Thursday 27 December 2007

My current self-training schedule

Here is my current self-training routine as of Christmas day. I've just overcome a minor back strain (which comes from a very old injury I sustained), so I'm now returning to regular training after a week of reduced intensity.

So here we go...

My stationary work is typically 40-100 repetitions with each hand or foot. My ido-kihon training at present usually consists of 10-20 repetitions of renzokuwaza. For all techniques I do at least 10 repetitions in super slow motion (as a specific warm up and thorough self-check).

Sonoba kihon
Chudan choku zuki (kiba dachi); 2. Migi gyaku zuki; 3. Hidari gyaku zuki; 4. Migi mae geri; and 5. Hidari mae geri. Note:
Gyaku zuki from tateshuto kamae; & Mae geri from ryo sokumen gedan barai no kamae.

Ido Kihon
1. Tobi konde sanbon ren zuki; 2. Chudan mae geri kara sanbon ren zuki; 3. Mawashi geri kara chudan gyaku zuki; 4. Chudan ushiro geri kara uraken yokomawshi uchi sara ni chudan gyaku zuki; 5. Yoko keage kara yoko kekomi; 6. Jodan age uke kara mae geri sara ni chudan gyaku zuki; 7. Chudan soto ude uke kara yori ashi yoko empi uchi (kiba dachi), uraken yokomawashi uchi sara ni chudan gyaku zuki; 8. Chudan uchi ude uke kara kizami zuki, chudan gyaku zuki sara ni yori ashi jodan kizami zuki 9. Chudan shuto uke (kokutsu dachi) kara mae geri sara ni nukite; and 10. Jodan soto ude uke kara yoko yori ashi gedan barai, mae ashi mae geri sara ni chudan gyaku zuki.
Note: All techniques in zenkutsu dachi unless otherwise stated. All keriwaza from jiyu kumite no kamae. Other techniques from gedan barai.


This month I’m focusing on the following kata: Kankudai – slow motion practice ('extreme' technical work); Jion (koshi no kaiten and huri-waza); Gojushihodai; Shoteidai; & Kakuyoku-sandan (for these three, precise performance, and stre
et practical oyo-jutsu). I usually include a Tekki or a Kibaken, but this month I’m having a rest from these kata, performance-wise. However, I’m applying their ‘application principles’ to the kata, I am currently working on. My kumite training at present is a return to combative evasion, to apply Asai Sensei’s muchiken-waza. Once completed, I’ll present (or perhaps publish in a magazine) an article on this topic, as it was amongst the top priorities of Sensei’s karate. It will include some regular quotes from Asai Sensei on this subject; and hopefully help people, to better understand, his approach to actual kumite-keiko.

I expect to continue this training regime until the third week of January (as long as all my training targets are met). All going well, I'll update you with my new schedule, just after that time.

2008 promises to bring many informative new articles on Asai-ryuha, and traditional Shotokan, so stay tuned! Regardless of where you are from, and who you are, I wish you a happy, safe, and healthy 2008. Happy New Year and God Bless.

OSU! André Bertel
Kyushu, Japan

© André Bertel, Japan 2007

Sunday 23 December 2007

Trainee from Ireland

Today a shodan from Ireland, Ben Kelly, visited my dojo here in Kyushu, for a private lesson. He trains under the guidance of his long-time instructor, Gerard Clyne Sensei, in Tuam (Shobukan dojo), who is a direct student of Kato Shihan. Ben has been travelling around Japan with his father Eamonn for the first time, and it was a great pleasure to host both of them. Great guys!

During the two and a quarter hour lesson I brushed over a number of topics crucial to understand Asai style karate, including the understanding of Sensei's centralised/basic alignment power (using choku zuki as a model). We also worked on transfer of weight in punches and kicks (gyaku zuki and mae geri) to ensure maximum impact, as opposed to 'point scoring'.

Staying on topic we walked through two kata, Kakuyoku-nidan and the advanced Kaminari-arashi, with the focus still being on Asai Sensei's 'alignment'. Ben was keen to learn and asked many excellent questions in regards to the practical applications, which I hope I 'physically answered' sufficiently! Ben recognised that Asai-ryu karate is lethal and directly applicable in the real world.

Continuing from there I also taught Ben some combative applications for two arm techniques, commonly found in the Shotokan kata, as researched by Asai Sensei (his koten oyo jutsu or 'classical application for combat): (a) Jodan ura zuki with simultaneous zenwan mune mae suihei gamae; (b) Simultaneous jodan sokumen uchi uke and sokumen gedan barai (AKA manji kamae); and (c) Yumi zuki. Such techniques formed the basis for Sensei's development of 'snapping techniques' and the 'control then hit tactics' he advocated.

Other aspects of the training included the kihon for ducking under kicks, and strikes, as well as the first of Asai Sensei's Goshin-jutsu drills (which includes a cover, duck, turn and grounded sequence). This series of practical combinations were a regular part of Asai Sensei's infamous morning workouts. We also covered several other exercises as well, and Ben was enthusiatic enough to try them all, and without hesitation. The entire session was very similar to the private training I recieved from Asai Sensei, so hopefully it was an enlightening experience for Ben.

After training, we enjoyed a kaiten sushi meal, followed by a little sightseeing (even getting fortunes told, at a Shinto shrine, for 100 yen a pop!!!) Mizuho and I greatly enjoyed meeting Ben and his father, and hope to see them both again in the future. Ben is a huge credit to his father, karate teacher Gerard Clyne, and IJKA Ireland. Keep up the great work Ben and please remember 石の上にも三年 "Ishi no uenimo san nen".

OSU, Andre

© André Bertel, Japan 2007

Sunday 9 December 2007

Gift from a sensei

I thought I'd share this with you. On Friday Miki Sensei, whom I teach with once a week, gave me this beautiful Japanese calligraphy as a gift. She has a high dan in Shodo.

The kanji roughly means "Look at the mountain. Listen to the water." As I'm a great lover of nature, Miki Sensei felt this was appropriate for me (especially in regards to my regular outdoor karate training).

Sadly now, as the Japanese winter really kicks in, nearly all of my extra training has shifted into the dojo.

Awareness of ones environment is directly attached to 'living in the moment'. An aspect of karate, which sometimes I feel I have nearly mastered, yet other times I am a complete beginner. Perhaps the very best training method, away from practice itself, is ones awareness of their environment in their daily lives? Simply sitting back, looking around and taking everything in. I sincerely believe this is true. Is this not zanshin?

I hope your training is going well as 2008 rapidly approaches us (along with those New Years resolutions)! OSU, Andre

© André Bertel, Japan 2007

Wednesday 5 December 2007

Visit to Hiroshima

Last weekend Mizuho and I travelled to Hiroshima. It was primarily a relaxed holiday for us, but also co-ordinated with our First Wedding Anniversary. In addition to having a well earned rest, we also planned to visit Miyajima, Heiwa Kinen Koen (Peace Memorial Park) and Gembaku Dome.

Miyajima was magnificent and Gembaku Dome, very moving. Our hotel room literally overlooked the dome itself, making it hard to believe that only 62 years earlier, a nuclear weapon was detonated so close to there.

I won't harp on about our time in Hiroshima and bore those who live there, or have been there before, but rather I'd just like to say that it is very worth visiting. A beautiful city with a fantastic vibe, not to mention the delicious okonomiyaki!
© André Bertel, Japan 2007