Saturday, 12 January 2019

My hardest Dan Examination

Today I thought I would write about my toughest DAN EXAMINATION… It was not the 六段 (Rokudan), but my 五段 (Godan), which was ‘by far’ the hardest.

Surprise Examination, yet again!!
There were many reasons why my Godan Examination was the hardest karate test in my life. The first reason was that—I wasn’t ready—because I didn’t expect it! Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei called me over to him (just minutes before the Dan Examination began) and, to my astonishment, said ``André kun, junbi undo!“ He then, gave me his infamous grin and gestured with a nod followed by pointing  to go outside and get ready 'ASAP'.

 Finally, when Sensei called my name, I ran back into the dojo. He 
then sharply questioned “Tokui-gata???”

 I announced “雲手” (Unsu). After ‘a very-very brief pause’ he said “No, no, no… Sandan, Yondan—Unsu. You must do 五十四歩大 (Gojushiho Dai) again”. To put this in context, Asai Sensei had also told me to test for Godan (in the previous year) and had also banned me from using Unsu at that time. So, in the prior year—I selected Gojushiho Dai—and, of course, he hadn’t forgotten that I used it). It was one of those “Oh shit” déjà
vu moments in life.
Kakuyoku Shodan
So, I had to demonstrate Gojushiho Dai again… After that, the syllabus of the time required that “…Godan examinees to demonstrate—a randomly called kata—from the 20 standard Shotokan kata (above the five Heian and Tekki Shodan)”. While in the previous year I had to perform 観空小(Kanku Sho), this time Sensei announced 明鏡 (Meikyo). However, the real shock was yet to come…


Zanshin after making a decisive jodan tsuki.

Kime with shuto uchi. Because of Asai Sensei`s training I love newaza.
Yay, I had completed the kata portion of the exam. But actually, that wasn’t the case…

Suddenly, Asai Sensei told me to do 鶴翼初段 (Kakuyoku Shodan); next 水手 (Suishu); and lastly, 八門 (Hachimon). In sum, it was five consecutive kata for the fifth dan, kind of appropriate I guess: four of which came completely out of the blue!!! The price of being an uchideshi!!!!!!
Knock down
組手  (KUMITE)

Yet another surprise then came.... Asai Sensei always gave the option to select either: (a) 自由組手 (Jiyu Kumite / Free sparring); or (b) 護身術 (Goshin jutsu / Self-defence). He then told me, “you must do both!” Needless to say, that was another first. More interestingly, in jiyu kumite, I was only allowed to defend, except when Sensei said I could attack. He also stressed that I needed to achieve ‘ippon technique’ on his demand—so the pressure was on. Consequently, I made sure that all opponents were downed and received a clear kimewaza. In the self-defence section of the exam, in addition to the classical iri-guchi-waza, I spontaneously utilized shihon-nukite, atama-uchi, kin-geri, shuto-uchi, haito-uchi, fumikomi, ushiro-keage, tsuki with nakadaka ippon-ken, and even kani-basami. 
Kime after a take down.
Pre-result: Asai Sensei told me what I should aim to achieve in my 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, 70s and beyond.
Free style kani basami, including ashi kake - both which are banned techniques in Judo. Asai Sensei loved both of them.
In sum, many who witnessed this exam—including Hawaii Chief Instructor Edward Fujiwara Sensei—said this was the most complex Godan examination that he had ever seen. The pass presented another surprise. At the time I physically passed the godan examination I was only 26 years old. The certified registration came just a few months after my 27th birthday. A few days after receiving my two diploma
s Asai Sensei called me and congratulated me again. He also told me that I was youngest ever to receive this rank from him and that he expected me to help preserve his karate. 

To conclude, yes it was my hardest Dan Examination, but like in all things “tough means gain”. I am in deep gratitude to Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei between 1993 and 2006 for his amazing physical training, constant mentorship and overall immense support of my karate path. Lastly, I'd like to thank Matt Brew Sensei for assisting me, at this time, and providing the images from this examination.
Asai Sensei - "Uchideshi pass. The youngest to attain Godan in the world ".

  © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2019).

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

Updated SEIRYU video

Updated video of Seiryu Kata. This is Asai Sensei`s second kata primarily for `shoulder snap`. The video has been `brightened up` for more clarity. If you wish to see more, and see more uploads, please visit my YOUTUBE CHANNEL. The more interest will literally result in more videos.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2019).

Tuesday, 8 January 2019

Andre Bertel International Karate Seminars: March—June 2019

International Karate Seminars officially decided so far, from 
March to June of 2019.

Seminars for the second half of the year will be announced from late February.

MARCH:   Port Elizabeth, SOUTH AFRICA


MAY:  Christchurch, NEW ZEALAND


To book attendance, for these events, please reference the following posters.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2019).

Monday, 7 January 2019


Today I completed HATSUGEIKO: my first dojo training of 2019. In fact, my last time in the dojo was on December 24th, which has been my longest break, from karate training, in over 25 years!!

To reiterate past posts, this 13 day break occurred as I had 'non-karate related' surgery on December 25th, followed by several days in hospital. So, until today, I was only able to go very lightly through kihon and kata at home. 

So what did my first dojo training of this New Year consist of? Typically, I begin the year with lots of kihon and kata; however, this year I focused on five fundamental kata. Namely:

(1)  気法 (Kihouken);
(2)  序の型 (Jyonokata);
(3)  平安初段 (Heian Shodan);
(4)  逆突きの型 (Gyakuzukinokata); and
(5)  順路初段Junro Shodan

Simple focal points to kickstart 2019: My areas of focus were to optimally use my kinetic chain for each fundamental technique in all five of these kata; kokyu (breathing); kakato chushin, especially in regards to sokuto; generic alignment - pelvic, backbone and head/neck; and harmony of the hands and feet—te-ashi onaji. Another point of focus, related to these points was the ‘oi-zuki—gyaku-zuki’ connection; in sum, the best timing for impacting as fast and damaging as possible.

With these points in mind,  逆突きの型 (Gyakuzukinokata) was the `main meal`. Like other formal exercises, I have a unique version of this kata, which comes directly from Asai Sensei. Several movements are different from all other versions and correspond directly with 平安 (Heian), 順路 (Junro) and 常行 (Joko).

Conclusion of Hatsugeiko: To conclude this year’s Hatsugeiko, and the final year of 平成 (HEISEI), I executed 百八歩 (Hyakuhachiho) several times, which allowed me to concentrate on `sinking into my seika tanden` and, in doing so, maximize the utilization of `core power`. Overall, a great start for the New Year.

Lots and lots to come in 2019. Stay tuned!!! Also, be sure to regularly check into the sites offical YouTube Channel:
 あけましておめでとうございます. 押忍!
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2019).

Monday, 31 December 2018

2018 Summary and Links

To summarise, here are direct links to each month of posts this year followed by the content in these months for convenient navigation.

 JANUARY 2018:

Article 1 - あけましておめでとうございます.
Article 2 - Strong seiken (fore-fists) and shuto (sword hands).

Article 3 - MA 間.
Article 4 - The single most important 'training point' of true karate.
Article 5 - Video Links.
Article 6 - 2018 Seminar in Germany: A NEW INTERNATIONAL STANDARD WILL BE SET.

Article 7 - Fabio and Alexia from Paris.
Aricle 8 - Special Kata Practice.
Article 9 - Why 'CHUDAN' so much? A bigger picture.
Article 10 -
Article 11 - Newspaper article.
Article 12 - Bob McCallum Shihan.
APRIL 2018:

Article 13 - Sakura in full bloom: The first training of April.
Article 14 - Andrea and Torsten Return to Oita.
Article 15 - Video: KAKUYOKU NIDAN KATA.
Article 16 - 2018 SEMINAR IN 'KARATE AKTUELL'.

