Monday, 7 August 2017

For ALL Karateka: Kihon is a must (VIDEO)

This video is just an out take. Irrespective, KIHON IS A MUST to develop effective self-protection skills.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Progression: The greatest motivator of all

August has brought me back to the technical and spiritual soul of Karate, the rawest—of kihon, kata and kumite—which links the movements of Karate to Jissen-Kumite (Real fighting/Self-defence). After all these decades I remain a beginner, especially in relation to my great senpai here in Japan, who have done their utmost to teach me the karate way: not only in technique but also in heart.

Within my current training, Taikyoku Shodan is also included. This kata is pushing me to my absolute limits on all frontiers. The first word that comes to mind is, ‘amazing’; the second is, ‘genius’, in reference to Funakoshi Gichin Sensei and his son, Funakoshi Yoshitaka (Gigo) Sensei.

As the humid Japanese summer further sets in, each training is a tough challenge. When I first came to Japan in 1993, I only experienced the winter. But following visits, over all these years, has taught me about training in the extreme humidity. 24 years on, I am still learning.

The training of karate is an up an down experience but, this year, I have felt much happiness from training. This fruit has come from progression, which is the greatest motivator of all. Always remember, that progression 'must be made' and, when it is, all of the hardship in daily training will bring great satisfaction: because then, after all, it was really worth it! Osu, André.
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Seek skill and strength

Irrespective of all the politics in the Karate World, just train! Seek to become stronger every day.
 Many people have high Dan, grading rights, and qualifications, but do not have the technique to back these accolades. Such karateka know how weak they are, and hide behind their ‘political qualifications’, showing up, paying money, and kissing ass. The funny thing is, everyone knows who they are.
Don’t be these “karateka”. Seek to be strong and skillful
through daily training. Talk with your technical skill and strength. Irrespective of political outcomes, you will have effective karate and the greater karate world will respect you.
Osu, André Bertel
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Jiyu Ippon Kumite

To address many people around the world, who have requested this topic, today I will briefly describe and give a handful of tips on proper Jiyu Ippon Kumite. I hope that you all find that this covers your questions.
Description of Jiyu Ippon Kumite: After bowing the training partners face each other in shizentai (hachiji-dachi)―with ryoken daitae mae―with one partner as ‘the attacker’ and the other ‘the defender’. They both then advance into jiyu-dachi with a freestyle kamae and a spirited kiai: followed by announcing their respective attack.

The first attack is “Jodan” (Jodan oi-zuki); the second attack is “Chudan” (Chudan oi-zuki); the third attack is “Mae-geri” (Chudan mae-geri keage); the forth attack is “Yoko-kekomi” (Chudan yoko-geri kekomi); and the fifth and final attack is either “Chudan mawashi-geri” or “Jodan mawashi-geri”.

A)    The Designated Attacker: Prior to launching each offensive technique the attacker announces their attack, then, moves forward to get their optimal maai. This maai is the optimal distance, in which, their respective percussive technique will achieve the greatest damage to the anatomical target. When this position is achieved, the attacker 'launches in with full commitment' with a 'do or die mentality'. Upon the completion of their attack they maintain zanshin in a strong forward facing tachikata.

B)    The Designated Defender: In the case of the defender, they must not backpedal nor run away; instead they must hold their ground. A rearward movement with defense is acceptable, but only at the last moment: in the case achieving the best maai for counterattacking.

Ukewaza―Reception techniques are usually as follows: (i) Jodan age-uke; (ii) Chudan soto-uke; (iii) Gedan-barai; (iv) Chudan soto-uke; and (v) either Chudan uchi-uke or Jodan haiwan-uke. The hangeki, or counterattack, is usually either jodan or chudan gyaku-zuki. I'd like to stop here and explain why this is the case.

Hangekiwaza―An important note on hangeki (counterattacking): “…the expert instantaneously selects most direct and simple option”: Some styles, organizations and clubs practice a plethora of hangekiwaza in Jiyu-Ippon and other forms of Kumite. Significantly in contrast with this ‘stylistic approach’, elite karateka must never ‘consciously choose from techniques’ but, rather, spontaneously react with the most effective and immediate/simple option. In karate, this is gyaku-zuki due to the aforementioned points; furthermore, muscle memory via fundamental training and kata. In sum, this goes back to the maxim in Japanese Budo: "…mastering a few techniques results in trustworthy effectiveness; whilst merely collecting a multitude of techniques―is nothing more than shallow movement―irrespective of outward appearance/style”. Ironically, with mastery of the gyaku-zuki counter, the karateka will automatically counter with, say, a  mae-geri (when the distance is out), and hiji/enpi-uchi, hiza-geri, etcetera, when up close.

