Thursday, 27 December 2007

My current self-training schedule

Here is my current self-training routine as of Christmas day. I've just overcome a minor back strain (which comes from a very old injury I sustained), so I'm now returning to regular training after a week of reduced intensity.

So here we go...

KIHON
My stationary work is typically 40-100 repetitions with each hand or foot. My ido-kihon training at present usually consists of 10-20 repetitions of renzokuwaza. For all techniques I do at least 10 repetitions in super slow motion (as a specific warm up and thorough self-check).

Sonoba kihon
1.
Chudan choku zuki (kiba dachi); 2. Migi gyaku zuki; 3. Hidari gyaku zuki; 4. Migi mae geri; and 5. Hidari mae geri. Note:
Gyaku zuki from tateshuto kamae; & Mae geri from ryo sokumen gedan barai no kamae.

Ido Kihon
1. Tobi konde sanbon ren zuki; 2. Chudan mae geri kara sanbon ren zuki; 3. Mawashi geri kara chudan gyaku zuki; 4. Chudan ushiro geri kara uraken yokomawshi uchi sara ni chudan gyaku zuki; 5. Yoko keage kara yoko kekomi; 6. Jodan age uke kara mae geri sara ni chudan gyaku zuki; 7. Chudan soto ude uke kara yori ashi yoko empi uchi (kiba dachi), uraken yokomawashi uchi sara ni chudan gyaku zuki; 8. Chudan uchi ude uke kara kizami zuki, chudan gyaku zuki sara ni yori ashi jodan kizami zuki 9. Chudan shuto uke (kokutsu dachi) kara mae geri sara ni nukite; and 10. Jodan soto ude uke kara yoko yori ashi gedan barai, mae ashi mae geri sara ni chudan gyaku zuki.
Note: All techniques in zenkutsu dachi unless otherwise stated. All keriwaza from jiyu kumite no kamae. Other techniques from gedan barai.

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KATA/KUMITE
This month I’m focusing on the following kata: Kankudai – slow motion practice ('extreme' technical work); Jion (koshi no kaiten and huri-waza); Gojushihodai; Shoteidai; & Kakuyoku-sandan (for these three, precise performance, and stre
et practical oyo-jutsu). I usually include a Tekki or a Kibaken, but this month I’m having a rest from these kata, performance-wise. However, I’m applying their ‘application principles’ to the kata, I am currently working on. My kumite training at present is a return to combative evasion, to apply Asai Sensei’s muchiken-waza. Once completed, I’ll present (or perhaps publish in a magazine) an article on this topic, as it was amongst the top priorities of Sensei’s karate. It will include some regular quotes from Asai Sensei on this subject; and hopefully help people, to better understand, his approach to actual kumite-keiko.

I expect to continue this training regime until the third week of January (as long as all my training targets are met). All going well, I'll update you with my new schedule, just after that time.

2008 promises to bring many informative new articles on Asai-ryuha, and traditional Shotokan, so stay tuned! Regardless of where you are from, and who you are, I wish you a happy, safe, and healthy 2008. Happy New Year and God Bless.

OSU! André Bertel
Kyushu, Japan

© André Bertel, Japan 2007

Sunday, 23 December 2007

Trainee from Ireland

Today a shodan from Ireland, Ben Kelly, visited my dojo here in Kyushu, for a private lesson. He trains under the guidance of his long-time instructor, Gerard Clyne Sensei, in Tuam (Shobukan dojo), who is a direct student of Kato Shihan. Ben has been travelling around Japan with his father Eamonn for the first time, and it was a great pleasure to host both of them. Great guys!

During the two and a quarter hour lesson I brushed over a number of topics crucial to understand Asai style karate, including the understanding of Sensei's centralised/basic alignment power (using choku zuki as a model). We also worked on transfer of weight in punches and kicks (gyaku zuki and mae geri) to ensure maximum impact, as opposed to 'point scoring'.

Staying on topic we walked through two kata, Kakuyoku-nidan and the advanced Kaminari-arashi, with the focus still being on Asai Sensei's 'alignment'. Ben was keen to learn and asked many excellent questions in regards to the practical applications, which I hope I 'physically answered' sufficiently! Ben recognised that Asai-ryu karate is lethal and directly applicable in the real world.

Continuing from there I also taught Ben some combative applications for two arm techniques, commonly found in the Shotokan kata, as researched by Asai Sensei (his koten oyo jutsu or 'classical application for combat): (a) Jodan ura zuki with simultaneous zenwan mune mae suihei gamae; (b) Simultaneous jodan sokumen uchi uke and sokumen gedan barai (AKA manji kamae); and (c) Yumi zuki. Such techniques formed the basis for Sensei's development of 'snapping techniques' and the 'control then hit tactics' he advocated.

Other aspects of the training included the kihon for ducking under kicks, and strikes, as well as the first of Asai Sensei's Goshin-jutsu drills (which includes a cover, duck, turn and grounded sequence). This series of practical combinations were a regular part of Asai Sensei's infamous morning workouts. We also covered several other exercises as well, and Ben was enthusiatic enough to try them all, and without hesitation. The entire session was very similar to the private training I recieved from Asai Sensei, so hopefully it was an enlightening experience for Ben.

