Thursday, 23 February 2017


One of the biggest factors of success in any field is MOTIVATION. As everyone knows, “motivation is not something that is hard to attain; rather, it is very hard to sustain”. It is this point, SUSTAINED MOTIVATION, which is the base of high-level achievement in any field. However, this foundation is merely the springboard of potentiality; alternatively, the barrier to success if not attained or nurtured.

Without sustained motivation, irrespective of natural ability, one can never reach an elite level in any endeavour; likewise, for those lacking significant natural ability—with sustained motivation—it literally becomes possible to reach the highest of levels. In sum, talent is extremely overrated.

Interestingly and very importantly, sustained motivation is underpinned by one imperative psychological skill… RESILIENCE. If you are—or train yourself to be—a truly resilient human being, you will be in a superior state to achieve your goals. To read more on this topic, click here:; furthermore and better, read this interview with Hanshi Renzie Hanham:  

This was the result of after my final semester at university. Less than top marks was not good enough. I am not bragging nor claiming I`m smart. What I am saying is that with sustained motivation you can literally do anything.

People often ask me, how is that you have practised karate since your early childhood? My karate journey began in my pre-teens, then continued through my teens, 20s, 30s and now, I still practise daily in my 40s. I guess this is also an example of sustained motivation.

These are key points that I constantly emphasise to my students as they never lose their power; moreover, they empower individuals to achieve their goals. All the very best in your endeavours:whatever they may be. Osu, André Bertel.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).

Monday, 20 February 2017

Heel, toes or middle of the foot?

Migi sokuto tobi yoko-geri kekomi.
One of the ‘technical must do’s’ of standard Shotokan style is to keep the entire foot flat on the floor in kihon and kata training (and, indeed yakusoku-kumite). In particular, keeping sokuto/the sword edge of the foot grounded—as opposed to `rolling them upwards`; and kakato-chushin (heel centre-line) are emphatically stressed.

The issue of sokuto is widespread; however, kakato-chushin is a characteristic of budo/traditional Shotokan. Actually, kakato-chushin is one of the bedrock ‘fundamental technicalities’ of Shotokan as a karate style; that being said, the majority of people “…who practise the Shotokan-ryu kata 'primarily for sports-type competition', for the most part, omit kakato chushin from their kihon”. This is because their focus is merely upon superficial aesthetics: as opposed to executing effective kata with potent effectiveness in the real world. This practise has long been deeply ingrained internationally. However, “ in Japan this didn't begin coming commonplace until late 1999”.

Kihon gyaku-zuki: Kakato-chushin with the vertical axis running down from the lead shoulder through the lead leg.

Anyway, as a result (due to what happened at that time), many stopped focusing on kakato-chushin; and consequently, increasing numbers of Japanese Shotokan-style karateka (like their Western counterparts) “…now no longer understand what part of the foot is the focal point for techniques in relation to transitions and movements”. Interestingly, they keep the foot beautifully flat, yet merely do so for appearance sake.

Overall, this skill vitally relates to the use of the hips, COG (center of gravity), and where the axis is located: centre, right or left-side. It is at this point where one folds the body in harmony with the driving leg. Needless to say, all of this comes back to the soles of the feet; hence, kakato-chushin and its variations (when the point of focus moves to tsumasaki and the centre of the foot) must be 'physically understood' and trained daily.

In sum, without precise and ongoing practise of this ‘most based skill’ (please excuse the pun) the effectiveness of ones techniques will be innately compromised.
Hidari jodan mawashi-geri.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).

Sunday, 12 February 2017

抜塞大 & 慈恩

Movement one of Bassai Dai: Sasho soede migi chudan uchi-uke (migi ashi mae kosa-dachi).
Today included an excellent practice with Morooka Takafumi San (JKA 4th Dan). For two hours we worked on two of the Sentei-gata: BASSAI DAI and JION. The point of the training was to strip back another layer of these kata; in particular, via kihon, to improve application of techniques in Jiyu-kumite/Self-Defence. In sum, each of the sentei-gata are technically challenging (to the maximum). This is because they inherently demand "simplification and effectiveness of kihon". To answer my last post, physically speaking: this is BUDO KARATE.
The completion of movement 25 in Bassai Dai: Migi sokumen jodan uchi-uke doji ni hidari sokumen gedan-uke (Heisoku-dachi)
The opening kamae of Jion kata: Sasho uken shita ago mae (Heisoku-dachi)... A historically important posture.

