Thursday 28 July 2011

Practice Karate!

Here’s a quote I’ve taken from Blakemore & Frith (2005), which I thought would be beneficial for karateka. Read this through a couple of times… It is not profound but definitely food for thought, and the reason why practice is essential. This is the case regardless of experience, rank, technical skill etc.

“Professional musicians have to practice for many hours a day, however skilled they already are. So, there is no resting on your laurels even when you have achieved a high degree of skill and after clear changes in the brain can be demonstrated. A recent study, carried out by Arne May and colleagues at the University of Regensburg, Germany, scanned people’s brains before and after they had learned to juggle. The brains of people who learned to juggle, practicing with three balls at least one minute a day for three months, had changed. Two regions had increased in size-the mid temporal area and the left posterior interparietal sulus, which both process visual motion information. But three months later, during which time the people stopped juggling, these regions had returned to their normal size”.

Hence my advice is practice, and keep practicing! Osu, André.

© André Bertel (2011) Christchurch, New Zealand.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Post snow storm photos

Here are some post Christchurch snow storm photos from this evening!


Training was cancelled at the IJKA New Zealand Honbu Dojo (based at CPIT) so instead it was shovelling snow followed by the Tekki and Kibaken kata, and calisthenics (kihoken styled squats, and a variety of push ups & abdominal crunches).

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2011).

Christchurch Snow Storm

Here in Christchurch, New Zealand, snow is a novelty, so yesterdays snowfall (which was the biggest in 15 years) was nice to experience.The city went into lock down, so we were 'forced' to have a snow filled holiday.

With all the earthquakes and thousands of aftershocks, since last September, the funniest comment yesterday was "this is the icing on the quake"... By the way, here's a bit of `snow related' trivia. The Asai-ha Shotokan-ryu kata 'Rantai' was originally called 'Ransetsu' which is the name I still use (unless talking with others who only know of it as 'Rantai'). Ransetsu beautifully implies that the movements in the kata mimic the disorderliness of snow fall.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy these chilly photos. They are dedicated to my family, friends, karate seniors, juniors and students back in Japan, who are now suffering from the heat and humidity!


© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2011).

Saturday 23 July 2011

Group training verses individual training

One of the things I stress is the combination of group and individual practice. Group training is valuable for obvious reasons such as motivation and kumite. Individual training is where you practice aspects which are self-specific such as ironing out weak points, improving your tokui-waza etc. Again stating the obvious, group training and self-practice compliment each other and produce superior results than either `type' in isolation.

Many people of course simply do not have the time to do both types of training, and in this case, it depends largely on the level of the karateka in question. My advice in solving this issue is to weigh up the pro's and con's. In my case for example, the only Shotokan dojo I train with in Christchurch are IJKA clubs, that is because the karate is correct! Elsewhere would be detrimental for my practice. So without IJKA in Christchurch, I'd simple settle for doing extra self-training.

Ideal scenarios rarely exist, so the key is to make the most of what you have at any given time. That way, regardless of where you are, and how busy your schedule is, you will always make the most of your training time and optimise your skills based on your situation.
© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2011).

Friday 15 July 2011

The void between theory & practice

Many people nowadays over-think their karate rather than using their mind as merely a rudder to direct training. It is true without theory/knowledge, we are simply floating around (that is, we can never maximise our technical potential and applications). Quite simply theory/knowledge is the compass, not the journey! Theory is only useful in karate when it is beneficial for physical practice of these aspects, and when training is the dominant realm of one's karate. Too many people get theoretically hung up on insignificant details. These details are fine, but why not practice techniques in multiple ways? Find out by "doing", and discover what works best and how through sweat and blisters...

Focus on actual training then think "how can I improve my karate?" but avoid thinking too much without accompanying your thoughts with actual practice. This is one of the ideologies I've had from youth, and is something which needless to say, is of great value.

This information age makes everything so accessible, nevertheless, I believe it can (and does) also result in creating people who mentally understand, but physically cannot do. With training being dominant, this fog can be blown away, and your karate can improve through the productive combination of practice and theoretical understanding. This WILL be reflected in your tangible skills!

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2011).

Monday 11 July 2011

Martial Arts Fads

I just wanted make a CORRECTION on a recent article and apologise for my lack of clearly explaining my points. It sounded like I was insinuating that "ALL OTHER MARTIAL ARTS ARE JUST FADS", which is by no means my view. No one has complained about this, but I did receive a very kind email from Germany offering a correction and seeking clarification... Hence this post! Here's a link to the article, which I stand corrected on:

I have close friends who practice all forms of martial arts including Muay Thai, Western Boxing, Jujitsu, you name it. I respect these (actually all) arts/styles fully, and enjoy doing kumite with elite instructors/practitioners from other disciplines. Therefore, my negative thoughts are based on individuals/groups who merely cash in on fads, and propagate low technical standards/application. The article linked above failed to clarify this... It is an example of the speed at which I produce my posts (I give myself a MAXIMUM of 20 minutes to blast them out, to avoid wasting valuable time infront of the computer)... In this case my views were not presented correctly. I think this really clarifies how the text on the internet (cyber karate) can be dangerous, and is not the same as discussing with me in person after a hard practice in the dojo.

The KARATE FAD: I should briefly mention here, there was also a karate fad when the JKA expanded massively, and this was the 'Golden Age of Shotokan Karate', so fads are not necessarily a negative thing!

