate is not superficial, it relates to jiyu-kumite and self-defence as a whole. Doing `the moves’ is an idea that is really foreign in Japan and pointless—blatantly counterproductive—for those seeking the martial art of karate.

CONCLUSIVE REMARKS: I’d like to conclude by stressing that “knowing what real karate is, in actuality, very simple”. However, it is this very simplicity and tough training that makes it such a difficult martial art to practice properly. This fact, in isolation, is what separates the elite Japanese karateka from the vast majority of non-Japanese practitioners. Kihon and kata aim constantly towards functionality in freestyle: they are not merely ways to `visually impress’ others. Based on this understanding, if one can understand and apply what I’ve written (in this very brief article), one will be on the right path to achieve a high level. In fact, it would not be an understatement to say that they will have an edge. In sum, following this narrow path means that “…the `art’ of karate strictly remains as Budo: as opposed to becoming a superficially `grafted’ performance art”.
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto, Japan (2015).

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Private lesson for Higo Tyler San

Today, Higo Tyler San visited Aso-shi and had a private lesson. Higo San is a student of Nakamura Shihan at the Shototakuhirokan (which operates as the central branch of JKA in Kumamoto City). The following notes are primarily for him as reference to the points we covered.

Generic focus of the private lesson: The focus of the training was `division of energy in the fundamental techniques’ in order “…to transcend speed and power plateaus and increase elasticity of movement”. To do this, I focused on techniques and sequences from the two kata Higo San is working on: namely, Jion and movements 1-25 of Kanku Dai. We also briefly went over a non-syllabus kata focusing on the points applied in Jion and the first 25 movements of Kanku Dai: this was simply to reinforce the correct use (and division of) chikara no kyojaku. In sum, the critical point was `junansei’.

In particular, the following techniques/sequences were covered:
·         Movement 17 of Jion (chudan oi-zuki (chudan jun-zuki) and hip work with jodan age-uke and chudan gyaku-zuki leading up to it: movements 12-16.
·         Movements 18-21 in Jion (migi sokumen jodan uchi-uke doji ni hidari sokumen gedan-barai turning 270 degrees into migi kokutsu-dachi followed by migi chudan kagi-zuki—via a rightward yori-ashi into kiba-dachi; then hidari sokumen jodan uchi-uke doji migi sokumen gedan-barai—turning into hidari kokutsu-dachi—followed by hidari chudan kagi-zuki coordinated with a leftward yori-ashi to move into kiba-dachi).

·         Movements 22 and 42 in Jion (hidari gedan-barai transitioning into hidari zenkutsu-dachi from kiba-dachi).

·         Movements 26-29 in Jion (migi sokumen jodan uchi-uke doji ni hidari sokumen gedan-barai turning 270 degrees into migi kokutsu-dachi followed by hidari sokumen jodan morote-uke—while moving the right foot to the left and forming heisoku-dachi; then hidari sokumen jodan uchi-uke doji migi sokumen gedan-barai—turning into hidari kokutsu-dachi—followed by migi sokumen jodan morote-uke bring the left foot to the right and, once again, forming heisoku-dachi).

·         As mentioned before, the opening of Kanku-Dai up to movement 25 (saken gedan, uken migi koshi pulling back the lead leg from hidari-ashi-zenkutsu into hidari-ashi-mae renoji-dachi).

·         Special emphasis on movements 16 and 21 of Kanku Dai (in particular, the first two migi shuto jodan sotomawashi-uchi doji ni sasho jodan-uke moving into hidari-ashi-zenkutsu with gyaku-hanmi).

·         I also emphasized fundamental turning in relation to the winding up of ukewaza. Again, this was related back to the utilisation of natural energy and, ultimately, the fine tuning of te-ashi onaji.

Needless to say, other techniques and applications were covered (and ‘physically clarified’ in depth); nevertheless, these are for Higo San for having the spirit to come and train. Higo San, thank you for your friendship through Karate-Do. I wish you—and your lovely family—the utmost best in the future! Of course, you are always most welcome at my private dojo again in the future. Osu, Andre.
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto, Japan. (2015).

Friday, 13 March 2015

March training regime: 'Marching' towards the JKA Kumamoto Prefecture Championships

Here is my current training regime for March. I hope it finds you well! Osu, André.