After training, we enjoyed a kaiten sushi meal, followed by a little sightseeing (even getting fortunes told, at a Shinto shrine, for 100 yen a pop!!!) Mizuho and I greatly enjoyed meeting Ben and his father, and hope to see them both again in the future. Ben is a huge credit to his father, karate teacher Gerard Clyne, and IJKA Ireland. Keep up the great work Ben and please remember 石の上にも三年 "Ishi no uenimo san nen".

OSU, Andre
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© André Bertel, Japan 2007

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Gift from a sensei

I thought I'd share this with you. On Friday Miki Sensei, whom I teach with once a week, gave me this beautiful Japanese calligraphy as a gift. She has a high dan in Shodo.

The kanji roughly means "Look at the mountain. Listen to the water." As I'm a great lover of nature, Miki Sensei felt this was appropriate for me (especially in regards to my regular outdoor karate training).

Sadly now, as the Japanese winter really kicks in, nearly all of my extra training has shifted into the dojo.

Awareness of ones environment is directly attached to 'living in the moment'. An aspect of karate, which sometimes I feel I have nearly mastered, yet other times I am a complete beginner. Perhaps the very best training method, away from practice itself, is ones awareness of their environment in their daily lives? Simply sitting back, looking around and taking everything in. I sincerely believe this is true. Is this not zanshin?

I hope your training is going well as 2008 rapidly approaches us (along with those New Years resolutions)! OSU, Andre

© André Bertel, Japan 2007

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Visit to Hiroshima




















Last weekend Mizuho and I travelled to Hiroshima. It was primarily a relaxed holiday for us, but also co-ordinated with our First Wedding Anniversary. In addition to having a well earned rest, we also planned to visit Miyajima, Heiwa Kinen Koen (Peace Memorial Park) and Gembaku Dome.

Miyajima was magnificent and Gembaku Dome, very moving. Our hotel room literally overlooked the dome itself, making it hard to believe that only 62 years earlier, a nuclear weapon was detonated so close to there.

I won't harp on about our time in Hiroshima and bore those who live there, or have been there before, but rather I'd just like to say that it is very worth visiting. A beautiful city with a fantastic vibe, not to mention the delicious okonomiyaki!
© André Bertel, Japan 2007

Thursday, 29 November 2007

The Shotokan Way

I've recieved lots of positive emails about my interview, featured in the November 23rd edition of 'The Shotokan Way'. This online magazine, created by Welsh Shotokan karateka, Shaun Banfield and Emma Robbins, has many great interviews and articles.

Here is the link to the interviews page: http://www.theshotokanway.com/interviewlinks.html scroll down to the bottom.

OSU, Andre

© André Bertel, Japan 2007.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

Back to the basics

Do you fully utilize your back muscles in your karate techniques? And are they strong enough to maximize your potential? In one of my June articles; 'The Optimum Karate Physique' (located here http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/06/optimal-karate-physique.html) I stated my belief that 'karate specific muscles' must be developed. Naturally, this is commonsense; however, it means nothing, unless we translate this into physical training.

Your back muscles (in particular latissimus dorsi), due to their enormous power, must be physically understood, and fully applied in your techniques. The best way to establish how much you use your back muscles (or any specific muscles or joints) is via isolation training. Here are some very simple examples:

Try various tsukiwaza (punching techniques), uchiwaza (striking techniques) and ukewaza (blocking techniques) with complete focus on your back muscles. Execute techniques, both into the air, and against a target. In this process, don’t forget to self-check (experiment) how your other muscles and joints function. Take particular note of your shoulders, chest and abdomen. After this I recommend focusing on your back muscles, and backbone, working collectively. I really recommend training mawashi-zuki and kake zuki in this practice, in addition to the typical straight punches, strikes, and fundamental ‘blocks’. I found mawashi-zuki to be particularly interesting, but I will leave that for you to discover if you haven't already!

My muscle training: Many people have emailed me (since the June article) asking what I do to train my body, and I can honestly say, that I only do karate. For years I have not done any serious weight training, and have relied on body weight exercises, kihon and kata (and to be honest, mostly kihon and kata). My target is 'karate efficiency' as opposed to 'looking nice'. As I stated in June, karate has given me some shape, and that is a byproduct I admit that I am happy about. I'd like to say here, that I'm sure any bodybuilder would have a good laugh, at my photo above (of my back muscles). But in saying that, the muscles I have developed are simply specific to maximize my impact power. I have no desire to have 'ripples' or increase my size.

To conclude this article I would like to mention that karateka, like other athletes, should regularly include isolation training in their regimes (both self-training and when/if they instruct others). This will maximize the potential of their own karate, and that of their students. Whether training your back or any other muscle or joint, isolation training enhances self-awareness, and self-awareness leads to greater physical control. This physical control is why going 'back to the basics' is a never ending process in ones training.

