Wednesday, 13 January 2021

寒稽古 (KANGEIKO) – Part 2: Video

 寒稽古

Here is a brief YOUTUBE VIDEO of my KANGEIKO I uploaded today. It is not about nice technique, it’s all about ‘trying to overcome the cold’ and ‘relax’ while doing hundreds of repetitions: both kihon-waza and calisthenics.

 The scenery is not special, just a local jinja (shrine) near my home. Unlike when I was living in other parts of Japan, when I trained in the snow, there has only been light snow fall here in central Oita City. That being said, in my mid-40s, while I’m by no means old, it is still tough enough.

 

If you saw the recent video of my training at the waterfall, Ameushi no taki, that session was VERY TOUGH as rocks were sharp, not level, and extremely slippery. Furthermore, my dogi was saturated by freezing cold water.

 

While the temperature is colder now than the end of December, the Akeuchi no taki training wins the prize (so far): as my toughest kangeiko session this season. So… I might just have to visit another waterfall somewhere else here in the Prefecture.

 

Please, if you have a moment, like—share—and comment on the video! I really appreciate these actions and it quite literally motivates me to post more! POSITIVE ENERGY and a BIG “OSU” from Oita City, Japan.

押忍!

アンドレ

 

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).

Monday, 11 January 2021

寒稽古 (KANGEIKO) – Part 1: Article

 寒稽古

Kangeiko late 2013/early 2014 in Kumamoto.

The term 寒稽古 (KANGEIKO) is a special training, in various forms of budo/bujutsu, in which practitioners endure training in the cold. This midwinter practice is meant to strengthen not only the body, but the mind. While this definition is fine, to me it doesn’t highlight the real technical benefit of engaging in Kangeiko. That is, what one can technically gain from doing it? Really! What can you get?

For me, this runs parallel with one of the things Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei intermittently did in his own karate practice; that is, ‘holding his breath when stretching’! Now, before you start saying how ‘bad’ this is, let me explain his rational. Remember, he didn’t do this every time (nor for all of his stretches); rather, he effectively used this methodology to maximize his incredible elasticity.

 

Obviously, it is correct to breathe deeply from the diaphragm when stretching. This is not only good for your health but, indeed, results in relaxing—and going deeper—into your respective stretches.

 

So why did Asai Sensei sometimes practice ‘not breathing when stretching’? The answer: “If you can ‘stretch well’, when not breathing, then you will gain more flexibility when you breath correctly”. In text, this sounds illogical—perhaps even a little crazy, but contrary to how it sounds, it is actually very true. Yes, it works and it works very well! Returning to Kangeiko and the parallel it has (with this manner of flexibility training): “…being in the cold makes moving harder as the muscles are naturally tighter and less elastic. Occasional practice like this—especially during the annual Kangeiko—“…will result in learning to move more softly; moreover, when in a regular state, this will increase one’s speed and explosiveness”, amongst other aspects.

 

In sum, if you want to perform at your best, Kangeiko is never going to be optimal: as the environment is against this. Being cold is a being in a hostile environment for peak performance, just as holding your breath when stretching makes life difficult. Nevertheless, if you want to improve—and you are in good health—both these practices can result in valuable gains.

 

To conclude, I’d like to say that often I see that ‘the physical benefits of Kangeiko get overlooked’. Accordingly, I hope that this short article has elucidated how this special winter practice can literally benefit your physical prowess in Karate: in addition to the mental strength/grit that it can help to develop.

 

PS – A brief YouTube Video (PART TWO) will be coming soon…


押忍!

アンドレ

 

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).

Saturday, 9 January 2021

脚戦 (Kyakusen)

 

脚戦

脚戦  (Kyakusen) is often spelt and pronounced incorrectly by karateka who do not read or write Japanese. So I’d like to begin by helping with this today. Firstly, a background… It seems many people get confused between the names ‘Kyakusen’ and 鶴翼 ‘Kakuyoku’, which, are of course, completely different kanji and have completely different meanings. Whilst Kakuyoku means ‘Cranes wings’, Kyakusen translates as ‘Fighting with the legs’.