(1) Chudan jun-zuki; (2) Jodan jun-zuki; (3) Chudan gyaku-zuki; (4) Jodan gyaku-zuki; (5) Chudan mae-geri keage; (6) Jodan mae-geri keage; (7) Chudan mawashi-geri; (8) Jodan mawashi-geri; (9) Chudan ushiro-geri; (10) Chudan yoko-geri keage; (11) Chudan yoko-geri kekomi; (12) Jodan age-uke kara chudan gyaku-zuki; (13) Chudan soto-uke kara chudan gyaku-zuki; (14) Chudan uchi-uke kara chudan gyaku-zuki; and (15) Chudan shuto-uke kara nukite.

General points of focus: 1-0/ Hiki-te in uke and tsukiwaza in relation to the central axis; and high (and compact) chambering of keriwaza. Prime focus: Chikara no kyojaku.

Repetitions: A minimum of 40 reps of each waza (pertaining to the `Prime focus’ of trying to move as lightly and snappily as possible). If heaviness is felt, I perform more reps until 40 good (light and fast techniques) are completed.

At present my kumite comprises of whatever is practiced at the JKA Kumamoto Chuo Dojo (Shototakuhirokan). At the time of writing this, the focus is still Kihon Ippon Kumite (Kiri Kaeshi) and Jiyu Ippon Kumite; however, Jiyu Kumite is always the priority.  On a personal level in my kumite practice, I am fostering my deai-waza and impact capacity; in turn, this is relating directly to my execution of kihon and kata (via the aforementioned points of `lightness’ and `snap’).

Reps: Training-wise, completing each form of kumite several times (and alternating partners/standard ’round robin’) is the norm.


Kata training at present has turned towards the JKA (Japan Karate Association) Kumamoto Prefecture Championships next month. The elimination rounds will only require shitei-gata (from Heian Nidan to Tekki Shodan). There will be no sentei-gata round (that is, Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Enpi and Jion). And the final, as always, will be a free-choice kata. Based on this, my kata training is focused on Heian, Tekki, and Gojushiho Dai.

Chance for the 58th JKA All-Japan's... The winner of the prefecture championships gains automatic selection for the 58th JKA All-Japan Championships (Kumamoto-Ken is only allowed one competitor, and inevitably that is the yusho/champion); therefore, in the highly unlikely chance of me winning—due to a number of predetermined factors—I’d be on my way to the National Championships…  Last year, by sheer luck I was jun-yusho (gained second place)…

Kata training schedule: Three days a week – multiple repetitions of Heian Nidan and Heian Sandan; and on alternate days, (the other three days a week) multiple repetitions of Heian Yondan and Heian Godan. Every ‘Heian day’, multiple repetitions of Tekki-Shodan and Gojushiho Dai; and once a week (Tuesday’s): ‘shitei-gata matches’ and Gojushiho-Dai.

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

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Kihon Ippon Kumite (Kiri Kaeshi)

During training (this and Last week) at the JKA (Japan Karate Association) Central Kumamoto Dojo—Shototakuhirokan, amongst other things, Nakamura Shihan and Akiyoshi Sensei had us work on Kihon Ippon Kumite (Kiri Kaeshi). Here is a brief description of this variation of ‘Kihon Ippon Kumite’, which is now required during the JKA Examinations for Sankyu (3rd Kyu Brown Belt) and Nikyu (2nd Kyu Brown Belt). I apologize in advance for not having any pictures from the training; that being said, the simplicity of text—that I have used below—will not require corresponding images (as there is a `general overview’ then `kihon drills’ thoroughly detailing each stimuli and response in this form of Kihon Ippon Kumite).

 An overview of Kihon Ippon Kumite (Kiri Kaeshi):


1.      The designated attacker steps back into hidari zenkutsu-dachi with hidari gedan-barai. They then announce “jodan” then attack with jodan jun-zuki.

2.      The designated defender responds to the attack by stepping back with the right foot into hidari zenkutsu-dachi, lower the weight/centreline on the spot), and blocking with hidari jodan age-uke.

 NB – steps one and two perfectly resemble kihon ippon kumite.
3.      From here, instead of the defender countering with gyaku-zuki they instead counter with jodan jun-zuki. A kiai is executed on this punch.

4.      The person who initially attacked (the designator attacker) then blocks and counters the designated defenders counterattack. This is done by making a full step rearwards and blocking with jodan age-uke and countering with gyaku-zuki. A kiai applied on the gyaku-zuki.

