Thursday, 16 August 2018

Start with Jion, end with Jion

I recently returned to Jion to rebalance my karate—personal advice from Osaka Yoshiharu Sensei—a couple of years ago. `Start with Jion, end with Jion`. However, until now, I have needed to address other points.

 Perhaps surprising to some, Jion is Osaka Sensei`s tokui-gata… He said Jion is his favourite, but shiai--of course--Sochin. Needless to say, just as Asai Sensei is NIJUSHIHO and Yahara Sensei is UNSU, Osaka Sensei is SOCHIN.

These masters karate make the current generation red faced. No one can move at their level. This is the source of so much politics... Jealousy.

No one wants to stand alongside Osaka Sensei in kata practice, as we all look stupid. In my case, I want to look stupid, and hopefully get just a little closer to near perfection. 

Osaka Sensei, amongst my other seniors, whom I deeply respect here in Japan, want to preserve the BEST KARATE of Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei. This is a mission I have been pulled into, and are deeply honoured to be pulled into it by such greats. 

2019 will be a very special year for BUDO / BUJUTSU KARATE. Osu!!!

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

Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Today marks the 12th Anniversary of Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei's passing. My thoughts are with the Asai family today.

Tuesday, 14 August 2018


On March 16th and 17th of 2019 I will be in Dresden, Germany, to conduct Technical Seminars.

For all information please click on the following link

Alternatively, you can visit the corresponding Facebook event page: 

See you  in Dresden. Osu!!

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

Monday, 13 August 2018


Ryu (Tatsu—Dragon), Ko (Tora—Tiger) and Kaku (Tsuru—Crane) are the three most important animals in karate’s early origins from China and Okinawa. In Asai style Shotokan karate, there are other animals referenced for different techniques and their applications (such as the Hebi/Snake, Saru/Monkey, Kuma/Bear and Hyo/Leopard; however, these all originate from RYU KO KAKU.

Today let’s look at RYU KO KAKU in isolation.


Dragon’s, needless to say, are mythological creatures; that being said, they are well known as representatives of the physical power and intelligence. In martial arts karate ‘RYU’ represents tornados. Two or three tornados combined creates a dragon like image. This underpins the unpredictable rising and falling tenshin (rotation) found in Asai Karate. Kata reference: the three advanced ‘tenshin’ forms: Hachimon, Senka and Rakuyo. We also see this in Kaze no te (Hushu), Unsu and Kaminariarashi, amongst others.


The tiger is for relaxation and flexibility so one can target something instantly. Martial arts karate’s `KO` is therefore best explained as agility and explosiveness, which is based on the combination of ground-power and junansei. In sum, it produces the rapid reaction techniques’, which are typical in standard Shotokan-Ryu karate (and all of the other Ryuha/Kaiha, for that matter). Kata reference: Bassai Dai, Jitte Sochin, Kashu, etc.


The crane is refined technique for impacting with precise weapons to weak targets, trapping, hooking and so forth. It is typical to use various open hand karada no buki (weapons of the body), which can be speedily applied with little or limited physical strength. Such movements were important to Asai Sensei purely based on his small stature and, indeed, limits of brute strength. Kata reference: Seiryu, Gankaku, Kakuyoku Shodan, Nidan and Sandan, and so on.

Lastly it is important to point out that in traditional Japanese karate, unlike the Chinese martial arts, THE REPRESENTATION OF THESE ANIMALS IS USUALLY NOT SO OVERT; moreover, we mix them more subtly (I am by no means suggesting 'better'; merely, again, not so overtly). Hence, the overall collective concept of ‘RYU-KO-KAKU’ in traditional karate, when perfected, is seamlessly expressed in jissen-kumite. 

Furthermore, there are a couple of others points, which I will only briefly touch on today... Firstly, many karada no buki specifically correspond with the type of animal. For example, the boshiken is `RYU`, the hitosashiyubi-ipponken is `KO` and the kakushiken is `KAKU`. Secondly, two of these weapons of the body are not in post-war Shotokan—largely due to the `sportification` of karate; nevertheless, Asai Sensei brought them back.

Taken as a whole, this approach to karate is for survival in the face of a brutal and sudden assault. In sum, this IS 'THE TRADITIONAL WAY'; that is, it fulfils the original external purpose of Tode/Karate. While this ‘Way of Karate’ is not the mainstream, those of us who follow it must preserve it for future generations: this includes the Shotokan styles take on ‘RYU-KO-KAKU’.

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

Saturday, 11 August 2018

Kita Kyushu Training

Yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting the Kita-Kyushu dojo of my friend, and karate senior, Konishi Yasuko Sensei

 Konishi Sensei is a world-class karate technician, furthermore, a really wonderful person—whom I like and respect very much.

For the children’s training she kindly allowed me to teach whatever I wanted. So, I focused on shisei (posture) using tai no shinshuku (compression and expansion) and tenshin (rotation).

For the adults training she asked me to teach Jiyu-Kumite. I primarily focused on 'oi-komi gyaku-zuki'. In particular, we covered maai (meeting distance) and 'the mix of body power and snap'. We also briefly touched on ashi-barai as a follow-up from ren-zuki.

Overall, I would like to thank Konishi Sensei and her students for their very kind hospitality. It was a great honor and a lot of fun times. Until next time!!! ありがとうございました先生!!

To contact Konishi Sensei here is her Facebook account: Needless to say, I highly recommend her Karate-Do.

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

Tuesday, 31 July 2018

South Africa Seminar 2019

Six years after my first seminar in South Africa, I will return. For those wishing to attend, please click on the poster for details.

Greetings from Japan. OSU, Andre Bertel.

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

Saturday, 7 July 2018

Halle GERMANY SEMINAR 2018 (Part II)

Last week I was in Halle/Westphalia, Germany, to conduct an international Budo Karate Seminar.
Irrespective of some intentionally trying to undermine this event it was attended by over 200 karateka from across Europe. Besides practitioners from Westfalen and all over Germany, some travelled from Spain, France, Portugal, the Netherlands, Poland and Iceland.
This seminar, as promised, marked a new beginning in my karate teaching. From now on, the content of my seminars—kihon, kata and oyo (applications) will expand. I decided to take this approach to thoroughly spread the knowledge, which was passed down to me here in Japan. Accordingly, it is now onward and upward!

For reports in Deutsch, please following the following links: Andrea Haeusler Sensei's report -

Also, by Stefan Lebelt Sensei -

To those who made this seminar happen and looked after me so well... I will conclude by offering my warmest thanks to Peter Lampe Sensei (5th Dan) and Birte; also Rainer and Christiane; the Halle Dojo Committee and members:; furthermore, all of the karateka who attended. Lastly, congratulations to Axel. Great karate and lots of nice times in and outside of the trainings.


The big question, which everyone is asking, is "When and where next year???" 

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

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Halle GERMANY SEMINAR 2018 (Part I)

After last weekends seminar in Halle, Germany, Oliver Schömburg made a great post (in both German and English); photos; and videos on his really excellent blogsite.

Overall, I hope that all of  the footage released "...will help to remind the karateka, who attended, the key points of the seminar". As always, we have done this, in a subtle way, so that "only those who have attended can fully decipher the established learning objectives." Soon, I will also post the images (and video footage) I have from Peter. So, more to come!!

Before that, here is the aforementioned link:

A big thanks to Olli for this, which I recieved right after rerturning home to Japan. Osu, André

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2018)

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


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.


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).


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


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’:
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! !
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2018).