Monday 31 January 2011

Three more kumite videos on Youtube

Continuing from my last post, which featured five video clips of kumite, here are three more videos from further back in the 90’s. This time, they are all hangeki (counterattacks). Each is slightly different, but worthy of some study. Here is some commentary for each of them.

Clip One: In this footage I defeat Gary White Sensei (5th Dan) of JKF Goju Kai with a decisive ippon. Gary charges in attacking with a blitz of hand combinations. In this case I retreat on the line neutralising his attacks and then subtly use tai-sabaki (body evasion) to break the line to land my counterpunch. This is an excellent example of an ippon with kizami-zuki.
Clip Two: Here I am up against Myles of O'Donnell Sensei, another JKF Goju-Kai karateka and international kumite competitor. Shikake (“Set-up”): The technique in the clip is a reactive counterattack, set up via my kamae (en guard position) and ashi-hakobi (footwork). Myles was the favourite to win the competition, however this ippon with gyaku-zuki wrapped up our sanbon match with the final score being 6-0.
Clip Three: This video is a great example of dealing with an extremely aggressive opponent. In this case I am fighting Jason Moir of Goju-ryu. As he 'stream rolls' in I move out of distance, then counterattack just at the right moment to snatch the ippon and win. Too early is dangerous, and too late allows the opponent to continue attacking. This strategy requires that you properly utilize ma'ai and timing. Good ma'ai is best defined as "the optimal distancing for yourself and the most disadvantageous for your opponent".

For those of you who haven’t seen the last five kumite videos here’s a quick link: For other videos please visit my youtube channel:
"KARATEDO NI SENTE NASHI". Funakoshi Gichin Sensei

© André Bertel, New Zealand 2011.

Sunday 30 January 2011

New Kumite Videos Posted on Youtube

I've been uploading more videos and decided to share some of my kumite matches from 10+ years ago. Please click onto YOUTUBE and make some comments, as it really motivates me to upload more stuff. This is because it takes ages to upload videos with New Zealand's shockingly slow (& very expensive) broadband internet. As you watch these videos keep in mind that I am a traditional Shotokan karateka, and that competition success was never my objective. As I've stated before I just showed up and entered to have fun! So I hope you have fun watching these! For other videos and to comment please visit my Youtube channel: Osu, Andre.

© André Bertel, New Zealand 2011

Saturday 29 January 2011


A part of my recovery plan has been to limber up. Today I did this by utilising karate tachikata (stance) based stretches and dynamic stretches, which I believe are the most critical flexibility exercises for the martial artist.

Two of these stretches are pictured here, front leg swings using the hand as a target and side leg swings. Other dynamic stretches I regularly utilise include rearward leg swings, inside and outside crescent leg swings (and the same with knee swings to effectively warm up). Of course I also use all of Asai sensei’s dynamic stretches with the shoulders and arms. Remember to include dynamic stretches in daily practice as they are specific for karate training and techniques in general.


Kihon: I decided to also blast through some ido-kihon to further prep my body, namely: (1) Chudan oi-zuki; (2) Mae-geri kara chudan oi-zuki; (3) Mawashi-geri kara gyaku-zuki; (4) Ushiro-geri; (5) Yoko-keriage kara yoko-kerikomi; (6) Jodan age-uke kara mae-geri soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; (7) Chudan soto-uke kara yori-ashi (kiba-dachi) yoko empi-uchi, uraken yokomawashi uchi soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; (8) Chudan uchi-uke kara jodan kizami zuki soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; (9)Tenshin gyaku-zuki ( Kaiten shinagara gedan-barai kara chudan gyaku-zuki); & (10) Chudan shuto-uke (kokutsu-dachi) kara mae-ashi mae-geri soshite nukite.


Kata: To wrap up my practice I lightly went through Kibaken-shodan, Kibaken-nidan, Kibaken-sandan, Kibaken-yondan and Kibaken-godan in succession.


Today I am feeling much better with a surge of energy, increased power and speed. Thanks to everyone who sent me `Get well’ messages, I really appreciate it and are now well on the road to complete recovery. Domo arigato gozaimashita!

Osu, André.

© André Bertel, New Zealand 2011.