‘Chudan’ and `Mae-geri’ follow the same pattern: This same pattern is followed with chudan jun-zuki (1. chudan jun-zuki attack; 2. defender blocks with chudan soto-uke; 3. they then counter with chudan jun-zuki; 4. the initial attacker steps back and blocks with chudan soto-uke and counters with gyaku-zuki); and, for the Nikkyu-Shinsa, chudan mae-geri is added (1. mae-geri attack; 2. defender blocks with gedan-barai; 3. they then counter with zenshin mae-geri; 4. the initial attacker steps back and blocks with gedan-barai and counters with gyaku-zuki).

To reiterate, here is the complete exercise broken down into six solo kihon drills:

Please forgive me for the simplicity of this, however, —if you are like me and not so good at karate—“breaking everything down into kihon and `practicing over and over again’ is utterly critical”… My apologies for the height of mundaneness in advance!

Drill one: Step back into hidari zenkutsu-dachi and execute gedan-barai. Announce “jodan” and attack with jodan jun-zuki. Next step back and block with jodan age-uke and counter with gyaku-zuki applying a kiai. Repeat on the opposite side.

Drill two: From shizentai/hachiji-dachi step back into hidari zenkutsu-dachi and block with jodan age-uke then counter with jodan jun-zuki (kiai). Repeat on the opposite side.

Drill three: Step back into hidari zenkutsu-dachi and execute gedan-barai. Announce “chudan” and attack with chudan jun-zuki. Next step back and block with chudan soto-uke and counter with gyaku-zuki applying a kiai. Repeat on the opposite side.

Drill four: From shizentai/hachiji-dachi step back into hidari zenkutsu-dachi and block with chudan soto-uke then counter with chudan jun-zuki (kiai). Repeat on the opposite side.

Drill five: Step back into hidari zenkutsu-dachi with and execute kakiwake geda-barai. Announce “mae-geri” and attack with chudan mae-zuki. Next step back and block with gedan-barai and counter with gyaku-zuki applying a kiai. Repeat on the opposite side.

Drill six: From shizentai/hachiji-dachi step back into hidari zenkutsu-dachi and block with gedan-barai then counter with chudan mae-geri (kiai). Repeat on the opposite side.

In sum, ‘Kihon Ippon Kumite (Kiri Kaeshi)’ is very simple; nonetheless, it unmistakeably supports to build (and break) some `deeply ingrained’ patterns of fundamental movement; for example, always countering on the spot with a gyaku-zuki. For that reason, the hangeki (counterattacks) with jun-zuki jodan and chudan, and indeed countering with zenshin mae-geri, also develop one’s maai more acutely: as opposed to simply ‘sitting tight’ to counter on the spot. Of course, ‘sitting tight to counter’, in the case of being counterattacked by a well-executed oi-waza, “…will result in being `steam rolled’.” Taken as a whole, Kihon Ippon Kumite (Kiri Kaeshi) challenges the ingrained habit of the ‘static counter with gyaku-zuki’ and provides a springboard “...to more readily move towards `the midway between jun-zuki and gyaku-zuki’”. Last but not least, it offers a fundamentally-based/introductory means of practicing a `win-win’ situation; that is, to attack whilst “being ready to counter your opponents counterattack”.

 PS – I would like to add here that one must keep in mind `who Kihon Ippon Kumite (Kiri Kaeshi)’ is targeted for’; namely, those testing for Sankyu and Nikyu (4th and 3rd Kyu students respectively). With this in mind, the strict adherence to kihon in this form of kumite readily makes sense: especially pertaining to the development of ‘kime’ amongst ‘kyu grades’ and, indeed, in a testing scenario. Needless to say, this type of practice can, and is, applied in a much more advanced/freestyle way for example in various extensions of jiyu ippon kumite etcetera. All the very best from chilly Japan, Osu! – André.
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2015).

Saturday, 14 February 2015

The criticality of jiyu kumite in relation to kihon, kata, and the truth of one's skill

Jiyu kumite with Morooka San at the JKA Kumamoto Chuo Dojo (Shototakuhirokan).

