Thursday, 28 May 2020


I was recently asked about Jiyu Ippon Kumite in the 
国際空手道松濤館(International Karate Shotokan
 So, I thought I would address this today. Before briefly describing the three stages implemented, I need to say that there are many other forms of Jiyu Ippon. Nevertheless, stage one to three, are the standard forms as established by my seniors; in particular, my late mentor Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei. Interestingly enough, no one else seems to be following this methodology, which sadly shows that the past knowledge is being erased. This is because of the predominance of sports karate.



STAGE ONE: The first time one must formally demonstrate Jiyu Ippon Kumite is when one attempts the examination for Nikyu (2nd kyu brown belt).

The focus at this stage is that the karateka forms a kamae and natural jiyu-dachi; furthermore, that they apply the fundamentals developed in Gohon Kumite and Kihon Ippon Kumite. What matters the most is firstly: “…the seamless connection between the freestyle position, and formal/classical technique and stance—then immediate return to the freestyle position” (Ref. - T. Asai). And secondly, strong kihaku (fighting spirit), kiai in both attack and counterattack, and vigilant zanshin (Ref. - M. Tanaka, N Iida, Y. Osaka).

The attacks (all of which are announced by the designated attacker) are: JODAN (Jodan oi-zuki), CHUDAN (Chudan oi-zuki), MAE-GERI (Chudan mae-geri keage), YOKO-KEKOMI (Chudan yoko-geri kekomi), CHUDAN MAWASHI-GERI or JODAN MAWASHI-GERI and USHIRO-GERI (Chudan ushiro-geri kekomi). At this stage it is recommend to mostly counter with gyaku-zuki in order to develop deeper skill levels: especially pertaining to the control of maai.

STAGE TWO: With the aspects of stage-one still being intensely worked on, as mentioned about counterattacks, it is now possible to diversify. However, (as in Kihon Ippon Kumite, to pass from 2nd to 1st Kyu) one must use the most effective technique (from precisely where they are) after receiving—blocking/parrying/covering—the attack. At this stage it is now possible to also use simultaneous uke and counterattack, deai-waza, and so forth.

Irrespective of the technique, spontaneity is imperative at this point with ever growing kihaku and zanshin. Stage two is the blood and bones of Jiyu Ippon Kumite training, which sets the stage for the rest of one’s future karate practice.

STAGE THREE: After achieving the Ikkyu one immediately faces the direct challenge of challenging Shodan: ‘The Beginners Step’—the first-degree black belt. This is where Jiyu Ippon Kumite truly becomes the bridge to Jiyu Kumite.

At this stage, the attack is still an oi-waza, however, it is not announced and can be anything which is effective.

To pass "...the Shodan is not only to defend, it is to attack effectively. One cannot pass if they do not try to down the opponent" (Ref. - T. Asai); hence, their choice of attack and attacking maai must be exact. Likewise, the defense and counter must be effective. In the case of attack, full contact is permitted; however, the counterattack must be perfectly controlled. A key point, in defense, is to really watch the opponent and to "not run away" (Ref. - T. Asai, M. Tanaka). One must be both decisive and courageous in this form of Jiyu Ippon Kumite. It is a real challenge!

A few other points... "The attacker may employ kenseiwaza (feints) before they attack; furthermore, if the defenders counterattack fails, the attacker is permitted to attack again" (Ref. - M. Nakayama).

Overall, this is ‘old school form of Jiyu Ippon Kumite’. 国際空手道松濤(International Karate Shotokan follows this process of as it logically builds from Gohon and Kihon Ippon Kumite; then, bridges to Jiyu Kumite and Goshin Jutsu/Self-Defense. Otherwise, what is the point?  I would like to conclude by saying that the second and third forms of Jiyu Ippon Kumite are essential training—irrespective of grade and tenure in Karate. Of course, this also leads on to Oyo Kumite, but that is perhaps a topic for another day.
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Wednesday, 20 May 2020

Finally back in the Dojo

I did my first ‘OFFICIAL TRAINING’ in the dojo today, since the ‘Japan State of Emergency Declaration’. 
It was super to be back on the dojo floor; however, I decided to only do two hours in the dojo, and second training session was outdoors. My endurance level and strength has benefitted from the lockdown period as I spent more time working on power and endurance.

The dojo training consisted of Asai-ha Shotokan-ryu kihon-gata: Junro. Standard Shotokan kata: Hyakuhachiho (the old Suparinpei of Shotokan, which Asai Sensei called 'Hyakuhappo'). And koten-gata: Kibaken and Raiko. 

Kihon training was focused on elbow strikes and application of bodyweight combined with snap.