Wednesday 26 January 2011

KARATE VS. BAD HEALTH: No excuses just train (Video Footage)

This years Asai-ha Shotokan-ryu Karatedo Summer seminars here in Christchurch were enjoyable to teach, especially due to the exclusiveness of them, however they were also an extreme challenge as I was (and still are) recovering from a severe chest infection. To explain the extent of this health condition, it literally sent me to hospital twice in the week leading up to the clinics! Without exaggeration, merely standing up for an extended period, let alone doing karate, has been highly fatiguing, thus the footage featured below is all the more satisfying. THIS IS THE FIRST TIME I'VE EVER TAUGHT A SEMINAR IN SUCH BAD HEALTH!
Video footage content: The clip starts off with a slow version of Kakuyoku-nidan kata (this was the way Asai Sensei taught it, his refined version, just prior to passing away). This is followed by some slow fundamental techniques, basic technical pointers for traditional `martial arts' karate technique, and some techniques at regular speed to display `snap'. The footage was taken at the very end of the final seminar on Sunday concluding the full eight hours of karatedo keiko.
No excuses, just train: Ironically I write this post (the draft) whilst bored, sitting in outpatients at Christchurch Public Hospital. It reminds me that there are very few valid excuses in karate (that is 99.9% of them are lame). The key is to "Just Train" even if it means we moderate what we do in accordance with our physical condition. Karate-do as a martial art is unlimited and must surpass our physical state at any given time, because as Asai Sensei used to say "one cannot choose when they may need to use their karate". Nevertheless, after the seminars I crashed big time, and needless to say, I certainly won't be telling the specialist what I did over the weekend!!! Here's a link to the footage:

© André Bertel, New Zealand 2011.

Tuesday 25 January 2011

Christchurch Seminars - An Exclusive Event

As usual the January (Summer) seminars in Christchurch turned out to be an exclusive event as most New Zealand karateka are still on holiday! This made the eight hours of karate all the more personal for the 11 participants, three of which came from the North Island.

The seminars covered a wide variety of drills which primarily focused on the cornerstones of Asai-ha Shotokan-ryu Karate-do, namely junansei (softness), shisei (posture/correct alignment), koshi no kaiten (rotation of the hips), and tai no shinshuku (the compression and stretch of the body). These drills were very different from the previous years seminars I taught in New Zealand, Japan, Italy and Germany, and will be partially the thematic base of this years courses.

The kata we covered was Kakuyoku-nidan, one of Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei's favourites, which admittedly was one of the kata I taught last year. I decided to teach this kata as it nicely tied together the drills worked on in kihon, and the participants were unfamiliar with it.
Our kumite practice was rather diverse covering Kakuyoku-nidan kata kumite no bunkai and applications of the vast array of kihon drills covered. This was clearly eye-opening for everyone, especially when they applied their techniques utilising natural energy, via junansei, and correct positioning. Literally karate as a martial art, as opposed to being a watered down sport. This is Traditional Karate!
Well done to all of the participants. It was a pleasure to teach you and I hope that you enjoyed experiencing the Shotokan of my late teacher, Asai Tetsuhiko. Osu, André.

© André Bertel, New Zealand 2011.

Saturday 15 January 2011


Here are the videos uploaded so far. Please wander through them and please make some comments! As time passes I'll periodically upload more video footage of my karate, and training under and assisting) Tetsuhiko Asai Sensei. The teaching section shows how I conduct technical seminars. This is important, as spreading Asai Karate is my prime target as an instructor, as "very few" others (I'm talking a handful at best - worldwide) are doing this effectively. I must emphasise here that I'm by no means claiming to be a talented karateka, however I try my best to follow Asai-ha Shotokan-ryu as Sensei taught it, and have had first-hand experience (and this is technically reflected in my karate, which seems to seriously disturb some people).

Talk is cheap, only physical skill talks: My belief is that talk is cheap, just as words on paper or text read off a computer screen are. This is the reason for the videos and photos on this blog.
They are not to show off, but rather act as proof that I'm not some ninny tapping on a computer. There are plenty of people out there who are `internet karate masters'. The pictures and videos essentially qualify my words, as dan ranks, qualifications, photos with famous instructors, and championship titles are completely insufficient in this regards (they mean nothing `standards-wise'). My philosophy is to always to "TALK WITH MY KARATE FIRST". I hope you enjoy these clips and that they supplement the articles on here. Osu, André Bertel.


