Friday, 28 February 2020

Balanced Training

Today’s self-training was based on 基本 (kihon—fundamentals). Perhaps a mundane comment to follow, but I must say that: “I always return to kihon because it is the isolation training for effectiveness in application”.

With this in mind, it must also be stated “… Kihon must significantly change as one advances. It must become very-very specific for advanced karateka. That is, working to strengthen strengths; aim to mitigate weak points; make changes/improvements (when and where needed); and avoid aggravating existing injuries or causing injury”. The syllabus of 国際空手道松濤館 (IKS—International Karate Shotokan) reflects these important ideals.

This week I trained very hard each day; so today, I practiced in a physically more easy-going manner. Hence the title: 'Balanced Training'.
The session began with 五本組手 (Gohon Kumite) and 基本一本組手 (Kihon Ippon Kumite). In IKS we regard these drills as KIHON; that is, not for real fighting but, rather, as ‘kihon practice with a partner’.  This understanding is very important, as while the aspects of timing and distancing are added, “the loss of precise foundational form literally invalidates these exercises”. To reiterate, “…if one regards Gohon and Kihon Ippon Kumite as kihon—as opposed to being ‘kumite’—then, and only then, will the karateka gain from practicing them”.

This was followed by kata practice, namely 序の型 (Jo no kata), 真拳 (Shinken) and 鉄騎三段  (Tekki Sandan). Interrelations and transitions—within and between—Kiba-dachi, Zenkutsu-dachi and Kokutsu-dachi was my foundational focus. Furthermore, I concentrated on transfer of energy from my core and the moving of my center. The overall theme was fluid and relaxed actions underpinned by the aforementioned points.

My kumite work was aimed at 受け技 (ukewaza—reception techniques), most noteworthy from the practice: the budo/bujutsu forms of teisho-uke, te nagashi-uke, haiwan uchinagashi-uke, tate makiotoshi-uke, yoko makiotoshi-uke, hineri-uke and hiji suri-uke.

Taken as a whole, the session was great and refreshing following a very hard week of intense training. Nearly 40 of karate training (and collectively over 10 years of daily training here in Japan), I believe that BALANCED TRAINING is one of the keys of longivity: via the avoidance of injury, clear advancement and enjoying 'the process' just as much as the outcomes. Osu, André
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Saturday, 22 February 2020


Many people have asked me for an online copy of the International Karate Shotokan 'Official Grading/Examination Requirements'.

It is true that the syllabus is not published online at present. Rather, it is currently only provided to examinees upon their application (or invitation) to attempt their next Dan Test.

What I will say here is that International Karate Shotokan grading syllabus is very different from other groups. Let's look at four points to elucidate this:

1. The kihon is very simple

We use the kihon portion of the exams to access 'specific points'. Consequently, long-winded combinations are not in our tests. Rather, stances, movements/transitions and techniques must be done precisely with intent. Put another way, there is no where to hide one's shortcomings.  

Too often, organizations have kihon requirements that are an end in themselves. We prefer to use this time for impact training and partner kihon for self-defense.

2. We have a huge number of kata to choose from, but...

There are no compulsory kata that one must choose or suddenly have to do on the spot for our Dan Exams! 

Accordingly, this large number of (60+) kata is to give examinees more options and, indeed, requires self-honesty/responsibility to select kata appropriately to maximize their ability. That is, choose kata which best suits one's physique, personal strengths and weaknesses, and so forth. Failure to do so will not only fail karateka in Dan tests but also "have them working on karate which will never maximize their individuality". Needless to say, in self-defense terms, this mainstream idea is not a good, and why a significant number of people see kata as a useless training exercises. 

In theory, one could go through all of the IKS Dan Exams with no more than three kata. This is because we do not base our kata training on tournament rules, which is what has shaped the majority of post WW2 Shotokan. In this way, International Karate Shotokan is going back to the way kata was originally trained.

3. Pertaining to the previous point is Oyo...

Examinees must demonstrate practical understanding/application of their kihon and kata. Again, this pertains to the maxim: 'less is more' and 'quality as opposed to quantity'. In this regard, we have a unique approach handed down from past masters, here in Japan, via the uchideshi relationship.

4. All forms of kumite are practiced

However, at Nidan and above it is permitted to do self-defense as opposed to Jiyu Kumite (this system was put in place by Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei). In self-defense, the examinee is randomly attacked and must respond effectively.