© André Bertel, Japan 2007

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

Air karate

Why practice techniques into thin air with power? Isn’t it more effective and safer to train techniques powerfully, when hitting a tangible target such as a makiwara, heavy bag, focus mitt, or impact shield? What then is the purpose of practicing blocks, punches, strikes, grappling techniques, and kicks with 'forced power' into open space (which I loosely refer to as ‘air karate’)? This question must readily be answered, especially by instructors, as so much training time is dedicated to ‘hitting the invisible man’. Instructors, who can’t decisively answer this question clearly have the ‘traditional blinkers’ on.

Here are some points to further illustrate my view:

(1)
Air karate is not optimal training for self-defence, or ‘real confrontational’ training, and practical application. A quick glance readily establishes that kihon and kata ‘attacking the micro particles floating around in the bamboo dojo’ can never improve ma-ai (distancing) and ‘fight timing’.

(2) Air karate is highly limited, and certainly, a far from optimal means, of developing ‘impact power’. One should not forget that impact power is the nucleus of ‘budo’ karate! That is, ‘the single finishing blow’, is the trademark of the traditional styles.

(3) The majority of dojo training time (kihon and kata, which I would say takes up ‘at least 60%’ in most clubs. Most probably at least 80+% from my experience) is completely dedicated to ‘air karate’.

Going by the above points, I believe that there is a VERY STRONG CASE against air karate training, and orthodox karate itself, as a fighting art in the real world. It is seemingly a perfect example of self-contradiction. Therefore, we now have to establish “What is air karate training for?” This is especially important for instructors, who need to be able to honestly justify the training schedules they have their students follow.

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The Purpose of Air Karate: ‘Karate the Martial ART’
The purpose of 'air karate' is undoubtedly the ‘the perfection of form’. This form is most certainly related to combat, but is primarily a vehicle of ‘self-study’, no different to the study of classical ballet, or even the study of a musical instrument (my wife Mizu is a master pianist, and our approach to training is very similar). In defense of this truth, I can honestly say, that without this artistic core, I would have left karate years ago. No one can deny that the performance of acutely refined kihon, and kata, is undoubtedly what defines a karateka's level. Street fighting ability, and tournament kumite prowess, certainly does not. The ‘perfection' of movement IS "the purpose" of solo kata, and standard kihon training in karate.

Now here is my big question! If the ‘perfection of form’ is the aim of ‘air karate’, then why do people ‘force’ their techniques? Why don’t karateka, when practicing their techniques into thin air, execute them lightly and smoothly, seeking ‘frame by frame’ perfect technique? Because as I have established in this article “What more can hitting the air ideally achieve?” And if wanting to fire techniques out, with full speed and power, do so in a productive manner against a makiwara, bag, foam shield, mitts etc, where they can get immediate feedback, and develop fundamental effectiveness (impact power and good ma’ai). This approach to kata and kihon was what Asai Sensei was advocating, yet very few people ‘physically followed’. Instead they verbally agreed with Sensei, yet continued performing karate in the forced manner he opposed.

Really speaking, can someone achieve more, in the martial sense, when executing techniques into open-space with vigor, as opposed to a hitting something, or someone? Of course they can’t! It is merely what is demanded if one desires to win at competition level, or simply ‘show off their moves’. What’s more, executing ‘air karate’ techniques with forced power interferes with core balance, can detrimentally effect one’s ability to transfer power into a target, can put excessive stress on the main joints of the human body (whilst achieving next to nothing), can ‘shorten’/restrict techniques, and often gives a false 'feeling of power' (and accuracy), which can only be verified by hitting a tangible target. Just visualize a boxer shadow boxing. He does so with lightness, he doesn't punch strongly, he reserves his heavy punch training for the bag, or when seriously sparring/fighting in the ring.

SUMMARY
In my article titled ‘Half-way between the JKA and the Shotokai’ (click here to read:
http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/09/half-way-between-jka-and-shoto-kai.html) I mentioned that the Shotokai do not utilize conscious ‘muscular power’ in their kata and kihon, nor do they focus heavily on form. Alternatively the JKA greatly emphasize precise form and kime (focus/decisiveness), naturally resulting in a more ‘rigid’ execution of karate. I believe the Shotokai, in regards to not using power when doing ‘air karate’ training, is superior to the JKA approach (based on the points made in this article). Likewise, the precise form of JKA karate, is superior to that of the Shotokai. It is my belief that Asai Sensei’s karate is literally the link, or the happy medium, between these two ‘Shotokan ways’. I hope this article, via some constructive thought by you, the reader, can open your mind to Asai Sensei’s karate.

Next time you make a powerful technique when hitting thin air (kihon or kata), ask yourself these four questions: (1) “What am I achieving?”; (2) “Is this improving my fighting ability?”; (3) “Is this interfering with my ability to execute/enhance my utmost precise technical form?”; and (4) “Is this an optimal, and comparatively safe way, compared to other methods, to build karate specific strength, and fitness?”

