Friday, 22 June 2018

Mae-geri keage


© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2018).

Tuesday, 19 June 2018

11th Anniversary of this blog

Today marks 11 years since I started this blog here in Japan... I cannot believe that... And soon I'll reach the mark of 40 years training in Karate-Do, and much of that full-time. Why is time so fleeting??? Too Fast!!!

Next week I will be teaching in Germany again, but this time, for the first time in Halle: organized by Peter Lampe Sensei (5th Dan).

The karate I will teach this time is a big step up from my past international seminars. It is part two from last year, and will reveal a deeper layer of karate from the past.

Earlier this month, on June 7th, Asai Sensei would have turned 83 years old. I'm sure he would be happy that I begin to release these techniques and their applications. This has begun here in Japan ーas a commemoration ― and also, soon, in Germany.

Osu, Andre Bertel
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2018).

Friday, 1 June 2018

Trainee from Switzerland: Christa Lehman


Christa Lehman, from Switzerland, once again visited for training. This time her request was to work on雲手 (Unsu) kata. Accordingly, that is what I taught for her for both days she was here in Oita City. 

To sum up what was covered, I retaught her the kata from start to finish, then we practiced each sequence as kihon—breaking everything down into its most important parts. Following that, I took her through the ‘fighting/self-defence applications (oyo)’ and principles, which constituted the entirety of the ‘kumite’ training. Lastly, I related all of the above points to other kata, which we also practiced (when relevant to do so). While I won’t go into detail, kata referenced included: the five Heian, Hangetsu, Jitte, Sochin, Nijushiho and Gojushiho Sho.
 
By the conclusion of the first day of practice Christa had greatly improved her Unsu and by the end of the second day, it was clear she had lifted her level even further. Undoubtedly, with practice (on what was covered here in Oita) she will not only have an excellent looking Unsu, but one with effective martial arts substance. Ganbatte Christa, 押忍!!

Christa studying karate under me, here in Oita, 10 years ago... How time flies...

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2018).

Thursday, 24 May 2018

WHERE KARATE SITS WITHIN THE MARTIAL ARTS: THE BIG PICTURE

Quite simply, one of the most important ‘foundational understandings’—for karateka (and everyone who practises unarmed martial arts of self-defence)—is ‘the big picture’. That is, where their respective style, or art, sits in context and relevance to the martial arts as a whole. Today I will outline this in relation to Shotokan karate, nonetheless, as I’ve already stated, this article is universally applicative: irrespective of “style”.
Tobi jodan shihon nukite doji ni haiwan nagashi uke.

Before I begin, I’d like to explain ‘why’ I’ve written this article… Well, the reason is "that the vast majority of people practising karate, and/or other martial arts do not have this ‘big picture’ or are insufficiently keeping it in mind". Either way, this inevitably results in poor training plans especially for senior practitioners (like ‘maps with errors on them’ or reading a map ‘the wrong way around’); consequently, optimum results cannot be achieved and, more often than not, the objectives become blurred or even lost altogether. This undermines, well… Everything, in one’s training.



Part One: The myth of ‘Karate vs. Weapons’


One of the biggest loads of trot is that karateka used their bare-handed skills to defeat bushi, the samurai warriors, of feudal Japan.


The first thing that many think of is, of course, karate verses a katana; however, one must also take into consideration that the Chinese introduced firearms into Japan during the 13th Century; furthermore, the Portuguese introduced their guns in 1543. 1543 is a particularly important year as it apparently spurred a mass production of firearms throughout Japan by the samurai clans.

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The Satsuma clan conquered the Ryukyu Kingdom (Okinawa) in 1609. Needless to say, it is ridiculous to conceive, let alone believe, that karate developed so that “…the unarmed people of Okinawa could defeat gun toting, sword wielding and armour covered professional warriors”.



It is clear that the samurai, and all other warriors/armies spanning history provide an obvious understanding of where karate sits (and other unarmed fighting arts) — within the broad category of MARTIAL ARTS.



Part Two: Unarmed Martial Arts are ‘the last resort’ for the COMPLETE MARTIAL ARTIST

Imagine any army going to war with just their unarmed fighting skills? Imagine that here now, in 2018. Now imagine it one hundred years ago; a thousand years ago; five thousand years ago… Unambiguously, it is an utterly ridiculous notion. Literally suicidal, yet many still blindly believe and claim this about karate... Just return your mind to 'Karate vs. the Samurai Sword'. Anyone who claims this is living outside of reality.



