Tuesday, 28 December 2010


I've uploaded a video of SEIRYU KATA on Youtube. This Asai-ha Shotokan-ryu Karatedo Koten Kata focuses primarily on muchiken-waza (whip fist techniques).

This is the final version which Asai Sensei taught me. Unlike other versions of this kata floating around online THIS IS THE WAY SEIRYU IS SUPPOSED TO BE EXECUTED, as opposed to being Shotokanized, which invalidates its practice. This is the correct use of energy, not for winning competitions and `looking good', but rather to turn the human body into a whip.

Filmed yesterday at the Christchurch Shotokan Karate Club (primarily for those who I have taught this kata to in 2010; especially those in Japan, Germany, Italy & New Zealand), this is a `warts and all' rendition, done in one take. Please feel free to make a comment, but keep in mind, this is Asai-ha Shotokan-ryu Karate as opposed to being 'standard Shotokan'. Click on the following link to check out the video on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNcOeu5Fv20
© André Bertel, New Zealand 2010

Saturday, 25 December 2010

January Seminars in Christchurch, New Zealand.

These seminars will be two fantastic days of traditional karate training, which will be more 'technical' than `a hard workout'. We'll be covering optimal use of the hips, compression & snap. To further develop these skills a unique koten (classical) kata will then be taught, followed by its bunkai/oyo-jutsu (practical applications). All traditional karateka are most welcome to attend these clinics, regardless of style or organisation.
For more details on the Christchurch Seminars, please click on the poster.
© André Bertel. New Zealand, 2010

Friday, 24 December 2010

Joko issei, nisei, sansei, yonsei & gosei

Joko literally translates as `always practice’ and issei, nisei, sansei, yonsei and gosei means `first to fifth generation’. In actuality these are not koten-gata (ancient/classical forms) but rather, like the more fundamental Junro, were engineered by Tetsuhiko Asai Sensei. They are a result of Asai Sensei’s research at the Japan Karate Association and target of pressuring karateka to make more fluid/smooth transitions "by force".______

One question many people ask, just as I asked Asai Sensei, is why he labelled these five kata by `generation’. The answer he provided was rather fascinating but still to this day I don't understand what he meant due to my limited Nihongo. Sadly, I cannot directly quote what he said, but it was something like “these kata technically reflect five distinctly different generations of karate-do”. Another thing he once said at a group dinner was that “Joko-nisei was influenced by Gogen 'The Cat’ Yamaguchi of Goju-kai”. He continued by saying "he and Nakayama Sensei had extensively collaborated with Yamaguchi until 1987 (when Nakayama Sensei died) then Asai Sensei by himself until Yamaguchi Sensei's death in 1989 {hence many people incorrectly refer to Asai Sensei as `The Cat'. Asai Sensei always said "there is only one cat in karate, and that is Mr. Yamaguchi of Goju-kai"}. In this same conversation he also stated his desire for the Joko to become mandatory kata, much like the Junro series, this was his dream and only IJKA followed this.


JOKO-ISSEI: First and fore mostly Joko-issei is a perfect transformation and advancement of Junro-shodan, even though it was created before Junro-shodan! It incorporates the core techniques in the ‘first generation of karatedo’. This kata proactively promotes smooth transitions, which is the key theme in this series of formal exercises. Asai Sensei admonished that he “intentionally designed all five Joko kata in a disjointed manner to force fluidity.” This point should be kept in mind at all times when practicing any of the Joko kata.

JOKO-NISEI: Joko-nisei as mentioned above features many Goju techniques, thus very circular, giving this kata a feeling of Okinawan karate. Needless to say, also `obviously circular' are the two mawashi geri found in this kata, which Sensei explained “were accepted as being orthodox technique during this period of karate’s development”. Nevertheless, Asai Sensei taught all karate as circular, including linear techniques, as this is natural!

JOKO-SANSEI: Joko-sansei trains gyaku-hanmi (reverse half-facing position) which took the use of hip rotation to the limit. This was more emphasised than in previous generations and led to superior power. Joko-sansei kata is second to none in the development of gyaku hanmi and this is something Asai Sensei was very enthused about telling everyone!

