Friday 27 February 2009

Andre Bertel Karate-do Seminar

Every month I receive emails asking me to conduct seminars outside of Japan. The last several requests from Europe, the Americas and Oceania I’ve regrettably had to decline (due to my 'crazy busy' schedule within Nippon). I'm very sorry to the various dojo/organisations I have declined, and hope that there are no hard feelings! I’m still open to you all. It has simply been a case of my inefficiency to arrange my extended holidays...

For those wishing to host me for a karate seminar this year, my next open period will be from May 2nd to May 10th. If interested in hosting me somewhere within this time, please email me at

I'll also accept requests from within Japan, with first priority to Tohoku and Hokkaido, where I've not taught seminars at yet.

© André Bertel, Japan 2009

Monday 23 February 2009

Daily Karate Training

Here is my current self-training regime, which I adopted last Monday, in addition to dojo-keiko. I haven't included my supplementary fitness training (karate specific speed, impact, and flexibility routines) nor my special Sunday workout (which is presently erratic… That is, anything goes with tokui-kata being the only certainty). This time I wanted to focus on my 'broad technical practice sessions'.

It is probably worth mentioning that in the case of Kumite, when self-training, I do all of the drills as solo routines. This keeps my body intact, whilst rehearsing everything precisely, for when I face actual opponents. Another point, not explained, in this routine is my set Jiyu Kata* practice, which I always do between Tuesday and Friday. This kata is my ‘daily treat’, and I usually save it until the end of my solo-training's (that is, after kumite). It can be anything from the Shotokan free kata and Asai-ryuha koten kata.

Hopefully by posting my latest self-training, those interested in creating (or modifying) their own supplementary practice will get some ideas. I’ve divided session content by weekdays (Monday to Friday) to hopefully convey a better picture of what I’m doing. Kindest regards from Kyushu, Japan. – André Bertel


Kihon: (1) Chudan oi-zuki; (2) Jodan age-uke; (3) Chudan soto-uke; (4) Chudan shuto-uke {kokutsu-dachi}; (5) Chudan uchi-uke; (6) Gedan-barai; (7) Mae-geri; (8) Mawashi-geri; (9) Yoko-keage {kiba-dachi}; and (10) Yoko-kekomi {kiba-dachi}.

Kata: (a) Jo no kata; (b) Heian-shodan; (c) Junro-shodan; and (d) Jion.

Sanbon-kumite: Jodan & chudan.


Kihon: (1) Chudan oi-zuki; (2) Jodan age-uke kara chudan gyaku-zuki; (3) Chudan soto-uke kara chudan gyaku zuki; (4) Chudan shuto-uke {kokutsu-dachi}; (5) Chudan uchi-uke kara chudan gyaku-zuki; (6) Gedan-barai kara chudan gyaku-zuki; (7) Mae-geri kara chudan oi-zuki; (8) Mawashi-geri; (9) Yoko-keage {kiba-dachi}; and (10) Yoko-kekomi {kiba-dachi}.

Kata: (a) Heian-nidan; (b) Junro-nidan; (c) Kanku-dai; and (d) a Jiyu-kata*.

Gohon-kumite: Jodan, chudan & mae geri.


Kihon: (1) Sanbon-zuki; (2) Jodan age-uke kara mae geri soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; (3) Chudan soto-uke kara yoko empi uchi {kiba-dachi}; (4) Chudan shuto-uke {kokutsu-dachi} kara nukite; (5) Gedan-barai kara chudan uchi-uke {neko ashi dachi}, ura-zuki soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; (6) Mae-geri kara mawashi-geri; (7) Ushiro-geri; (8) Yoko-keage kara ashi o kaete yoko-kekomi {kiba-dachi}; (9) Jodan shuto yokomawashi uchi kara kaiten shinagara empi uchi soshite mawari nagara sagatte shuto uchimawashi uchi; and (10) Yori ashi chudan gyaku-zuki kara gedan-barai, yori ashi chudan gyaku-zuki soshite gedan no kamae.

Kata: (a) Heian-sandan; (b) Junro-sandan; (c) Empi; and (d) a Jiyu-kata*.

Kihon ippon kumite: Jodan, chudan, mae-geri, yoko-geri and mawashi-geri .


Kihon: (1) Tobi konde sanbon-zuki; (2) Jodan age-uke kara mae geri soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; (3) Chudan soto-uke kara yoko empi uchi {kiba-dachi}, uraken yokomawashi uchi soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; (4) Chudan shuto-uke {kokutsu-dachi} kara mae ashi mae geri soshite nukite; (5) Gedan-barai kara chudan uchi-uke {neko ashi dachi}, ura-zuki soshite yori ashi chudan gyaku-zuki; (6) Mae-geri kara mawashi-geri soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; (7) Ushiro-geri kara chudan gyaku-zuki; (8) Kaiten shinagara uraken-uchi kara chudan gyaku-zuki; (9) Yoko-keage kara yoko-kekomi; (10) Jodan soto-uke kara yoko yori ashi gedan-barai, mae ashi mae geri soshite chudan gyaku-zuki.