Needless to say, it was great to ‘officially’ be allowed back into the dojo today. I certainly have no doubt that I’ll feel it tomorrow!

Osu and positive energy from Japan. 

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Wednesday, 13 May 2020


For several months I have been asked to make an official QR code for my YOUTUBE CHANNEL; so, here it is finally.

For those who have asked over the last 12 months thank you very much for your patience. Also, for others, I hope that you share the code online and by other means when possible.

Views and comments on the video featured on the channel really drives the filming and/or release of new content. I look forward to reading your comments and ideas on YouTube.

All the very best from Kyushu, Japan.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Tuesday, 12 May 2020


Stationary ren-zuki in zenkutsudachi: Jodan kizami-zuki kara chudan gyaku-zuki.
Today I enjoyed a nice outdoor self-training at 丹生神社
(Nyuu Jinja) here in Oita. The practice was standard Shotokan kihon and special calisthenics developed by Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei. This was followed by two foundational kata: 順路初段 (Junro Shodan) and 常行四勢 (Joko Yonsei); also, one of the koten-gata: 騎馬拳 (Kibaken).

It was a challenging session but, nonetheless, enjoyable. Especially given the increasingly warm weather. My next goals are in target and the road to achieve them—the next level of skill—is well under way! As the saying goes “Practice doesn’t make perfect, only perfect practice makes perfect”; accordingly, to optimalze our karate we need to "SEEK PERFECTION of real knowledge from high-quality mentors".

I wish you the absolute best health and excellent training.

Greetings from Japan!!!
The classical renzokuwaza combining the three main forms of ushiro-geri in Asai-ha Shotokan-Ryu.

'The last lap' at the end of today's training... Mae-geri until failure'. I don't practice like this so often, but it has its place, OSU!

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Sunday, 3 May 2020

New video and more coming soon

Here is a new video on my YouTube Channel. It features past footage and some new stuff also.

Please check out the other videos on there if you want. You never know what you'll find. Also, there are some updates on the way! Here is a direct link to the channel:

I hope this finds you and yours positive, healthy and active.
Osu, - André Bertel.
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Saturday, 2 May 2020

Dojo Kun

Many people ask about the DOJO KUN. 

Irrespective of what one thinks about this topic, I believe that it requires fluency in Japanese (both speaking and reading) and also a deep understanding of the sociological and psychological aspects of Japan.

This is something I would like to talk about in the future. So far I have not seen sufficient explanations, as the Japanese level of foreigners attempting to do so, has been particularly poor.

The request for more sound explanations about the dojo-kun is a project that I intend to undertake at some stage. Until then, what are your thoughts on the dojo kun? Do you recite it at the end of your trainings and, if so, do you do it in Japanese or your native language?

Best regards, good health and spirits from central Oita City.


© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Friday, 1 May 2020


Japan’s GOLDEN WEEK has begun and unlike any other year, it will certainly be different due to the current pandemic. While the dojo is still closed, until it reopens, I am continuing my daily training; albeit, in my home and, even more so, outdoors.

For those of you who have come to train at my dojo here in Oita City, you will know that besides daily dojo-keiko, I regularly practice at local jinja (shrines) and temples.

I’d really like to stress here that I have no personal interest in Buddhism nor in Shinto… Just to clarify, my reason for training in these places is threefold: Firstly—unless there is a festival or some other special event, very few people are about. Secondly, the traditional Japanese architecture (I am self-admitted geek about old structures and history). Thirdly, I love training in nature (and, for the most part, the temples and shrines are in places such as beautiful forests, next to rivers, and so forth).

Today I will not describe my training but, instead some photos.

This years Golden Week can still be gold for everyone if they have an open mind and keep up their normal routines as best they can. I have found that the current situation has actually been very good for my karate training. My hope is that you and your loved ones are positive, and keeping in good health. André


© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Wednesday, 22 April 2020

My Self-Training Today

GREETINGS FROM OITA CITY, JAPAN. I hope you and your family are well. Here is an outline (and photos) of/from my training earlier today. A big OSU to all my students around Japan and around the world.

基本 (KIHON):  My self-practice today was a combination with choku-zuki switching from shinzentai to hiza-uke (balanced on one leg); sonoba mae-geri keage (heisoku-dachi); chudan teisho-uke/uchi (zenkutsu-dachi) – ref. Joko Nisei Kata.

(KATA): Today aspects of Kanku Sho and Ransetsu (Rantai) were my focus.

組手 (KUMITE): Due to the current pandemic, I did solo practice of Idori from seiza. This killed me... HARD WORK... But enjoying that it's over! So often karate is like that isn't it! Tough at the time, but when over you feel really great.