Movement one of Jion: Migi chudan uchi-uke doji ni hidari gedan-uke (Migi zenkutsu-dachi).

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).

Saturday, 11 February 2017




Movment six of Bassai-Dai: Migi gedan sukui-uke kara migi chudan soto-uke (Migi zenkutsu-dachi).
Movement  19 of Bassai Dai: Ryoshi-tsukamiyose doji ni migi sokuto gedan-kekomi (Hidari ashi dachi).
Movement 35 of Bassai Dai: Uken jodan saken gedan yama-zuki (Hidari ashi zenkutsu).

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

抜塞大: Bassai Dai

Bassai Dai (抜塞大) Kata is characterized by its advancing strength which essentially practices to suppress the opponents attack. This characteristic appears in the very first movement right through to the 42nd and final action. The name Bassai (‘Penetrate the fortress’ or ‘Storm the castle’) derives from this overarching theme. In this article I'd like to focus on some critical points of this kata and conclude with an overview.
Andre Bertel - Hidari seiken jodan kizami-zuki - February 6th, 2017.
Change from tateshuto to seiryuto: Recently, the current JKA (Japan Karate Association) Chief Instructor—Ueki Masaaki Sensei—stressed that movement nine of Bassai-Dai (previously Hidari tate shuto chudan uke in Hachiji dachi), unlike Kanku Dai, should now be applied as seiryuto instead of tateshuto; thereby, being consistent with the overarching theme of the kata.

Greater martial arts thematic consistency: Such a small variation may seem insignificant, nevertheless, I appreciate this change. Indeed, as kata are inherently martial arts templates—primarily existing to enhance ones unarmed self protection skills—any greater thematic consistency within them, in my opinion, is a very good thing.

Koshi no kaiten and chakugan: Probably the first thing that comes to mind when people think of Bassai Dai is koshi no kaiten (the rotation of the hips). Shomen, hanmi and gyaku-hanmi in Bassai Dai must be extreme. In doing this, one must keep the eyes, head and neck fixed to achieve proper chakugan. This is an essential skill but, for some including myself, very challenging.

Winding up: Another very important lesson from Bassai Dai, which I personally stress in my dojo, is the high emphasis on loading/chambering (or winding up) of techniques. This point is probably most obvious when executing the changing blocks. It is via theses switching actions, one learns to maximize tai no shinshuku (compression and expansion) from the core/centre; hence, avoiding “…rushing to the completion of techniques”, which merely results in ‘aesthetic strength’. I should add here that most people only focus on the chudan-uke switching actions, however, this lesson is found throughout the kata. For example, movements 38 and 39 (switching from migi to hidari gedan sukui whilst transferring from hidari to migi hiza kutsu) and movements 40-42 (the conclusive and unique shuto-uke sequence).

Moderation of tachikata: Moderation of tachikata (stances) is another aspect of Bassai Dai that one must face head on. In particular, stance width and length are primarily determined by: (a) hip and ankle flexibility (and joint health, and muscle strength); (b) the ability to maintain level hips and what I refer to as good 'three tier posture'; and (c) the optimization of the techniques being employed in regards to generating power from the entire body and, indeed, movements/transitions of COG (centre of gravity). Furthermore, just like techniques, not only incorrect positioning must be avoided but also superfluous positioning/actions must be eradicated.

