Monday, 5 December 2022

Trainees from Central India (Part Two): YouTube Video


© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).

Saturday, 3 December 2022

Trainees from Central India (Part One)

Tekki Nidan (Movement 24): Hidari uraken jodan uchi/Migi zenwan munemae suihei gamae.

Mr. Sudhir Parab (from Mumbai, Bombay) and Mr. Kailas Lohar (from Pune, Maharashta) once again came to Oita for training.

'Budo/Bujutsu KIHON' from Yakusoku-Kumite: The two hours at the dojo included Gohon Kumite, Ippon Kumite and Jiyu Kumite; with a focus on underlying budo/bujutsu fundamentals for them to improve. In particular, I had Kailas and Sudhir work on: (a) their attacks - especially pertaining to effective and optimal maai'; (b) the 'wrist/waist connection in their ukewaza; and (c) instantaneously/reactively selecting (and countering with) the most effective waza in the moment. 

The correct maai to attack is what determines the effectiveness of Yakusoku Kumite practice for both the designated attacker and defender.

 Budo/Bujutsu Jiyu Kumite: I focused on the main point that " jiyu-kumite the fundamentals are maintained in the context of freestyle, so that maximum damage can be inflicted at any moment"; thus, control is not only 'to make controlled contact' but, rather, the contact is the same as full contact without 'going through' the target. Therefore, it is that "...percussive waza are landed with full commitment of the legs and hips, and the weapon of the body connecting with the respective target; nevertheless, with the limb not fully extended". In this way, if the opponents, say jaw, was in fact a board, instead of stopping you'd simply fully extend the limb to break it. This is the exact 'Budo/Bujutsu' use of the SUN-DOME rule. In sum, unlike sports karate, in Budo/Bujutsu, the focus is ICHIGEKI HISSATSU. Therefore, merely reaching the target, which can attain a 'point' IS NOT REAL KARATE.

Impact Training
Beyond this control, 'following through' impact training was also practiced. I primarily focused on instructing haisoku and sokuto-kerwaza targeting the groin; namely, haisoku mae-geri keage and sokuto yoko-geri keage (also a variation of mawashi-geri to impact from an angle. Needless to say, groin kicks are devastating, and if the kicker is skillful, extremely hard to defend against in a street fight. In IKS we constantly focus on full contact impact on a variety of training tools. Moreover, "...we target the weak and vulnerable points of koryu-karate, which require 'minimal fine motor skills to reliably apply' under the most extreme levels of psychological pressure".

I also taught variations from different angles (the criticality of 'instantaneous and fluid adaptability') and contrasted these with kekomi. Besides seiken-tsukiwaza open hand attacks were also practiced. Once again, the aim was using the lower body and core, and relaxation of the attacking limbs.

Kata: To reinforce these points Heian Shodan Kata was trained; furthermore, by their request, Tekki Nidan Kata. Certainly, kata helps to reinforce the optimal mechanics for self-defense and, whilst making movements to the extreme, allows us to also practice the more damaging actions of Shotokan -- with full speed -- without needing to care for a training partner.
Overall, it was great to see Sudhir and Kailas eyes further opened to 'old school karate' based on real world self-defense, which with all its brutal effectiveness is also a beautiful art. In sum, I wish them both the best in their Shotokan endeavors. OSU, AB.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).

Thursday, 1 December 2022

Daily post-dojo supplementary practices: For oneself and boosting other's skills as well

Some images of my daily post-dojo supplementary practices. I do a daily review of dojo training each day in order refine skills.  I refer to this as 'professional practice' and, while it is not fun, it really boosts one's technical level and ability to instruct more effectively; that is, not only appear to teach well but really help others to achieve a high level in Shotokan.

An intentionally overextended oi-zuki.

Henka mawashi-geri no renshu

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).

Wednesday, 30 November 2022

Saturday, 19 November 2022

Review of YouTube Videos (Uploaded over the last 12 months)

Today I have posted direct YouTube links for all the publicly uploaded videos in the last 12 months (on my official channel).


What motivates me to share new videos is literally 'THE SUPPORT OF THEM BY YOU', via your (1) COMMENTS; (2) LIKES; (3) SUBSCRIPTIONS; and/or (4) SHARING.


So, once again thank you very much for your on-going support.  You are literally the motivators of my YouTube channel. 



© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).

Tuesday, 15 November 2022

Renshusei from New Zealand: Troy Gutry (Part II)

Day Two:

Continuing from Day One, but in back in Oita City, the theme of ‘natural energy for effortless karate’ remained. 

All 24 actions of 鉄騎二段  (Tekki Nidan) were completed in this session including the 分解 (BUNKAI—analysis/dissection) of its 基本 (Kihon) and 応用 (OYO—application); furthermore, “…applying its use of energy and shifts/transitions” for the aforementioned theme. For more clarity on this, please read my previous post: ‘Part One’:

The effortless/relaxed use of the body to ‘make impact’ (with 受技   ukewaza, 突技 tsukiwaza, 打技 uchiwaza and 蹴技 keriwaza) was also applied to sweeps, throws, takedowns, joint locks and strangulations). This highlighted how budo/bujutsu karate has many locks, chokes, takedowns/throws, but that, “… roughtly 99% of the time these respective waza are preceded by and concluded with percussive blows." Nonetheless, the theme of naturalness and effortlessness remains the same: irrespective of technique category.