JOKO-YONSEI: Joko-yonsei reflects the integration of long, middle and close range techniques. This mirrors the penultimate period of karate under the late Masatoshi Nakayama Sensei and the unified JKA (Japan Karate Association). Several of Keigo Abe Sensei’s favoured techniques are featured, which Asai Sensei told me prior to his passing in June of 2006; and also about `the Yahara influence' on Joko-gosei.

JOKO-GOSEI: Joko-gosei `the fifth generation kata’ was influenced by the developments of the JKA (Matsuno group). Attacks such as tobi kaiten uraken are featured and several other moves of switching the legs and delivering techniques. This is typical, especially the style of uraken-uchi, of Mikio Yahara Sensei’s karate who at that time was Asai Sensei's Assistant Chief Instructor .

I am unfamiliar with many of things which Asai Sensei said about Joko, and for club members who have asked me, especially those present when Asai Sensei made these statements, you literally know as much as I do. It would be interesting to know more about Gogen Yamaguchi Sensei and the different generations of karate techniques. Quite simply I never took the initiative to ask Sensei about the Joko series and while I was learning them with everyone else, I was also preoccupied with several other kata and techniques that Asai Sensei was teaching me privately. However, in the spirit of Asai Sensei, and karate as an art of physical training, such historical matters are clearly trivial next to practice itself. My advice is for members to follow Sensei's example and practice all five Joko kata with above mentioned key objectives in mind. And who knows, perhaps in the future, via karate historians, the gaps will be filled._________

Please note: This article was originally published in our dojo shimbun (club newsletter) in December of 2006. However the supplementary photographs have been added from after morning practice on December 21st, 2010.

© André Bertel, New Zealand 2010.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

The Seven Core Kata of Shotokan Karate

Tetsuhiko Asai Sensei referred to Bassai-Dai, Kanku-Dai, Empi, Jion, Jitte, Hangetsu and Gankaku as `The Seven Core Shotokan-ryu Kata’. Today I’d like to briefly (as succinctly as as possible) describe the main training objectives for each of these essential kata, as taught to me by Asai Sensei.

1. BASSAI-DAI: Hip rotation to the limit - using the spine as a pendulum.

Lightness, quickness and the integration of various rhythms of movement.

3. EMPI: Contraction and expansion of the body, and rapid direction change.

4. JION: Smooth transitions and decisive channelling of power.

5. HANGETSU: Coordination of breath, stance, movement and techniques.

6. JITTE: ‘Body mass’ hip rotation and thrust, and ankle control.

7. GANKAKU: Balance and posture – lines of power via hip alignment and technique trajectory.
These seven kata should be well learned and understood before karateka can even consider moving on to kata such as Sochin, Unsu, Chinte, Gojushiho-Sho and so forth. Always remember "in traditional karate a great Hangetsu will always be better than a very-good Unsu"! Sadly, due to too much emphasis on competition, some of these kata have been under-valued. Keeping in mind that Asai Sensei referred to them as `The Seven Core Shotokan Kata', it readily becomes obvious, that without all seven of them tightly under the belt, Shotokan karateka are missing the heart of their style.
Osu, André.

© André Bertel. New Zealand, 2010

Friday, 17 December 2010

Palmerston North Seminar Video Clip on Youtube

This video clip was kindly provided by Morgan Dilks Sensei. If you haven’t read the reports about the seminars here are the links: (PART ONE) http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2010/12/palmerston-north-seminars-part-i.html & (PART TWO) http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2010/12/palmerston-north-seminars-part-ii.html

For previous video links click here and please feel free to post any comments: http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2010/11/blog-video-links-updated.html

© André Bertel. New Zealand, 2010.

Friday, 10 December 2010


KARATE SUMMER SCHOOL (PRIVATE LESSONS): I am now conducting a karate summer school for all grades, from complete beginner’s right through to advanced black belts. If you are interested you can contact me at: andre.mizuho@hotmail.co.jp. These private or small group lessons are separate to dojo training and can be booked on any day throughout December and January. They will cover skills specific for those who attend them and will provide a level of Shotokan karate tuition, which is inaccessible here in Canterbury. In saying that, these sessions are by no means exclusive for Shotokan practitioners, as they will be extremely beneficial for anyone who practices traditional Japanese Karate regardless of kyu or dan rank.