Kata: (a) Heian-yondan; (b) Junro-yondan; (c) Tekki-shodan; and (d) a Jiyu-kata*.

Jiyu ippon kumite: Jodan, chudan, mae-geri, yoko-geri, mawashi-geri and ushiro-geri.


Kihon {All from jiyu no kamae}: (1) Tobi konde jodan kizami-zuki kara tobi konde sanbon-zuki; (2) Tobi konde jodan kizami-zuki kara chudan gyaku-zuki; (3) Ippo sagatte jodan age-uke kara mawashi-geri, ushiro-geri, uraken yokomawashi uchi soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; (4) Mawashi-geri kara ashi fumikae ashi-barai soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; (5) Tobi konde jodan kizami-zuki kara chudan mae geri soshite jodan oi zuki.

Sonoba-kihon: (6) Chudan gyaku zuki; (7) Jodan kizami zuki kara chudan gyaku zuki; (8) Chudan mae geri {heisoku dachi}; (9) Jodan mae geri {heisoku dachi}; (10) Sonoba renzoku-geri: Mae-geri kara yoko-geri, mawashi-geri soshite ushiro-geri.

Kata: (a) Heian-godan; (b) Junro-godan; (c) Bassai-dai; and (d) a Jiyu-kata*.

Jiyu kumite

© André Bertel, Japan 2009

Thursday 12 February 2009

Being a deshi of Asai Sensei

In this newly uploaded footage, filmed in 2003, you can see the typical style of one-on-one tuition I received from my late teacher, Shuseki-Shihan Tetsuhiko Asai (10th Dan). As I’ve stated before, I always feel deeply privileged to have been taken on as a deshi (personal student) by Asai Sensei, and the extensive one-on-one trainings I received will always be very close to my heart. In this video clip, which runs just under four minutes, it really shows the intimacy of Sensei-Deshi relationship.

The majority of the footage I've uploaded this time was filmed by Charles Lee Sensei of JKS Hawaii (Technical Director of Japan Karate Shoto-Federation Americas) who was observing this lesson. He was so much concentrating on watching our practice, that his camera work was unfortunately wobbly. Regardless, I really appreciate that he captured this footage. During the outdoor practice, where Asai Sensei was teaching me (at the end of the clip) Charles followed along a little. He was always amazed by the private tuition Asai Sensei gave me and expressed that he was very envious in an admirably humble manner. Note: At the beginning of the footage you can see the final moments of the last session of open seminars (there were six 2.5 hour practices in total) which I failed to edit out. As always, in addition to doing these sessions, and assisting Asai Sensei for the majority of the time (while everyone else got rest times), I also had to do private lessons with him! - The rewards of being a deshi... Physically strenuous is an understatement!

Too many people claim to be students of various karate teachers when clearly they are not: “Being a deshi of a karate sensei is not something which someone becomes automatically by attending a couple of open seminars (like those in JKS New Zealand still dishonestly claim to promote themselves), and/or attaining dan ranks, or paying money. People become deshi by a karate sensei ‘fully accepting’ them as ‘their student’. And the outcome of this is that the karate teacher gives that person one-on-one tuition/mentoring on a regular basis. That is, they make a committed effort to passing on their ‘knowledge’ to that person directly, unhindered, and without financial compensation. A deshi is not someone taught only in the masses, asked to demonstrate at a seminar, or someone who merely pays for training. They are singled out by the master and arduously taught.” – Looking back, this is probably why Asai Sensei always encouraged me to keep video records of his private lessons.

As Asai Sensei’s only New Zealand deshi, I hope this footage further demonstrates the brilliance of Shuseki-Shihan Tetsuhiko Asai, as an unparalleled karate technician and genius instructor. I hope it also illustrates that being a deshi of a karate master is a very personal "special" thing, and something which many people falsely claim to be. Sadly, this is particularly the case with Western karateka, claiming to be deshi of famous Japanese instructors. In traditional Japanese karate-do, what constitutes being a deshi is not necessarily what the student wants, it is completely dependent on what the master does! No one is a deshi unless they have been formally taken on, and trained individually as an apprentice, by the karate master themselves.

Click here to watch the video footage:

© André Bertel, Japan 2009

Sunday 8 February 2009

JKS Oita-ken Technical Seminar

Today I attended the JKS (Japan Karate Shotorenmei) Oita-ken Technical Seminar. This ‘prefectural training session’ was held at the Usa Budo Dojo, a purpose built martial arts gymnasium in Usa-city. The facility is most famous for Sumo; however it also hosts Judo, Kyudo and other traditional Japanese martial arts events.

