Saturday, 6 February 2016


Below is the official poster for my seminars in Ahrensburg, Germany: July 23rd and 24th, 2016. For details, please click on the poster. This year I will be doing a very different seminar (that will still link to previous years, but give much greater technical detail that will be very-very useful for immediate and long-term technical development). I'll be introducing points which are not taught outside of the best dojo (plural) here in Japan and, accordingly, those who attend will gain some huge insights into Traditional Japanese Budo Karate. Overall, this will not just be another seminar, but a massive lift of Karate skill: for all of those who attend.
As in previous years, I highly recommend that people who wish to attend to get their tickets quickly. This is because, every time I leave Japan to give a karate seminar, many people miss out. For those who are coming, see you in July! Osu, André Bertel.
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2016).

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Shisei: Posture

Essentially the shisei (posture) comprises of three main points: 1. koshi (the hips); 2. senaka (the backbone); and 3. atama/kubi (the head/neck). When these are perfectly vertical from the ground, good posture has been achieved. The challenge, however, is maintain this shisei when lowering the center of gravity—via bending at the knees—and when moving into different tachikata (stances). In actuality, good shisei transcends vertical alignment as it also
encompasses horizontal alignment; that is, keeping the hips level. Hence irrespective of being in (or transferring into) shomen/zenmi (hips fully forward/square to the front), hanmi (hips in the half-facing position) or gyaku-hanmi (hips in the reverse half-facing position), it is as if the upper body is resting on a perfectly flat platform.

When doing high reps of keriwaza, it is hard to keep good posture.
Overall, when shisei is correct one can move optimally from their centre and carry the heaviest part of the body, the head, most efficiently. What's more, from an exact shisei, one can `break the rules' (i.e. - break their posture) when appropriate. For example, for certain waza, like 'the slight forward lean with yama-zuki'; when contracting the body/forward folding i.e. - the jump in Unsu kata; ducking techniques; special free-fighting postures, and so on...

I could go on promoting good posture but will rather just give two more `pros', which I have not covered... Proper shisei helps one to breath well and is good for the human body. As far as kokyu (breathing) goes, "slumping the body tends to cause one's breathing to be shallow" and, thus, is less efficient and unhealthy. If one thinks of the body as a machine, you can simply imagine that bad shisei is like setting up and/or using the machine incorrectly: the output/productivity will certainly be less. Insofar as health goes, good shisei eradicates the danger of 'uneven distribution of weight on the spine' and, indeed, and other joints. Everyone knows that bad posture is one of the prime culprits behind back pain and back/neck injuries as a whole, so I will leave that there.

More than physical gains, shisei also assists one psychologically. Standing tall from the waist up makes one feel `genki' (positive/energetic) and also conveys jisshin (self-confidence) to others. Conversely, while a 'bad shisei' won't necessarily mean that one is lacking confidence or is sad; or that they are tired; however, it certainly won't help a person feel otherwise. The bottom line is that bad posture, when one is not totally exhausted or facing illness, can be summarized as either laziness and/or lack of self-awareness: both of which, needless to say, are not in one’s best interest.

Taken as a whole, good shisei will result in far better karate, better physical capacity in general, and better health. Common sense, yes! But implementation 'in reality' is often harder than one might think. I really recommend regular self-analysis of people's posture, as it can quickly become bad, and not be noticed! All the very best from Oita, Japan. STAND TALL!!!

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2016). 

Sunday, 31 January 2016

Psychological Kamae

One of the things that is really critical in jiyu-kumite (free sparring) is one’s kamae (en-guard position) in both attack and defense. A good ‘physical kamae’ means that you can effectively defend yourself  with minimal movement and that you can attack directly from your position (without adjustment). For example, your kizami-zuki travels (from where it is—in the shortest possible trajectory) directly to your opponents jinchu). With good maai (distancing) and speed, this puts your opponent into a worse case scenario, i.e. – “…like someone who is tailgating a car without knowing that its break lights aren’t working”. Put another way, the kamae does not telegraph anything—when attacking—and is perfectly set for defense. There are of course variations  in one’s ‘physical kamae’, nevertheless, this is the base kamae from which everything else follows.

On Monday night at JKA Oita, after finishing my kata practice at the back of the class, I called over two of the black belts to join me at the rear of the dojo. I’d watched their jiyu kumite and decided to help them with their respective kamae.