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© André Bertel, Japan 2007

Sunday, 4 November 2007

MORE ARTICLES COMING SOON!
New articles and pictures are on the way. I'm also contemplating a video section for members only. There is no cost to be a member, nor any political concerns. Friends and foes (lol) are all free to join. Nowadays I have no bad feelings towards anyone in the karate world or elsewhere, therefore all are welcome. I have come to a point in my life where I've forgiven everyone in my past, regardless of their feelings, and actions towards me. It goes without saying that "true forgiveness is freedom".
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For those wishing to have membership please email me at andrebertel@hotmail.com Please title the email: "MEMBERSHIP" and put your name, and location (township/city & country).
For those who have already contacted me in this regard, I'm very sorry, but please do so again, if you want to join. I've had trouble keeping up with all the emails! Kindest regards to everyone.
© André Bertel, Japan 2007

Monday, 29 October 2007

New regime

Here is my current training regime
Finally here is my latest self-training schedule. To the many regulars visiting here, please excuse my delay in posting! As of late, I've literally been unable to spend sufficient time writing articles. In the coming month I hope to post several new ones... One of these has gone through many drafts, as it has direct relevance to my current 'technical approach' (and I really don't want to convey the wrong message). Kindest regards to you all from Kyushu, André
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Stationary Kihon Training:

30-50 repetitions of each of my stationary techniques is the order of the month. I'm also giving special attention to the tightness, and formation, of my weapons (whilst maintaining softness/smoothness in my actions): (1) Chudan choku zuki from kiba dachi. (2) Jodan age uke from shizentai maintaining the shomen position of the hips. (3) Same as previous but with chudan soto ude uke. (4) Same as previous but chudan uchi ude uke. (5) Same as previous but gedan barai. Note: Techniques 2-5 are focused on isolating the upper body actions for further refinement, therefore I'm avoiding koshi no kaiten (hip rotation) when training these waza. Naturally, when in zenkutsu dachi, I'm still working them with large hip action. (6) Chudan oi zuki moving from shizentai into zenkutsu dachi (shomen). Stepping back after each punch then repeating on the opposite side. (7) From heisoku dachi execute mae geri advancing into zenkutsu dachi, step back and repeat alternating legs (much like exercise six). Special attention to hiki-ashi, correct josokutei, and 'ankle squeeze'. (8) From kosa dachi, yoko keage returning to kosa dachi, then execute yoko kekomi landing in kiba dachi. Once completed with my right leg, I perform the equal amount of repetitions with my left. (9) Chudan gyaku zuki in zenkutsu dachi (equally training both right and left punches). (10) Same as previous exercise, but jodan kizami zuki followed by chudan gyaku zuki.

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Ido-Kihon:

This month my ido-kihon has returned to the utmost 'simple' of Shotokan karate techniques (literally the kihon that "really matters"). My repetitions are between 20 to 40, with 50% typically being warm up techniques (essentially refinement training): (1) Chudan oi zuki. (2) Jodan age uke kara chudan gyaku zuki. (3) Chudan soto ude uke kara chudan gyaku zuki. (4) Chudan uchi ude uke kara chudan gyaku zuki. (5) Chudan uchi ude uke kara chudan gyaku zuki. (6) Gedan barai kara chudan gyaku zuki. (7) Chudan shuto uke kara tate shihon nukite zuki (kokutsu dachi changing into zenkutsu dachi). (8) Mae geri. (9) Mawashi geri. (10) Yoko keage ashi o kaete yoko kekomi (kiba dachi). I'd like to add here, that I often execute my keriwaza (in ido-kihon) immediately after the punches, thus leaving the block/counters for the later part of my training. I find this allows me to reduce fatigue, and maintain better form, thus increasing the productivity of my practice.

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Kata Keiko:

I've been so busy with kata as of late and have discovered many points to vastly improve myself. For me, this is a really exciting time in my personal karate development. My karate is now at its absolute technical peak, beyond any of my previous years in the art. I've also learned so many new teaching methods, as a karate 'coach', via these discoveries. My current kata work, for the most part, has been on Kankudai, Jion, Hangetsu, Nijushiho, and Gojushihodai. Presently, the average is between 15 and 20 kata in each of my training sessions, unless I'm only focusing on one. If this is the case, I rarely repeat it more than ten times in the workout. In line with my kihon, typically 50% of my training is in slow-motion, aiming to remedy any subtle errors I make. Of particular importance is my COG during each stage of every motion, not just at the beginning, middle and completion of techniques.

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I wish everyone the very best in their training and thank you all for your support of this blog. I really appreciate the many kind emails I've recieved and sincerely look forward to sharing more of my karate journey with you.


© André Bertel, Japan 2007

Sunday, 14 October 2007

Day trip to Fukiji Temple

Today I drove to visit Fukiji Temple in Bungo Takada (Oita prefecture), which is the oldest wooden structure in Kyushu. This, and two other historic temples, have been designated as Japan's greatest national treasures.

Constructed around the 12th century, it is not hard to see why it has been given the highest status. So it was certainly worth the long drive to visit this historical monument!

I admittedly skipped my dojo training today, so from now I'll do some home practice, as I'm getting withdrawal symptoms. All the best to everyone, and a big "Osu" from Japan.