Trying to find the dojo in the countryside was somewhat challenging, however some kind directions from a local shop owner, and my cars electronic navigation system, eased the situation. Even so, I still missed the first few minutes of the junbi-undo (preparatory exercises/warm-up).

FIVE HOURS OF 'TOUGH TRAINING'... Here's a brief overview of what was included in the seminar.

Stationary kihon: Needless to say, as usual, this was the killer part of the session... Literally a couple of hours of solid fundamentals... Karate the Japanese way! Here’s what Tachibana Shihan (JKS 8th Dan) took us through: (1) From kiba dachi, chudan choku-zuki ‘locking in shomen’. (2) As previous but ‘big’ niren-zuki. (3) Kiba dachi niren choku-zuki, pivoting on the spot into zenkutsu dachi {45 degrees} and punching migi gyaku-zuki, pivoting again on the other angle, and punching hidari gyaku-zuki. – Exact hip timing... (4) As previous but after each gyaku-zuki stepping forward on the angle with zenshin gyaku-zuki, then stepping back with koutai gyaku-zuki. In between the three gyaku-zuki attacks, execute niren choku-zuki in kiba dachi. (5) As previous but after the very last koutai gyaku-zuki, execute a single choku-zuki in kiba dachi, from here jump forward in kiba dachi executing choku-zuki, then finally jump back in kiba dachi for a final choku-zuki. (6) The previous five drills were then adapted for mae-geri with the exception of the jumping movements in kiba dachi. These were exchanged by a zenshin mae-geri into zenkutsu dachi, ushiro ashi mae-geri stepping back into zenkutsu, and finally mae ashi mae-geri returning to kiba dachi. Really speaking, classic Asai Shuseki-Shihan Karate!

Ido-kihon : Tachibana Shihan then had the black belts go through last year’s newly establised Japan Karate Shoto-Federation dan-shinsa kihon (which we've been doing heaps of over the last eight months). This was comparatively easy, compared to the initial stationary training, as each technique was only performed 30-50 times at full speed. Techniques included (7) Tobi konde kizami zuki kara sanbon zuki. (8) Tobi konde kizami zuki kara gyaku zuki. (9) Tobi konde kizami zuki kara mae geri soshite oi zuki. (10) Ippo sagatte jodan age-uke kara mawashi geri, ushiro-geri, uraken yokomawashi uchi soshite gyaku-zuki. (11) Mawashi-geri kara ashi o fumikae ashi-barai soshite gyaku-zuki. (12) Migi and hidari sonoba renzoku-geri: Mae geri kara yoko geri, mawashi geri soshite ushiro geri. To conclude Tachibana Shihan had me demonstrate my yoko-keage, yoko kekomi, mawashi geri and ushiro geri, for all of the participants to study. He also had me demonstrate the sonoba ren-geri.

A very short break and on to kata (goodbye lunch, hello Kankusho):
The lunch break was very short for me... I went to my car to get my bento, and almost immediately, a female black belt, who placed 3rd in kata at the last JKS World Championships, came to me asking for some coaching. I immediately checked if Tachibana Shihan said this was OK, and she said “Tachibana Shihan wants you to improve my tokui-kata.” So for the remainder of the lunch break I worked with her on her Kankusho.

Group kata training: When the lunch break concluded, Shihan had the entire class go several times through the following kata: (1) Jo no kata; (2) Heian-shodan; (3) Heian-nidan; And (4) Heian-sandan. I’d like to add here that besides the tough physical nature of the training, some phenomenal points were made. I learned some very valuable things, especially in regards to the Heian kata. This was by far the most educational part of the seminar for me. (5) After that, Tachibana Shihan had me lead the brown and black belts many times through Bassai-dai, whilst he taught the other students.

We covered all forms of 'examination kumite' doing dozens rounds of everything up to, and including, kihon ippon kumite (that is, Sanbon kumite, Gohon kumite and Kihon-ippon kumite). From there we did a couple of rounds of Jiyu-ippon kumite (brown and black belts only) and finally Jiyu-kumite. In the jiyu kumite section, Shihan had all of the adults line up in front of me, and fight me one after the other. I have to say that this was the most 'fun' part of the seminar for me.
Tachibana Shihan ended the five plus hours of brilliant training with several Asai style 'ashi-uke' drills to put everyone under high physical stress. A great and spirited way to end a fantastic day of hard karate practice. I'd once again like to express my thanks to JKS Oita-ken chief instructor, Tachibana Shihan, and the Japan Karate Shoto-renmei for their invitation.
© André Bertel, Japan 2009