On the whole, once all of the attacks are completed, the roles of attacker and defender/counterattacker are reversed. This process can continue, or―as typically done in a general/group class context―(after fulfilling both roles) training partners change. Irrespective of this point every time the drill concludes karateka display mutual respect by engaging in ojigi which, in this case is the standing bow.

Some tips for training

Obviously I cannot list everything, in a post; however, here are some key points, which are often done insufficiently:

    The attacker is the main person in all forms of Yakusoku Kumite, including Jiyu Ippon Kumite; consequently, if their attack has incorrect maai, or they do not sincerely aim to hit their opponent, the training is completely wasted. I see this a lot on videos of Western instructors who post a lot on Youtube. Here in Japan, amongst serious karateka, we try our best to hit, not cooperate with the defender.

1.1)    Still, as Jiyu Ippon is completed in one action, the attackers tsuki and keri must not chase the defender but, rather, impact on target ‘where it is’. In this way, the attacker is forced to develop swift techniques, as opposed to pointlessly relying upon ‘drill based’ prediction.

1.2)    Kiai on the attack, not only the counterattack. Often people forget to kiai on the attack, which is reflective of them just going through the motions. I’ll reiterate… The attacker must aim to defeat the defender. Here in Japan, in the serious dojo, you will go to hospital if you do not defend with all of your might. In sum, the attacker provides the stimulus in order elicit a useful response and, ideally (in the case of the attacker), that is optimally connecting their blow.

1.3)    Fully express shomen and hanmi appropriately; furthermore, tai no shinshuku in attack, defense and counterattack.

1.4)    Eliminate all tension: use junansei (softness) to generate speed/explosive power―via natural energy. Added to this, breath and technique are one: start and conclude together... More about this at a later date.

1.5)    Remember the weight of your attacking limb. Throwing this weight combined with launching the backbone forward helps to create large scale and penetrating tsukiwaza and keriwaza. While this is fundamental in Jiyu Kumite, it must always be fully expressed in Jiyu Ippon Kumite: which is regarded in Japan as the bridge from Kihon Kumite.

I will leave it there for today. All the very best from Oita City, Kyushu. Japan.

Osu, Andre

© Andre Bertel. Oita-City, Japan (2017).

Saturday, 22 July 2017

July Training with Nakamura Masamitsu Shihan

 This weekend I went for training with my instructor, Nakamura Masamitsu Shihan, in Kumamoto (JKA Kumamoto Chuo Shibu: Shototakuhirokan). In addition to a great Karate-Do practice, it was of course, really wonderful to catch up with Nakayama Shihan, Akiyoshi Sensei (and the Nakamura family), Katayama Senpai and Ogasawara Senpai. Overall, and as always, a wonderful time.

I offer my huge appreciation to Nakamura Shihan and the Nakamura Family.

Osu, André.
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Backlog of videos

七月十七日 (月): Training in 津久見市 (Tsukumi City) on July 17th, 2017.
Today is my birthday. So, I thought I'd quickly answer many requests to backlog some videos on my Youtube Channel. Firstly, before I do that, I first have to offer huge thanks to all of my family, also my friends, karate senpai (seniors) and students across Japan and, indeed, around the world.

I have so much appreciation to you all. ありがとうございます.

By the way, to further promote Oita-Ken, here is link to Tsukumi's official webpage:,_%C5%8Cita

On to the backlog of videos... For much more, visit my Youtube Channel:


© Andre Bertel. Oita-City, Japan (2017).

Sunday, 16 July 2017

Toe Direction

The direction of your toes doesn't have to be 'perfect'; however, perfection must always be sought after in daily training.
A very important aspect,  especially in regards to unsoku/ashi-hakobi, is ‘TOE DIRECTION’. This is not only about external form but optimal efficiency, angle of movements and, consequently, transfer of power.

Besides intention, spirit, trajectory, and positioning: the power in the Karate-Do I practise, and teach, is ‘generically derived’ from four main sources:

1) Propulsion / Transferring of weight: via moving the body;

2) Compression and expansion – vertical power;

3) Rotation of the hips/waist –horizontal power; and,

4) Relaxation: and resulting ‘snap’ of techniques.

Toe direction is especially important for ‘propulsion/transferring of weight: via moving; but almost equally as important when comes to rotation of the hips/waist: as it is one of the keys to perfectly coordinate the upper, middle, and lower sections of the body; in particular, the ‘harmonious twisting’ of the ankles and hips.
Above and beyond this point is that, here in Japan,—the advanced method employed by the more elite practitioners—
is close-guarded or, as the saying goes, ‘kept in-house’.