© André Bertel, Japan 2007

Past posts (22-42)

Here are the links to posts 22-42. For links to my first 21 articles, please click here: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/10/power-in-practis.html I'm currently working on new articles, however this has been restricted by my intensive training schedule. I've currently made some rather extreme technical advancements, which have required my undivided attention. As I have said many times before, improvement is the greatest motivator in karate, and must be experienced consistently throughout ones training.

These current discoveries have allowed me to surpass my 'peak' and get to the next stage, so I'm very excited. I'll certainly share some of these points with you, in the coming months.
________________
"Karate is neverending, if we stop advancing in our skill we are no longer worthy to be called karateka." - Asai Tetsuhiko
________________
Osu, Andre Bertel

ARTICLE LINKS (22-42)



















© André Bertel, Japan 2007

Thursday, 4 October 2007

Past posts (1-21)

As a result of my busy schedule at present (karate-wise), I have been unable to finish several articles in the works. So I thought I'd post some links to all of the past 42 posts. If you haven't read through them, if interested, please do so.

For those waiting for my next article, I'm sorry for the delay, but training is my prority, and I promise that I will upload more ASAP. With over 100,000 visits (to this blog) in just a few months I'm over the moon, "Flying from the Tokyo tower", as Asai Sensei once said to my wife in Shinbashi.

I am particulary excited about all the invitations I have recieved to take seminars, and look forward to meeting many new friends.


Happy training, OSU! Andre Bertel


ARTICLE LINKS (1-21)

Article 1: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/06/back-in-japan.html


Article 2: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/06/im-wazari-down.html

Article 3: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/06/flash-back-to-my-2004-interview-with.html

Article 4: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/06/dan-ranks-im-6th-dan-so-i-must-be-good.html


Article 5: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/06/im-karate-champion.html


Article 6: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/06/here-is-another-article-i-originally.html


Article 7: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/06/odaiba-sidetrack.html

Article 8: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/06/here-is-second-interview-i-conducted.html

Article 9: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/06/asai-ryuha-kata.html

Article 10: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/06/my-current-training-routine.html

Article 11: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/06/from-hardness-to-complete-softness.html

Article 12: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/06/kampai.html

Article 13: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/06/media.html

Article 14: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/06/optimal-karate-physique.html

Article 15: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/07/mental-discipline.html

Article 16: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/07/learning-is-not-perfecting.html

Article 17: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/07/gohon-kumite.html

Article 18: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/07/seiryu.html

Article 19: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/07/jka-re-united.html

Article 20: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/07/my-dojo-entrance-exam-for-children.html

Article 21: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2007/07/asai-senseis-final-interview.html

© André Bertel, Japan 2007

Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Six Month Anniversary in Japan

It is hard to believe that exactly six months ago today, we arrived back here!
I'll therefore leave you with a picture, of beautiful Fuji San, before I depart for the appropriate celebrations.

Kampai,
Andre
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© André Bertel, Japan 2007

Monday, 24 September 2007

Fake karate certificates: how to distinguish fradulent karate diplomas

The fake certificate sent to me (compare to Asai Sensei's writing below).
I've republished this article, which I originally posted in 2007, as in 2013 I joined the JKA (Japan Karate Association). Accordingly, I’ve done this to avoid confusing my readers (via adding this introduction). It is important to note that in 2007 I’d already been out of the Japan Karate Shotorenmei (JKS) for a year. You will notice that I’ve also reposted the article on the same date—as it was originally posted—to avoid any possibility of confusion. Furthermore, I have cropped the photo down, of me holding the false certificate, to avoid people from using the image in a negative manner.
Lastly, I have added the image of my `second Godan certificate’ from Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei… I have done this because he gave me two 5th Dan diplomas. One being the standard one with the gold seal (this was not in the original article), and the second certificate, which is in his own handwriting. This better serves the purpose of the original article; that is, “…to show what authentic certification of Asai Sensei looks like in comparison to a fake”. Moreover, to emphasise that karate, and the martial arts world in general, is full of false qualifications; nonetheless, there is a comprehensive means to identify fraudulent diplomas, and fraudulent instructors. – André Bertel (August 4th, 2014).
Here is an authentic diploma from Asai Sensei. It is blatantly clear that the certificate shown above this one is fake.

ORIGINAL ARTICLE: `FALSE CERTIFICATES’ (2007)

Last year I formally resigned from the JKS (Japan Karate Shotorenmei); however, not long after my resignation I was sent a dodgy certificate from an individual who is planning to start their own Asai Karate organisation (and wishes me to be involved). Needless to say, in the context of karate, I immediately lost all respect for this person.

The certificate is obviously fraudulent—by a quick glance—when one looks at the writing and signature (when comparing the writing to my JKS 5th Dan certificate handwritten by Asai Shihan).

My informal experiment: For interest sake, as a fun experiment (prior to moving back to Japan), I decided to check if my senior students in New Zealand would immediately detect that the certificate was indeed fake. My notion was that, as senior karateka—who have personally acquired grades from Asai Sensei—they would easily recognise that the certificate was bogus. I framed the cert nicely and put it next to one of my authentic diplomas, which as you can see has Asai Sensei’s calligraphy. However, to my shock, my senior students all failed to notice that the certificate was fake!!! When I told them they were very surprised…

I’d like to use this point to elucidate that false certification is rampant in the karate world, and martial arts world in general; moreover, even highly experienced dan graded karateka outside of Japan, are tricked by such certification.