One other point, well worth briefly, is that in IKS Yakusoku Kumite, there many practical elements added. These are experienced here in Japan at IKS, and at Technical Seminars abroad.

Overall, the point of the International Karate Shotokan Grading Syllabus is not only for the test itself but, rather, to guide karateka towards maximizing their own karate as pure Budo/Bujutsu. In this sense, even when not preparing for a grading, the syllabus (as it should do) provides "...a base for one's daily self-training which ensures on-going and measurable skill advancement".

For more information about 国際空手道松濤館 (International Karate Shotokan) you can visit our website here:
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Monday, 17 February 2020


Well, the time has come again for me to conduct some International Karate Seminars outside of Japan... So far, three seminars have fully announced, and one to be announced soon.

 These will all be excellent world BUDO/BUJUTSU Karate events, with each being significantly different from each other; furthermore, introducing deeper levels of skill and 'never been taught before' content.

1. Seehausen (Barvaria) Germany: APRIL 4th/5th

2. Braga, Portugal: JUNE 13th/14th

3. Freital (Saxony) Germany: SEPTEMBER 5th/6th

4. Furthermore, as stated above... a fourth international seminar, in the Southern Hemisphere, will be formally announced when everything is set. This event will be posted here ASAP, so stay tuned!!! In all cases, if you wish to attend please contact the organizers as stated on the posters. Every year many people miss out due to the seminars being booked out!

For all who will be attending these seminars, see you soon. Best wishes from Oita City, Japan.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Monday, 10 February 2020

押忍の精神 (Osu no seishin)

A short while back I updated my self-training regime. Today I will not provide reps and sets but, rather, my training time each day, which is approximately two hours and 20 minutes. Here's a brief overview what I'm presently doing to lift my level:

My daily kihon practice changes daily, as I'm covering all five Levels of the IKS (International Karate Shotokan) Kihon Syllabus: Level One is 8/7 KYU; Level Two is 6/5/4 KYU; Level Three is 3/2/1 Kyu; Level Four is SHODAN; and the final level is Level Five, which is NIDAN.

Kata is focused on one Shitei-gata, one Sentei-gata and two Jiyu-gata (at least one, of which, is from the official International Karate Shotokan 'Kotengata' List).

My kumite practice is currently dedicated to both kaeshi ippon kumite and oyo kumite. Both of which are directly connected to my current kata training.

I'm also doing some supplementary workouts, which is typical (yet intermittent) throughout each year.

Overall, I'm presently facing numerous challenges which need to be overcome; however, I have always found that these 'prolonged periods without rewards' always eventuate in very big improvements. This, of course, applies to everyone and all endeavours of seeking excellence. This is OSU NO SEISHIN: The spirit of perseverance; hence the title of this post. My best wishes in your personal training and on-going karate advancement. - Andre

押忍の精神!© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Sunday, 2 February 2020

Don't copy others, create yourself

Gojushiho Dai practice (also stills from Enpi and Gankaku below) from the previous days self-training.
Today’s training began with calisthenics followed by extensive training of the three Tekki kata: 鉄騎初段 (Tekki Shodan), 鉄騎二段 (Tekki Nidan) and 鉄騎三段 (Tekki Sandan).

Following this was more kata practice; including百八歩 (Hyakuhachiho) and 水手 (Suishu).

At present, I’m primarily reviewing all of the main forms of kumite training in IKS (International Karate Shotokan)—国際空手道松濤館: (a) foundational kumite: gohon, sanbon and kihon ippon kumite; (b) semi free kumite: jiyu Ippon, kaeshi ippon and kihon oyo kumite; and (c) jiyu kumite and oyo kumite—goshinjutsu.

The recent developments have been highly refined and highly pragmatic, whilst maintaining the highest technical standards. I think this balance has never been achieved before within the realms of Shotokan. We are working at a higher level which allows serious individuals to maximize their potential above organizational systems.

While some will continue to merely seek a brand label and enjoy idolization of various instructors—and merely to be politically under their shadows—the ‘aware few’ will seek the maximization of their training. Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei often warned me against this. As I have always said from the very beginning of this site (and, of course, before)… “We must talk with our karate”. Again, this came from Asai Sensei also, and seriously influenced me.

It is interesting now as many senior and famous Japanese karateka are copying me, it further elucidates Asai Sensei's great wisdom.

