Monday 24 August 2009

Kaminari-arashi kata on Youtube

I've uploaded some clips of Kaminari-arashi from a DVD created around four or five years ago with the assistance of Tony Petronelli Sensei (3rd Dan). It was a part of my seemingly 'never ending' 6th Dan report required by Asai Sensei.

In the DVD I performed the kata both slowly and with regular speed from the front, rear, and side, along with the basic/surface level oyo/bunkai-jutsu.
Here is a link to the clips... If you are keen for me to upload more videos please give the video a rating and make a comment! Of course positive and negative comments are all most welcome. However, keep in my my kata is not for competition/'looking nice', but rather for 'martial arts training'. Beautiful kata to me comprises of effective fighting/self-defence techniques. This follows the way of my late sensei, Asai Tetsuhiko.

My other videos are available here:

Kindest regards & best wishes from Japan,


© André Bertel, Japan (2009).

Friday 21 August 2009

Karate Champion?

I won a lot of karate tournaments when I was younger, and I lost in some as well. I have had days when I've entered and won every bout by ippon, without conceding any points whatsoever. Likewise I have entered and been completely wiped out. Am I a karate champion? Well, to be honest, I‘m still really not sure what a karate champion actually is… But I know what being a 'champion' is, even via some experiences in competition...

Some challenging bouts I had…

Entering injured: In 1999 I entered a competition in Christchurch representing Canterbury to fight the New Zealand All-Universities Team. I was coaxed into entering with two freshly broken ribs (I was not supposed to be doing any sports for a while). I was also pushed to do kata… My Unsu was terrible, and needless to say in kumite, I was completely trashed! 6-0 under the previous WKF-style Sanbon Shobu rules. However, credit to my rather large opponent who capitalized on my injuries.

Entering after food poisoning: In the last tournament which I fought in, the 2005 KANZ (Karate Association of New Zealand) National Championships in Palmerston North, I got food poisoning two nights prior to the event and lost several kilograms as a result of severe vomiting and diarrhea (thanks to a Wellington pie shop...). Regardless, I decided to enter, and ending up winning the event. My tactic, due to my lack of strength was simply to attack immediately, no waiting around, no special tactics – just go in! I was white as a ghost and super thin, so my theory is that I freaked my opponents out...

As I’ve said before, there is nothing wrong with karate competitions. However, we should avoid getting carried away by competition success, or failure for that matter. Success is not as much about winning or losing, but rather about one’s spirit and attitude. In both of the above situations, I won! Because I dug in against the odds… Serious injury and sickness. One example resulted in failure, the other in success. To me, both were successes! In many cases, I have won competition titles convincingly and achieved nothing in the long-term sense.

To be frank, due to the subjectivity of karate competitions, I don't really believe in karate champion's, but I do believe in the 'spirit of a champion'. A real champion never gives up, especially when the odds are against them, win or lose. I wish I could provide more examples of challenging bouts, however, most of the time I was in perfect health. Looking back now, the above two situations mean more to me than all of those 'good days' I had. My advice to all of you, who still compete in tournaments, is quite simply "Go for it!" Enjoy and be free from the concerns of winning and losing. Neither matters, only your perception and spirit.

© André Bertel, Japan (2009).

Tuesday 18 August 2009

Masao Kagawa Sensei Interview

Masao Kagawa Sensei was born in Osaka in 1955. He graduated from from Teikyo University and went on to become a Japan Karate Association instructor. Besides being one of the very best technicians to have been produced by the JKA, he is also a world class teacher. Here is a 'highly abbreviated' background of this awesome Shotokan karateka…
7th Dan JKF (Japan Karate Federation) and 8th Dan JKS (Japan Karate Shotorenmei).

A small sample of Kagawa Sensei’s competitive record (otherwise I’d be writing all day):
  • The 5th Kanto Students Karate-do tournament – Winner of the Male Individual Kumite.
  • The 1st World Cup Karate-Do Championship – Winner of the Male Team Kata.
  • The 3rd Shoto World Cup – Winner of the Individual Men’s Kumite.
  • The 28th All Japan Championships – Winner of both the Male Individual Kata & Kumite.

    Current coaching and karate-do administrative positions:
  • Coach of Teikyo University Karate Club (Japan’s top university dojo).
  • Coach of the JKF All-Japan National Team.
  • NPO Japan Karate Shoto-Federation Technical Director.
  • Commissioner of the All-Japan and Kanto Students Karate-do Federation.
To read Kagawa Sensei’s latest interview (featured on 'The Shotokan Way') click here:
© André Bertel, Japan (2009).

Sunday 16 August 2009

Tetsuhiko Asai Shihan Memorial Report

We returned home to Japan in time for the memorial practice for my late teacher Shuseki Shihan Tetsuhiko Asai. To be honest I felt compelled to be in Nippon for this.

This year I only concentrated on a handful of advanced Asai-ryuha kata, namely Roshu (Nami no te), Kashu (Hi no te), Seiryu, Hakkaishu and Kakuyoku. Unlike previous memorial trainings, this practice was extremely light with focus on Sensei's silky smooth movement and total junansei/softness. Asai Sensei labelled this 'way of karate' as "mature" and "high class".

Overall this years memorial practice was very relaxing, positive, and technically reflective of my late teachers constant stressing of softness, snap and natural energy.

This is the way Sensei wanted his kata and techniques to be performed/applied, and this will be lost, if us, his students, don't continue to refine and promote these qualities. I will never forget Sensei, and will continue to follow his karate-do to the best of my limited ability.

R.I.P. Asai Sensei
© André Bertel, Japan (2009).

Saturday 15 August 2009

In Memory of Asai Sensei

June 7th 1935 - August 15th 2006

In memory of my late teacher ASAI TETSUHIKO (10th Dan).