The key point to keep in mind is that all martial arts are primarily based on ‘the use of tools/technology’—namely the historically ever-advancing weapons to subdue and/or kill the opponents.



Therefore, warriors spent the majority of their time honing skills with the most advanced/most effective weapons available to them)(at any give time in human history). In this way, there is a direct parallel between the contemporary jet fighter pilot and the Satsuma Clan warrior. The pilot practises hard to optimise their fighters weapon systems, employ various defence strategies, and so forth. Just as the samurai warrior would practise firing his musket, swordsmanship and the like.



Unarmed fighting arts, like karate, are—and have always been—the last resort in combat. The very last resort! If one is going to defend themselves or attack someone else, if deadly serious, “ …a tool or tools to do so has always been the first option”. It is when ‘caught off guard’ (without holding a weapon), or when one’s weapon(s) is/are lost (or unusable) that "...unarmed fighting skills are used for survival".



Obviously, for the majority of people around the world, unarmed self-defence is `the default situation`, as in daily life we do not walk around with guns, blades and so on. Moreover, and needless to say, in most contemporary societies, carrying of any concealed or unconcealed weapons is illegal.



To reiterate… The ‘big picture’ of martial arts is battle/mortal combat; that is, the generic term of 'martial arts' is literally ‘the arts of war’. I am sorry to say this, but in this present day, the skilled application of, say, nuclear and hypersonic weapons (and God knows what else) are the top end of the martial arts. Whilst, the skilled application of unarmed fighting arts—including karate—are at the bottom end: last resort for defence and attack. It is important for karateka to fully understand this… ALL UNARMED MARTIAL ARTS ARE INCOMPLETE MARTIAL ARTS and, throughout documented human history, always have been. Studying old weapons, such as Japanese kobudo, is fine but also incomplete. A complete martial artist is an individual who is first and fore-most highly skilled in the most sophisticated weapons of the day and age they exist in; furthermore, blades and other weapons, and also highly competent in 'last resort' unarmed fighting techniques. Based on this `real criteria`, the complete martial artist can best be profiled as someone like a US Navy Seal or British SAS member.




Part Three: Karate in context with other martial arts


Some people claim that one unarmed martial art (or one style) is better than others. Yet others claim that ‘the best style is to have no style’. While I am by no means claiming — “...that karate, and more specifically ‘Shotokan’, is ‘the best’”— I’d like to make one statement. The reason I have stuck with Shotokan for so many years is, “….when it is practised properly as budo/bujutsu, it really is second to none” (in the context of unarmed civilian self-defence). Otherwise I would have switched styles!! Yes, there are many other karate styles and unarmed martial arts, that are equally as good, but when properly practised "Shotokan is as good as anything else".


This where I`d like to state another misunderstanding that many people claim; “...traditional karate is outdated”. They cite that competitive ring fighting arts are superior; for example, western boxing and Olympic wrestling, Thai boxing, jujitsu, judo etc… However, their base of understanding is wrong as, again, they are viewing the martial arts out of context; that is, they are not recognising the aforementioned ‘big picture—of where unarmed fighting arts sit—within the martial arts in their entirity’.


Part Four:  My life experience - fighting outside the dojo

Those who know me, know that I have experienced many years in the security industry and experienced many-many real fights including situations involving weapons. My life has been in danger many times. I built up from being a doorman to doing personal protection. Eventually I got out for my wife and my life. I know, nice poetry. Shakespeare in the making. Honestly, throughout that time I never ‘seriously started’ a fight. I have always kept things in the Shotokan context, that is, `been defensive and then counteroffensive`. That is not only because ‘starting fights is obviously wrong’, but because that is `the physical strategy’ of the martial art I have practised all my life. Morals aside, to go outside of this ‘overarching Karate strategy’ naturally takes the karateka away from their technical advantage point.