Remember, never trust at piece of paper, especially when it comes to the martial arts: irrespective of how much you respect a person or `think' they are good.  

Here’s two simple of ways to verify the authenticity of karate qualifications:

1.      The certificate is issued by either of Japan’s two official organisations (not the NPO groups, which can be formed by anyone who pays and has a few supporters). To confirm, Japan’s two OFFICIAL KARATE ORGANISATIONS are: (1) the JKA (Japan Karate Association)—Budo Karate; and (2) the JKF (Japan Karate Federation)—which is primarily sports karate but, unlike the majority of WKF affiliated national federations, also supports budo groups (who access official status through them).

2.      The technical ability of the person concerned. Along with the above mentioned certification, the instructor must reflect their grade in technical skill, knowledge, experience, the capacity to use their karate in the real world, and teaching ability.

 In sum, fake certificates are prevalent in karate and the martial arts, it is sad but a reality. If a certificate is presented to you, or you can see it, the chances are that you wont be able to establish its authenticity (as based on my little experiment even my senior students, who knew Asai Sensei personally, couldn’t). Therefore, rather than rely on paper, use the above two points to verify peoples qualifications/authenticity. Indeed, this can also be verified by contacting either the JKA or JKF. Osu, André Bertel.
I have added this diploma to supplement the original article. Please note Sensei's signature (in Kanji) in comparison to the fake certificate. 
© André Bertel, Japan 2007.

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Jikan ga tobuyoni sugiru...

'Jikan ga tobuyoni sugiru' literally translates into English as 'time goes so fast'. Amazingly, this coming Wednesday, September 26th, we have already been living in Japan for six months! Finally, here is my current training regime as promised (I was unable to change my routine any sooner, as I uncovered several faults I was compelled to address, before moving on):

KIHON
This month I'm having a break from my typical static work and focusing exclusively on ido-kihon. My routine is as follows: (1) Oi zuki or sanbon zuki; (2) Mae geri kara chudan oi zuki; (3) Dentotekina mawashi geri; (4) Ushiro geri; (5) Yoko keage ashi o kaete yoko kekomi; (6) Gedan barai kara chudan gyaku zuki; (7) Jodan age uke kara chudan gyaku zuki; (8) Chudan soto uke kara chudan gyaku zuki; (9) Chudan uchi uke kara chudan gyaku zuki; and (10) Chudan shuto uke. SELF-CHECK POINTS: Wind ups for all uke-waza and uchi-waza; hiki-te and tight elbows in punches; and hiki-ashi/large scale chambering in keriwaza; Also the two major variations of chudan shuto uke (experimentation). REPETITIONS: With the exception of shuto uke/kokutsu dachi (which I am spending ample time on), my repetitions of techniques in ido-kihon are relatively low this month. I'm typically doing 8-10 repetitions with each technique as a warm up (self-check with the 'big eye' magnifying glass) then blasting out approximately around the same number with snap.

KATA
My current focus includes Sochin, Nijushiho, Jion and the Joko series. I am utilizing Sochin and Jion to develop 'insertion of power' and smooth transitions. Nijushiho, I'm using for kumite training (oyo/application work). And I am using the Joko series to enhance my junansei (softness) in general.

KUMITE
In addition to Nijushiho kumite no bunkai, my aim is to 'hopefully' apply the principles I am working on in my kihon and kata. Perhaps this is commonsense, however all too often my physical training (kihon, kata and kumite) does not co-ordinate in the way I plan. So this is a target in my next few weeks of kumite training.









Keizoku wa chikara nari!
OSU, Andre

© André Bertel, Japan 2007

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Blog name change

Naturally there are a lot of references to Asai sensei on this website, including private lessons, interviews, and other experiences I had with him (and much more to come!). In saying that, the core objective of this blog is MY ONGOING SELF-TRAINING. This blog is not an ‘Asai Tetsuhiko worship site’, but rather a means of sharing my karate experiences with you (past and present). Obviously the biggest external influence, on my advanced development; was from Asai Sensei, which is naturally of interest, to many people around the world. These training experiences continue to help me, as I technically evolve through my daily practice. To clarify the blogs emphasis on my own karate training, (namely my own perception and physical understanding) I’ve changed its name to www.andrebertel.blogspot.com as opposed to calling it "asaikarate", as this better represents this site, and establishes proactivity, as opposed to stagnation. Regardless of who you are, who you have studied under, and your 'percieved' achievements, YOUR KARATE is your own, therefore, all that matters is the quality, and intensity, of your own training.



The purpose of my blog

The nucleus of this blog is threefold, but best summed up by one word... “Training” (Training = blood, sweat, physical pain, the satisfaction of improvement, and the ability to apply ones karate, under extreme pressure - that is, in a dangerous altercation)... Here are the three main objectives of this site:

(1) Sharing my 25+ years of karate, namely the foundational ‘JKA Shotokan style’. That is, my 'physical training', and the discoveries I make (or have made) via my daily practice, here in Kyushu, Japan.