 

The correct pronunciation, for those of you who know katakana, it's:

キャクセン (KYA-KU-SE-N).

 

This kata is also referred to as ‘Ashi-barai no kata’; nevertheless, whilst ashi-barai is right through this formal exercise, it certainly doesn’t sum it up—as there are just as many ‘ashi-ukewaza’ (leg receptions). A lot of waza are directed diagonally (which is generically imperative for optimizing 'the line' when applying leg techniques) and the signature movements are the four ‘dropping’ sweeps in the last section.

 

There were originally seven Kyakusen—Shodan to Nanadan, which makes them the longest series of kata in 'Asai-style Shotokan'; however, Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei abbreviated them into what is now 乱雪 (Ransetsu), which is more commonly known these days as 乱腿  (Rantai).

 

Kyakusen (Shodan) has 45 movements with both kiai interestingly on hidari chudan gyaku-zuki: movements 24 and 45 respectively. What is fascinating about this is that Asai Sensei emphasized to preliminary actions/positions for these two tsuki. The first was to come down from tateshuto-uke balanced on one leg. And the second was to come up from the ground after the fourth final dropping sweep. I must point out that Asai Sensei taught this sweep as a ‘ducking technique’ which, of course, was one of his specialties in jiyu-kumite.

 

Lastly, before I briefly describe each movement in this kata, I want to say that it is unique for me. This is because Kyakusen is one of the very few that Asai Sensei himself never personally taught me. In this way, I feel it is a kata that I didn’t properly learn; that being said, I have kept practicing it, as it has still been beneficial for my ashiwaza. In this regard, I hope that this post will help you benefit from it also. Osu, AB

 

MOVEMENT ONE: Turn 90 degrees leftward, in migi ashi-dachi, with hidari uchi ashi-uke doji ni hidari shuto uchimawashi uchi.

 

MOVEMENT TWO: Make migi chudan gyaku-zuki whilst moving into hidari zenkutsu-dachi.

 

MOVEMENT THREE: Migi ashi-barai.

 

MOVEMENT FOUR: Advance with hidari chudan gyaku-zuki into migi zenkutsu-dachi.

 

MOVEMENT FIVE: Turn 180 degrees rightward, in hidari ashi-dachi, with migi uchi ashi-uke doji ni migi shuto uchimawashi uchi.

 

MOVEMENT SIX: Make hidari chudan gyaku-zuki whilst moving into migi zenkutsu-dachi.

 

MOVEMENT SEVEN: Hidari ashi-barai.

 

MOVEMENT EIGHT: Advance with migi chudan gyaku-zuki into hidari zenkutsu-dachi.

 

MOVEMENT NINE: Turn 270 degree with migi jodan haishu age-uke into migi zenkutsu-dachi.

 

MOVEMENT TEN: Migi ashi soto-uke, hidari ashi-ashi, doji ni migi jodan sotonagashi-uke.

 

MOVEMENT 11: Migi naname chudan mae-geri keage.

 

MOVEMENT 12: Punch hidari chudan gyaku-zuki whilst transferring into migi zenkutsu-dachi.

 

MOVEMENT 13: dvance with hidari jodan haishu age-uke into hidari zenkutsu-dachi.


MOVEMENT 14: Hidari ashi soto-uke, migi ashi-dachi, doji ni hidari jodan sotonagashi-uke.

 

MOVEMENT 15: Hidari naname chudan mae-geri keage.

 

MOVEMENT 16: Punch migi chudan gyaku-zuki whilst transferring into hidari zenkutsu-dachi.

 

MOVEMENT 17: Make migi hiza-uke, in hidari ashi-dachi, doji ni migi uraken uchimawashi uchi (diagonally forward to the right).

 

MOVEMENT 18: Advance forward on the angle to with hidari ashi-barai, migi ashi-dachi, doji ni hidari sho nagashi-uke.