Obviously, mastery and continuous practise of this imperative aspect of Kihon is vitally important: if one is seeking maximise the effect of ‘martial arts karate’ techniques.

I'd like to conclude with an encouraging point… For many karateka, especially non-Japanese practitioners, directing their toes correctly is particularly troublesome. The good thing is that this can be overcome by knowing where, and how, to use ones power: especially by using the aforementioned elite method. More than anything else, this relates to the correct use of kakato (kakuto chushin)—heel centralisation/centreline  and tsumasaki—the toes of the opposite foot when moving.

In this context this ‘fundamental’ doesn’t only relate to coordination but, again, as mentioned above, weight transfer.
Hence, ‘snap’ can be made by the lower and upper body and, simultaneously, maximum bodyweight can be applied: the ideal mix of heavy and light, hard and soft.

Once karateka can do this, they can move on to much more advanced aspects. My plan this year has been to include this aspect then within my teaching schedule and, then next year, we will begin to go well beyond this (and other vital elements). Overall, 2017 has been, and continues to be—a technical springboard for 2018 and, indeed, into the future. My best wishes to everyone here in Japan, and around the world, from an increasingly hot and humid Oita Prefecture.

押忍, アンドレ

© Andre Bertel. Oita-City, Japan (2017).

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Updated training regime for Tsuyu


A daily and very simple mix of Sonoba-Kihon followed by Ido-Kihon. In sum, the core kihon “with a big of a twist”… My reps at present a quite low ranging between 30-40 including a warm up of each technique 10 times slowly. The overarching theme is `effective high-quality` execution.


At present I am practicing three different kata per session, the first for my base training, the second for my personal advancement and the third for `technical variation`. I execute each kata at least four times each.

(1)  Each day one of the SHITEI-GATA: either Heian Shodan, Nidan, Sandan, Yondan, Godan or Tekki Shodan.

(2)  Nijushiho

(3)  A random kata: from standard Shotokan-Ryu or a Koten-gata. 


(a)   Kihon Ippon Kumite

(b)  Jiyu Ippon Kumite

(c)   Uchikomi

Kihon Ippon Kumite and Jiyu Ippon Kumite once slowly then twice a regular speed. Attack with, and defense and counters against: (1) JODAN—jodan oi-zuki; (2) CHUDAN—chudan oi-zuki; (3) MAE-GERI—chudan mae-geri keage; (4) YOKO-KEKOMI—chudan yoko-geri kekomi; (5) CHUDAN/JODAN MAWASHI-GERI—either chudan mawashi-geri or jodan mawashi-geri (please announce); and (6) USHIRO-GERI—chudan ushiro-geri kekomi. Just to confirm, yes I am also practicing mawashi-geri and ushiro-geri in Kihon Ippon Kumite, which is not in the syllabus.

Uchikomi: Firstly, standard practice, Kizami-zuki, Chudan gyaku-zuki, Jodan gyaku-zuki, Jodan oi-zuki, various renzokuwaza with tsuki, chudan mae-geri, chudan mawashi-geri, jodan mawashi-geri, legs followed by hands; and finally, creative/spontaneous renzokuwaza.

Taken as a whole, this current training is reflective of the Summer arriving here in Japan. With the rainy season starting, the humidity is once again rising alongside the temprature, making warm ups and stretching easier, and training harder. As the saying goes, “…we must take the good with the challenges”. I personally believe that the good things are bonuses and the challenges are where the real gains can be made. What I am trying to say is that everything can be looked at in a positive light. I wish you the very best from Oita City, Japan. – André

Now in my 40s, with huge support from masters here in Japan, I will focus on Budo Karate without all of nonsensical politics; that is, our objective is to make truly great karateka and karate instructors here in Japan and around the world.
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).

Monday, 19 June 2017


Today marks a DECADE—yes, literally 10 years—since I made my first post on this blog. Appropriately, the title was ‘Yoroshiku onegaishimasu’. Please look back if you want to understand this site and my Karate path, which is now in its 36th year.

Taken as a whole, I’d like to thank all of my seniors, peers, and students here in Japan, and around the world for your wonderful support.

In the following video there is nothing special, just regular hard daily training... However, I guess it is special as it is behind the scenes, which normally is not shown.