Their kamae were too low and fists pointed incorrectly, which meant they were highly exposed against an opponent with a correct kamae. Likewise, sometimes they made their kamae too high. Accordingly, I fought with them both and demonstrated the incorrect kamae (that they were using up until this session). In this way, they could compare and contrast between what they have been doing, and what I was showing them. I also taught them how the kamae most effectively changes according to maai, their size, the opponent(s) size(s), positioning/angles and circumstance; furthermore, the criticality of unsoku/ashi-hakobi (footwork) in relation to these aspects.

Straight away, from their expression and determination in practice, they ascertained that my point was essential: as when they fought me they could not hit me, nor realize my attacks until they felt them land. Of course, I attacked with full-technique; however—as always—I did not cause any damage.

After several rounds of the jiyu-kumite with them both, and with each other, their defense capacities were unsurprisingly  improved, as were their attacks. Actually, their jiyu-kumite was 100% better. Overall, it was great for me to see them enhance their defensive and offensive abilities; moreover, the smiles that followed. I have a saying when I teach, “the best compliment is when one themselves knows that they have improved”.

To wrap up, I’d just like to stress a couple of things. Firstly and generally speaking, simple matters count! Funakoshi Gichin Sensei stated that “Victory and defeat hangs on simple matters”. Indeed, this goes far beyond Karate-Do: it is a life-skill. If you not only do the simple things right, but do them extremely well, you are putting yourself in a strong position of chance (for whatever you are trying to achieve). The alternative of this is to have ‘very little chance’.  Needless to say, relying on ‘lucky chances’, ‘flukes’, ‘easy circumstances’, or the like, is not an intelligent way to achieve any goals: or live life for that matter! Success is always about hard work; determination; entering into uncomfortable places—outside of one’s comfort zone—in order to go to the next level; and, of course, plenty of guts/strong spirit.

Secondly, and more specifically pertaining to your kamae: it is utterly essential to have self-awareness. What I mean here is that often we think/believe we are doing the most simple things well, when in actuality we are not. In reality, this is a very human thing, and is ‘a work in process for everyone’. Of course, no one is exempt from this. Certainly, in the case of ‘the simple matter of having a good kamae’, there is no time to waste, especially if you are like me and you care about your dental expenses.

In this regard, even more than a physical kamae seek a psychological kamae; that is, a mental state that defends you from overlooking your weaknesses and/or the corrosion of your skills. This psychological kamae requires: (1)  correct and adequately thorough technical knowledge; (2) awareness—in actual training—based on this knowledge; and (3) consistent physical practice, which is the only way any value can be gained: from the two aforementioned points.

© André Bertel. Oita, Japan (2016).

Monday, 18 January 2016

Keep your feet on the ground and your eyes on heaven: Eye and head position is imperative

When making your techniques, whether ukewaza (reception techniques) or kogekiwaza (attacking techniques) it is very important for your eyes and head to face in the direction of execution. Some may consider this is firstly for zanshin and/or aesthetic  form; nevertheless, the main reason is for maximization of physical power. In actuality, when the eyes and head do not face in the same direction of your waza, what one is doing will be significantly weaker.

Test for yourself via movement one of Heian Sandan/Heian Godan (Hidari chudan uchi-uke in migi kokutsu-dachi). Have a training partner push down your hidari chudan uchi-uke without the eyes and head fully facing in the direction of the technique. Next, make the correct position with the head and eyes focused perfectly in the direction of your uchi-uke. You will notice a very big difference. Likewise, use the same process to test the two kake shuto-uke followed yoko-kekomi in Nijushiho. Of course, this ‘kihon’ applies to all of the techniques and kata of Karate-Do.

While there are exceptions i.e. – movement 41 of Bassai Dai and movement two of Wankan, they have purposes that are less generic in application (such as kenseiwaza—feint techniques, and shikakewaza—set up techniques). Exceptions must be understood and applied when appropriate, however, they are secondary to standard techniques and standard budo methodology; what’s more, exceptions can only be maximized when the norms/standard-karate are fully grooved into the subconscious mind (thereby, allowing ‘appropriately reactive’ usage in freestyle).

Some will indeed be thinking about the three Tekki Kata now, and Master Nakayama’s comments pertaining to ‘sharp head turns’. This is an excellent example but, again, his agenda in stating this was greater than Tekki. To reiterate, correct head and eye position is a characteristic of the vast majority of Karate-waza: and for very good reason.

It is interesting that when a person turns their head in a certain direction and fixes their eyes, they can optimally channel their energy in that direction. This has strong ties not only physiologically and bio-mechanically speaking, but also psychologically. Resultantly, shingitai (the connection between body, mind and heart) can readily seen and applied in one’s waza. To conclude, I recommend that karateka self-check how far they turn their head in techniques. Often when instructing, I find that karateka only partially turn and, merely use their eyes. For the most part, this is incorrect. The eyes and the head must fully face the direction of the respective waza. If you pay attention to this simple point, you will see some great improvements: as you might be surprised how "...sometimes your body is not doing precisely what you mind thinks it is". Happy New Year from Oita City, Japan.
© André Bertel. Oita, Japan (2016).

Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Overview of 2015

2015 is now quickly coming to an end. Like all years, my karate schedule has been very busy: especially here in Japan. Outside of Nippon, I also travelled twice and gave two international seminars, the first in my home-country New Zealand; and the second, in Germany (which amazingly sold out with only three weeks notice!!!). Competition-wise, I won the Men's Individual Kata at the 34th JKA Kumamoto Prefecture Karate-Do Championships. On the training front I enjoyed attending several excellent seminars and had several renshusei (trainees) from overseas visit my dojo: in this regard please my visit my 'Renshusei' page (which is, and will continue to be, regularly updated when new trainees are accepted and complete their training): For those wishing to come to Japan for training in 2016, please email me at: I recommend weekends and applying  to be a renshusei at least two months in advance. I could go on about 2015, but rather than do that, I have provided direct links for this years articles with titles/descriptions to aid your navigation. Seasons greetings from Oita City, Japan. Osu, André

 1. New Zealand Seminar Video: January 2015:

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

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

Jiyu Kumite with Morooka Takafumi: both sensing the maai to strongly attack.
 8. Grafting:

Jodan mawashi-geri
10. Christchurch Seido Karate Club: 50 Year Anniversary:

11. Key terminology for the traditional kumite match:
After an excellent training with Nakamura Masamitsu Shihan.

In 34 years, since its beginnings, a non Japanese has never won at the Kumamoto Prefecture Championships. That changed this year.
12. The 34th JKA Kumamoto Prefecture Championships:
Team photo - post prefectural championship. Credit to Nakamura Sensei, a junior at Taku Dai of my late teacher Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei.
 13. Not representing Kumamoto-Prefecture at the JKA All Championships:
14. Trainees from Germany: Peter Lampe, Frank Kölher and Rainer Schöne:
17. Ryu Goto - World famous violinist and superb Budo Karateka:

19. Trainees from Australia's Sunshine Coast: Noel and Heidi Moralde:
21. 8th Anniversary of `André Bertel’s Karate-Do’:

Sudden course in Germany - sold out in three weeks!!! Looking forward to Ahrensburg, Blackpool and Venice in 2016!!!

23. Andre Bertel Traditional Karate Seminar - Germany 2015 (Part 2):
24. 2015 Seminar in Germany (Part 3) - Notes from Andrea Haeusler Sensei:
25. Final training the JKA Kumamoto Chuo Dojo - Shototakuhirokan:
26. Seido Karate Christchurch (New Zealand) - 50th Anniversary:
27. Back to the Fundamentals - A restart with relocation:
Every day I am a beginner restarting Karate-Do. Yesterday, I was weaker than today, and tomorrow I'll be stronger with perseverance. The never-completed journey of Karate-Do.
 32. Trainees from Paris, France:
33. Formal Announcement of 2016 Technical Seminars in Germany, England and Italy:

34. Kumamoto Training (Visiting Nakamura Shihan and conducting a special training):

35. List of Foreign-renshusei at my dojo (updated to conclude 2016):

© André Bertel. Oita, Japan (2015).

Sunday, 13 December 2015

My current self-training regime

Here is my current training regime which I've been challenging since the beginning of this month.

Kihon training has been tightly related to practice at the JKA Oita Central Branch. Namely, (1) Choku-zuki in hachiji-dachi; (2) Mae-geri keage in heisoku-dachi; (3) Migi then hidari gyaku-zuki in zenkutsu-dachi; (4) Migi then hidari mae-geri keage in zenkutsu-dachi; and (5) Choku-zuki in kiba-dachi. This is then followed by roughly ten ido-kihonwaza i.e. - (1) Sanbon ren-zuki; (2) Jodan age-uke kara gyaku-zuki; (3) Chudan soto-uke kara yoko enpi soshite yoko uraken; (4) Chudan uchi-uke kara kizami-zuki soshite gyaku-zuki; (5) Shuto chudan-uke kara nukite; (6) Chudan mae-geri keage; (7) Ren-geri: chudan mae-geri keage kara jodan mae-geri keage; (8) Mawashi-geri; (9) Yoko-geri keage; and (10) Yoko-geri kekomi. Overall, (at both JKA Oita and in my own dojo) my focus has been “…to keep my body and mind united”, and simultaneously, to maximize physical output/effectiveness.