Jiyu kumite is critical. Why? Quite simply, for putting one’s techniques to the test in a freestyle or `non-prearranged’ context. Nonetheless, based on my observations proper jiyu-kumite is rarely done correctly by the majority of karateka; that is, with a direct link to kihon and kata.
Firstly, just what is proper jiyu-kumite? I am not talking about friendly ‘sparring’ here, but really testing oneself in a truest sense of budo. Furthermore, I am not necessarily referring to full-contact bouts either but, again, full contact can indeed be the case. What I am speaking about here is a serious training experience which can be controlled, but not necessarily (this can be mutually decided by the trainees who are engaging with each other). In this way, everything—every technique that is thrown—has one’s maximum potential, whether controlled or not controlled/full-contact; that is, “…just like kihon and kata, no movements are launched without kime”. Put another way, every technique is “full” and applies total-body power with a direct connection to kihon and kata. The only variation is whether, or not, one `arrests’ their techniques. In sum, the kumite literally functions to ‘prepare the karateka’s technique’ for use/self-defence outside the dojo.

Proper jiyu kumite is not sports karate—it is budo applied in a freestyle context: To see this in action, it does not resemble sports karate, because the aim is not merely to tag your opponent, nor does it break away from kihon and kata; instead, the aim is to land your techniques with your entire body—to essentially collide—(a) applying the full application of your body weight; (b) utilising the explosive snap of the limbs; and (c) doing everything from your centre (driving from the legs to the hips and tanden). Needless to say, if partners mutually agree to engage in full-contact like this, one or both will sustain injuries. This is because full-contact in this context (the context of `proper karate technique’) literally becomes a real fight: in quintessence, a serious duel. Without going off-topic, this certainly provides a strong case for utilising sun-dome; and once again, means that “one’s technique does not degenerate from budo (due to `being controlled’)”. Simultaneously, and just as importantly, “…the inevitability of injury, which naturally will occur in serious duel, can be mitigated” (without the `commonplace diminution’ of jiyu-kumite into a watered down form of karate, which is predominantly the case amongst contemporary karateka). In effect, this is vividly seen when jiyu-kumite no longer seems attached to the other aspects of karate and, of course, vice-versa.
Jiyu kumite training at one of my seminars. It is utterly essential to be able to apply effective waza in a freestyle context.
 Jiyu kumite proves the truth of techniques and drills: Ultimately, when the things you try in the context of `proper jiyu kumite’ don’t work/fail (whether “with control in the proper way” or with full contact), you address them; that is, you can work to make them effective via the the trinity of kihon, kata and kumite; or, you can cut them out of your karate altogether. Many non-Japanese instructors are now teaching a vast array complex and flash looking drills; yet, they are impractical unless they can be applied in the context of freestyle. Most of what I see is only useful for demonstrations. Still, these `looks based’ demonstrations/practices coupled with longwinded explanations are gaining popularity (please refer to my article ‘Western Karate Drivel’ here: http://andrebertel.blogspot.jp/2014/09/talk-and-thinking-too-much-western.html). In this regard, people should question, why is this type of karate not occurring at the top karate clubs here in Japan. Moreover, why aren’t the best Japanese exponents and instructors training and teaching in this way? One can also question “if this this instructor tried this in Japan against a high level exponent, what would happen?” The answer is very obvious.
While I do not advocate jodan kicks for self-defence, one must still be able to apply such techniques in a freestyle context.
Proper jiyu kumite immediately cuts through all useless techniques and, indeed, establishes the technical effectiveness of practitioners themselves. `Feeling based’ training coupled with lots of waffling, and reliance on cooperative partners, is indicative of impracticality. Of course, cooperation is fine—in the low/initial levels of training and coaching (for clarity)—but only if it moves on (and translates into, jiyu-kumite). To be blunt, I can see a large number of prominent instructors, especially those outside of Japan, who wouldn’t want to try their techniques/applications in a freestyle context here… Proper jiyu-kumite thus helps to unveil true budo and true martial artists. Karate must work in non-prearranged circumstances; moreover, the higher up that ladder one is, this effectiveness must be able to deal with increasingly stronger and more skilful opponents—in a freestyle context. Taken as a whole, as I said in the opening sentence, “For me, jiyu kumite is critical”... I will conclude on that note. Osu, André.  
Jiyu kumite with Matt Brew Sensei (Christchurch, NZ).

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

Sunday, 8 February 2015

Preparatory exercises for Karate-Do

 Recently I was asked by some of my students to provide how I personally warm up (at present) and, pertaining to this, what I recommend for a general Karate-Do class. Whilst there are many variations of `junbi-undo’ I personally divided my `preparatory exercises’ into two sections. I will fully outline my personal junbi-undo below but, firstly, I’d like to outline my philosophy: in regards to `preparing the body for karate’. Before I go on, a quick search on here and you will find that this subject has been addressed at least twice. If you wish to search for a topic simply type it in using the search function (at the top left side of the screen).