Kakato chushin: Indeed on the subject of tachikata—for many karateka in Japan—Bassai Dai is seen as the kata where kakato chushin is taken to the next level. Turning with various ukewaza vividly elucidates this point. The heel-toe relationship in the various transitions found through Bassai Dai are extremely important and need to constantly be honed to develop, and maintain, optimum impact power. Needless to say, this brings to mind the importance of te-ashi onaji, which due to my time constraints, I will not specifically address today. However, if your interest is stimulated, please use the search function at the top left corner; moreover, you can reference my YOUTUBE CHANNEL:

Conclusive remarks: The late Chief Instructor of the JKA, Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei, stated that “Bassai Dai is a bright jewel among the Shotokan kata”. I believe this is case largely due to the aforementioned points I’ve mentioned today: especially in regards to its applicative theme. Lastly, I will wrap with a complete outline of Bassai Dai Kata. All the best from chilly Oita City, Japan. — André


·         Rei (Musubi dachi)

·         Yoi (Sasho uken kafukabu mae, Heisoku dachi)

1.      Sasho soede migi chudan uchi uke (Migi ashi mae kosa dachi)

2.      Hidari chudan uchi uke (Hidari zenkutsu dachi)

3.      Migi chudan uchi uke (Hidari zenkutsu dachi)

4.      Hidari chudan soto uke (Migi zenkutsu dachi)

5.      Migi chudan uchi uke (Migi zenkutsu dachi)

6.      Migi gedan sukui uke kara migi chudan soto uke (Migi zenkutsu dachi)

7.      Hidari chudan uchi uke (Migi zenkutsu dachi)

8.      Ryoken migi koshi kamae (Hachiji dachi)

9.      Hidari tate seiryuto chudan uke (Hachiji dachi)

10.  Uken chudan choku zuki (Hachiji dachi)

11.  Migi chudan uchi uke (Hidari hiza kutsu)

12.  Saken chudan choku zuki (Hachiji dachi)

13.  Hidari chudan uchi uke (Migi hiza kutsu)

14.  Migi shuto uke (Hidari kokutsu dachi)

15.  Hidari shuto uke (Migi kokutsu dachi)

16.  Migi shuto uke (Hidari kokutsu dachi)

17.  Hidari shuto uke (Migi kokutsu dachi)

18.  Ryo sho chudan tsukami uke (Hidari ashi zenkutsu)

19.  Ryo sho tsukami yose/Migi sokuto gedan kekomi (Hidari ashi dachi): KIAI

20.  Hidari shuto uke (Migi kokutsu dachi)

21.  Migi shuto uke (Hidari kokutsu dachi)

22.  Morote jodan age uke (Heisoku dachi)

23.  Ryo kentsui chudan hasami uchi (Migi ashi mae fudo dachi)

24.    Uken chudan zuki (Yori ashi—Migi zenkutsu dachi)

25.  Sasho jodan nagashi uke/Migi shuto gedan uchikomi kara Migi sokumen jodan uchi uke/Hidari sokumen gedan barai (Heisoku dachi)

26.    Migi sokumen gedan barai (Kiba dachi)

27.  Hidari tekubi hidari sokumen kake uke (Kiba dachi)

28.  Sasho ni migi chudan mikazuki geri kara sasho ni migi mae enpi (Hidari ashi dachi kara Kiba dachi)

29.  Migi gedan uke/Hidari zenwan mune mae kamae (Kiba dachi)

30.  Hidari gedan uke/Migi zenwan mune mae kamae (Kiba dachi)

31.  Migi gedan uke/Hidari zenwan mune mae kamae (Kiba dachi)

32.  Ryo ken hidari koshi kamae (Migi ashi zenkutsu)

33.  Saken jodan uken gedan yama zuki (Migi ashi zenkutsu)

34.  Ryo ken migi koshi kamae (Heisoku dachi)

35.  Uken jodan  saken gedan yama zuki  (Hidari ashi zenkutsu)

36.  Ryo ken hidari koshi kamae (Migi ashi zenkutsu)

37.  Saken jodan uken gedan yama zuki (Migi ashi zenkutsu)

38.  Migi gedan sukui uke (Hidari hiza kutsu)

39.  Hidari gedan sukui uke (Migi hiza kutsu)

40.  Migi chudan shuto uke (Hidari kokutsu dachi)

41.  Migi te migi ashi uho e

42.  Hidari chudan shuto uke (Migi kokutsu dachi): KIAI

·         Naore (Sasho uken kafukabu mae, Heisoku dachi)

·         Rei (Musubi dachi)

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).

