Friday 6 October 2023

André Bertel Kumite Video

 I retired from Individual Karate Competition when I was 30 years old. For many years I competed in Individual and Team Kata and Kumite.

 Now, in my 48th year, these clips are not so new. But I hope they offer something to someone.

I had a significant amount of competitive success, however, I never entered merely to win. My objective was always to test/measure my kumite and kata prowess in an unpredictable environment. My ambition has always to develop my Shotokan as Budo/Bujutsu.


Ironically, I was never really serious about competition. Even so, by the end of my competitive career, it was beginning to stagnate my karate development. Tournament karate is good, but staying in it is like 'permanent adolescence'. 


When I retired, I was still holding both New Zealand National Championship titles in both Individual Kata and Individual Kumite. Over the years I've also had the honor of successfully training many local, national and international champions (in both kata and kumite) and still do so, to this day.


Nevertheless, in my own training, and teaching others, I always stress that “ONE’S WAZA MUST ALWAYS HAVE KIME”. This is not effective in competition nowadays, especially in the Kumite, as the focus now is merely to accumulate points. To win now, making kimewaza is highly disadvantageous, as it risks ‘losing points’ as one’s maai must be close enough to have the potential finish the opponent.


In contrast, the maai of contemporary kumite matches is to ‘tag the opponent’ from as far away as possible’ then avoid being caught. It is, therefore, literally a form of ‘karate tag’.


Consequently, as Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei warned us decades ago: “There is a danger of competition negatively altering the fundamentals—the kihon—of Karatedo”. I believe that this happened. In IKS (International Karate Shotokan) we train everything with KIME, the correct MAAI; thus, “KIHON, KATA AND KUMITE ARE NOT SEPARATE, BUT ALWAYS HARMONIOUS”.


In 2015 I had a brief comeback. Nakamura Masamitsu Shihan had me compete for his dojo., which was a real honor at nearly 40 years of age at the time.


I could no longer do well in Kumite… My style was still old-school JKA; that is, if I did not control my waza or made a misjudgment, I would be disqualified as “my karate waza were all real.” Of course, my opponents merely tagged and ran, with no potential to cause me any damage whatsoever (with their respective ‘waza’). To me, this is no longer karate, it is just a strange form of sport that ‘somewhat resembles karate but has no real power’. I was happy to ‘lose’ against such meaningless movements. That being said, this is why karate is so often mocked by other martial arts. And rightfully so.


However, competing in Kata was different. I managed to win the premier division of the Men’s Individual Kata at the Kumamoto Prefecture Karatedo Championships. That win, here in Japan, truly ended my karate competition career: once and for all.


Anyway, this compilation of COMPETITION KUMITE CLIPS, from 1990s up to 2005, shows some of my favorite waza and renzokuwaza. Moreover, my constant use of deaiwaza and tai-sabaki. One thing that I often used was a very subtle body shift, in response to my opponent's movement or attack, then immediately snatch the ippon. In this way, I could undetectably (for them) neutralize their attacking maai and then seamlessly deliver my waza. Needless to say, this old style of kumite was strongly influenced by my late teacher, Master Asai Tetsuhiko, also other karate seniors.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2023). 

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