Saturday 14 September 2013


Here are seven tips for training. I have written them based on "the more typical questions" (synthesised) I've received since returning to Japan via my email account:
While a lot of these answers will be obvious, there still may be something of value for someone out there. I personally can't get enough of such basic points, which I constantly have to go back to in my own training.
Lastly, these are just my views... I do not claim to be a good karateka and certainly do not claim to know everything. These are just my views addressing recent questions sent to me based on my training and understanding of karate-do. Best wishes, osu, André.


TIP 1: Tighten up your techniques. That is, be careful about over extension! Look at say jodan age-uke, chudan soto-uke or shuto-uke. The elbow of the blocking arm should be one fist width away from the torso or head. Likewise with gyaku-zuki and jun-zuki (oi-zuki) the chest should be square—you must not reach with the arm… Of course there are exceptions but exceptions should never dominant your practice.

TIP 2: `Knees up Mother Brown’… Whenever you kick raise your knee high! Don’t be a lazy duffer and kick with your lower leg. A good way to learn about raising your knees is from practicing kizami-geri i.e. – the grading combination with shuto-uke and nukite or say Junro-shodan kata. While this is common sense and well known, it is often physically neglected.

TIP 3: Tachikata: Stances can be warped into oddball positions if they are too short, too long, too narrow, too wide, too deep or too shallow. Practice `the right stance for your body’ (and attributes), which allows you to optimise your techniques.


TIP 4: Select at least one kata and really work with it. This kata should be the best kata for you! Therefore, best for your personal attributes and body, and not a kata that you necessarily like. You should physically know it forward and reverse, leftward and rightward, its oyo (applications), and practice applying its techniques on the heavy bag, makiwara, in yakusoku-kumite training etc. If you are sane you will hate this kata as you do it so much, but—I assure you—it will be your trustworthy friend and very useful.

TIP 5: One more note, don’t fall into the trap of choosing a `popular kata’ i.e. – Sochin, Unsu, Gankaku, Gojushiho Sho etc… While these are all fine, if Wankan or Meikyo suit you more, do them. You can always do these other kata simply for your enjoyment.  In this regard, when I am at a grading or tournament and a karateka performs one of the less commonly seen kata, it gets my full attention. If they do it very well, it often turns out to be the technical highlight of the event.

TIP 6: When practicing jiyu-kumite don’t cheat yourself. Always fully express your techniques from kihon. That is full-hip action and full trajectories. All of your techniques should apply full body power, even when sparring lightly. If your jiyu kumite is just playing around, it is better to drop it out of your training regime: as it is actually eroding your skills developed in kihon and kata. Always remember kihon, kata and kumite are one… I will say that that again: KIHON, KATA & KUMITE ARE ONE, not separate arts.

TIP 7: Lastly, never waste your techniques. Whether in Gohon kumite, Kihon ippon kumite, Jiyu ippon kumite, Jiyu kumite, etcetera.., only launch techniques when you are in the correct distance. Maai must be correct when employing your attacks or counterattacks. Think of a sniper who shoots at his/her enemies from a high point. They do not fire their weapon until the bullet can reach the target. The range of their rifle is limited. But as soon as the target is in range, they immediately pull the trigger. Kumite is the same… Don’t waste your bullets, and don’t hesitate when the distance is closed or made. Attack with the hips not the limbs...
Aso Jinja, Aso-shi, Kumamoto.
©André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2013).

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