Tuesday, 30 March 2010
Saturday, 27 March 2010
My practice is going well (translated into English, “still trucking”), but I’m currently sporting two minor injuries which have been somewhat annoying, and the occasional sake induced hangover. A special session on just mae-geri and yoko-keage was excellent a few days back. It was all stationary work from heisoku dachi and zenkutsu-dachi. I lost count in somewhere close to 1000 kicks…The only word which comes to mind is ‘grueling’! Yet another practice was dedicated to continuous repetitions of Heian-nidan, Heian-yondan, and Heian-godan. These sessions were particularly beneficial for me, as they took me away from my current routine, and "gave my body a shock". Without trying to sound impressive, I have to say the Heian kata are “by far the hardest kata in Shotokan-ryu”. Every kata is difficult for me, but in all honesty, and as mentioned in the past, I’ve always found them to be the most technically difficult, and more importantly, the most revealing. If you think you have good karate, just do the Heian series! If you still do, you are either perfect or…
OK, to conclude, I’d like to update our email information. In the next few days our OCN email account will be closed. Therefore if you wish to contact me, please send your email to this address: firstname.lastname@example.org Likewise if our old 'bertelono' email is still in your address book, to avoid any miscommunication, please delete it and update! My best wishes to you from sakura covered Nippon.
Friday, 26 March 2010
Memories of my personal teacher Asai Tetsuhiko (Chief instructor), Yahara Mikio (Assistant Chief instructor), Yamaguchi Toru (Senior advisor), Abe Keigo (Technical director) and others firmly come to mind. Phenomenal training, onsen, karaoke, and lots of kampai ring bells (very loud bells) in my head. Asai Sensei singing "Just walking in the rain" and "Don't worry be happy" is unforgettable... I'm smiling as I write this. Yahara Sensei punching a fish dead was another memory... Not to mention his explosive energy which filled every corner of the dojo! And another about Abe Sensei, which out of respect, I can not say publicly. All history, and all taught me about the Shotokan karate world, its excellence, and in some cases, its negativity's.
What really counts is that I was taught amazing karate from these masters in this great nation, especially from Asai Sensei, who kindly took me on as his deshi. This privilege alone literally changed my entire life. More than this, it really balanced my perspective of karate, as a professional, and allowed me to put it in the right place (in my life). Belief, values and family first, profession and maintaining values in it, second... Then everything else follows naturally.
The last three years in Japan has allowed me to physically translate my last 20+ years of karate training and technically refine many subtle skills. When people ask me "How can you follow karate like this? That is my dream life!" I tell them, "We must maximize our lives as human beings, suffer, and take multiple risks to do so. If we are fortunate, we either create chances, or cower. If we are unfortunate, we have no choices. If one has a chance, a dream, and 'decides not to chase it', the only certainty is regrets.
Today marks three years in Japan, following my karate dream, and now is a time for celebration. My best wishes to you all from Nakatsu-shi, Oita-ken, Japan.
© André Bertel, Japan 2010.
Monday, 22 March 2010
Upon arrival at Kitakyushu airport straight away I spotted my good friend Paul, and then Bryan (whom I've never met before). From the moment of meeting Bryan I knew that we’d get along very well, my first impression was very positive, truly a very modest and knowledgeable karateka. Great guy! After the fairly long drive back to Nakatsu, we immediately travelled to the Renshinkan Dojo for training.
Bryan and Paul wanted to study Tetsuhiko 'Asai Style' Shotokan Karate, so I ran them through several of Sensei's introductory kihon exercises, and methods of power generation, which somewhat differ from that of the KWF/Yahara Karate. We also covered Kakuyoku-shodan and nidan kata several times (also Kakuyoku-sandan a little). During our warm up we briefly ran through Unsu (Bryan's tokui kata), Bassai-dai (Paul's tokui kata), Suishu (Mizu no te) requested by Bryan as he learned it from Asai Sensei in the 90's, Roshu (Nami no te) and Kaminari-arashi kata.