In sum, pertaining to this training, kihon until the body fails is imperative, as 'flashy instruction', lots of talk, and 'feelings', are now commonplace in the world. Needless to say, this theoretical karate will break under overwhelming strength. This is the technical essense of Budo Karate. That is, the Martial Art of Karate-Do.
With much thanks and appreciation from Kyushu, Japan, for those who have supported this site for the last 10 years. I am still surprised that a blog dedicated to hardcore karate, and Shotokan specific, could have over 1.5 million visits. Then again, I am not surprised as many people are still seeking the true martial art of Karate and, even if not, are unable to ignore it.


Osu, André Bertel

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).

Saturday, 17 June 2017

Trainee from Kazakhstan: Tuleukhan Iskakov

Mr. Tuleukhan Iskakov travelled all the way to Oita City—from Kazakhstan—to be a renshusei on between June 15th and 16th.

I will not disclose what was covered, during Tuleukhan’s time training here in Japan—that is for him to keep and share at his own discretion; however, I will say that it was great to see him improve his karate, moreover, leave with the tools to decisively ’snowball’ these improvements: via diligent practice.

As Tuleukhan booked me several months in advance, he easily managed to be accepted as a renshusei and, more advantageously, flexibly choose his training times. For others,—wishing to be a renshusei—his very early booking is a great example. In this regards you can email me at:

Overall, I would like to congratulate Tuleukhan on completing training here in Oita; furthermore, we wish him the very best in his future Karate-Do endeavours. 押忍, André
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).

Friday, 16 June 2017

Foreign Renshusei (Trainees)

The following list includes the non-Japanese karateka who have come to Japan and had private lessons with me. Others have come to train, but the following karateka have: (1) officially applied to be renshusei; (2) have been accepted; and (3) completed training as renshusei. To those on this list, "Omedetto gozaimasu!!!"

1. ISKAKOV, Tuleukhan (KAZAKHSTAN) 2017



4. ARNDT, Joerg (GERMANY) 2017

5. FRASCH, Peer (GERMANY) 2017


7. HAEUSLER, Andrea (GERMANY) 2017

8. UHLEMANN, Torsten (GERMANY) 2017

9. SCHOEMBURG, Oliver (GERMANY) 2017

10. LAMBEIN, Kathleen (BELGIUM) 2017

11. ANG, Eden (SINGAPORE) 2016

12. BARR, Michael (ENGLAND) 2016

13. MINEGHISHI, Natsuko (AUSTRALIA) 2016

14. ROBERT, Yann (FRANCE) 2015

15. ROBERT, Phinh  (FRANCE) 2015



18. MORALDE, Noel (AUSTRALIA) 2015

19. MORALDE, Heidi (AUSTRALIA) 2015   


21. LAMPE, Peter (GERMANY) 2015

22. KÖHLER, Frank (GERMANY) 2015

23. SCHÖNE, Rainer (GERMANY) 2015

24. PINTOS, Leo (AUSTRALIA) 2014

25. JORDAN, Pietro (ITALY/CANADA) 2014



28. RIVAS, Sergio (SPAIN) 2013

29. DUKAS, Bryan (SOUTH AFRICA) 2010


31. JEHU, Lyn (WALES/JAPAN) 2009

32. DILKS, Morgan (NEW ZEALAND) 2008

33. LEHMANN, Christa (SWITZERLAND) 2008

34. KELLY, Ben (IRELAND) 2007 

PLEASE NOTE: This list will be periodically updated and re-published when foreign karateka come and complete training at my dojo.
Application to be a renshusei: To apply please email me directly at: In your email include the following: i. your proposed dates to train; ii. full details: if other karateka will be coming with you; iii. dan rank(s); iv. age(s)—please note, those under 18 must be accompanied by a parent/caregiver; and (v) any questions/inquiries that you may have.
 © André Bertel. Japan (2017).

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

2nd Time Renshusei: Sergio Rivas

Sergio Rivas of Basque Country, Spain, returned to Japan for private training at my dojo between Thursday, May 20th, and Monday, May 24th. His first time as a Renshusei was in November of 2013 However, his second time as a Renshusei was very different because, this time, he travelled with his lovely wife Maitane and heart-stealing five month old baby-daughter.

I will not specify the high-level training that Sergio received—this is for him and for others who come as Renshusei—however, here is a brief overview:

(A) KIHONSpecific for second-time renshusei and tailored to Sergio’s current stage. In particular, grounded power and momentum were emphasized.

(B) KATA (a) Shitei-gata: Heian, Tekki; (b) Sentei-gata: Enpi; (c) Tokui-gata: Gojushiho Sho and Gojushiho Sho Kumite No Oyo; and (d) Koten-gata: Senka. Sergio learned the kata Senka for the first time. This kata was used as clean canvas to develop the heightened aspects of kihon (fundamentals) and oyo (applications) that he learned over the four days.