1. Embu with Tetsuhiko Asai Sensei:

2. Assisting Tetsuhiko Asai Sensei 1:

3. Assisting Tetsuhiko Asai Sensei 2:

4. Private tuition from Tetsuhiko Asai Sensei 1:

5. Private tuition from Tetsuhiko Asai Sensei 2:

6. Asai Tetsuhiko Shuseki-Shihan and André Sensei on New Zealand TV:



8. ASAI-HA SHOTOKAN-RYU KOTEN KATA: Kaminari-Arashi (Slowly then regular speed):

9. ASAI-HA SHOTOKAN-RYU KOTEN KATA: Seiryu (Regular speed):


10. Teaching in Tokyo, Japan:

11. Teaching in Lignano Sabbiadoro and Mira, Italy 1 (Hosted by Guiseppe Formenton Shihan and Mauro Mion Shihan, JKS Italia):

12. Teaching in Mira, Italy 2 (Hosted by Mauro Mion Shihan and Guiseppe Formenton Shihan, JKS Italia):

13. Teaching in Ahrensburg, Germany (Hosted by Oliver and Yan Schoemburg, Yawara Dojo):

14. Teaching in Hamburg, Germany:

15. Teaching in Hawaii, USA (Hosted by JKS and IJKA Hawaii):

16. Teaching in Palmerston North, New Zealand (Hosted by Morgan Dilks Sensei, USKF New Zealand):

17. Teaching Tekki-Shodan bunkai to Michael Barr Sensei in Christchurch, New Zealand:

18. Andre Bertel Self-Training in Japan 1:

19. CTV Interview:


20. KUMITE: Mawashi-geri kara jodan-zuki:

21. KUMITE: Tai-sabaki:

22. KUMITE: Gyaku-zuki:

23. KUMITE: Ashi-barai 2:

24. KUMITE: Chudan mawashi-geri:

25. KUMITE: Ashi-barai kara gyaku-zuki:

26. KUMITE: Ashi-barai 1:

27. KUMITE: Ippon:

28. ASAI SENSEI FUNERAL VIDEO - CELEBRATING THE KARATE LIFE OF SENSEI: These clips were strung together by Sensei's daughter, professional actress and dancer Hoshimi Asai. Needless to say I was very honored to be included in this memorial video, which was played at Asai Sensei's funeral. The other two foreign students of Sensei, also featured several times, are Pemba Tamang Sensei ( and Richard Amos Sensei. Follow this link for Part I: (also be sure to check out parts II and III).
© André Bertel, New Zealand 2011.

Thursday 13 January 2011

Correct shomen & hanmi

There are many differing views about "proper shomen and hanmi" in Shotokan karatedo. Does shomen mean that the hips have to be perfectly square on? And is hanmi 45 degrees or 90 degrees? Shuseki Shihan Tetsuhiko Asai (10th Dan) had a very flexible view about this, as should everyone! Rather than ramble on, I will answer these questions, as taught to me personally by Asai Sensei, then explain why this is "correct" for the traditional karateka.
1. A legitimate shomen and hanmi: A pure shomen is square on and pure hanmi is 90 degrees. This is what is taught by Yahara Sensei, who has really emphasised this aspect of koshi no kaiten (rotation of the hips). These `to the limit' positions are precise physical definitions of these terms. However, like everything in karate, technique terminology is not neccessarily so precise, and the buck doesn't stop there. Nevertheless, it is important, from beginner right through to advanced instructors to be able to physically employ these `extreme hip positions'.
2. Asai Sensei's `natural' shomen and `varying hanmi': Sensei advocated a more relaxed shomen, for example when executing oi-zuki, the punching side hip is roughly 10% forward as opposed to being perfectly locked square. In regards to hanmi, his position ranged from just outside of his natural shomen (around 30 degrees), right through to 90 degrees, depending on his objectives, and the situation, at any given moment. This is by no means in contradiction to the karate of Mikio Yahara Sensei, but rather a more diverse (reactive/analytical) approach.

Just a quick thought: "Why not do the first movement of Heian-shodan (hidari gedan-barai) with the hips going towards the block or jun kaiten (regular rotation)? Or chudan uchi-uke in the same manner as opposed to gyaku-kaiten (reverse rotation)? If one doesn't train, including such core fundamental variations, they are studying karate like mathematics, where there is a single answer. This is OK if one trains karate merely for regimented kata and kumite competitions, but is clearly insufficient for someone who studies karate as a martial art of unarmed goshin-jutsu (self-defence). Worse still nowadays are people who `stick to the syllabus'. They say "this is the so-and-so way our federation does it". This is not traditional karate - the martial art, but clearly mindless brand labelling, something which has become a phenomena since the explosion of karate organisations offering their `packaged deals' for Westerners.

Training advice: Literally go the full circle training extreme shomen, hanmi, and gyaku-hanmi, right down to the more natural variations... This cycle has no ending and is the first phase in physically perfecting "how to use your hips like a ball", which is critical for all karateka. If you physically understand what I am talking about, with your body action, you are well on the way to executing high class martial arts karate.

