Wednesday 10 June 2009


Tsuyu (the rainy season) has arrived here in Japan and man it’s pouring down in Kyushu. The humid weather has arrived and the heat is rising fast… Actually I’m loving it as always! Needless to say, my junbi-undo (warm-up/preparatory exercise) time has been halved. Here’s my latest training routine, which I began yesterday. All the best from Nippon! - André

Kihon: My kihon training has gone full circle, so I’m finally back to what really matters the most, the core fundamental techniques. These foundational techniques are those which make up the majority of the standard Shotokan syllabus, and are what I always find, the most challenging. They include: (1) Oi zuki; (2) Gyaku zuki; (3) Mae geri; (4) Mawashi geri; (5) Ushiro geri; (6) Yoko keage; (7) Yoko kekomi; (8) Gedan barai; (9) Jodan age uke; (10) Chudan soto ude uke; (11) Chudan uchi ude uke; and (12) Chudan shuto uke. Combination-wise my focus is on nothing more than the basic ukewaza followed by reverse punches, and some other ‘typical’ two/three movement renzokuwaza (such as mae geri kara oi zuki, mae geri kara mawashi geri, sanbon ren zuki etcetera). Of particular importance to me at present, is full (proper) koshi no kaiten at all times. To be totally frank, I can never get past ‘simple matters’ in my karate, well at least not for long... But I’ve come to the realization, this is ‘this is what kihon is’, and this is why “karatedo begins and ends with kihon”.

How I’m practicing my kihon routine: Presently I’m treating my kihon-keiko like weight-training. On days one, three and five I focus on tewaza (ukewaza and tsukiwaza), and on days two, four, and six, I’m focused on ashiwaza (keriwaza). To supplement this practice I’m doing relevant calisthenics to strengthen my techniques i.e. – plyometric and hand stand pushups for my hand-attacks/blocks, and a variety of squats and tobi-keriwaza (jump kicks) for my leg attacks. On all six days I work on kihon-tachikata (basic stances), shisei (posture), and unsoku/ashi-hakobi (footwork/leg movements). I’m taking Sunday’s off from isolating my fundamentals and concentrating 100% on kata.

Kata: I want to have four Shotokan forms, which I can seriously call tokui (favourite/specialized) kata, however, at present, I only have three, Jion, Empi and Unsu. I’m trying to choose from Gankaku, Kanku-Sho, Bassai-Sho, Sochin, Nijushiho, Gojushiho-Dai and Gojushiho-Sho but are admittedly still undecided. I know that if any of my former longtime students (or my mum back in New Zealand) read this, they will laugh, as over the years they have seen me go through 'big phases (usually several) with all of the Shotokan-ryu kata', but I’m sure this is the same story for all karate-do instructors. In addition to the standard Shotokan kata I’m currently working on, I'm also practicing the Asai-ryuha kata ‘Hakkaishu’. However, as opposed to being a tokui-kata, I’ve been using this as a 'tool' to monitor my junansei (softness). I find that practicing Sensei’s kata “creatively keeps me aware” of my power, and therefore, allows me to optimize it for maximum effect… As I’ve stated many times before, Asai Sensei’s advanced formal exercises are directly for jissen-kumite (actual-fighting).

Kumite: Ippon kumite is dominating my self-training at present, both kihon ippon and jiyu ippon kumite. However, at the dojo I’ve mainly been doing jiyu-kumite as that has been required of me. Regardless, my personal target has been to tune up my one-step sparring. I won’t go into too much depth here, except to say that my kihon ippon kumite is focused on koshi no kaiten (consistent with my kihon-keiko); and my jiyu ippon kumite simply adds tai sabaki and extreme tai no shinshuku to the equation. In both sparring drills I’m trying to retain precise technical form, and have optimal maai to achieve ichigeki-hissho.

I’d like to leave you with some words of wisdom. “Whether kihon, kata or kumite one must harmoniously apply the maximum torque, and maximum propulsion of the body. Anything less, is nothing more than rehearsing a bad habit”.
© André Bertel, Japan (2009).

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