Sunday 27 January 2008

Christchurch Karate Club - New Zealand

Karate is a martial art characterized by the aim to achieve the ‘single finishing blow’, anything less cannot be considered as true karate. Sadly, over 90% of what is now referred to as karate, does not have ikken-hissatsu (the single finishing blow), as the nucleus of all technical training. Such styles, clubs, and individuals, whether claiming links to ‘traditional systems’ (by name and/or affiliation) literally have nothing, except the money to buy brand labels and certificates...
My home country, New Zealand, is particularly bad in this regard. Most people merely ‘play karate’ and 'buy their way into Japanese organisations'. Can this 'way' be taken seriously? Of course not, because it is literally not karate technically and in spirit. Some people are serious about the 'sport' of karate, however this way is inferior as well, as real karate is not a sport. Competition, if made the top priority is a dead end.

I just received news of Lyall Stone Sensei’s dojo beginning weeknight classes, (open to anyone) in my home city, Christchurch. This is wonderful news for people there, as there is no one else teaching Shotokan karate correctly in the Canterbury region (teaching/training for 'ikken-hissatsu). Lyall Sensei (4th Dan) is the chief instructor of Shotokan Karate New Zealand. He was also the original Technical Director of JKS (Japan Karate Shotorenmei) in New Zealand. So the club is actually the original JKS New Zealand headquarters. Prior to the establishment of the JKS by Asai Sensei he was a member of the Asai faction of the JKA (under Asai Sensei and Yahara Sensei). Therefore, away from his current position, he is also the most qualified person in New Zealand to teach Asai style karate. The people who are now controlling JKS were unheard of until the end of 2003 and 2004 respectively. Lyall Sensei was with Asai Sensei's JKA and the JKS from the very beginning. What's more, unlike these karate politicians, Lyall Sensei is a hard training karate man.
I'm really excited that people in Christchurch and the South Island of New Zealand can once again access true karate. The feeling in the dojo will no doubt be intense, like training here in Japan, giving karate its true power and beauty. This 'do or die feeling' coupled with the correct use of the body (the perfect co-ordination of koshi no kaiten and tai no shinshuku) is very special, as most people now seek a watered down version of the art. It comes back to the old saying "doing the moves, some applications, and twisting the hips is not enough". These things must be coupled with constant seriousnous (do or die mentality), and 'extreme' body torque harnessing strength, to release ones maximum power.

Congratulations Lyall Sensei and to all the members in Christchurch who are doing their part to keep authentic karate alive. The club is no doubt a great asset for the city and New Zealand (not another Shotokan 'baby sitting club' coupled by a few adults, in their white pyjamas, thinking they are 'karateka'). With permission from Lyall Sensei, when I visit New Zealand, I promise to give a seminar for the members of the club

OSU! Andre Bertel

© André Bertel, Japan 2008

Monday 21 January 2008

Ichinichi Issho

Ichinichi Issho is a famous saying in Japanese, which means 'One day one lifetime'. The first time I heard it was training at the JKA (Japan Karate Association) here in Japan many years ago. To me, this philosophy is a maxim for our human lives, and of course, karate training included. Why? Because before life, there is nothing - that is, we can't achieve anything. And once our lives are over, it goes without saying, we have no control. Obviously all that matters is our 'lifetime'. If we treat 'each day' as a lifetime, like ‘Ichinichi Issho’ implies, we will make the most of our lives in all areas. I've found that regularly revisiting this philosophy (on a daily basis) greatly helps me 'to give my very best' each time I practice karate.
Training first - philosophy second, if at all...

I’d like to add here that I HATE KARATE PHILOSOPHY WHICH IS NOT RELATED TO ACTUAL TRAINING (there are far too many 'karate-wafflers', with all the theories under the sun, who can’t do high-level karate, and never could ). We must talk with our waza, and establish philosophies/strategies to help us to 'physically' keep achieving results (better put - 'keep improving our technique'). Train first... Talk and/or write later! That is, if you are blessed with the time, and desire to do so. Personally I find making posts and discussing karate is really beneficial when recovering from fatigue, and those inevitable muscle pains, strains, impact injuries etc. But we must always remember, someone who only talks, and perhaps teaches karate, is not a karateka, unless they seriously train themselves.

Here is my remodelled training regime (since Kangeiko


I have simplified my ido kihon back to 'grass roots' training as follows: (1) Chudan oi zuki; (2) Sanbon zuki; (3) Chudan mae geri or Sambon geri; (4) Chudan mae geri kara chudan oi zuki; (5) Chudan mawashi geri; (6) Chudan mawashi geri kara chudan gyaku zuki); (7) Yoko keage or Yoko keage ashi o kaete yoko kekomi (kiba dachi); (8) Yoko kekomi or ushiro geri; (9) Gedan barai; (10) Gedan barai kara chudan gyaku zuki (sometimes with kaiten shinagara); (11) Jodan age uke; (12) Jodan age uke kara chudan gyaku zuki; (13) Chudan soto ude uke; (14) Chudan soto ude uke kara chudan gyaku zuki or Chudan soto ude uke kara yori ashi (into kiba dachi) chudan yoko empi uchi (sometimes I'm adding uraken yokomawashi uchi); (15) Chudan uchi ude uke; (16) Chudan uchi uke kara chudan gyaku zuki or Chudan uchi uke kara kizami zuki sara ni chudan gyaku zuki; (17) Chudan shuto uke (kokutsu dachi); and (18) Chudan shuto uke (kokutsu dachi) kara shihon nukite

Stationary kihon: The most 'simple' is always the 'most hardest'... (19) Kizami zuki kara chudan gyaku zuki; and (20) Mae geri (chudan keage, jodan keage then jodan tsumasaki kekomi).