The notion that ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ is very true. So rather than go into written details, of my self-training today, so here are some more images. POWER ON!!!!!!!!!

Positive energy and best wishes. 押忍!!

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Monday, 20 April 2020

My theory on the development of the 古典型 (KOTEN-GATA)

As you will know Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei introduced many additional kata to supplement/expand the Shotokan system. The vast majority of these were kata which he later dubbed the 古典型 (KOTEN-GATA). Koten-gata basically means ‘classical or old forms’, however; I have personal views about this labeling, which I will outline today.
Firstly, I want to say that the opinions I will share today, are just that: my opinions/theories. Nevertheless, they are literally founded on what Asai Sensei said (and did not say) directly to me personally. In other words, firsthand accounts. Secondly, my view is based on my practice and study of karate—and its origins—here in Japan. To put this in perspective, since 1993 I have lived and trained daily for around 15 years here in Japan (in total); furthermore, I’ve conscientiously sought out much training, and personal time, with Japan’s very best Shotokan-Ryu instructors. Taken as a whole, including personal training under the guidance of Asai Sensei himself, underpins the basis of my overarching theory (about the origin/development of the koten-gata). So, with that background information, let's begin...

POINT ONE – ASAI SENSEI ENGINEERED ‘NEW’ KATA: To begin with, it is important to note that Asai Sensei did admit to creating many new kata. Nonetheless, he also claimed to introduce many old kata; hence, the term koten-gata. A key point here is that the various kata, which Asai Sensei admitted that ‘he personally constructed’, were all for the expansion/improvement of the standard Shotokan 基本 (Kihon). These kata include: Jo no kata, Gyaku zuki no kata, Kihoken, Shinken, the five Junro, and the five Joko. Yes, there were others, but that will suffice, to clarify this aspect.

POINT TWO – THE KOTEN-GATA: Kata which Asai Sensei labeled as 'Classical/Ancient Kata' included Meikyo Nidan, Kashu, Suishu, Roshu, Hushu, Hachimon, Senka, Rakuyo, Shote, Sensho, Seiryu, Kibaken, and so on. These are all advanced kata, natural, superb, and heavy in an abundance of highly effective oyo (applications).

POINT THREE – A FIGURATIVE TWIST AND A SIGN: Now here’s a twist… Furthermore, indicative of the origin of the koten-gata… Some of the kata Asai Sensei put into the ‘koten-gata category’ were also designed by him; moreover, they are kihon training forms/exercises—which are technically consistent with the aforementioned group of ‘non koten-gata’. Two examples of this are Ransetsu (more commonly known as Rantai), and Kyakusen (Ashi barai no kata). To expand on this, the JKS (Japan Karate Shoto-Federation) also categorizes the Joko series as ‘koten-gata’. Certainly, I am not criticizing them for this point, as Asai Sensei also said to me that the five Joko are jiyu-gata (free-choice kata); hence, the mix up.

Clearly, this point (the mixing of ‘what is’ and ‘isn’t’ a koten-gata), on its own, makes a strong statement that Asai Sensei developed the koten-gata himself. However, there is a dark horse (Meikyo Nidan), which I have facts about (from what Asai Sensei personally explained to me). Nevertheless, for greatly clarity in my writing, I will leave that until later…

POINT FOUR – SO IF THE KOTEN GATA ARE NOT CLASSICAL FORMS, WHY ARE THEY LABELED AS SUCH? The first thought might be deception; however, I’d like to emphasize, that is not what I am implying here. SO HERE WE ARE....THIS IS MY CENTRAL THEORY…


I believe that koten-gata were constructed by Asai Sensei with KOTEN BUJUTSU-WAZA. He formulated these techniques, which were largely missing from Shotokan—or technically inferior—into kata. That is, he simply did what the masters of the past did (to preserve their best tried and tested fighting techniques).

My evidence for this is the appearance of many techniques from Okinawa, which are absent from Shotokan; and likewise, many techniques from the Chinese arts—in particular, Hakutsuruken (White Crane Fist). 

In addition to this, there is another layer, and that is the combative format of the koten-gata… They are directly applicable as goshin-jutsu (self-defense). In particular, the extensive emphasis on ‘infighting’ was something that Asai Sensei consistently focused on when teaching me.

POINT FIVE – MEIKYO NIDAN – “THE BRIDGE”: If you learned from Asai Sensei in Japan, in the early 1990s, you will know that he excited many karateka—including myself—when he suddenly began teaching Meikyo Nidan. I was well versed in ALL 26 of the standard Shotokan Kata and, like everyone else, was shocked to suddenly learn something from outside of this ‘traditional group’.