Outside the dojo we also did some mini practices such as ukewaza in MUSASHI KOEN, and mae-geri keage in RYOZENJI.

In addition to keiko, we also had several nice social times. Overall, I wish all the very best to Troy. It was wonderful to catch up and to have him here as a renshusei.  押忍!!  —アンドレ

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).

The following YouTube video is nothing fancy; rather, it is primarily a review for Troy; however, it generically provides a few basic insights into the use of energy mentioned here. This video footage came from 'Day Two' (November 13th, 2022).

Monday, 14 November 2022

Renshusei from New Zealand: Troy Gutry (Part I)

Manjuji (Central Oita City, Japan).

Troy Gutry (3rd Dan) from New Zealand came to Oita to visit and train. Traveling with his friend Jarod, he completed two days of renshusei training. In this, and the next post, I will provide a general overview of the main aspects that I taught in these sessions, which were specifically tailored for Troy. That being said, I will not go into great detail as those are for him to share. This will also include a brief YouTube video in the second post, which will reflect the aforementioned points.

Day One

The first session was very special as Nakamura Masamitsu Shihan had us in his dojo, the Shototakuhirokan, in central Kumamoto City. Shihan had me teach Troy as he checked him from the back of the dojo (in other words, he was surrounded). Between segments Shihan gave ample advice, including many technical and first-hand-experienced historical gems.

During the water break Nakamura Shihan checked my 十手 (Jitte) and took me through some applicative variations. In sum, more homework for me.
After training with Nakamura Masamitsu Shihan.

Technically the practice for Troy comprised of 平安初段 (Heian Shodan) kata Broken down into kihon in relation to kumite/self-defense application and the Kata, in its entirety, as solo form. Hip and foot positions, and the coordination of arm actions—to maximize natural energy (keep this in mind)—was high on the agenda. We also covered the first one third of 鉄騎二段  (Tekki Nidan); that is, movements one to eight in fundamental detail in 応用 (Oyo/Functional application).

Troy at Ryozenji (November 2022).

The theme of the practice was nothing fancy; rather, I focused on ‘natural energy for effortless karate’. In sum: (a) Relaxation for speed and environmental awareness before, during and after executing techniques; (b) Moving the center for optimal use of one’s mass; and (c) Positioning of the opponent in relation to oneself and vice-versa.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).

Sunday, 13 November 2022

New YouTube Video 'Short' by Oliver Schomburg Sensei

 Here is a direct link to another excellent YouTube video filmed and compiled by Oliver Schomburg (do subscribe to his channel, as it is absolutely awesome! Not only the content by the 'professionalism').  

You can watch the latest 'video short' by clicking here:

Osu and a big thanks Olli!!!

Ahrensburg Castle (2010).

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

The 15 Stances of 'Dynamic Karate'

I was asked to make commentary on the 15 tackikata (stances) specified in Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei’s classic publication: ‘Dynamic Karate’. I’ll make some more detailed case comments    later but, in sum, there are seven ‘shizentai’ (natural positions) and eight ‘karate specific/specialized positions.' They are as follows:


Shizentai: Heisoku-dachi

Shizentai: Musubi-dachi

Shizentai: Hachiji-dachi, Uchihachiji-dachi, Heiko-dachi

Shizentai: Teiji-dachi

Shizentai: Renoji-dachi







Fudo-dachi (Sochin-dachi, please refer to my later notes)








A key point here, which I should probably highlight is that ‘shizentai’ doesn’t only mean hachiji-dachi. Please note how Nakayama listed seven, three of which he paired together.


A second aspect worth noting here is the absence of: (1) Zenkutsu; (2) Hiza-kutsu; (3) Kosa-dachi; (4) Tsuruashi-dachi/Sagiashi-dachi (Migi/Hidari ashi-dachi); and (5) Jiyu-dachi. This is because these tachikata are sometimes regarded as hybrid stances or transitional positions of the above listed ‘base 15’. Of course, there are other stances also like Kihouken-dachi, Moto-dachi, and others, but these too (at least in Shotokan) are stances within stance transitions/movement).


It is also interesting to point out that those with strong links to Funakoshi Gigo Sensei uniquely separate Sochin-dachi from Fudo-dachi. That is, Fudo-dachi is an in-line tachikata; whereas, Sochin-dachi is the JKA styles wider Fudo-dachi. This runs parallel to Zenkutsu and Zenkutsu-dachi.

Osaka Yoshiharu Sensei: Nakayama Sensei's finest technician.

I need to also mention that what is widely referred to as Zenkutsu now (the narrow/inline and smaller scale Zenkutsu-dachi) was termed ‘Shokutsu-dachi by Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei and, according to him, this was the term used until the late 1970s


As an instructor, I personally define more stances to optimize my teaching—than that listed in ‘Dynamic Karate’; that being said, like the other older texts, it holds many subtle gems for those wishing to advance their skill.