Approach in my personal training and for the people I teach: I treat my junbi-undo as a day-by-day/case-by-case and highly variable matter; likewise, I do not push students to harder or lighter—JUNBI UNDO MUST BE A PERSONAL THING… NOT BASED ON EVERYONE PUSHING TO THE SAME LEVEL. Using myself as an example, some days I am sitting in the splits and my hips feel as soft as a baby’s. The next day my muscles can be extremely tight. In both scenarios, I just go with the flow, doing my junbi-undo at my own pace (and this is what I encourage others to do). The good thing to point out here is that in both scenarios, with `case-by-case preparation’, the quality of one’s karate will be equally good. Always remember: the junbi-undo is never a competition to beat others i.e. – stretch lower etcetera; rather, it is a competition for you to not let your ego kick in and specifically “prepare yourself for your karate”. Anything else is asking for an injury and is, therefore, imprudence.

MY PERSONAL ‘JUNBI-UNDO’: (Total time: 10—15 minutes)

Warm up (Approx. 6. Mins)

  1. After seiza, begin with light aerobic exercise; for example, jogging around the dojo, hopping/skipping, star jumps, squats, push ups, light kata and the like. Mix it up!—don’t stick to one thing!!! The key is not to excessively tire the body but, rather, to get the blood flowing. Indicative of this is a light sweat, increased heartrate and a getting a little puffed. This should take about five minutes but will naturally depend on your training environment (e.g. – if training outside in the cold this section might take up 15 minute by itself).

  1. Once nice and warm, joint rotations/movements, and the like, should be completed. Use karate stances i.e. – hachiji-dachi for shoulder circles, hip rotations, neck movements; heisoku-dachi for knee circles etc… Don’t do this slowly, move quickly between exercises (working up or down the body) to ‘keep in a state of warmth’. Around one minute and this section will be finished if the instructor is on the ball; i.e. – neck, shoulders, trunk, elbows, wrists, hips, knees, ankles—over... 
Stretching (Approx. 4—9 minutes)

a. Firstly use the stances to execute passive static stretches; for example, extended zenkutsu-dachi and so forth. Work down to floor stretches and gently hold them all for at least 10 seconds. The variations here are virtually endless, however, the key is relax, not to overstretch, and breath naturally (in essence, this stretching should never be painful; rather, `very comfortable with a light pulling feeling’). After completing these stretches, loosen up the hips again with some rotations for the final phase of preparation. I’d like to add here that there is much debate about using passive static stretches prior to technical practice; nonetheless, from my experience I recommend them to simply loosen up. Please note: if one wishes to work towards more intensive flexibility with deep and long held static stretches; isometric stretches; PNF (proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation); and the like, I recommend doing such exercises this at the conclusion of karate-do training; alternatively, as a part of home training or a supplementary strength/fitness/flexibility regime.    

b. The final phase of the preparatory exercises in karate-do is dynamic stretching with the legs. The trainees will all have a very good sweat by this stage and feel very ‘elastic’; furthermore, they will be psychologically well into `karate mode’. Essentially this section can include various knee raises; and controlled straight leg swings to the front, side, rear (and both inside and outside crescent actions). It is possible that you only need to do 10 reps with each leg (per exercise); however, the instructor might opt to do a couple of sets with each leg. That concludes the junbi-undo that I personally utilise and advocate. Osu, André.

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

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Being in the moment

Hidari chudan jun-zuki.
Outlined below is my latest training regime, which I began upon returning from our recent trip to New Zealand. Essentially, the focus--in kihon, kata and kumite--is simplicity and `connectedness'; namely, Shin-Gi-Tai. Paradoxically, my ido-kihon and kata practice is relatively advanced: but I believe this better serves the aforementioned objectives. Before I launch into my practice outline, I thought to leave you with a quote from Funakoshi Gichin Sensei, which pertains to my current focus: "Kantan na momo yoku kachi o seisu" ("The balance between victory and defeat often hangs on simple matters").