 

MOVEMENT 19: Hidari shuto uchimawashi uchi into hidari zenkutsu-dachi.

 

MOVEMENT 20: Turn leftward facing 45 degrees to the opposite side and make hidari hiza-uke, migi ashi-dachi, doji ni hidari uraken yokomawashi uchi.

 

MOVEMENT 21: Advance forward on the opposite angle with migi ashi-barai, hidari ashi-dachi, doji ni migi sho nagashi-uke.

 

MOVEMENT 22: Migi shuto uchimawashi uchi into migi zenkutsu-dachi.

 

MOVEMENT 23: Centralize with migi ashi uchi-uke, hidari ashi-dachi, doji ni migi tateshuto-uke.

 

MOVEMENT 24: Step down into migi zenkutsu-dachi with hidari chudan gyaku-zuki – KIAI!

 

MOVEMENT 25: Step back diagonally with the left foot with migi ashi-barai, hidari ashi-dachi, doji ni migi jodan sotonagashi uke.

 

MOVEMENT 26: Move into migi zenkutsu-dachi with hidari gedan gyaku-zuki (target the myojo).

 

MOVEMENT 27: Step back diagonally with the right foot with hidari ashi-barai, migi ashi-dachi, doji ni hidari jodan sotonagashi uke.

 

MOVEMENT 28: Move into hidari zenkutsu-dachi with migi gedan gyaku-zuki (target the myojo).

 

MOVEMENT 29: Step back onto the centerline with the lead right foot into migi ashi-dachi doji with hidari ashi-uke doji ni hidari tateshuto-uke.

 

MOVEMENT 30: Step back naturally one more time but with the left leg into hidari ashi-dachi, with migi ashi-uke doji uken jodan-zuki.

 

MOVEMENT 31: Step down into migi zenkutsu-dachi with hidari chudan gyaku-zuki.

 

MOVEMENT 32: Turn 90 degrees leftward moving forward with the migi hiza-uke, hidari ashi-dachi, doji ni migi tateshuto-uke.

 

MOVEMENT 33: Advance into with hidari chudan gyaku-zuki into migi zenkutsu-dachi.

 

MOVEMENT 34: Drop into a low migi ashi-dachi with hidari kyakusen no ashi-barai.

 

MOVEMENT 35: Punch migi chudan gyaku-zuki whilst rising up and moving into hidari zenkutsu-dachi.

 

MOVEMENT 36: Turn 180 degrees clockwise and move forward with hidari hiza-uke, in migi ashi dachi, doji ni hidari tateshuto-uke.

 

MOVEMENT 37: Advance punching migi chudan gyaku-zuki whilst moving into hidari zenkutsu-dachi.

 

MOVEMENT 38: Drop into a low hidari ashi-dachi with migi kyakusen no ashi-barai.

 

MOVEMENT 39: Punch hidari chudan gyaku-zuki whilst rising up and moving into migi zenkutsu-dachi.

 

MOVEMENT 40: Turn 90 degrees rightward (facing ura-shomen) and block with migi ashi uchi-uke, in hidari ashi-dachi, doji ni migi shuto uchimawashi-uchi.

 

MOVEMENT 41: Naturally step down and slight forward with the right foot then make hidari kyakusen no ashi-barai.

 

MOVEMENT 42: Punch migi chudan gyaku-zuki whilst rising up and moving into hidari zenkutsu-dachi.

 

MOVEMENT 43: Turn leftward/anticlockwise 180 degrees with hidari ashi uchi-uke, in migi ashi-dachi, doji ni hidari shuto uchimawashi uke.

 

MOVEMENT 44: Drop into a low hidari ashi-dachi with migi kyakusen no ashi-barai.

 

MOVEMENT 45: Punch hidari chudan gyaku-zuki whilst rising up and moving into migi zenkutsu-dachi – KIAI!

 

 

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).

Friday, 1 January 2021

Happy New Year from Oita City, Japan.