Friday, 20 January 2017

Hatsugeiko 2017

This years Hatsugeiko was essentially the establishment of a new self-training regime for the start of 2017. Here is a schedule outlined. In sum, it can be best defined by its sheer simplicity and focus on kihon and kata as training systems for freestyle. This is a critical theme of Budo Karate. In sum, Karate-Do, when practiced properly, is first and fore mostly a Martial Art of extreme effectiveness. Best wishes from chilly Nippon. - André Bertel

Sonoba kihon
Chudan choku-zuki (Hachiji-dachi).
Chudan mae-geri keage (Heisoku-dachi).
Chudan gyaku-zuki (Hidari/Migi zenkutsu-dachi).
Chudan mae-geri keage (Hidari/Migi zenkutsu-dachi).

  • Repetitions: 10 slow reps followed by 30-50 reps with snap.

1. Sanbon ren-zuki.
2. Jodan age-uke kara chudan gyaku-zuki.
3. Chudan soto-uke kara chudan gyaku-zuki.
4. Chudan uchi-uke kara chudan gyaku-zuki.
5. Gedan-barai kara chudan gyaku-zuki.
6. Shuto chudan-uke (Kokutsu-dachi) kara nukite.
7. Chudan mae-geri keage.
8. Ren-geri: chudan mae-geri keage kara jodan mae-geri keage.
9. Chudan mawashi-geri.
10. Chudan yoko-geri keage ashi o kaete chudan yoko-geri kekomi (Kiba-dachi).
  • Please note: Zenkutsu-dachi is used unless otherwise stated.
  • Repetitions: 10 reps slow forward and back, followed by a minimum of 10 with snap (dependent on daily precision and physical state).


a. Kihon ippon kumite
(Jodan, chudan, mae-geri and yoko-kekomi)

b. Jiyu ippon kumite
(Jodan, chudan, mae-geri, yoko-kekomi and chudan mawashi-geri)

c. Uchikomi
1. Jodan gyaku-zuki; 2. Chudan gyaku-zuki; 3. Jodan oi-zuki; 4. Kizami-zuki kara jodan gyaku-zuki; 5. Kizami-zuki kara chudan gyaku-zuki; 6. Jodan gyaku-zuki kara jodan gyaku-zuki; 7. Jodan gyaku-zuki kara chudan gyaku-zuki; 8. Chudan mae-geri; 9. Chudan mae-geri kara jodan oi-zuki; 10. Chudan mawashi-geri; 11. Chudan mawashi-geri kara jodan gyaku-zuki; and 12. De ashi-barai kara jodan oi-zuki.
  • Repetitions: I practice a minimum of three sets of Kihon Ippon and Jiyu Ippon Kumite (Alternate days for each form of 'Ippon Kumite'). In the case of Uchikomi, repetitions are daily and typically go around 30-50 reps per individual technique and 10-20 per renzokuwaza. 

Each day of the week one Shiteigata (any Heian or Tekki Shodan); one Senteigata (Bassaidai, Kankudai, Enpi or Jion) and one Jiyugata (this is either a second Senteigata or one from the free kata list).
  • Repetitions: A minimum of four reps per kata with bunkai (analysis) of difficult sections: essentially and probably needless to say, this 'bunkai' is kata-specific-kihon.
  © André Bertel. Oita, Japan (2017).

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

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) completed training as renshusei. To those on this list, "Omedetto gozaimasu!!!"

1. LAMBEIN, Kathleen (BELGIUM) 2017

2. ANG, Eden (SINGAPORE) 2016

3. BARR, Michae(ENGLAND) 2016


5. ROBERT, Yann (FRANCE) 2015

6. ROBERT, Phinh  (FRANCE) 2015




10. MORALDE, Heidi (AUSTRALIA) 2015   


12. LAMPE, Peter (GERMANY) 2015

13. KÖHLER, Frank (GERMANY) 2015

14. SCHÖNE, Rainer (GERMANY) 2015

15. PINTOS, Leo (AUSTRALIA) 2014

16. JORDAN, Pietro (ITALY/CANADA) 2014

17. LEHMANN, Christa (SWITZERLAND) 2014

18. DILKS, Morgan (NEW ZEALAND) 2014

19. RIVAS, Sergio (SPAIN) 2013

20. DUKAS, Bryan (SOUTH AFRICA) 2010


22. JEHU, Lyn (WALES/JAPAN) 2009

23. DILKS, Morgan (NEW ZEALAND) 2008

24. LEHMANN, Christa (SWITZERLAND) 2008

25. 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 (2017).