Kata applications for jissen-kumite: Another thing I quickly injected into the lessons were some of Asai Sensei's bunkai/oyo-jutsu of several so-called "redundant Shotokan kata movements". With limited time I only gave examples from the last movement (repeated twice) of Jion, Manji uke (featured in Heian-godan, Bassai-dai, Kanku-dai, Jion etc), and ura zuki in the three Tekki. Bryan and Paul were clearly impressed by these applications, just as I was, when Asai Sensei first taught them to me. These, according to Sensei, were the original meanings, so I hope this small taste of Asai-ryuha Shotokan bunkai was enlightening. I only wish we had more time to cover all of the applications and to train them via oyo-kumite.
The 'Gammy Leg' & relaxed movement: I was very pleased that Paul, even though he is still suffering with his ‘gammy leg’ still got into his dogi and trained. With more relaxed movement I was greatly impressed by his flow of power. So I'm sure, with practice on this and strict attention to shisei (posture), his karate will readily get to nidan standard.
South African or Nihonjin? Bryan’s karate is literally world class, definitely the best non-Japanese karateka I’ve seen for several years. He is a world level competitor and numerous times South African National Champion (JKA, KWF and WKF All-styles), but better than this, is the fact his karate is 100% traditional (pure budo/martial arts karate). So I was very pleased to teach him some Asai-ryuha, and hope that he introduces, what we covered, to South Africa. He is the first South African karateka to properly study Asai Sensei's technique in a session 'technically similar' to socho-geiko (special 'morning training'). I was thrilled to pass on some of Tetsuhiko Asai Sensei's karate to him, as his karate put a smile on my face.
My advice to anyone in South Africa, is to go and study karate from Bryan Dukas Sensei, he has much to offer anyone, who is serious about learning traditional Shotokan. Unlike most gaikokujin karateka, Bryan truly does karate the Japanese way, and at a level rarely seen outside of the very best clubs, here in Japan.
Thanks Paul and Bryan for coming down, it was a pleasure to host you here in Oita Prefecture, and an honor to be friends with you both through Karate-Do. Mizuho and I hope you had a great time, and that you benefitted from the karate keiko here.
Thursday, 18 March 2010
© André Bertel, Japan 2010.
Sunday, 14 March 2010
Tuesday, 9 March 2010
I hope this post finds you well. All the very best in your karate-do training.
(1) Chudan choku zuki (with both seiken and nakadaka ippon ken); (2) Hidari jodan kizami zuki kara migi chudan gyaku zuki; (3) Migi jodan kizami zuki kara hidari chudan gyaku zuki; (4) Hidari chudan mae ashi mae geri kara jodan mae geri; and (5) Migi chudan mae ashi mae geri kara hidari jodan mae geri.
(1) Sanbon 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) Tenshin gyaku zuki
On the first three days of March I ran through all 26 of the standard Shotokan Kata, something that I haven’t done for a while. On Monday (March 1st): I did Heian-shodan, Heian-nidan, Heian-sandan, Heian-yondan, Heian-godan, Tekki-shodan, Tekki-nidan and Tekki-sandan. On Tuesday (March 2nd): Bassai-dai, Bassai-sho, Kanku-dai, Kanku-sho, Jion, Jitte Jiin, Empi and Gankaku. And on Wednesday (March 3rd): Hangetsu, Chinte, Sochin, Unsu, Nijushiho, Gojushiho-sho, Gojushiho-dai, Wankan and Meikyo. And over the last few days I've focused on numerous Asai karate kata.
As my routine is primarily focused on kihon this month, I will do any kata, standard Shotokan or Asai-ryu, based on my daily physical requirements/condition.
Oyo kumite is the focus this month. Oyo kumite is the most important form of kumite in Asai Karate as it is directly applicable in the real world. It is not for winning competitions or only for the dojo kumite (against other karateka). But again, like all forms of kumite, it is useless without effective kihon. That brings to mind all of the 'bunkai masters' out there... OK, whoops, I'm side tracked... Enough said! ;-)
I'd like to conclude by saying, kihon is karate. If you want to see a persons karate level regardless of dan rank, check their oi-zuki, gyaku-zuki, shuto-uke, kokutsu-dachi, yori-ashi or their mae-geri. These and other kihonwaza define a person's technical level. Looking at such things as these make us humble, and realise that we should never feel too proud about our karate.
© André Bertel, Japan (2010).