Friday, 19 June 2015

8th Anniversary of `André Bertel’s Karate-Do’


Today marks eight years since I started this blog and made my first post (click here to access it: http://andrebertel.blogspot.jp/2007/06/back-in-japan.html). Incredibly, as I make this post, this site has had over 1,390,000 visitors: something I never expected.

Much has changed in eight years. Now, I am nearly 40 years old, am a father, and have acquired a degree in education from the University of Canterbury. But my daily karate training continues just as it has for the last three decades, and just as much as ever. Now "back at `the source' (the Japan Karate Association)"—and fully retaining what I was taught prior to re-joining JKA (in 2013)—I’m moving forward with an amalgamation of knowledge.

The remainder of this year promises to be very busy karate-wise. I have renshusei (trainees) from across Japan, Europe and Oceania coming, and constant requests for international seminars. Not to mention competing in tournaments here in Japan, attending JKA Japan seminars and special trainings, and re-testing for my qualifications (Instructor, Examiner and Judge Licences with JKA).

Many people around the world have sent their hopes that I re-gain my instructor, examiner and judge statuses; moreover, that I continue to compete. All I can say is that I'll continue putting myself to the test and allow JKA Japan to decide where I am. Overall, I have huge appreciation for the Japan Karate Association and hope that I can push forward with the tasks set in front of me.

Just like in my very first post, all that matters is training itself, training and spirit. This is my on-going goal, to keep training in traditional Japanese `Budo Karate' and to continue developing, physically mentally and spiritually. Osu, André Bertel.
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2015).

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Shizentai: Hachiji-dachi

Speed work: Sanbon renzuki in shizentai - hachiji dachi.
This article will briefly outline why I believe that the Shizentai (natural position), in particular Hachiji dachi, is the most important stance in Karate-Do.
 
Please excuse the `name dropping’ but I’d like begin by quoting the founder of the Japan Karate Association, Funakoshi Gichin Sensei, whom emphasized that “…the various forms of shizentai are for the advanced practitioner”; moreover, that “natural tachikata (stances) are most basic and most advanced positions in karate-do”. There are two key aspects underpinning this reasoning: firstly, that self-defence will inevitably be from a natural position; and secondly, ‘generating maximum power from a natural position is more difficult’—as it is more internalised (than, say, from a zenkutsu-dachi, kiba-dachi, fudo-dachi and the like).
 
Hachiji-dachi from the rear (please note my right foot before looking at the next two photos)
Based on this rationale, “…irrespective of what tachikata you make or utilize, you must replicate what is done and achieved in hachiji-dachi (and, indeed, other forms of shizentai i.e. - heisoku-dachi, heiko-dachi, renoji-dachi, etcetera)”. In particular, this relates to maintaining one’s shisei (posture); and awareness and smooth/level application koshi no kaiten (rotation of the hips), tai no shinshuku (contraction and expansion/stretching of the body)—again, this strongly relates back to sustaining one’s shisei; and the use of the seika tanden. Needless to say, this foundational point can be applied to all other aspects of kihon; furthermore, kata and kumite. In other words, the relationship between the actions in the most natural position(s) and the unique tachikata, featured in karatedo, highlights a universal concept
Note the right foot from the previous photo.
in budo (martial arts).
 
To expand on this, let’s consider the most common ‘kamae’ in Shotokan style karate-do (which un-coincidentally is performed in hachiji dachi). It is the `ryoken daitai mae’ position. Ryoken daitai mae is performed before and after completing kihon, kata, and before and after the various forms of kumite. However, this kamae is not simply performed in hachiji-dachi; rather, it moves from musubi-dachi through heiko-dachi (interestingly, passing through its Okinawan roots) and finally into hachiji-dachi “…with the fists moving into their final position in perfect coordination with the feet pivoting outward”. Within this rudimentary action includes the critical aspects of `te-ashi onaji’ (same timing of the hands and feet) and `kakato-chushin’ (heel centreline), both of which the traditional karateka will need to address throughout their karate journey.
 