Monday, 16 January 2017

Trainee from Belgium: Kathleen Lambein

I just had the pleasure of having Kathleen Lambein (3rd Dan, JKA—Japan Karate Association—Belgium) here in at my dojo for private training. In addition to being my first renshusei from Belgium she is also the first non-Japanese renshusei for 2017.

Kathleen successfully completed six hours of one-on-one training over two days. Without going into specifics (these are for her) I focused on specific points to boost her karate—via core aspects of Kihon, Kata and Kumite—from a pure Budo Karate perspective. Simplicity and depth, and efficiency, were major themes.
Overall, Kathleen was great to coach as she not only processed the information quickly, but immediately began moving better. I was really impressed by this point. Furthermore, we enjoyed some nice times outside of the dojo. Kathleen, my family and I wish you all the very best!! It was great to have you in Oita!!! See you again!!! 押忍, André

© André Bertel. Oita, Japan (2017).

Monday, 2 January 2017

First Article for 2017... A ‘FEW NOTES’ ON HEIAN SHODAN

To start my articles/posts for 2017 I thought I'd outline a few important points from Heian Shodan Kata. I haven't ‘written out’ the entire kata in grueling detail but have, instead, listed each of the 21 movements with specific notes. I have done this to stress particular points, which I often see performed incorrectly by Shotokan karateka.

Before I begin it is probably worth mentioning that—on June 19th—this site will turn 10 years old. To be honest I never envisaged such longevity and international popularity (as of January 1st, 2017, over 1,500,000 visits). A big ありがとうございます to the thousands of supporters, around the world, of this blog.

Lastly, but certainly not least, before  I get on to the article I’d like to offer my best wishes, happiness, and good health—to everyone—for the New Year. 押忍, André.


By André Bertel

1.      Hidari sokumen hidari gedan-barai (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi). Note – Lower the weight at the knees, torque the body into shomen, then release to a full hanmi upon making your zenkutsu-dachi, with the front knee above the tips of your toes. A generic rule in budo karate-do: the technical maxim is ‘to the limit’. Furthermore, note the ‘heel—toe’ method (essentially ‘kakato chushin). Generally speaking, when advancing, retreating and turning, in combination with ‘shime’ and the ‘muchiken’ use of the arms and legs. Don’t forget to consciously ‘floor the sokuto’ whilst inverting the foot in the direction of the movement as much as possible

2.      Migi chudan jun-zuki (Migi zenkutsu-dachi). Note – the generic rule of pulling and pushing from the heels in kihon and kata. Jun-zuki (Oi-zuki) is the base of this practice. Also, note ‘extension’ of the rear leg while maintaining a deep front knee, strict shomen and ‘floored sokuto’. Furthermore, note the importance of hikite in all tsuki waza: in this regards, small finger of the upturned fist higher than the thumb-side and the elbowed pinched (employing shime); also, the forearm being level/parallel to the ground, thus, making the punching distance/trajectory as short as possible.

3.      Migi gedan-barai (Migi zenkutsu-dachi). Note – Keeping heel of the rear foot set ‘as a pivot/the jiku-ashi’ be sure to fully engage shomen when making this 180 degree turn (before springing back into hanmi).

4.      Migi kentsui tatemawashi uchi (Migi zenkutsu-dachi). Note – take a half step back simultaneously as you pull the arm back. Likewise, simultaneously return to zenkutsu-dachi as the hammer-fist strike is completed. The trajectory is a large clockwise circle, which travels from gedan-barai, past the left ear and over the head, then down to just under the shoulder height. The arm must be only slightly bent so an optimal whipping action can be achieved.