 

明けましておめでとうございます

I’d like to wish everyone a very happy and healthy New Year

押忍

 

アンドレ バーテル

André

 

 

 

To begin my posts in 2021, here is a review of videos publicly uploaded on my YouTube Channel in 2020. I’d like to thank everyone who provided the footage. What's your favorite video from these and why? Moreover, what would you like to see in 2021? Please like and, leave comment on the videos in this regard: should you have some requests. Lastly, I hope to continue to contributing online during this difficult time! 

Best wishes and positive energy from Japan, OSU!


1  BE LIKE WATER... Kangeiko (Cold Winter Training): December 26th, 2020.

2.     直突き (Choku-zuki): Straight punch.

3.     Good bye running shoes.

 4.     ASAI SENSEI and uchideshi André Bertel.

5.     Pre training warm up jog and push ups

 6.     André Bertel 7th Dan Japan

7.     Some tips from Osaka Sensei on Bassai Dai

 8.     Video compilation from one of my students

 © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).

Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Turning a negative into a positive

 Today my extra fitness training goal for 2020 (due to the coronavirus pandemic) was completed! My set deadline was December 31st. The target of 600km uphill/mountain running was achieved today. On top of my daily karate training, this extra fitness was particularly hard for me, but well worth the challenge.

 

The purpose of this extra training each day was to compensate for my lack of teaching. I self-train every day; however, I also train/demonstrate a lot when teaching (which is always separate from my own training), so this needed to be covered by extra work. I decided to do something different.

 

My aerobic fitness handled the extra running as my resting heart rate is 48 beats per minute. That being said, it killed my legs as after doing two-to-three hours of karate each day, running up inclines really shocked my quads, hams and calves in particular.

 

I am sharing this not to promote what I did but, rather, to emphasize how we have the choice ‘to turn negatives to positives’… And, likewise, vice-versa. Stay positive and achieve your goals. It is our choice! In this regard, the negatives of COVID-19 have given me something positive.

 

Best wishes for the final days of 2020.

André Bertel

  押忍の精神

December 29, 2020. After 600km... Time for a drive! Happy Holidays Everyone.

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

Sunday, 27 December 2020

黄牛の滝

 The footage in this video is from today (YouTube link at the bottom of this post). In it I'm training at 黄牛の滝 (AMEUSHI NO TAKI), a waterfall in Taketa City, about one hours drive from my home. Also, training at my dojo here in central Oita City.

My reason for training at this waterfall was to train on very slippery rocks and uneven surfaces... Ameushi no taki certainly fulfilled these criteria! This type of practice is something I have done ever since I first worked in the security industry (and continued since I left it), as I found that having the ability to be effective in any environment is very important.

In addition to the extremely slippery and rough surfaces to practice on, it was very cold. Not only from the chilly winter air but also from being constantly splashed by the freezing water. It was a challenge to move 'softly and smoothly'; hence, the videos title 'Be like water'.

Beyond this (and very obviously), the power of nature is always wonderful for teaching us our insignificance; furthermore, challenges us 'to expand our energy'. In sum, nature not only keeps things in perspective but, I believe, can also improve our karate skill: especially in regards to 'power generation from natural energy'.


Accordingly, even when the body condition and environment makes it difficult: "we should still always aim to 'move like water'. Osu!!


Lastly. I'd like to dedicate this video is dedicated to Anan Susumu San who recommended Ameushi no taki for my karate practice a few days ago. ありがとうございます阿南さん!

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

Tuesday, 22 December 2020

騎馬立ち - Kiba-dachi (and Shiko-Dachi)

 騎馬立ち (Kiba-dachi – the ‘horse riding stance’) is a centralized stance with 50/50 weight distribution on both legs; furthermore, it works to maintain this centralization of weight in movement. It is most strong to the side and also functions as an exaggerated horizonal transition/step/movement in application. Often kiba-dachi gets compared to shiko-dachi. This is understandable due to them both being centralized; however, they are very different in functionality. Shiko-dachi is superior for making techniques downward. Whereas kiba-dachi is superior for making techniques and movements to the sides. Sure, this is perhaps an oversimplification, but it vividly elucidates their prime strengths in Budo/Bujutsu.