Today marks three years since Shuseki Shihan Tetsuhiko Asai passed away. And today, like many others around the world, I will do a special memorial training, in remembrance of Sensei.

Here are the links to the last two years of memorial practices: 2007 ( and 2008 (

The Asai Karate Kata - Keeping the Legacy of Asai Tetsuhiko Alive: As many of my regular readers will know, I just wrote an article for this year’s memorial, which is featured in the August edition of The Shotokan Way. If you haven’t read it already and wish to do so, click here:

For those of you who will today practice in memory of Asai Sensei, I offer you my best wishes from Kyushu, Japan. Let's keep Asai Sensei's memory and karate alive for the future generations of karateka.
© André Bertel, Japan (2009).

Tuesday 11 August 2009

Hosted by Shotokan Karate New Zealand

It was a real pleasure for me to be hosted by Lyall Stone Sensei and his organisation SKNZ (Shotokan Karate New Zealand). I hope that what I demonstrated, and taught, was technically beneficial for everyone there!

Primarily softness and natural energy were the key points I emphasised (via the fundamental techniques and some special drills that Asai Sensei advocated). Another aspect I stressed was their understanding and optimization of their chushin. The students were clearly shocked by how much power they could gain!

In addition to my own teaching, I also joined in, and trained along with everyone in the general class. As karate is fore mostly about one's own training, I also wanted to 'just train'. I thoroughly enjoyed Lyall Sensei's lessons, as the sheer simplicity of each practice gave them even greater depth. This is the essence of traditional Japanese karate-do... Truly reliable (confidently functional) techniques can only come from hundreds of thousands of repetitions... And these repetitions must be technically exact! Lyall's classes perfectly reflect this point.

Thankfully, by the work of Chief Instructor, Lyall Stone Sensei, and SKNZ, authentic Shotokan karate training is still accessible, for those living in Christchurch City & the Canterbury region. I thoroughly look forward to teaching and training at the SKNZ HQ again in the future.

© André Bertel, Japan (2009).

Monday 10 August 2009

Karate with Tony Petronelli Sensei

I enjoyed doing karate with Tony Petronelli Sensei (3rd Dan) at his beautiful home in North Canterbury. Tony Sensei, an international airline pilot (and former police officer), is a very tough karateka, who is technically best defined by effective fighting karate. Because of this Asai Sensei really liked Tony from the moment he met him!

Continuing on with my reports (on our 2009 visit to New Zealand), here are some photos of our karate-keiko together.

Domo arigato gozaimashita Tony Sensei!

© André Bertel, Japan (2009).

Sunday 9 August 2009

TV Interview

Whilst visiting New Zealand I was asked to do a TV interview, something that I reluctantly accepted, due to past experiences with 'TV people'.

However, even with a nasty migraine headache and a very sore muscles (probably from jet lag) the experience turned out to be a really enjoyable one, thanks to the professional and pleasant manner of the interviewer, Annabelle, and cameraman, Ben.

To make things even more fun I had the assistance of karateka Glen Glover, Tony Petronelli, & Lyall Stone. These three guys gave up a weekday morning to come in for the filming. What's more, Lyall kindly offered his dojo facility for the interview. Click here to check it out on Youtube:

I'd like to thank the TV company and the above mentioned karateka. It was a great chance to present and promote traditional Japanese budo and Asai-style karate on New Zealand television.

© André Bertel, Japan (2009).

Friday 7 August 2009

Private lesson for Lyall Stone Sensei

Lyall Stone Sensei, chief instructor of SKNZ (Shotokan Karate New Zealand) based in Christchurch had me give him a three hour private lesson. This was conducted at his honbu dojo based at the CPIT in the central city.
Lyall Sensei had me take him through the Heian's, Junro, Tekki Kata and Kibaken kata. We also covered Bassai-dai, Hangetsu, Gankaku, Sochin, Meikyo, Unsu and others. By request I fastidiously taught and broke down Bassai-sho kata.
In addition to this, we appropriately covered the core fundamental techniques in traditional Japanese style. The lesson concluded with Gohon, Kihon ippon, Jiyu ippon kumite and Jiyu kumite.
Overall I was very pleased by Lyall Sensei's very positive feedback and budo karate. I'm sure that what we went through will further enhance his skills karate, and be of benefit for his students/organisation in New Zealand.

© André Bertel, Japan (2009).

Monday 3 August 2009

Trip to New Zealand

Since July 29th Mizuho and I have been 'down under' visiting New Zealand. This is actually the first time we've ventured outside of Japan for two and a half years. The prime driving forces behind this international excursion were twofold: firstly, to catch up with family and friends; and secondly, to teach Asai-ryuha Shotokan karate. Over the next several posts I'll cover the karate aspects of the trip with text and ample photographs.

Please excuse the delay as I'm 'back logging' the articles whilst flying back to Nippon (I'll also be writing whilst 'still very bored' in transit at Changi Airport when this flight lands in Singapore). Naturally I had no desire, time, nor could justify typing on my laptop, whilst in New Zealand.

Before wrapping up I'd like to thank the following two instructors, Lyall Stone Sensei, and Tony Petronelli Sensei for hosting us in New Zealand. I'd also like to thank the members of the SKNZ (Shotokan Karate New Zealand) honbu dojo based at CPIT in Christchurch.


© André Bertel, Japan (2009).

Sunday 2 August 2009

Asai Sensei's Kata

In memory of my karate teacher, Asai Tetsuhiko (who passed away on August 15th, 2006), I wrote an article concerning the many kata he created. The article has been published on The Shotokan Way.

It is my hope that Asai Sensei’s legacy will be stringently kept alive, and technically not distorted, for the future generations of karateka. Here is a direct link to the article:
© André Bertel, Japan (2009).