Reps-wise my sonoba kihon starts out with everything first done slowly 10 times, then with speed 20-40 times. In the case of ido kihon I do everything 10 times slowly then 10-20 times with speed. However, when I break things down (for example, oi-zuki into four parts) I do this as an extra set: separate and in addition to my warm-up/10 slow reps.

Presently my kata training is based on the challenge of all four sentei-gata and two jiyu-gata (Unsu and Nijushiho). Generally speaking, the sentei-gata practice—especially Kanku-Dai—are a means to re-work my kihon at a higher level ('peeling back the layers' so to speak). With this in mind, Unsu and Nijushiho are to put my technique into overdrive. Repetitions are based on my daily condition.

Kumite, as of late, has been a return to yakusoku-kumite (especially gohon-kumite and kihon ippon-kumite in their most basic forms) and oyo-kumite linking my kihon and kata to self-defense. In particular, I've been focusing on follow-ups after employing tsukami-uke, ryo-sho tsukami-uke and kake-uke. While this explanation may seem somewhat bland, what I am working on is very effective: especially for changing the odds against strong opponents. Much of this goes back to my time in the private security industry; therefore, it has a base of reality via my personal experiences.. 

Taken as a whole, my present training is a reflection of a fantastic year of Karate-Do; moreover, it has created an effective springboard for unprecedented advancement in 2016. Accordingly, I am very thankful to all who have supported my efforts and made this possible. Osu, André 

© André Bertel. Oita, Japan (2015).

Monday, 7 December 2015

Andre Bertel - European Tour: Summer 2016

I will be back touring in Europe next summer (Germany, England and Italy) to give technical seminars on traditional Shotokan in a Budo Karate/authentic Japanese context. As always, these seminars will be completely booked out fast. For those who can get in, see you there!!!
© André Bertel. Oita, Japan (2015).

Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Foreign Renshusei (Trainees)

The following list includes the non-Japanese karateka who have come to Japan and had private lessons with me. Others have come to train, but the following karateka have: (1) officially applied to be renshusei; (2) have been accepted; and (3) have come and completed training as renshusei:

1. ROBERT, Yann (FRANCE) 2015

2. ROBERT, Phinh  (FRANCE) 2015




6. MORALDE, Heidi (AUSTRALIA) 2015   


8. LAMPE, Peter (GERMANY) 2015

9. KÖHLER, Frank (GERMANY) 2015

10. SCHÖNE, Rainer (GERMANY) 2015

11. PINTOS, Leo (AUSTRALIA) 2014

12. JORDAN, Pietro (ITALY/CANADA) 2014

13. LEHMANN, Christa (SWITZERLAND) 2014

14. DILKS, Morgan (NEW ZEALAND) 2014

15. RIVAS, Sergio (SPAIN) 2013

16. DUKAS, Bryan (SOUTH AFRICA) 2010


18. JEHU, Lyn (WALES/JAPAN) 2009

19. DILKS, Morgan (NEW ZEALAND) 2008

20. LEHMANN, Christa (SWITZERLAND) 2008

21. KELLY, Ben (IRELAND) 2007 

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

Saturday, 28 November 2015

Kumamoto Training

With Nakamura Shihan after keiko: outside the Shototakuhiro Dojo
I had the pleasure of travelling back to Kumamoto City and coaching at Nakamura Shihan's dojo: the Shototakuhirokan. It was really great to catch up with Nakamura Masamitsu Shihan, Nakamura Akiyoshi Sensei, the Nakamura Family, Ogasawara Senpai, and a selected group of club members.

Shihan asked me to check and critique the students' kata; namely, their shitei-gata and their respective tokui-gata. My focus was to: (1) refine the students shisei and alignment in relation to their junanasei; (2) improve their kakato chushin; (3) introduce a handful of 'level up' aspects for several kihon-waza (found in the aforementioned formal exercises); and (4) to be able to accurately self-monitor skill development, stagnation, or decline in skill and 'application capacity'. Overall, I saw some significant improvements and, with practice, these will become subconsciously ingrained; and accordingly, will result in large scale improvements that can be easily self-monitored.

I was very lucky, as outside of the training, Nakamura Shihan also gave me some great technical advice from his treasure trove of JKA/Shotokan knowledge, which I deeply appreciate. Taken as a whole, and as I have said before, I highly recommend anyone who lives in (or visits) Kumamoto City to seek Nakamura Shihan's training. Osu, Andre
(c) André Bertel. Oita, Japan (2015).

Friday, 13 November 2015

Andre Bertel Europe Karate-Do Seminar: July/August 2016

© André Bertel. Oita, Japan (2015).