In sum, Shotokan has never failed me in my civilian context; however, that doesn’t come automatically/without conscientious effort. One must train Shotokan in a realistic free style context; that is, specifically focused on developing effective defensive and counteroffensive techniques for real world self-defence. This requires certain elements, which must be trained together; namely, (1) standard Shotokan training—what I term as ‘the physical and technical base’; (2) full contact impact work with ‘karate techniques’ (for example, not degenerating into some pseudo form of kickboxing) —you must train to impact as hard as possible, as accurately as possible, and as explosively as possible; (3) proper practise of kata application/fighting principles against typical street style attacks; and (4) the regular engagement in non compliant jissen-kumite (actual fighting) practise.



The two other training elements I have not mentioned are: (5) psychological strength/control needed for self defence; and also (6) supplementary ‘body conditioning’, both of which are obviously utterly essential (if one is not naturally very strong in these domains).



Conclusion:


Keep in mind that Karate, and unarmed fighting in general, has always been the last resort in the martial arts (arts of war). Through history, the arts of unarmed fighting have been employed once the weapons were gone or unusable. Indeed, for the majority of you, reading this article, unarmed fighting arts will be ‘your default primary form of self-defence’, unless you live in a country where concealed weapons are permitted, or the laws are limited.



Taken as a whole, Shotokan karate when trained properly, is ideal for civilian self- protection. Sadly, however, the way most Shotokan karate is trained (if everyone is completely honest), offers very little, insofar as self-defence is concerned. This is because the focus is primarily on attaining grades, winning medals and technical  innovation. While these goals are great, and can be highly motivational, the best karate is to return to a primary focus on civilian self-defence. All the other aspects, from there, will correctly fall into place. This is the correct approach to very powerful, effective, and from a 'martial arts perspective', beautiful karate.


© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2018).

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Kakuyoku

As many know here in Japan and around the world, I teach a special group of kata in their original form.
My concept of karate - from Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei - is that Kihon is KUMITE and Kata is KUMITE. And, from what I was taught and sought after, was/is KUMITE means EFFECTIVE SELF-DEFENCE as opposed to competition or sparring. This is by no means disrespecting competition kumite (nor taking away the importance of jiyu kumite) but, rather, focusing on karate as a martial art of self-defence: a martial art of survival outside of the dojo.

These bujutsu kata return us to the origin of karate as an unparallelled martial art of self-protection. From that point, we can return to classical Shotokan with a realistic view as opposed to a competition shaped view/understanding.
Todays practice was KATA. The two kata I trained were JITTE (Ten Hands) and KAKUYOKU SANDAN (Cranes Wings Third Level).


All three Kakuyoku are very challenging when taught and practised with full understanding. They offer superior skill to Shotokan karateka. What I can only refer to as 'an unfair advantage'. Unfair, because so many are caught inside a syllabus and system: as opposed to focusing on karate as effective bujutsu (martial arts).

The karate I am seeking is not for the majority, rather, a very small minority. I'm not interested in mainstream popularity in the karate world but, rather, the serious minority. 

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2018).

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Two days of training in Kumamoto City

I traveled to Kumamoto to train under Nakamura Masamitsu Shihan.

I was again honored by Shihan to teach the youth brown and black belt classes—Kanku Dai (kihon, kata and applications). After that I taught the advanced senior class—Bassai Dai (and again 'kata based' kihon, kata and street defense applications).


It was especially great to catch up with Nakamura Shihan, Akiyoshi Sensei and the Nakamura family; Katayama Senpai; Ogasawara Senpai and, to my surprise,  Tyler  Higo (and family) whom, by chance, were back  in Japan from Canada!!



Away from these classes, Shihan kindly allowed me to use the dojo the next day for another three + hours. This was an opportunity to train myself and give Tyler some personal training. What made this all the more special was that Akiyoshi Sensei attended the entire time; and Nakamura Shihan also joined us in the second half of the training. Tyler did really well, so I am looking forward to seeing his karate next time he is here in Japan.

The training focused on reliable BUDO KARATE. Weight transfer 'timing' with the correct coordination of the johanshin (upper body) and kahanshin (lower body) was the main technical aim. I wont detail the training except to say that a lot was practised via this theme. Kata included Jion and Unsu; furthermore, a koten-gata was also trained. Effective kumite training, for the real world was also covered in depth: so, the speicifics for gohon, kihon-ippon, jiyu-ippon, oyo and jiyu-kumite were vividly highlighted.

In sum, I would again like to thank Nakamura Shihan, Akiyoshi Sensei and the Nakamura family for their kindness, training and support of my Karate-Do.
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2018).