Conclusion: There are many techniques in karate, therefore we must practice the best way to execute them for ourselves, and depending on the situation, which is always unpredictable. A full hanmi, minor hanmi, a full shomen, a relaxed shomen, or the extreme gyaku-hanmi... Many people now take a seemingly religious view about how the hips should be used. Rather than take anyone's word for it, find out for yourself by practicing techniques against the makiwara, bag and other impact apparatus. From there train with a partner in the various forms of kumite, as situations often change how your techniques can be optimised.

© André Bertel, New Zealand 2011.

Tuesday 11 January 2011

Karate wa yu no gotoku taezu netsu o atae zareba motono mizuni kaeru

For those of you who know me personally, especially my family, friends and students, you know that I do not have holidays from karate training. Life is too short and I've never seen the point of spending all of February "trying to get back into shape". This year, I was very pleased that several karateka felt the same and joined me, training through the Christmas and New Year’s period for a karate-do summer school. Of course, I do not expect anyone else to train through the holidays as I do, but nevertheless, it was exhilarating to see some people’s enthusiasm to keep going (especially as this was my first New Year back in New Zealand since January 2007). Anyway, the start of this year also saw the introduction of a new self-training regime, which I’ll update here today. Before I do that, I’d like to take a moment to once again thank everyone, from all over the world, who have sent me numerous messages of kindness and encouragement to keep Asai-ha Shotokan-ryu karate alive and well. This blog has thus far framed my karate journey in 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, and now 2011. I sincerely hope that my efforts continue to be beneficial, enjoyable, and “physically motivating”, for those who visit here. My best wishes to you (good training, health and happiness) for 2011! Osu, André Bertel.


(A) Sonoba-kihon
( 1)
Migi chudan gyaku-zuki; (2) Hidari chudan gyaku-zuki; (3) Hidari jodan kizami-zuki kara migi chudan gyaku-zuki; (4) Migi jodan kizami-zuki kara hidari chudan gyaku-zuki; (5) Migi chudan mae-geri; (6) Hidari chudan mae-geri; (7) Hidari chudan mae-ashi mae geri kara migi jodan mae-geri; & (8) Migi chudan mae ashi mae-geri kara hidari jodan mae-geri. Training summary: Approximately 30-50 repetitions of each technique or combination.

(B) Ido-kihon
Chudan oi-zuki ; (2) Jodan age-uke kara chudan gyaku-zuki; (3) Chudan soto-uke kara chudan gyaku-zuki; (4) Chudan uchi-uke kara chudan gyaku-zuki; (5) Gedan-barai kara chudan gyaku-zuki ; (6) Chudan shuto-uke {kokutsu-dachi} kara nukite ; (7) Mae-geri ; (8) Yoko-keage {kiba-dachi}; (9) Yoko-kekomi {kiba-dachi}; (10) Mawashi geri; (11) Ushiro-geri; & (12) Okuribashi jodan mae ashi uramawashi-geri kara jodan ura mawashi-geri, ushiromawashi-geri soshite aiyumibashi ushiromawashi-geri {jiyu-dachi}. Training summary: Typically 10 repetitions of each technique or combination.

To welcome in 2011 I've been covering a wide range of formal exercises (all 15 of the shitei-gata) focusing on their collective themes for self-defence. This bunkai/analysis training has included Heian, Junro, Tekki-Shodan, Empi, Jion, Kanku-Dai & Bassai-Dai. Simultaneously I've also been intensively focusing on 'technical moderation', a critical skill which I have discussed extensively in the past. Of particular importance has been `the use of toes in movement' and 'the avoidance of digression' when shifting on the embusen (performance line). I expect this to take me through until the end of January.

I’m presently practicing a vast array of off-timing/irregular-timing drills. This has been supplement by extensive full-contact work on "my enemy" the sand bag. Needless to say, this training has been solidly linked back to my present study of kata.

CONFIRMATION OF SEMINAR TIMES: This is for the Christchurch New Zealand Technical Seminars on the 22nd & 23rd of this month. Saturday the 22nd (1pm-3pm and 4pm-6pm). And Sunday the 23rd (9am-11am and 12pm-2pm). For more information click on the poster featured here:

© André Bertel, New Zealand 2011.