Before I wrap up I’d like to also reference hachiji-dachi in relation to the initial movements of the Heian kata and Kanku-Dai (where the karateka must move leftward for the first ukewaza). Consequently, this provides a fundamental means for fostering kakato-chushin. This is because in order to form one’s tachikata correctly the right foot of hachiji-dachi needs to be turned to the correct angle to form a proper stance. The most blatantly obvious example is when one makes kokutsu-dachi (i.e. – movement one of Heian Nidan, Sandan, Yondan and Godan; and movement three of Kanku Dai), as the rear foot ideally points 90 degrees; hence, the front and rear leg form a perfect right angle. Needless to say, if the right foot remains in the hachiji-dachi position, it will be incorrectly pointing rearward, and “…a weak/unstable and distorted, `shiko-dachi-like’ stance will be formed”. So again, we can see how hachiji-dachi teaches the karateka to move their feet correctly.
Movement 1 of Heian Shodan requires a larger action.
Lastly, I can’t help but mention that Hachiji-dachi gets its name from the positions of the feet, which perfectly form the kanji for `hachi’ (eight). Of course, the number eight is very important in Budo as, amongst other things, it relates to happo (the `eight directions’) used in combat. While this is symbolic, it still has meaning, especially when we think back to the aspects of self-defence mentioned earlier; that is, “…in response to an assault, moving in any of the eight directions in a natural state”.
 
In sum, hachiji-dachi is extremely important as it tells us a lot about our positioning, coordination and centring, amongst other things. Likewise, ryoken daitai mae expands on this by forcing us to address basic timing/hand-foot coordination. Next time you hear the command `yoi’ in your practice; are training choku-zuki; or doing anything else in hachiji-dachi, just remember that you are ‘simultaneously training both the beginning and end of Karate-Do technique.
Osu, André.
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2015).

Monday, 15 June 2015

Trainees from Australia's Sunshine Coast: Noel and Heidi Moralde

A special thanks to my training partner, Morooka Takafumi San (JKA 4th Dan), who assisted me with coaching Noel and Heidi.
Over the weekend I had two members of JKA Australia come for private training. Noel Moralde (who runs a JKA club on the Sunshine Coast) and his wife Heidi. They had several private karate lessons with me here in Kumamoto including one at the Kumamoto Budokan, two at my dojo in Uchinomaki, one at Kokuzou Jinja, and one at my dojo in Ichinomiya.

In sum, the theme of the weekend was ‘how the trinity of kihon, kata, and kumite collectively—and harmoniously—must lead us towards the capacity of ichigekki hissatsu’. To do this I taught several critical points: (1) Shisei (posture) of the pelvis, back and neck; (2) Tachikata (Stance)—“into the opponent via 'connection' and correct distribution/application of one's body weight”; (3) Junansei (Softness) for speed and transfer of energy; (4) Koshi no kaiten (Hip rotation—horizontal power); (5) Tai no shinshuku (the contraction and expansion of the body)—vertical power used 'for momentum' when transferring/driving one’s vertical axis’ forward; (6) Ma—for ‘kime’ with every technique/action;  (7) Kakato chushin—“one movement” and maximum drive from terra firma; (8) Te-ashi onaji—perfect coordination of the hands and feet; and (9) Correct maai: no wasted movement, only techniques with the right distance to down the opponent in a real fight: namely "...to always make/set the ‘correct attack position’ (and when attacking, essentially "...the distance and placement of the feet")".

While I won’t go into the specifics of the above nine points, as these are for Noel and (and whom he chooses to share them with), the overall theme was “…everything in budo karate leads to effective jiyu-kumite and self-defence”. More importantly, anything that doesn’t achieve this is literally counterproductive in a self-defence situation. Fortunately, this is why Noel came to my dojo, so we could maximise the training time. 
To wrap up, I’d like to say that I really enjoyed meeting Noel and Heidi. I wish them both the very best in their on-going budo karate development; moreover, I really hope that they at least learned one thing that will help them to advance their existing karate skills. Over the weekend I saw several major improvements, which I am sure will snowball in the coming weeks and months to come. Noel and Heidi, you are always welcome at my dojo. We adamantly hope that you both enjoy your remaining time here in Nippon. Osu, André.