Moreover, Shotokan karate is probably the worst culprit for McDojo's, even amongst those affiliated to Japan (this certainly is a phenomenon here in Christchurch, New Zealand). I'd like to conclude by thanking Stanley Ryoichi Surjono, student of Akio Nagai Shihan, who contacted me! I deeply appreciated your message and your correction. Osu!

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2011).

Sunday 10 July 2011

Asai Sensei Video

I was emailed this nice video, dedicated to my late karate teacher, Shuseki-Shihan Tetsuhiko Asai (10th Dan). Thanks Darren for the compilation and for kindly asking me to upload it here. Be sure to check out Darren's other great karate videos as well. Osu!
© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2011).

Sunday 3 July 2011

Winter is here...Overcome it with Training!

The New Zealand Winter really is here in earthquake shaken Christchurch. For a `heat lover' such as myself, the thought of Summer back in Japan, as opposed to wearing scarves here in `shake town', is therefore extremely appealing. On a positive note, since there is nothing like training to warm up the body, here is my latest karate regime...
STATIONARY KIHON: (1) Chudan choku-zuki kara chudan oi-zuki; (2) Chudan gyaku-zuki kara niren chudan choku-zuki; (3) Migi mae-ashi mae-geri; (4) Hidari mae-ashi mae-geri; & (5) Mae-geri kara yoko-keage, yoko-kekomi soshite ushiro-geri .

IDO-KIHON: (1) Chudan oi-zuki kara yoko yori-ashi chudan gyaku-zuki soshite yoko yori-ashi jodan kizami-zuki; (2) Jodan age-uke kara mae-geri soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; (3) Chudan soto ude-uke kara yori-ashi chudan yoko empi-uchi, uraken yokomawashi uchi soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; (4) Chudan shuto-uke kara chudan mae-ashi mae-geri soshite shihon-nukite; (5) Gedan-barai kara chudan uchi ude-uke soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; (6) Chudan mae-geri kara jodan mawashi-geri, jodan uraken yokomawashi-uchi soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; (7) Chudan mae-geri kara yoko-kekomi, jodan uraken yokomawashi-uchi soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; (8) Jodan mawashi-geri kara yoko-kekomi, jodan uraken yokomawashi-uchi soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; (9) Yoko-keage kara yoko-kekomi, jodan uraken yokomawashi-uchi soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; & (10) Ippo sagatte jodan age-uke kara mawashi-geri, chudan ushiro-geri, jodan uraken yokomawashi-uchi soshite chudan gyaku-zuki. Summary & point to keep in mind: My emphasis at present is on renzoku-keriwaza (combination kicking techniques ) - especially kicking with the same leg repeatedly but still using maximum body power; and variants of hip utilisation in both tsuki, & ukewaza (thrusting/punching and reception/blocking techniques). Keep in mind that there is a parallel between the first waza, whether `seemingly' defensive or offensive, in that the first action usually dictates success or failure.

KUMITE: Drills combining jiyu kumite, Kaeshi-ippon kumite & uchikomi are presently at the heart of my kumite training. Application of kihon, especially in regards to rengeri. For example use of mae-geri or mawashi-geri to "stop" the attacker employing GO NO SEN (taking the initiative later) then using the same leg to kick again followed by attacks with the hands. My emphasis in uchikomi is simply blitzing with the hands based on body power as opposed to merely the arms. In case you are wondering, I am leaving Gohon, Sambon, Kihon-ippon Jiyu-ippon kumite for when I train in the general class at the CPIT dojo. Perhaps a special note, undetectable in this post, is my present focus on a ever more potent kizami-geri (cutting kick), which all Shotokan karateka know was/is the trademark waza of the legendary JKA master, Masahiko Tanaka Sensei (8th Dan). Everyone kindly comments about the power in my kicks, however, as I am sure you'll understand, "satisfaction" is non-existent word when it comes to karate technique. Could it be that Mick Jagger was singing about karate?

KATA: On the subject of "I can't get no satisfaction" my kata practice is almost 'too bland' to write about at present. Hopefully that relays a couple of things to you. Firstly, that kata is the most important aspect of karate training, and secondly that I am not a kata performer... I'm a traditionalist "practicing kata for application in jissen-kumite" (actual kumite)... This results in the kata form which we see in the likes of Mikio Yahara Sensei of KWF Shotokan, Morio Higaonna Sensei of IOGKF Goju Ryu etc. Anyway, as you may have read before, I know more IJKA (Asai-ha Shotokan-ryu) koten gata than anyone else in the world, including all of the instructors in Tokyo (which has caused me a fair amount of trouble, especially, and funnily enough, from non-Japanese karateka...). So why did Asai Sensei teach me so many kata? Well, sadly the reason behind this fact is not because I have "nice kata". Asai Sensei taught so many to me because of all the errors in my karate, and because he liked it that I practiced kata for function as opposed to merely `looking impressive'. Asai Sensei was a martial artist above being a karateka, so his karate-waza was pure bujutsu. So if you followed this "way" and were serious like me, he was very generous with his vast martial arts knowledge. So what kata am I working on at the moment? At the Christchurch Shotokan Karate Club we are working on Heian, Junro and Tekki. At my private dojo, the focus is on Heian-shodan, Junro and Jion. And my own self-training is still fixated on Unsu, Nijushiho and medley of koten-gata.

I sincerely hope that this post finds you well and that you are maintaining your practice where ever you are in the world. Karate is never ending, so take your time to do everything well and with purpose (maximum effect). Never just "go through the motions" but rather make the most of your training time. Always remember that more than anything, karate is a Martial Art and that, regardless of style, you OWN your own karate. Best regards from Christchurch, New Zealand. Osu, André.

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2011).


© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2011).