My kihon fired into the air is 'precision training', I also couple this with impact work on the makiwara and heavy bag (power training). Typically I do 30-100 repetitions of all my stationary kihon techniques (on each side). With ido-kihon, I do at least 10-20 repetitions of each technique. As stated in past posts, I tend to also do around 10 warm up techniques (in slow motion) for both stationary and line-work.



My KATA training at present is as follows: (A) The six standard kihon kata (shitei kata): Heian-shodan, Heian-nidan, Heian-sandan, Heian-yondan, Heian-godan and Tekki-shodan. (B) The four sentei kata: Bassai-Dai, Kanku-Dai, Enpi and Jion. (C) Jiyu kata: Bassai-Sho & Gojushiho-Dai. (D) Asai-ryu kata: Joko-Issei, Joko-Nisei and Joko-Sansei (I'm revisiting the first three kata of this series to upgrade my fundamental techniques). Insofar as repetitions are concerned, right now I'm typically doing five different kata a day, and repeating each kata two to three times. On some days I just do one or two kata many times.

For KUMITE training: Practical/combative application of Heian-godan and Tekki-shodan (I love the seize, hit and choke/break techniques, as they suit my 'style'). I'm also training the first four of Asai sensei's combination attacks (applying 'Go no sen) which all utilize ducking and entering, rotational, and reverse rotational movements. These techniques tie in nicely with the Heian/Tekki techniques, but work on a more elusive (more advanced, if that exists?) approach, as opposed to seizing from the onset of a violent encounter.

This sudden change in my training schedule was initiated to 'maximise' my karate development in 2008. I want to continue improving my skills at the current pace, and achieve the technical level, which I've visualized in my mind (I have highly decisive quarterly targets based on my self-expectations). This can only become a reality by following 'Ichinichi Issho' when I engage in my daily practice. I hope this little article encourages you to follow the philosophy of 'Ichinichi Issho' in your training too. OSU! Andre


© André Bertel, Japan 2008

Monday 14 January 2008

Was Asai Sensei the successor of Mr. Nakayama?

Many people have asked me if my late teacher Tetsuhiko Asai was the true successor of Masatoshi Nakayama (as Chief instructor of the Japan Karate Association). In actuality I never asked him this question as I was only concerned about learning as much as I could.

Therefore, my answer is "I really don't know"...

Asai Sensei never mentioned about it to me, and he only spoke the odd thing about the JKA split here and there. I never attended any committee meetings or the like when it all happened, and even if I could have, I would have chosen not to.

Now both men are gone, rather than asking "who was the real successor?" people should question "what does being a 'successor' or 'chief instructor' really mean?" And does it really matter if you are simply wanting to improve your own karate technique? Of course it doesn't!
In my opinion, all that matters is ones own practice, and more importantly, the quality of this practice. When it comes to technique, Nakayama Sensei, Asai Sensei, and all the JKA instructors, on both sides of the fence, were/are fantastic examples of this (that is, what really counts)... High quality training.

© André Bertel, Japan 2008

Thursday 10 January 2008


Sunday will conclude Kangeiko (special 'Winter Training').

All I'll say here, is that for the first time since starting this site, I've completely altered my current self-training schedule (posted here in December: This has been a direct result of my findings during kangeiko, throughout the last week. I'm not a fan of changing my routine (as for me, 'chopping and changing' represents my lack of discipline), however I decided to use these discoveries as a springboard for 2008, as I feel my technique can really benefit. (I'll post this new routine after completing kangeiko, with some technical articles following).
Kangeiko this year has really reinforced that study and practice of my late teacher, Tetsuhiko Asai's karate, is so very precious to me. The wealth of information put in my care can only further my growth. In addition to my own self-development, I'm endeavoring to 'accurately' preserve what Asai Sensei taught me for other karateka interested in Asai-ryu/bujutsu karate. Of course first priority in karate must always be oneself! Otherwise we don't really have karate.
© André Bertel, Japan 2008

Tuesday 1 January 2008

New Years Day 2008

It is hard for me to believe that 2007 is over, and we've already entered 2008! I've been back in Japan training for over nine months now. Those months have been filled by fabulous karate practice, and much technical development. Before this particular trip to Japan, I really (technically) feel I was a white belt, in comparison to where I'm at now.

Now after many training stints here in Japan, and in particular, this one, I think can finally do OK karate. But clearly, to get past this level, literally means that I must remain as a white belt in spirit. This is not false modesty, but rather 'utter truthfulness', as it is 'the only way' in karate.
Clinging to past achievements (also affiliations, titles, and the like) and resting on them is the biggest enemy of the karateka. All that matters is ones 'technical ability'; the here and now.

My karate has no past, no nothing. I BEGIN KARATE FROM TODAY. My New Years resolution is to keep on this straight and narrow path. I sincerely hope my blog helps you on your karate journey through 2008. OSU! Andre

PS - The snow is falling here in Kyushu, so it should ensure a hard Kangeiko (Winter Training). I'll provide a written report on this, with hopefully some photos, in the next few days.

© André Bertel, Japan 2008