"Do not copy my karate, do not copy others, create your own best karate" - T. Asai.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Majority of the weight on rear leg, yet different

The opening movement of 二十四歩 (Nijushiho) kata.
Today, just a couple of brief notes on the basic applications of Kokutsu-dachi and Neko ashi-dachi.
KOKUTSU-DACHI: The ‘basic application’ kokutsu dachi is for escaping by moving rearward, or on an angle; furthermore, it can be used (on the spot) to simply transfer the weight rearwards—to subtly avoid an attack—then immediately counterattack with a reverse transfer. Iida Norihiko Sensei’s mastery of this strategy immediately comes to mind.

NEKO ASHI-DACHI: Let’s compare kokutsu-dachi with the ‘basic application’ of neko ashi dachi… Likewise, neko ashi dachi is primarily an escaping stance, but it has a smaller base which is less stable—yet provides a more explosiveness and cat-like elusiveness (hence the stances name ‘cat leg’).

Of course, like all other tachikata, in freestyle practice we move through all of the stances (without stopping in the formalized set positions). 

Second to last movement of 水手 (Suishu) kata.
Which is better? Kokutsu dachi or Neko ashi dachi? Obviously, it depends on the situation. Both of these stances concentrate their weight on the rear leg; moreover, on lowering/sinking the weight to make their respective techniques effective. In this way, they also allow us to concentrate on using the power of the lower body and to relax the arms and shoulders. Needless to say, this is an imperative fundamental skill in Karate-Do. In sum, both of these stances, with majority of the weight on the rear leg, are absolutely essential kihon.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Monday, 20 January 2020


Training here today in central Oita City, January 20th, 2020.
Well into my 40s now I stopped training hardcore when I turned 30. This was to take care of my body so I could keep going and keep improving my skill. Just before I turned 31, I started this blogsite.  I'm not claiming to be old at all, but looking after the body is essential, and makes it possible to be even better (at karate) as one ages. Nevertheless, I still engage in days of hardcore training. And, today, was one such day. 


Today’s Kihon training comprised of a number of fundamental techniques; namely, tsukiwaza (thrusts) and  ukewaza (reception techniques). Focus was on delivery from zenkutsu dachi and kokutsu dachi as IKS (International Karate Shotokan) ‘syllabus style’ Ido Kihon.

This included: (1) Oizuki; (2) Gyakuzuki; (3) Maetezuki; (4) Nukite; (5) Jodanageuke; (6) Chudansotouke; and (7) Chudanshutouke. Standard renzokuwaza were also worked on including Sanbonzuki, the aforementioned closed fist ukewaza followed by gyakuzuki, and shutouke kara nukite. Special attention was paid to transfer of weight by using the stances optimally and timing of koshi no kaiten in relation to technical delivery. Nothing flash but, of course, utterly imperative stuff. I didn't do so many reps but enough to get things right and break a good sweat.

While there was no kiba dachi work in the Kihon, much time today was spent practicing 鉄騎三段 (Tekki Sandan). This was followed by 明鏡二段 (Meikyo Nidan) and 雷光 (Raiko). My aim in today's training was to push myself to my physical limits as opposed to 'technicality'. In this way, 'technique must survive exhaustion'. While I do not make others do this when I teach, unless requested by individuals, there is a maxim here in Japanese Shotokan circles. It goes something like this in English... "The karate you do when physically broken from exhaustion is your real karate". Needless to say, this is not for everyone, and not something I believe that anyone should be pressured to do. In seminars, I never have this approach as I believe it is dangerous and unprofessional.


All of the Kumite practice today was dedicated to Kihon Ippon Kumite. It was comparatively easygoing after the 'crazy intense' kata training. Attacks included (a) migi jodan oizuki; (b) hidari jodan oi zuki; (c) migi chudan oizuki; (d) hidari chudan oi zuki; (e) migi chudan maegeri; (f) hidari chudan maegeri;  (g) migi chudan yokokekomi; and (h) hidari chudan yokokekomi. Defense and counterattack — free choice. The aim in attack was no telegraphing whatsoever and, in defense/counterattack, selecting the simple and effective counter—perfect maai—without hesitation (that is, immediately with no position change).

To conclude today’s session, I went through some basic plyometric exercises and my typical cardio, impact and strength/power training. Also a special challenge that I'm doing at the moment.

To summarize, today was really-really hard work. Like I said in the opening, not every day is like this! And if it was, I would gain a serious injury. Tomorrow will balance out this with a light training, brief 5km run to loosen up; but still, the strength work will be included.