CHRISTCHURCH SHOTOKAN KARATE-DO TECHNICAL SEMINAR: On the 22nd and 23rd of January (Saturday & Sunday) there will be four traditional karate-do workshops. These are open seminars and will thoroughly cover a number of technical refinements, which will dramatically improve skills. Participants from around New Zealand are welcome, but due to the venue size, numbers will be limited. Again to book a place, or for more information, please email me at: andre.mizuho@hotmail.co.jp.

Osu, André Bertel
© André Bertel, New Zealand 2010.

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Palmerston North Seminars (Part II)

The Manawatu Standard newspaper featured this article on Monday the 6th of December. For more information on Morgan Dilks Sensei and his dojo in Palmy click here: 
http://andrebertel.blogspot.com/2008/11/palmerston-north-karate-instructor.html or better still, visit the official USKU New Zealand homepage for class details and locations: http://www.usk.co.nz/
© André Bertel. New Zealand, 2010.

Monday, 6 December 2010

Palmerston North Seminars (Part I)

On Sunday and Monday I taught four traditional Shotokan karate clinics in Palmerston North. The first two were group seminars whilst the others were private sessions (for USKU New Zealand Chief Instructor Morgan Dilks Sensei, who kindly hosted me).
KIHON: The overall theme of both open and private classes focused on maximisation of koshi no kaiten (the rotation of the hips), tai no shinshuku (the compression and stretch of the body) and junansei (softness/relaxation) to generate effective power for actual self-defence... REAL KARATE! I noticed that many people were surprised how their physical power changed from this; and a wide gulf between sports/game karate, and authentic traditional/martial arts karate was decisively established.

Due to the wide range of grades present on Sunday I taught an ample amount of “kihon” to provide a comprehensive introduction of Asai Tetsuhiko Shuseki-Shihan’s approach to Shotokan. Morgan Sensei made this very easy, as he understands Asai-ryu Karate from previous instructor training, and has lived, and trained extensively in Japan, directly under Fukamizu Kennichi Shihan in Miyazaki-ken.

KOTEN-KATA: To bolster what was practiced in kihon I typically utilised an Asai-ryuha Koten-Kata as a tabula rasa. Keeping this in mind, rather than following the orthodox format (of teaching the accompanying bunkai/oyo-jutsu) we concentrated on the fundamental generation of power, as dictated by the seminars technical objectives established in the kihon-geiko. This was also applied to the opening movements of Heian-shodan kata.

KUMITE: Amongst other things we worked on the correct distance and trajectories for various keriwaza (kicking techniques) namely penetration of the target for optimal effect. This maai training also involved Asai Sensei’s introductory ducking techniques which are intrinsically connected to irimi. Naturally all techniques practiced linked back to the criticality of koshi no kaiten, tai no shinshuku and junansei/muchiken.
PRIVATE TRAINING: The private lessons I gave Morgan Sensei on Monday covered more refined/advanced skills, kata and bunkai/oyo-jutsu. These skills are for him to keep and teach to his members, at his own discretion, so I will not go into details here.
I’d once again like to thank Morgan & Yuko for hosting us, and everyone who we had the pleasure of meeting whilst in Palmerston North. Osu!

© André Bertel. New Zealand, 2010.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Trip to Wellington

Here are some pics from Wellington. As always, thanks so much to Stamoulis Sensei, Helen and Orestis and also to Christian, who paired up with me on the spur of the moment for an impromptu karate embu (demonstration). Mizuho and I also had a chance to catch up with my cousin Cassandra and meet her son Zac. Not to mention a nice time with Bon Jovi (of course no pictures included). For those of you unfamiliar with New Zealand I've also added some jpeg's of The Beehive and New Zealand Parliament based in the heart of the capital. Osu!  
© André Bertel. New Zealand, 2010