(C) KUMITE Yakusoku Kumite, Jiyu Kumite and Oyo-Kumite/Self-Defence. Everything was aimed to make effective techniques in the context of real fighting: to literally make kihon, kata and kumite one.

In sum, Sergio was loaded up with many advanced aspects of Karate-Do, so I am 100% sure that next time I teach him, he will be even better than now. The future is bright. Osu, André
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).

Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Deutschland Renshusei (May 2017) Video

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).

Renshusei from Deutschland

Concluding the first four hours of training: Kihon-Kata-Kumite--the trinity of Karatedo to achive optimal effectiveness.

Four more karateka have come as international renshusei (trainees) here, at my dojo, in Oita-City. The four fromドイツ (Germany) included:  Joerg Arndt (6th Dan):; Peer Frasch (3rd Dan); and Axel Hoffmeyer (2nd Dan); and, second-time renshusei, Frank Kohler (3rd Dan).
Explaining a key Budo Karate point kept within the elite Shotokan schools here in Japan. Focused faces and great karate spirit!

The focus of the weekend was the correct and elite practice of Kihon, Kata and Kumite - in combination - to achieve effective 'fighting ability', which is at 'the technical heart' of traditional Budo Karate. While I won’t go into details—as these are for Frank, Axel, Peer and Joerg—I will say that extreme technical improvement was made by all four trainees over the eight hours. So I was very impressed by their physical effort, karate no seishin (karate spirit) and overall determination to make changes to improve their karate. Perhaps a short video, giving a few glimpses will come. Last, but not least, I'd like to once again thank Morooka San for his great assistance. Osu, André.

At my weekly 'outdoor dojo' here in Oita... Yusuhara Jinja.

The conclusion of 8 hours training... From left to right: Frank, Joerg, Morooka San, yours truly, Peer and Axel.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).


For those wishing to be renshusei at my dojo in the future, please remember: it usually requires booking at least three months (in advance) due to my schedule within Japan. For those wanting to ensure their dates, and times, you need to email me at: and complete an official application.


Monday, 15 May 2017

What kata do I teach outside of the standard 26?

Tobi yoko-geri kekomi on Andrew Makin (3rd Dan).

Kakuyoku Shodan
The opening of the 'Falling Leaf' kata: Rakuyo. It is the third in a series of kata, which includes Hachimon and Senka.

There have been some questions about what I teach outside of the 26 standard Shotokan kata, at my private dojo—International Karate Shotokan—here in Oita City, Japan. In the past I had more kata (which we still archive), but our official koten-gata have been abbreviated: to what I have deciphered as being utterly essential for my senior students across Japan and abroard.

None of these kata are compulsory, within our group, except (1) Junro Shodan for Nidan karateka; (2) Junro Shodan or any other Junro kata (free choice) for Sandan karateka; and (3) a Jiyu-gata for Yondan karateka and above. ALWAYS...Compulsary are the five Heian,  Tekki Shodan and the four Sentei-gata (Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Enpi and Jion).

The following 'KOTEN-GATA' list is what we have been following the last seven years, since 2010. I will not go into oyo (application) publicly but we have a very unique system, which is organizationally in-house, and strongly connects with Okinawa and China; furthermore and more importantly, contemporary military CQB (Close Quarter Battle).


1.       Junro Shodan

2.       Junro Nidan

3.       Junro Sandan

4.       Junro Yondan

5.       Junro Godan


6.       Kibaken

7.       Kyakusen (Ashi-barai no kata)

8.       Joko Issei

9.   Joko Nisei

10.   Joko Sansei

11.   Joko Yonsei

12.   Joko Gosei

13.   Rantai (Ransetsu)

14.   Seiryu

15.   Meikyo Nidan

16.   Meikyo Sandan

17.   Kakuyoku Shodan

18.   Kakuyoku Nidan

19.   Kakuyoku Sandan

20.   Sensho

21.   Shotei

22.   Hachimon

23.   Senka

24.   Rakuyo

25.   Kashu (Hi no te)

26.   Roshu (Nami no te)

27.   Suishu (Mizu no te)

28. Hushu (Kaze no te)

29.   Raiko (Kaminari-arashi)

The rationale behind practising these additional kata is "karate as effective martial arts". Learning new kata for 'kata sake' (pun for non-Japanese readers intended) has no meaning. These additional kata are for kumite/self-defence training 'specific for individuals'. In this regard, to individualistic specificity, they are very useful for developing high level 'Martial Art Karate' skills.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).