5.      Hidari chudan jun-zuki (Hidari zenkutsu dachi).

6.      Hidari gedan-barai (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).

7.      Migi jodan age-uke (Migi zenkutsu-dachi). Note – with jodan age uke take special care of the neck/head posture; furthermore, the uke must be large scale and robust: completing at a fist widths distance from the head. Also note and adjust the blocking arms elbow in relation to the corresponding wakibara (opening) and shoulder (raising).

8.      Hidari jodan age-uke (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi)

9.      Migi jodan age-uke (Migi zenkutsu-dachi) – KIAI. The kiai comes from the seika tanden, is short and sharp, perfectly timed with the technique (moment of kime).

10.     Hidari gedan-barai (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).

11.     Migi chudan jun-zuki (Migi zenkutsu-dachi).

12.     Migi gedan-barai (Migi zenkutsu-dachi).

13.     Hidari chudan jun-zuki (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).

14.     Hidari gedan-barai (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi). The first jun-zuki moving ura-shomen comes from gedan-barai (hanmi)—like the first four in Heian Shodan; therefore, utilizes the combination of the support leg drive and hip rotation.

15.     Migi chudan jun-zuki (Migi zenkutsu-dachi). This jun-zuki, and the following, is initiated from the shomen position; accordingly, moreso focusing on the drive of the support leg and a double twist of the hips.

16.     Hidari chudan jun-zuki (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).

17.     Migi chudan jun-zuki (Migi zenkutsu-dachi) – KIAI.

18.     Hidari shuto chudan uke (Migi kokutsu-dachi). Note – with Shuto chudan uke do not swing the body but, instead, keep set and snap the arms and stay in shomen for as long as possible. Twist the body side on upon completion and keep the head set throughout; that is, in the direction of the blocking arm, upright and bold. With the 270 degree turn into kokutsu dachi, again, pivot on the support foots heel and coordinate the heel, ankle knee and hip turn with the technique and turning of the head.

19.     Migi shuto chudan uke (Hidari kokutsu-dachi). When moving 45 degrees use the guide hand to help bring the rear hip forwards into shomen whilst loading up shuto uke. Snap back the hips upon the completion of the step; thereby, ‘making the technique with the hips’ as opposed to just the arms.

20.     Migi shuto chudan uke (Hidari kokutsu-dachi). The same points apply as movement 18, however, the turn is 135 degrees; that being said, this slight change can be utilized to exam ones subtle use of chikara no kyojaku, which often fluctuates/changes in relation to even the slightest changes in unsoku/ashi-hakobi.

21.     Hidari shuto chudan uke (Migi kokutsu-dachi).

© André Bertel. Oita, Japan (2017).

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

A Brief Summary of 2016 and Video Links

So, 2016, is quickly coming to an end. Here is a brief and very broad summary of my karate activities this year. I will conclude with direct links to relevant video footage.

Including here, within Japan, in 2016 I have taught karate seminars in six countries in both Europe (Germany, England and Italy) and Oceania (New Zealand and Australia). However, the training and teaching in Japan has still, as always, been the most hectic part of my Karate-Do schedule. That, due to my prioritisation of training (over all other aspects in karate), meant that I could not post articles so regularly. However, the articles will continue to be produced, and uploaded intermittently each month, as my time permits.

In addition to my regular daily karate activities, in 2016, I also attended several wonderful seminars conducted by Hashiguchi Yuji Sensei (7th Dan), Naka Tatsuya Sensei (7th Dan) and Ueki Masaaki Sensei (9th Dan); taken qualifications exams for instructor, examiner and judge; and accepted several non-Japanese renshusei (trainees).

In sum, on the Karate front, it has been a wonderful year. I wish everyone the very best in their conclusion to 2016 and a very happy, healthy and prosperous 2017.

© André Bertel. Oita, Japan (2016).

For older videos, please visit my YouTube Channel:

Oliver Schomburg (GERMANY)
2016 Andre Bertel Interview in Germany:

Scotty Denholm (AUSTRALIA)
Silvio Cannizzo (ITALY)