Kiba-dachi is less natural than shiko-dachi largely due to the direction of the feet in relation to the knees; furthermore, this effect on the posture of the pelvis. Nevertheless, the direction of the feet is very important. Whilst shiko-dachi is a stance/position for application just as kiba-dachi is, kiba-dachi is representative of something more: an attack with sokuto (the sword foot, which comprises of the outside edges of the feet. This application is obvious when we consider sokuto gedan yoko-kekomi/kansetsu-geri in the various kata and, even more obviously, fumikomi.

 

This is not to say kiba-dachi is a better stance than shiko-dachi, no stance is better than another (except in a given circumstance). This is why we have it in Shotokan, but not within the 'standard kata'.

Before I move on. Try dropping otoshi enpi-uchi onto an opponent or punching a ‘downed opponent’ after a sweep, takedown or throw. Which is better shiko-dachi or kiba-dachi? Certainly, in this case, us Shotokan practitioners tend to use fudo-dachi, but that is not the point here. Now try side stepping in jiyu-kumite, which of the two is better? The answer, for the first, is of course shiko-dachi; and, for the second, clearly kiba-dachi.

 

Lastly, I need to mention Naifanchi-dachi. Obviously in the case of our Tekki kata, which originally come from Naifanchi, one could say that kiba-dachi is not necessary. In many ways, I have no complaints towards this standpoint: if one is not a Shotokan practitioner (or does not train in a style that has Shotokan influences). That being said, by practicing kiba-dachi “…one’s naifanchi-dachi will be better, but, interestingly, not vice-versa”. Unfortunately, this does not completely apply to shiko-dachi, which requires distinctively different training.

 

To wrap up I’d like to provide seven brief comments on kiba-dachi, which I hope will be of use to you in your training…

 

FIRSTLY, pushing the knees outward. Yes, this is important, but if the knees go too far out one will: (a) distort the stance and make it unnatural for movement; (b) unless quite flexible ‘lose sokuto’; and (c) put the knees under unnecessary pressure—'potential injury in the long-term’.

 On the subject of ‘pushing out the knees’ we now know that this occurred during the spreading of karate outside Japan. What happened was that the Japanese instructors had extremely limited English and, when correcting the stances, emphasized not allowing them to collapse inwards. The result was that karateka around the world had their knees right out to both sides in kiba-dachi, front knee far out to the side in zenkutsu-dachi, and radically rearward in kokutsu-dachi. Some groups and practitioners still practice in this way, which I’ve never seen here in Japan.

 

SECONDLY, according to Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei, kiba-dachi is the main stance of the ‘Big three’ in standard Shotokan-Ryu: which comprises of kiba itself, kokutsu-dachi and zenkutsu-dachi. Indeed, this also includes fudo-dachi, zenkutsu and hiza-kutsu also. This also highlights why Asai Sensei placed such high importance on nekoashi-dachi.

 

THIRDLY, heiko-dachi and uchi-hachihiji-dachi also have special relevance in the training of kiba-dachi and natural application.

 

FOURTHLY, shomen and hanmi must be properly applied in kiba-dachi just like other stances. This means maintaining the stance whilst using ground power and using the correct axis points based on the technique being applied.

 

FIFTHLY, when moving in kiba-dachi the coordination of the foot, ankle, hip and technique is optimal. For example, when advancing with the three teisho-waza in Jion the lead foot/ankle/hip must remain facing shomen until the very last moment. Likewise, when turning/spinning, for attack, the power is not only rotational but also ‘forward’. 

SIXTHLY, the ‘standard’ basic of kiba-dachi is to have the pelvis slightly tucked for the perfect alignment of the hips, back and head/neck. Nonetheless, one must also be able to fully apply—outside of the ‘standard form’ allowing the pelvis to be tilted rearward; thus, tilting the upper body forward. This position is quicker for maneuverability (footwork, ducking and slipping) and provides a bow like position when driving the hips forward into shomen. In this regard I would like to again reference Asai Sensei’s teaching here.