(2)
Sharing my training experiences under the direct guidance of the Tetsuhiko Asai Sensei, and the seamless incorporation of Asai-ryuha, into ones Shotokan training. Essentially this is my physical translation of what Sensei taught me. As Asai Sensei sadly passed away, this blog is appropriately dedicated to his memory (hence the original name of the blog).

(3) The incorporation of other training methods, ideas etc.., from other sources, which help me to improve my skills as a karateka/budoka. This was the constant advice of Asai Sensei. He didn’t want people to become ‘clones of himself’. Asai Sensei hated to copy others, therefore he stole from all sources, then created his own way, which best suited his physique and unique attributes. This is the only means, by which individuals can achieve greatness, in any field, karate included. Sadly, as many organisations aim to control their members and keep their wallets fat, this is usually not encouraged.

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(4) Seperate from my core objectives, but crucial to mention: I have a non-political stance, therefore, this blog is for anyone interested in my karate experiences, regardless of style, organization, martial art etc. Even if you are not a practising martial artist, welcome! Hopefully my blog is an OK read for you!

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Here's official letter, to those on my blogs mail list: (PS - If you want to become a member of the email list -it's 100% free, please drop me a line at andre.mizuho@hotmail.co.jp and your address will be added).

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TO ALL THE SUPPORTERS OF MY BLOG:

Firstly, thanks you very much! The hundreds of emails, letters, and even some phone calls I have recieved, have been nothing less than fantastic. It's wonderful to know that people all around the world have been enjoying, and learning, from this little room on the web. I want people to steal my ideas, even better, improve them, or alter them, to more efficiently achieve their own training targets. Whether one is a complete beginner or senior instructor, I'd like to share what I have learned, and what I'm currently working on, with you. Likewise, I would like to hear your positive and negative feedback! As you all know, karate is a daily 'work-in-process' for me.

The address of my blog has been changed to wrestle an issue, which has been out of my control. I originally named the site "Asai Karate", however, many people have seemingly taken the site, as a 'worship alter', for Asai Sensei. Of course, the site is dedicated to the memory of my late teacher, Asai Tetsuhiko, and the preservation of what he taught me. However, it is also dedicated to the foundation (the karate of the unified JKA), which forms the base of what we now refer to as Shotokan. Without this solid base, Asai Sensei's karate is impossible to 'effectively' learn from, and likewise, self-innovation is clearly counterproductive. This base can only come from the 'large repetitions' of precise traditional kihon. This training never ends, regardless of age, dan rank, and position.

The concrete base of my karate, is that of the JKA; the advanced training I recieved from Asai Sensei is the marble floors, perhaps with a little bit of 'gold mix'; and the house is "what I'm building by myself". Just being a member of an organisation, or student of famous instructor, can not build your house for you! Only by proactively using the material they have provided, can you begin to build your house, and even then, you still need to source materials from elsewhere. Only through your own blood, sweat, and hardship in general, can you achieve a high technical level in karate. That is the ongoing target of my training, and all others who are true karateka.

Therefore the new address of my site is as follows: http://www.andrebertel.blogspot.com/

Again, thanks to all of you for your kind support. I don't claim to be 100% right, but are trying my best via my strict physical training. Where my knowledge and ability fails me, I attempt to make up for it, on the dojo floor. If I maintain this physical commitment to my karate, I know I will continue to improve. This 'seeking of technical perfection' to me, is what completely defines karate-do. Without training fiercely, with this determined mentality, we have nothing more than an image.
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I wish you the very best on your karate journey, OSU!
Andre
© André Bertel, Japan 2007

Sunday, 26 August 2007

Five months today!

Oh yes... And I was just reminded by Mizuho that we've been back in Japan for five months today! Doesn't time fly! A quick hello, big "osu", and thumbs up to all my karate students and friends in New Zealand (and around the world). I hope you are all enjoying the blog ;-)

Just remember, there are now 38 posts/articles on here, so be sure to have a look through them all! I sincerely hope that this little site helps you, on your karate journey.

Happy training everyone!
OSU,
Andre

P.S - I've taken the weekend off training, to soak up some Kyushu sun, and get some long awaited R'n'R. In saying that I will certainly do some stretching to loosen up. My self-training schedule will be changing this Saturday (September 1st), so when time permits, I will update you with my new 'core regime', in the coming week.

© André Bertel, Japan 2007

Memorial Training Report

On August the 15th, like so many karateka around the world, I completed 'special training' in memory of Asai Tetsuhiko. Many people have asked me what I did as one of his direct pupils, so here is a brief report and some photos. For me, the memorial trainings were a great opportunity to reflect on what Asai Sensei personally taught me. Also, to remember 'What Karate Is'! In Asai Sensei's own words, just prior to his passing in 2006, he stated. "Karate is defined by how much a man physically trains himself." I believe we should all endeavour to follow Sensei's disciplined example, and if we do not, how can we claim to be karateka? The answer is simple, we cannot! OSU, Andre.