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Trainee from Australia:David Rush Sensei (4th Dan)


David Rush Sensei (4th Dan) from Norwa, South Coast, Australia recently came for training. Rush Sensei is the chief instructor of ‘South Coast Shotokan Karate’: www.southcoastkarate.com.au
 
What impressed me about David’s karate, besides being a great guy, was his excellent sense of ‘ma’ and his technical fluidity; furthermore, when he came here, he came with many points that he wanted me to help him with - so I could prepare well. Consequently, he went home with plenty of refined points for his ongoing technical development and, also indeed, for that of his karate students at South Coast Karate.


In addition to training we also enjoyed a lovely time with him, his wife Mayumi, and her parents from Hiroshima—all wonderful people—who made the most of the onsen’s in neighboring Beppu. Indeed, one of the great things about training - anywhere here - is that the very best hot springs, in Japan, are less than a 15 minute commute from Oita Eki.




Returning to David Sensei’s training, I must say that I was impressed by his speedy assimilation of the points I taught: including Shotei (Dai)  Kata, which was a new kata for him. Overall, this reflects his daily physical training and serious seeking of Shotokan Karate as Budo/Bujutsu. Until next time David. 押忍! !
  Andre.
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2018).

Sunday, 29 April 2018

2018 SEMINAR IN 'KARATE AKTUELL'

You can click on the following images from KARATE AKTUELL. The publication features an advertisement for my upcoming seminars in Halle, Germany (on June 30th/July 1st, 2018).

Apparently there are only a few places left, so if you have not registered yet, and intend to go, good luck!!


This weekend course is Part Two of my seminars last year, which was held in Krefeld, Germany. Actually, I am very excited to present the content of this years seminar, as it will unveil previously untaught aspects.

For those attending, do not forget your notebooks!!! Unlike most seminars, it is going to be a weekend of karate that will immediately, and in the long-term, revolutionize your technical skill and application: if Shotokan as 'pure budo/martial arts' is your aim.

For a taste of this way of Karate, here is a link to my official YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/andrebertel/videos


Best wishes from Oita City, Japan.
Osu,
André Bertel


© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2018).

Monday, 16 April 2018

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Andrea and Torsten Return to Oita


I just had the pleasure to once again have Andrea Haesusler Sensei and Torsten Uhlemann Sensei (from Munster, Germany) here in Oita. They came for three evenings of high-level training with me. I`ll provide a brief rundown of some of the key points covered during their time here. However, I will not list everything nor give so much detail, as this belongs to them: for putting themselves on the line at my dojo.

SESSION ONE: Sunday, April 8th (8pm—10pm)

v Kihon—focus, how to achieve maximum speed and, simultaneously, max transfer of weight.



-         Timing of oi-zuki (attacking with stance movement/transition).

-         Timing of gyaku-zuki (attacking with stance movement/transition).

-         Timing of jodan age-uke, also second major form of jodan age-uke with application.

-         Timing and application of chudan ude-uke (uchi-uke and soto-uke)

-         Timing of chudan shuto-uke and kokutsu-dachi (also movement one of Heian Nidan, with the same concept).



-         Mae-geri: correct `fixed` use of the hips in stationary mae-geri. Increasing kicking snap and perfected application counter-kicking.



-         Case study: Timing of the hands and feet. Selected movements from (a) Heian Yondan; (b) Kanku-Dai; (c) Sochin; (d) Unsu. Proof of these points in practical application.



-         By request from Torsten: Unsu Kata. In brief, (1) `Setting keito`; (2) The fixing of the head and rear foot—avoiding `floating` with the four tate-shuto/gyaku-zuki; (3) Correction and optimal application of fuse mawashi-geri and coming up from the ground; (4) Haito-uchi kara mae-geri, jodan soto-uke soshite gyaku-zuki—head setting, haito trajectory and corrected use of ashi-kubi in prerfect harmony with koshi no kaiten (case study: Kanku Dai and, later in the lesson, Heian Yondan); (5) Gedan-zuki and gedan uke-zuki clarification; (6) Jodan haito-uke and gyaku-zuki—use of hiki-te and the trajectory of gyaku-zuki in kiba-dachi; and (7) the moderation of fudo-dachi when transitioning to zenkutsu-dachi: with jodan age-uke kara chudan gyaku-zuki (movements 47 and 48—also related back to the four same stance transitions earlier in Unsu.
 