Stationary kihon: 1. Migi gyaku-zuki (hidari zenkutsu-dachi); 2. Hidari gyaku-zuki (migi zenkutsu-dachi); 3. Mae-geri (heisoku-dachi); 4. Migi mae-geri kara yoko-kekomi soshite ushiro-geri (hidari zenkutsu-dachi); and 5. Hidari mae-geri kara yoko-kekomi soshite ushiro-geri (migi zenkutsu-dachi).

Ido-kihon: 6. Kizami-zuki kara sanbon ren-zuki; 7. Jodan age-uke kara chudan soto-uke soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; 8. Ipp sagatte jodan age-uke kara mawashi-geri, uraken soshite chudan jun-zuki; 9. Chudan uchi-uke (kokutsu-dachi) kara kizami-zuki soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; 10.  Ippo sagatte gedan-barai kara chudan jun-zuki soshite chudan jun-zuki; 11.  Chudan shuto-uke (kokutsu-dachi) kizami mae-geri soshite shihon nukite; 12.  Mae-geri kara yoko kekomi, mawashi-geri soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; 13.  Mae-geri kara yoko-kekomi soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; 14.  Yoko-keage ashi o kaete yoko-kekomi (kiba-dachi); and 15.  Oi komi gyaku-zuki (jiyu-dachi).

* Reps: I am presently doing less reps than usual. Stationary kihon only 30 of each (+ one set of 10 slowly as a `junbi-undo'). My ido-kihon is five repetitions up and down the dojo once slowly, then repeat twice with maximum snap. When I make any errors, or fail to be satisfied by my execution of any aspect, I perform an additional set (or sets if need be).

a.      Nijushiho
b.      Gojushiho Dai
c.       Random selection from the six shitei-gata (Heian 1-5 and Tekki-shodan).

* Reps: My kata training is where the hard work is at the moment. This is partially why repetitions of kihon are presently lower than normal. Looking at the last few practices and I've been averaging eight to twelve Gojushiho-dai, the same with Nijushiho, and randomly going through the shitei-gata twice each. Needless to say, upon finishing kata, I have jelly-legs: especially my left leg (all of you Gojushihodai fanatics out there will know what I mean)...


Yakusoku kumite: I. `Gohon kumite’ (jodan , chudan); II. `Kihon ippon kumite’ (jodan, chudan, mae-geri and yoko-kekomi); and 'Jiyu ippon kumite' (jodan, chudan, mae-geri, yoko-kekomi and mawashi-geri).

* Reps: My present kumite practice is more technical than full-on; again, this relates to the physical pressure from my current kata training... Consequently, I am only twice going through Gohon, Kihon Ippon and Jiyu Ippon Kumite; however, both times with maximum speed/explosiveness. All counters are either chudan or jodan gyaku-zuki. When I self-train, I am doing this as kihon, and when with a training partner, both kihon then as `kumite' in the standard form. Again, this is very simple practice, yet VERY challenging as it is `pure'.
To conclude, my present training gives me nowhere to hide the numerous weaknesses in my karate; hence, I hope to use it to mitigate these and continue to improve throughout 2015. Irrespective of this, my focus remains on the journey by `being in the moment'. Best wishes from Kumamoto-ken, Japan. Osu, André.
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2015). 

Monday, 19 January 2015

New Zealand Seminar Video: January 2015

This video is a mere technical reference for the karateka who attended! Osu, André.

I'd like to also give a very special thanks to my friend Hanshi Renzie Hanham (8th Dan) for making this seminar possible. For more information on Seido Karate Christchurch please visit their website: www.seidoshibu.co.nz.

Lastly, here's a link to an interview I did with Hanshi three years ago: http://andrebertel.blogspot.jp/2012/01/interview-hanshi-renzie-hanham-8th-dan.html
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto-Japan (2015).

Friday, 19 December 2014


On January 10th and 11th I’ll be coaching a weekend of Karate-Do seminars in Christchurch, New Zealand. This will be a one off event before I return to Japan. As most people are away (on holiday) at this time, and the sudden notification, it is expected that not so many karateka will attend; nevertheless, this will result in the attendees getting much more personal tuition than usual.

The venue has yet to be decided; however, the schedule will be as follows:

Session one: Saturday 1pm - 3pm

Session Two: Saturday 4pm- 6pm

Session Three: Sunday 9am - 11am

Session Four: Sunday 12pm – 2pm

If you wish reserve a place, please email me directly at: andrebertelono@gmail.com. Already karateka from around New Zealand, and from Australia, have confirmed their attendance. For those attending, see you in New Zealand. Osu, André.

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