Noel and Heidi outside my dojo in Ichinomiya (Aso-shi, Kumamoto).
© André Bertel. Aso-shi. Kumamoto, Japan (2015).

Sunday, 14 June 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.   MORALDE, Noel                AUSTRALIA                                        2015
2.   MORALDE, Heidi               AUSTRALIA                                        2015   
3.   GOTO, Ryu                         UNITED STATES OF AMERICA         2015
4.   LAMPE, Peter                    GERMANY                                          2015
5.   KÖHLER, Frank                  GERMANY                                          2015
6.   SCHÖNE, Rainer                GERMANY                                          2015
7.   PINTOS, Leo                       AUSTRALIA                                         2014
8.   JORDAN, Pietro                 ITALIA (based in CANADA)              2014
9.   LEHMANN, Christa           SWITZERLAND                                   2014
10. DILKS, Morgan                  NEW ZEALAND                                  2014
11. RIVAS, Sergio                     SPAIN                                                 2013
12. DUKAS, Bryan                    SOUTH AFRICA                                 2010
13. KALLENDAR, Paul             ENGLAND (based in JAPAN)           2010
14. JEHU, Lyn                           WALES (based in JAPAN)                2009
15. DILKS, Morgan                  NEW ZEALAND                                 2008
16. LEHMANN, Christa           SWITZERLAND                                  2008
17. 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: andrebertelono@gmail.com. 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).

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Training in Fukuoka with Ryu Goto

Sasho uken shita ago mae (Heisoku dachi) - Jion kata.

Last week I was kindly invited by my friend Goto Ryu to train in Fukuoka. Of course I went, because it meant I could catch up and train with him again. If you haven’t read my last post about Ryu, who is not only at the very top of the violin world—but also a superb Shotokan karateka, please click here: http://andrebertel.blogspot.jp/2015/05/ryu-goto-world-famous-violinist-and.html. I should also say here, that irrespective of everything, he is a really great guy whom I really like.
Movement 13 of Bassai Dai (Hidari chudan uchi uke -- Migi hiza kutsu).

A private lesson: As it turned out, the karate training was actually a private lesson for Ryu under the guidance of Hashiguchi Yuji Sensei (7th Dan JKA) who is a former JKA World Champion (in men’s individual and team kata). Furthermore, Hashiguchi Shinobu Shihan (8th Dan JKA) was also present and provided both instruction and feedback.    

Movement 5 of KANKU DAI kata -- Hidari tate shuto chudan uke (Hachiji dachi).
To be honest I was exhausted before the training began but, surely, not anywhere near as tired as Ryu must have been (as he was coming to the end of his 2015 Japan violin recital tour)… What’s more, he had no time to rest before the practice: as he constantly had to sign autographs for the junior black belts of the dojo. Needless to say, I was again really impressed by his Karate-Do Seishin.  He clearly has budo in his DNA from his grandfather, who was an 8th Dan in Goju Ryu.
Hashiguchi Sensei explaining movements 23-24 of Bassai Dai

What was covered in the training—“The JKA Sentei gata”: While the practice was not a long one, it covered the four sentei-gata. Up first was Kanku Dai; followed by Bassai Dai; then Enpi; and finally Jion. Ryu and I had to do each kata twice, in front of Hashiguchi Yuji Sensei and Hashiguchi Shihan (to the count and then mugore). Between each kata corrections were taught, which were certainly very helpful.  
After training Hashiguchi Shinobu Shihan and Hashiguchi Yuji Sensei took us for a nomikai. It was a fun time with much karate discussion and laughs.

Overall, I’d especially like to thank Ryu very much for inviting me and hanging out; Shimizu Sari San for her assistance in getting me there (and for the great photos featured in this article); and both Hashiguchi Shinobu Shihan, and Hashiguchi Yuji Shihan, for their kind hospitality. I’d like to end by saying that "if you attend one of Goto Ryu’s violin recitals, you will be absolutely blown away"; however, know this, behind this extreme talent is that of a very high level budo karateka, and a really wonderful human being.
Ryu Goto demonstrating a great migi kokutsu dachi/hidari shuto chudan uke (Bassai Dai Kata) in front of Hashiguchi Sensei
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2015).

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).

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

Shime

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).