SESSION TWO: Monday, April 9th (6pm—8pm)

-         Choku-zuki and gyaku-zuki with tenshin: Focus on the changing of the seichusen, kakato-chushin, tsumasaki and koshi no kaiten. Ground power combined with junanasei.



-         As previous but with teisho.



-         Shoulder snap exercise with enpi-uchi. Single arm practice then the more difficult two-arm variation. Relationship between ushiro enpi-uchi and uraken tatemawashi-uchi; furthermore, otoshi enpi-uchi. Case study: Heian Yondan Kata—movements 11 to 13. 

-         Key point of Enpi Kata fundaments for effective renzokuwaza. In particular `extension—pull through`, ground power and use of juryoku (gravity). Using this example for other karate applications. Special analysis of age-zuki.



-         By request from Andreas: Nijushiho Kata. Special focus on correct yori-ashi in combination with technique to maximize impact. The timing of tsukami uke and correct executing of haito sotomawshi uchi were also taught in detail. This was concluded with key oyo (applications) corresponding with the fundamental corrections taught in detail.



-         Correct Gohon Kumite: Defending with stance and movement; and attacking with stance and movement. Extension/Advancements of this with tobi-konde. Controlling maai.



-         Kihon Ippon Kumite: slow motion with concentration on perfect kihon. Whilst Gohon is to drop and step back, Kihon Ippon is to drop to a place where ones maai is perfect for a hangekiwaza (counterattack).



-         Jiyu Kumite: Only two focus points—only attack with the correct maai and only attack with full large scale techniques. `Lose magnificently`. Only oi-komi gyaku was covered



-         Check of Jiyu Ippon Kumite: my only focus was to recapitulate the maai of the attacker as covered in Jiyu Kumite. In Budo Karate/Bujutsu Karate, maai must not be to score but, rather, to make maximum impact.



-         By request from Torsten: Unsu Kata no tobi-kaiten. Basically, the main point covered was tai no shinshuku and correct and specifically focused use of ground power.

Fuse mawashi-geri... Level up!!! Photo courtesy of Andrea and Torsten.


-         To conclude some key fundamental points of tachikata and unsoku were covered. Also, the `from behind` mae-geri and ushiro-geri of Asai Sensei.




SESSION THREE: Tuesday, April 10th (6pm—8pm)

v Kihon—key points based on my evaluation during Sessions One and Two.



-         Level up points of Nijushiho Kata.



-         By request from Torsten: Kihon-gata ‘Junro Yondan’ and Koten-gata Kakuyoku Nidan.



-         Conclusion: review and clarification of key points from all three sessions.

To sum up, Andrea and Torsten are really lovely people; furthermore, they are serious about their developing their own karate-skill levels and openly sharing their knowledge with their students. This statement is proven by them regularly coming here to Japan to train and study authentic Budo (Martial Arts) Karate. Based on this, I believe that those who learn from them at them--at their dojo, in Germany, 'Karateschule Fuji San Munster'--are very fortunate.



Andrea and Torsten, my family and I wish you a wonderful time for your remaining days here in Japan!
Osu, André Bertel

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2018).

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Sakura in full bloom: The first training of April

Here are some images from training today. 

Kata training included the four SENTEI-GATA (Bassai-Dai, Kanku-Dai, Enpi and Jion), which I am now revising based on older versions here in Japan (to improve effectiveness in self-defence). Also, Sochin, Seiryu and the opening of Unsu, which I will not detail here.

Practice also included 'timing training' with kihon ukewaza and choku-zuki 'reactivity'.

The beauty of today was the presence of sakura in full bloom.

Osu, André






Andre Bertel (6th Dan): "Karate in my last few years, in my 40s, has allowed me to better understand what was passed on to me. My goal now is to continue improving myself through daily training and to hand on my teachers karate in its purest form".




Friday, 23 March 2018

Newspaper article

I just recieved these lovely photos from a newspaper article back in New Zealand. 


Training with my late teacher, Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei. Hard to believe that he passed away nearly 12 years ago.
Osu,
Andre

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2018).

Monday, 19 March 2018

https://olliwaa.com/andre-bertels-karate/

Here is an article on the excellent blog of my friend Oliver Schomburg: https://olliwaa.com/andre-bertels-karate/
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2018).