Saturday 26 April 2014

From Switzerland to Japan

Christa after a lesson at my private dojo.
 Our good friend Christa Lehman from Switzerland came to Aso-shi for training and to catch up. Christa has been to Japan many times to seriously study karate-do and kobudo; furthermore, she has also come to Japan for private training with me in the past. I think her example really shows a person who is not only committed to their training, but is also willing to put themselves on the line; that is, “learn by being a challenger”.

Christa has trained with me at my full time dojo in New Zealand around 10 years ago, also when I lived in Oita-ken in 2008 (click here:, and at some of the international seminars I’ve taught (twice in New Zealand; twice in Northern Germany; and once in England).

In 2005 she competed in the New Zealand Karate-Do Championships as a member of my dojo (the Christchurch Traditional Karate Team). At that tournament she placed in the women’s individual individual kumite. In 2011, she won a world kobudo championship title in Okinawa. Away from karate, Christa even attended Mizuho and my wedding in 2006!
What is so great about Christa, besides being a great person, is that she doesn’t practice budo for competition; rather, she is seeking the tradition of Japanese martial arts and simply focuses on “improving herself through culminated practice”. Moreover, she is willing to go out of her way to access top-level traditional training. This, to me, sums up the essence of karate-do training and budo in general.

Training: Our training focused on the contrast between linear and circular techniques at an extreme, and `winding up’ (essentially `tai no shinshuku’) without any unnecessary action(s). This also included basic stepping in both zenkutsu-dachi and kokutsu-dachi; however, I primarily had Christa focus on choku-zuki, gyaku-zuki and shuto-uke. We then moved on to Unsu kata, which I broken down into very small sections: to further practice the aforementioned focal points. We also practiced important oyo (applications) from Unsu, Enpi and Gankaku.
It was great seeing Christa’s movement really improve via the moderation of her koshi no kaiten (hip rotation) and cutting superfluous extra hand/arm movements out of her kata. The result was a much more strong, balanced, and `Japanese style’ kata. In particular, her improvement in the final sequence of Enpi was nice to see. By and large, kata performed in this way generates optimal movement for goshin-jutsu (self-defence). This vividly reflects the maximum that kihon, kata and kumite are one: the “trinity of karate-do”.

Christa’s also trained with Nakamura Shihan and Nakamura Sensei in Kumamoto City. I’d like to end by saying that it was an honour for me that Christa came to visit and train here in Aso-shi. Domo arigato gozaimashita Christa. Safe travels!!! Osu, André.
Training at JKA Kumamoto. Nakamura Sensei on the far right (standing). A great person and his class is always fantastic!

© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2014).

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