AUGUST 15, 2007

Session One
In the tradition of Asai Sensei, I completed my first memorial training in the very early morning. This began with 20 minutes of mokuso, followed by Asai Sensei’s typical junansei-renshu. Included in this softness training were the kihoyuragiso drills, and the complete Kihoken kata (issei, nisei and sansei combined), focusing on the harmony of correct breathing, and soft movement. I then worked on Asai Sensei’s tokui-waza, muchiken (whip fist), namely snapping techniques with shuto, haito, haishu, teisho and ganken. I progressed on to keri-waza from standing, and seated positions (applying the principles of muchiken to all of the leg techniques). To conclude there was another period of meditation, in remembrance of Sensei.

Session Two
Beginning with a simple bow, the second session addressed snapping all of my kihon, utilising ‘natural energy’ by ‘training until failure’. This included Asai Sensei’s unique approach, in the training of the core foundational techniques. That is, kihon-waza with pivots, spins, reverse spins, jumping, and the diverse combinations of these. This period of my training was undoubtedly ‘the most intense’ planned for the day, but ended up being highly enlightening, revealing some unnecessary muscle power, hidden within some of my techniques (especially when fatigue set in). The formal exercise portion of the session was dedicated to Asai Sensei’s three favourite ‘Shotokan-ryu’ kata; Tekki-nidan, Enpi and Nijushiho; and his three favourite ‘Asai-ryuha’ kata; Kakuyoku (Kakuyoku-nidan), Rakuyo, and Hushu (Kaze no te). Each kata was repeated three times. To wrap up this training, I ended with a vigorous blast of the foundational techniques, no doubt ‘physically influenced’ by earlier kihon of the session (which seemingly took all of my energy); 1000 gyaku zuki (500 with each hand), and 1000 mae geri (500 each leg). Again the focus was on snapping the techniques, as opposed to using muscular power. Even though I was completely worn out, particularly from the final burst of front snap kicks, I decided to end, by pushing my spirit, with an "extra".., Sensei’s ‘machine gun’ choku zuki from kiba dachi, until total failure. Asai Sensei always reserved this, for the end of his open seminar sessions, to ‘burn out’ your muscles, so you had to punch with snap/joint power. My body shut down, after just over a minute of 'zapping out' punches, where I ended with ten single ‘perfect’ choku zuki. When I say perfect, I'm really meaning ‘the feeling of perfection’, as I could not use any of my muscle power. The session ended with a simple bow, and then a road trip, which I will briefly explain from now...
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Trip to Jumonjibaru Observatory
We travelled to Kyushu’s famous onsen city Beppu, to visit the Jumonjibaru Observatory. It is here that you can see Ehime on Shikoku island, where Asai Sensei was born. The weather was fantastic, and the view was just as great. My legs during the drive were so cramped from training, that I could barely stand when we finally got to the lookout, so a relaxing onsen was certainly tempting! But of course it was impossible, as I needed to complete my final session! In saying that, the breathtaking view was worth the trip. It was highly appropriate to see Shikoku from 'our' island, on the first anniversary of Sensei's passing.




Session Three
In the final session I completed all 89 kata, in a continuous relaxed fashion, with my mind on sensei’s coaching. This was really a warm down session, and a time for me to reflect on Asai Sensei’s karate advice, and other more personal memories. Upon the completion of all of the kata, I recited the dojo-kun in seiza, and had a period of ten minutes silence, in memory of Sensei.

This concluded my memorial for Asai Sensei. It certainly brought back many wonderful memories, and some ' very intense training memories' as well. Ironically, for those of you who don’t know, the day Sensei died was 61st Anniversary, of Japan surrendering in WWII. The first anniversary of Asai Sensei's passing, therefore marked 62 years, since World War 2 ended.





© André Bertel, Japan 2007

Wednesday, 15 August 2007

TETSUHIKO ASAI MEMORIAL DAY

On this very day, August 15th, last year, we lost Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei.

As my karate teacher and friend, I miss Tetsuhiko Asai dearly. Today, like many people across the world, I'll complete a special memorial training. I’m still deeply saddened by Asai Sensei’s passing, not just today, but everytime I sit in seiza. Seiza and mokuso, since this day, last year, really have taken a new meaning for me. Sensei had such a deep, and positive influence on my life. Words truly cannot express my gratitude to him, for taking me under his wing as a personal student, and giving me great care. I feel extremely blessed to have crossed paths with Tetsuhiko Asai, through this art we call karate-do. I will always keep Asai Sensei’s memory in my heart, and I'll continue to practice what he taught me, throughout my life.

 
Here is a miniture gallery, of some of my personal pictures with Sensei. Besides being my karate teacher, Asai Sensei really became like a father figure to me, in my personal life.







































































Click the following link to see Asai Sensei's Television New Zealand Interview: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fpX05max8Wg

Asai Sensei is survived by his daughter Hoshimi and wife Keiko in Tokyo. My thoughts and prayers go especially to them on this day.

RIP ASAI SENSEI

© André Bertel, Japan 2007