MAY  2018:

Article 17 - Trainee from Australia: David Rush Sensei (4th Dan).
Article 18 - Two days of training in Kumamoto City.
Article 19 - Kakuyoku.

JUNE  2018:

Article 21 - Trainee from Switzerland: Christa Lehman.
Article 22 - 11th Anniversary of this blog.
Article 23 - Mae-geri keage.

JULY 2018:

Article 24 - Halle GERMANY SEMINAR 2018 (Part 1).
Article 25 - Halle GERMANY SEMINAR 2018 (Part 2).
Article 26 - Halle GERMANY SEMINAR 2018 (Part 3).
Article 27 - South Africa Seminar 2019.

AUGUST  2018:

Article 28 - Kita Kyushu Training.
Article 29 - Ryu Ko Kaku.
Article 30 - Today marks the 12th Anniversary of Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei's passing.
Article 31 - SEMINAR, Dresden, GERMANY (March 2019) - VENUE UPDATED.
Article 32 - Start with Jion, end with Jion.
Article 33 - New videos from Halle Seminar (2018).
Article 34 - Updated Self-Training Regime.


Article 35 - Konishi Sensei visits Oita.

OCTOBER  2018:

Article 37 - Technical variations matter for universal/generic application.
Article 38 - What kata do I teach outside of the standard 26 (not including Hyakuhachiho).
Article 39 - 常行一勢~五勢 (Joko Issei ~ Gosei).


Article 40 - REVISION.
Article 41 - UPDATES.
Article 42 - The next step will lift to a higher level.

Article 46 - Wrapping up 2018 and some RECOVERY ADVICE.

For previous years articles (2007-2017) please follow the appropriate links on the right `sidebar`. Furthermore, to access past videos on YouTube, here is a direct link to the blogs official YouTube channel:


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

Wednesday, 26 December 2018

Wrapping up 2018 and some RECOVERY ADVICE

浪手 (Roshu Kata).
The conclusion of my training this year came the earliest ever, December 24th, as I needed to have surgery (pre-planned and unrelated to my karate training) on the 25th. This also means I will return to the dojo relatively late in the New Year (January 8th, 2019), which is also a first for me in over 25 years. The surgery was successfully completed yesterday, so now I just need to stay in the hospital, for approximately four more days. After that, I've been told that I'll be fully recovered in two weeks. 
鶴翼初段 (Kakuyoku Shodan Kata).
As planned, a long time ago, this time in hospital and recovery will give me a valuable opportunity to reflect; and indeed, do some planning, research and writing in preparation for the New Year  and beyond. In case you are wondering about my fitness, especially, the impact of a couple of weeks 'off training!!!' Well, after nearly 38 years of karate training, I am very experienced with injuries and recovery (although this will be the longest break so far). Right up to the day before surgery I have supplemented my daily karate training and conditioning work with an additional cardio fitness routine. As a result, my resting pulse/heart rate on the day of the operation was 40 BPM (Beats per minute), which according to the doctors is up there with well trained endurance athletes in their prime. Certainly, I'm not old, but I'm still in my 40s. Quick advice here, for recovery irrespective of age, and not just talk... "Always create a buffer: fitness, flexibility, explosive power and agility". The average persons pulse is between 60-70 beats per minute. Check yours, and aim to get fitter. Why not make that a goal in the New Year? Always aim to be the best you can be!! 

My blood pressure and pulse as a result of surgery preparation. Slightly better than usual due to the 'extra training'.

Happy New Year to everyone. I really hope this blog has provided something of use for your personal Karate Journey this year. Stay tuned for 2019. It is going to be a very exciting year. Osu, Andre.
© Andre Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2018)

Saturday, 1 December 2018


After another excellent three hour seminar, under the masterful guidance of Osaka Yoshiharu Sensei, I was given a private training. Here is some video footage from that. Osu, Andre.

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

Friday, 30 November 2018


Personal training from Osaka Yoshiharu Sensei on November 25th, 2018.

A brief video PART THREE will follow this post tomorrow. For PART ONE, click here:


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