My advice to everyone... LISTEN TO YOUR BODY!!! Please take care and use karate to increase your health, not decrease it. Only you can do that by doing things at YOUR OWN PACE.

Key words: OWN PACE!

 Osu, André
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Saturday, 11 January 2020

陰陽 (Inyo)

陰陽 (Inyo) is a relational concept that developed Taoism in China around 4th—3rd  Centuries BC. To be concise for this short article, “…Inyo is that everything is governed by duality: two opposing yet relative principles/forces”—yes, Yin and Yang. 
 I am not touching on this topic to go down the track of Eastern religions nor philosophies but, instead want to completely focus on this concept for improved technical efficacy.

To maximize impact power the two most important powers are: (1) to optimally use one’s mass; and (2) to move as fast as possible.

Let’s me talk about this in regards to Inyo…

POWER/FORCE: Let’s use OI-ZUKI (JUN-ZUKI) and MAE-GERI KEAGE as examples… The sasae-ashi (support leg) in these waza use a heavy, strong and muscular/forced action—drive; whereas, the striking limb is relaxed. Accordingly, the support leg (in both oizuki and maegeri) aggressively propel the hips forward from the drive of the legs. Furthermore, the relaxation of the attacking limbs, as stated before, are relaxed; thereby, allowing the muscles to work harmoniously with the respective movements. Let me expand on this very basic point.

SOFTNESS/RELAXATION: Again, in the most simple terms… When the muscles are relaxed the extension of the arms are naturally driven by the triceps and likewise, this naturally results in biceps being relaxed. This optimizes speed as there is no ‘self-resistance’. When one consciously tenses, both biceps and triceps tense; thus, dramatically reducing technical velocity . A good memoir is this: “double the speed, quadruple the power” (Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei).
Mae geri is of course the same… As you extend the leg you want the hamstrings to be completely relaxed and just allow the quads to do their work (and vice-versa in the chambering and hiki-ashi aspects of the kick).

Returning to the POWER/FORCE points made above, it reminds me of Tanaka Masahiko Sensei. He recommended to me, “Don’t kick through the target, drive your hips through the target”. This statement really elucidates Asai Sensei's focus on joint action as opposed to muscle action. If we focus on the bones and joints, the muscles work optimally via natural action. What's more, without muscular tension the mind is also more free and receptive to stimuli, but I suppose that is worthy of another article.
Tanaka Sensei's kick was always devastating. A true Master.

Needless to say, 陰陽 (Inyo) is technically imperative in Budo Karate.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Monday, 6 January 2020


Based on numerous emails recieved I thought that today I'd post about the International Karate Shotokan (IKS) 'RENSHUSEI PROGRAM', which I conduct here in Oita City, Japan.


The training is not aimed to exhaust participants, as this would hinder the main point: LEARNING and SKILL/TECHNICAL DEVELOPMENT. The objective of the training is budo/bujutsu karate education, which will not only raise the skill of the karateka immediately, but in the long term. Furthermore, to transmit this knowledge to other regions of Japan and, indeed, around the world. 

However, it is not physically easy either... The Renshusei program is specialized for each individual BASED ON THEIR PERSONAL GOALS (and directed by their physical condition and skill level). 
Go through the gate...
For the above mentioned reasons, attending training as a Renshusei is now extremely popular; however, there is a bigger reason....RESULTS!

No one comes as a Renshusei here and leaves with minimal improvements. They greatly improve and these improvements snowball after they return home.


In all cases, to ensure a place as a Renshusei, it is highly recommended to book at least three months in advance. 


Lastly, as we cannot sponsor visa's for foreign nationals - this is the responsibility of all visitors to Japan.


To begin the new decade, as of January 1st, 2020, IKS Renshusei Diplomas can be accessed on the completion of training.

To apply to be a Renshusei you can email here: 

Osu, André

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Sunday, 5 January 2020

The Renshusei Experience

For those wishing to further their skills and understanding of Shotokan karate as traditional budo/bujutsu, the IKS (International Karate Shotokan) Renshusei Program here in Oita is literally second to none in Japan.

All trainees leave with heightened technical skills and understanding of true karate. This is why the course is so popular and people always keep coming back. The course is individualized for each trainees technical level, fitness, injuries/health, and each persons training objectives.

Below is a brief video of Renshusei training. Greetings from Oita City, Kyushu, Japan.
Osu, André

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).