Now, this aspect is not my theory, but what Asai Sensei personally said to me many years later. “Meikyo Nidan was my way to open up the minds of the kyokai instructors to other koten-kata. The origin of this kata is Matsumura Rohai. This kata was the bridge I used to teach the other koten-gata, and this is the most important point of Meikyo Nidan”. As I have written before, Asai Sensei also often used to say “… the teaching of unknown kata gives me a blank slate for my teaching”. What he meant was that he wanted Shotokan karateka to move more naturally, be relaxed (for optimum effectiveness) and be more broad minded about karate as budo/bujutsu.

To conclude, MY CENTRAL THEORY (about the development of the koten gata) is just that—a theory. Nonetheless, from my personal experiences with Asai Sensei and my own near 40 year journey on the karate path—after thinking long and hard—I can’t think of any other logical explanations. But who knows, perhaps a hidden style may one day show up with all these wonderful kata? The last thing I’d like to elucidate in this brief article is THE EXTREME VALUE of the koten-gata: irrespective of their origin. They have greatly enhanced Shotokan as budo/bujutsu karate and have allowed higher levels of technical skills to be reached. 

Osu, André
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Wednesday, 15 April 2020


While 基本 (KIHON)—the training of the fundamentals—certainly “…is based on stationary and ido-kihon”, it must not end there if one wants to develop highly effective techniques.

This is the mistake of many so-called ‘traditionalists’ who limit their kihon practice to the classical techniques, extracted from the kata. This is, incomplete fundamental training as there are several other aspects that MUST BE TRAINED. So what specifically are these?

1.     自由組手の基本     (The fundamentals of jiyu kumite)

2.     インパクトトレーニング     (Impact training)

Let me explain both of these, as just practicing jiyu kumite techniques randomly in any way and arbitrarily ‘thumping things’ is not sufficient… 

1. 自由組手の基本     (The fundamentals of Jiyu kumite):

(a) The fundamentals of jiyu kumite, in the case of those who practice karate as bujutsu, are not techniques to win competitions (although they can be, if full contact competition or 'old school JKA shiai' is the aim). These kihonwaza are the techniques of ‘classical kihon’; nevertheless, they are executed in how you will use them in a real fight, so they are more natural in form. However, they fully express the biomechanical principles, tactical templates—such as tight and wide trajectories, and power of the classical movements. In fact, only by a strong and well-maintained base (in the ‘classical kihon’) can one execute effective jiyu kumite no kihon (which retains karate’s innate character of ichigekk-hisatsu: via the achievement of kime in each action).

(b) These fundamentals must be practiced not only in 自由一本組手 (Jiyu Ippon Kumite) and 自由組手 (Jiyu Kumite)—and their many variations, but also as 打ち込み (Uchikomi). 

Uchikomi in its most basic form is controlled impacts with maximum speed on a training partner. It looks dangerous, because it potentially is. However, even though the maai is exact (which, if not controlled, would severely hurt the training partner), and the speed/power is maximum: the waza connects but does not damage them. This is the epitome of 寸止め (Sundome). Just to confirm—THIS IS NOT SPORTS KARATE. The point of sundome is not at full extension, or penetration of the weapon. Therefore, if sundome is not adhered to, the percussive impact on the opponent will be at its maximum. Clearly, this is impossible, even for professional fighters: as this would result in an abundance on injurieswhich would be nothing more than nonsensical.

Accordingly, Uchikomi, while controlled, is rehearsal for hitting with maximum power, with the correct maai/distancing and so forth… Clearly though, all of this practice is also not enough. Full power impact must be made to create reliable weapons and to provide real feedback for advancement of effectiveness.

2. インパクトトレーニング  (Impact training):

In addition to the above methods, we must train our waza to be explosive and penetrating; that is, to be ‘reliable’. This requires hitting with the concerted intent to transmit destructive impact to the respective target. There are many aspects to this. Firstly, the type of technique and the optimal distancing for it. Secondly, the target and optimal weapon(s) to cause maximum damage. Thirdly, developing explosive speed and use of natural energy: body weight, gravity, ground power, forward momentum/propulsion and so on. In sum, one cannot only ‘hit the air’ , we must impact with our fighting techniques (on both static and moving targets with maximum concentration of power). Irrespective of one’s form, without this aspect, karate as a form of self-defense is unambiguously unreasonable. I have written about 'Air Karate' in the past, yet very few have changed their approach. This is an underpinning principle of the International Karate Shotokan. However, it is my hope that more groups around the world independently take up this mantle.

To conclude, impact training completes the full circle of kihon. While 'jiyu kumite no kihon' and 'impact training' intelligibly cannot exist independently, these practical aspects of fundamental training are utterly essential. Otherwise, KIHON IS NOT COMPLETED. Osu, André

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).