Yes, in many ways karate has advanced. However, in many ways, mainstream karate has also been diluted as a form of budo/bujutsu. Accordingly, if one is to maximize their Shotokan karate development it is imperative to “...determinedly continue to draw in the knowledge of the past whilst swimming through the ocean of contemporary karate”. In this way one will maximize the present through the past and, indeed, the past knowledge from the present. 押忍!!アンドレ  バーテル


© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).

Monday, 7 November 2022

半月立 (Hangetsu-dachi): The original version

Every so often I'm asked “What is the correct way to do Hangetsu-dachi?” So, today I will address that Question; furthermore, I’ll share some key points I’ve learned (here in Japan, over the years) from the very BEST OF THE BEST!
Oliver Schömburg Sensei (3rd Dan Germany), and myself, practicing Hangetsu Kata.
Before I do that, I want to point out that: (a) what I am writing here today is not my opinion or unique methodology; (b) also, that this method is not a new ‘way’ adopted/evolved by the mainstream organizations here in Japan; and (c) that this IS 'the HANGETSU DACHI' handed down from Master's Funakoshi Gichin, Nakayama Masatoshi, and Asai Tetsuhiko.
With these experts in mind I also need to apologize in advance that I am qualifying this post today 'via name dropping'; however, the Hangetsu-dachi which I practice and teach is the original (which was previously taught in Shotokan as Seishan-dachi) and this really needs to be clarified. Otherwise, there is no reason for me to write and publish this article. It is gift for you: the reader.
What’s ironic here is that we are preserving the original Seishan stance as most styles and, indeed, Shotokan organizations have extensively altered it. Just to clarify, the only alteration I make (from the original form) is the use of the name ‘Hangetsu-dachi’ as opposed to its original label of ‘Seishan’. In other words, I simply use the ‘Shotokan label’, which utilizes mainstream Japanese. Accordingly, I'll adhere to this term throughout this article.
The original ‘Hangetsu-Dachi’
半月立 (Hangetsu-dachi), meaning the ‘half-moon stance’ is an
intermediate tachikata between zenkutsu-dachi and sanchin-dachi. Its forward and rearward strides are similar to zenkutsu-dachi, however, the inward tension on the knees are closer to that of sanchin; hence, it is categorized as an ‘inside tension stance’. Don't be confused by this term! Simply know that the pressure goes to the sokuto/outside 'sword' edges of both feet, and the knee and thighs lightly squeeze inward. This dynamic heightens the awareness of 'centralization' and allows the karateka to maximize switching between the three main axis's to optimize explosiveness. 

Whilst it is used for both defensive and offensive actions it is more often used for defense ("...due to its configurations to naturally cover up then launch explosive counterattacks).
Over the years here in Japan I have been taught that Hangetsu dachi is a natural position for absorbing blows whilst maintaining balance. 
Furthermore, as eluded above, a transitional stage in unsoku/movement. This point highlights that rather than being ‘fixed positions’, in actuality, they are in fact “key points in the transition of the center in conjunction with the optimal application of techniques”.
Returning to the classical description of hangetsu-dachi above and we can readily visualize one defending in sanchin-dachi then transitioning through hangetsu-dachi into zenkutsu-dachi (or fudo-dachi) to make a counterattack. Alternatively one might, say, contract into hangetsu-dachi and make an immediate counter from there; or expand for a larger scale waza. Irrespective of its use, the natural and optimal use of the human body—in real world self-defense—is the point of all karate ‘stances’ and techniques in general. This immediately brings to mind the old adage: “if
it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.
So, let’s look at the exact Hangetsu-dachi as demonstrated by Nakayama Sensei. This was the original Seishan dachi learned by Funakoshi Sensei, and came to the IKS (International Karate Shotokan) via Asai Sensei, and other prominent students of Master Nakayama; thus, in a direct line from Funakoshi Sensei and, in particular, Masters Itosu, Azato and Matsumura.
The original seishan-dachi (HANGETSU-DACHI) demonstrated by Nakayama Sensei

Some instructors from Japanese organizations have tried to correct my stances based on their respective groups changes to them. This has included my hangetsu-dachi. They have said things like: “That’s not correct now, that’s the old way!” and/or “The organization has updated the stance”.
The first scenario I take as a great compliment, as I don’t want to be
 'swayed by the wind of ever-changing karate trends’. In the second scenario, I always ask “so, why the update of the stance?” When I ask this question, the answer is always unclear (or includes what I can only describe as 'plastic bunkai'); thus, immediately indicating the changes are, at best, cosmetic fluff.
In this regard, many times Nakamura Masamitsu Sensei has told me "... not to change my karate to the 'new style' and continue follow Nakayama Sensei’s way”. Osaka Yoshiharu Sensei has also consistently stressed “The recent changes to the kata have not only been unnecessary but 'have negatively compromised' the unique characteristics of Shotokan”.

To conclude, for an overview of Hangetsu kata, here's a direct link: André Bertel's Karate-Do: HANGETSU KATA (
 © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).