 

SEVENTHLY, like all other things in Budo/Bujutsu, don’t worry what you can or can’t do based on your physical limitations—WE ALL HAVE THEM! Also, changes with aging. Also injuries! With kiba-dachi and all other karate ‘waza’ GO WITH WHAT YOU HAVE GOT!!! This is ‘the best for you’ and just as good as anyone else. Always remember “…In Budo/Bujutsu Karate we train for effectiveness, and the beauty of karate is seen in this, rather than superficial form or modern trends”.

EIGHTHLY, and lastly, 鉄騎 (Tekki) and 騎馬拳 (Kibaken) help us to ‘specifically refine’ our kiba-dachi and, in doing so, perfect our balance and centralization. Only by coming to the center can one fully harness their power via the seika-tanden. To conclude, kiba-dachi is an unparalleled ‘kihonwaza’ in regard to this foundational aspect of Karate-Do (and, certainly, Karate-Jutsu as well).


To conclude, in Shotokan KIBA-DACHI is our main 'centralized stance'; that being said, we also use Shiko-dachi when appropriate. Neither is superior, rather, they just serve different purposes. The 'seika-tanden' kata of many other styles is Sanchin, so sanchin-dachi is central for them. For Shotokan, the seika-tanden kata is Tekki (and for IKS: Kihoken, Tekki and Kibaken); hence, kiba-dachi is imperative for us. I hope that this article finds you well and moving forward in your training. Greetings from Kyushu, Japan.

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

Sunday, 20 December 2020

Plyometric Push Ups

 I was just asked about jumping push-ups, which were included in my latest video: https://youtu.be/07Ntsw6FZa0.

 My first comment is to say that this is not the ‘only way’. I use many different methods for myself and trainees to create high levels of speed.  Pushups, pull ups, dips are very important exercises for everyone.

 Beyond these, I’m a huge advocate of very heavy lifting for people in their 20s and most of their 30s—for serious karateka. More muscle, contrary to silly ‘long outdated beliefs’ doesn’t slow people down. When done 'functionally' they speed people up. 

 

I won’t say more, but the squat is the “KING exercise for karateka”. And it is also an art unto itself. However, age and injury constraints seriously need to be balanced between outcome and risk. We only have one body, so as an instructor my responsibility is to encourage good health; that is, optimization of karate skill with minimum risk of injury. This has been a great success of the IKS Renshusei Program here in Japan, as it has been uniquely tailored for each individual.

SAFETY is paramount and this means, besides the training itself, each person must ‘listen to their body’ (to guide the training).

The main thing is that we train smart, to maximize our individual development and mitigate the possibility of injury (as much as possible). Also, avoid aggravating existing injuries. Look after yourself and avoid anything that threatens your wellbeing. 

Plyometric push ups are not for everyone, and when not, there are other great ways to maximize where individuals are and, indeed, get exceptional results.

Osu, André

Post training December 17th, 2020. 45 next year... NO EXCUSES!!!

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

Thursday, 17 December 2020

Monday, 14 December 2020

New OLLIWAA.COM Video

 I’ve alerted people to this channel in the past and I will do again today. This is the YouTube channel of Oliver Schomburg Sensei (3rd Dan). He recently released a new video. This latest footage outlines my ‘practice philosophy, which underpins all of my training. This has been 'my way' for over ten years now and it permits 'freedom of development'; furthermore, 'optimal excellence' as one can simply focus on getting better without 'emotional demotivation' nor the downs of 'over competitiveness'. If you truly follow the advice on this video, and access top level training with honest self-evaluation, you will go far in karate (actually anything, for that matter).

 

There are, of course, lots of other very high-quality videos on his channel. Here is a direct link to it. Check it out! https://www.youtube.com/user/olliwaa

 

As always, thank you very much Oliver, OSU!!!

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