Monday 10 January 2011

Michael Barr: Asai Karate Training in NZ (Article 1)

Here's a link to the first of five articles (written by Michael Barr Sensei of UK) who recently came to New Zealand and undertook Asai style Shotokan training with me. Michael also filmed some video footage which he has uploaded on youtube. Michael Sensei studies Asai-ha Shotokan-ryu Karatedo under Ron Bellwood Shihan (IJKA 7th Dan) and Shuseki Shihan Sadashige Kato (IJKA 9th Dan).

Here's article one: and here's the first video (a little clip of one of Asai Sensei's applications of Tekki-shodan kata):

© André Bertel, New Zealand 2011.

Friday 7 January 2011

JKA Christchurch Reunion

This black and white photo from the 1990's was when my dojo JKA (Japan Karate Association) Christchurch was at its peak. We were affiliated to JKA Matsuno group directly through Tetsuhiko Asai Sensei, seperate to Abe Sensei's group in Auckland. Earlier this month Matt Brew, the then most senior member at my dojo visited Christchurch from Tokyo, where he has been living for over a decade. Matt besides Asai Karate also studied Qi Kung personally under Mrs. Keiko Asai

Anyway, Matt's visit resulted in the opportunity for the three most senior Canterbury and South Island Shotokan karateka to have a reunion. Lyall Stone (Christchurch Shotokan Karate Chief Instructor), Matt and myself.

Back in the 1990's I was a pretty brutal instructor (always trying to make my class harder than the JKA Honbu for my next training stint in Japan). Matt, Lyall and my other senior students endured this, so I am very lucky they still consider me as a close friend, not only as a karate sensei. Nevertheless, my club consistently produced the strongest JKA (Asai/Matsuno) Shotokan karateka in the country.

The support of Asai Sensei & Stamoulis Sensei really made JKA Canterbury strong in the 1990's and that strength continues to this day. What's more, the friendships forged are lifelong, sealed by blood, sweat and bruises.

© André Bertel, New Zealand 2011.

Thursday 6 January 2011


Power lines (electrical power poles) are everywhere in Japan, but here in Christchurch-City New Zealand, it is pretty much, if not all underground wiring. Needless to say, this article is not about electricity but rather `the optimal lines to build up and transfer energy’ in Shotokan karate and all traditional martial arts .
I use the term `power lines’ when teaching, even though they are perhaps better referred to as `power trajectories’. In saying that, I believe the use of the label 'trajectory’ is distracting as it potentially overemphasises the mere pathway of techniques. This is because, regardless of the movement being made, the driving force must be derived from the correct use of koshi (the hips), and shinshuku (compression and expansion). Power lines are therefore a harmonious combination of these two engines and respective trajectories of techniques, which are prerequisite, if one’s karate is to go beyond the confounds of a mere sport (a potent martial art of self-protection as opposed to ‘playing’ competition karate). Sports karate intentionally breaks many of the power lines to improve the mere aesthetics of kata or ‘tag’ better in kumite. Whilst, as I’ve said before, “there is nothing wrong with tournaments”, when they promote such kata and kumite, they clearly become counterproductive for the `martial artist'. Another point I'd like to add is that if you are as small and physically weak as I am, your karate must always 'without fail' utilise the more biomechanically superior power lines. If not, your training, no matter how strong and fast you appear to be in the dojo, will never be enough in reality. A case of "pass" in the flight simulator, then crash the plane!

Next time you see power lines when walking down the street or driving past them, think about the power lines of your techniques. Just like electrical wires, efficiency completely depends on them not being broken.
© André Bertel, New Zealand 2011.

Monday 3 January 2011

Seminars in Toodyay, WESTERN AUSTRALIA.

On the 12 and 13th of February I will be teaching four technical seminars in Toodyay, Western Australia (for more details, please click on the poster).
These seminars will be very special as they will include very unique aspects of karate as taught by Tetsuhiko Asai Sensei (10th Dan). The sessions will be more educational than a hard workout, with the participants enriching their traditional karate skills long term.
This is an open event for ALL
SHOTOKAN KARATEKA. Please contact the organiser, Sensei Helen Bainbridge to reserve a place:

© André Bertel, New Zealand 2011.

Saturday 1 January 2011

Michael Barr - IJKA 4th Dan: Training in New Zealand

In December we had a visit from Michael Barr (IJKA 4th Dan) and his lovely wife Nathalie. Here
is a link to Michael's dojo website back in the England: and here is the pre-training article I posted last year: I'll post more links as the IJKA Blackpool and Wyre club uploads them (So definitely more to come at a later date). Well done Michael Sensei, it was a pleasure to befriend you and I hope that the sessions will benefit your karate, and that of the Blackpool & Wyre club long-term!

© André Bertel, New Zealand 2011.