Sunday 29 September 2013


Today I enjoyed training in central Oita-shi. Following my current training regime the main focus was on Nijushiho (二十四歩)kata, three of the grading syllabus ido-kihonwaza and various timing in kumite (with tsukiwaza). Interestingly, here is an article from Japan (2011) at the same dojo and ironically about Nijushiho!!! Certainly a case of Deja Vu (you can click here to read the article: Anyway, for the time being I will leave you with some stills from todays socho-geiko (morning training).
Kindest regards and all the very best from Nippon, André

© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2013).

Saturday 28 September 2013


Whilst for the most part maintaining my current self-training routine, I have slightly altered my approach to kihon, and amended my kata practice. Kumite training has remained completely unchanged…With these points in mind, as opposed to describing the routine in full again, I will only write about the amended aspects of my routine. Moreover, below, I will explain why this has occurred…

Kihon routine changes/amendments: Typically I am now working two or three of the prescribed kihon techniques (please refer to my previous training if you wish to see what these waza are). For example, (1) `Kizami-zuki kara sanbon ren-zuki’; (2) `Shuto-uke kara kizami mae-geri soshite nukite’; and (3) `Mae-geri kara yoko-kekomi, mawashi-geri soshite gyaku-zuki’. I am practicing these renzokuwaza many-many times over. In sum,  I am hoping to reap benefits from this training methodology that will lift my overall gains.
Nijushiho Kata: Kata-wise I have made significant changes as I’ve adopted Nijushiho supplemented by two other kata for variety (one other jiyu-gata and one from the 10 shitei-gata/sentei-gata: i..e  - Nijushiho,+ Kanku-sho & Heian Yondan). Like my kihon, I am working on Nijushiho with high repetitions; however, in contrast, the additional two kata I am only doing a couple of times each. Why Nijushiho? Well, fundamentally because it tests one’s transitions to the maximum.
To conclude, I’ve just had a major technical breakthrough, which prompted the above amendments to my self-training regime. I won’t go into this here, except to say that a long-term vision has been achieved, and now I must seek a higher plateau. In this way, I hope to one day have `OK karate’, perhaps even dare to have `good karate’. Irrespective of achieving such seemingly impossible aspirations I am one step closer to achieving them. This is what long-term training and planning is all about. Furthermore, it underpins the motivation to continue training. Osu, André
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2013).

Saturday 14 September 2013


Here are seven tips for training. I have written them based on "the more typical questions" (synthesised) I've received since returning to Japan via my email account:
While a lot of these answers will be obvious, there still may be something of value for someone out there. I personally can't get enough of such basic points, which I constantly have to go back to in my own training.
Lastly, these are just my views... I do not claim to be a good karateka and certainly do not claim to know everything. These are just my views addressing recent questions sent to me based on my training and understanding of karate-do. Best wishes, osu, André.


TIP 1: Tighten up your techniques. That is, be careful about over extension! Look at say jodan age-uke, chudan soto-uke or shuto-uke. The elbow of the blocking arm should be one fist width away from the torso or head. Likewise with gyaku-zuki and jun-zuki (oi-zuki) the chest should be square—you must not reach with the arm… Of course there are exceptions but exceptions should never dominant your practice.

TIP 2: `Knees up Mother Brown’… Whenever you kick raise your knee high! Don’t be a lazy duffer and kick with your lower leg. A good way to learn about raising your knees is from practicing kizami-geri i.e. – the grading combination with shuto-uke and nukite or say Junro-shodan kata. While this is common sense and well known, it is often physically neglected.

TIP 3: Tachikata: Stances can be warped into oddball positions if they are too short, too long, too narrow, too wide, too deep or too shallow. Practice `the right stance for your body’ (and attributes), which allows you to optimise your techniques.


TIP 4: Select at least one kata and really work with it. This kata should be the best kata for you! Therefore, best for your personal attributes and body, and not a kata that you necessarily like. You should physically know it forward and reverse, leftward and rightward, its oyo (applications), and practice applying its techniques on the heavy bag, makiwara, in yakusoku-kumite training etc. If you are sane you will hate this kata as you do it so much, but—I assure you—it will be your trustworthy friend and very useful.

TIP 5: One more note, don’t fall into the trap of choosing a `popular kata’ i.e. – Sochin, Unsu, Gankaku, Gojushiho Sho etc… While these are all fine, if Wankan or Meikyo suit you more, do them. You can always do these other kata simply for your enjoyment.  In this regard, when I am at a grading or tournament and a karateka performs one of the less commonly seen kata, it gets my full attention. If they do it very well, it often turns out to be the technical highlight of the event.

TIP 6: When practicing jiyu-kumite don’t cheat yourself. Always fully express your techniques from kihon. That is full-hip action and full trajectories. All of your techniques should apply full body power, even when sparring lightly. If your jiyu kumite is just playing around, it is better to drop it out of your training regime: as it is actually eroding your skills developed in kihon and kata. Always remember kihon, kata and kumite are one… I will say that that again: KIHON, KATA & KUMITE ARE ONE, not separate arts.

TIP 7: Lastly, never waste your techniques. Whether in Gohon kumite, Kihon ippon kumite, Jiyu ippon kumite, Jiyu kumite, etcetera.., only launch techniques when you are in the correct distance. Maai must be correct when employing your attacks or counterattacks. Think of a sniper who shoots at his/her enemies from a high point. They do not fire their weapon until the bullet can reach the target. The range of their rifle is limited. But as soon as the target is in range, they immediately pull the trigger. Kumite is the same… Don’t waste your bullets, and don’t hesitate when the distance is closed or made. Attack with the hips not the limbs...
Aso Jinja, Aso-shi, Kumamoto.
©André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2013).

Thursday 12 September 2013


This week I have increased the intensity of my training to a higher level. I'm very pleased about this as my body has had to adjust from the New Zealand winter to the Japan summer... Moreover, I had a major injury in New Zealand just before travelling to Japan. My ankle was nearly broken; nevertheless, the injury while still uncomfortable is finally recovering.

Injuries are excuses not to train... But we can always work around them. I never stop training because of an injury: nor should anyone.

Anyway here are some photos and stills from my self-training today. It was a tough training but very enjoyable. I am so humbled by all of my flaws... I have to push myself harder... So much to work on.

Understanding karate is not understanding karate.

Kindest regards from Aso-shi, Kumamoto.



© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2013).

Monday 9 September 2013

A change from Gankaku to Sochin...

While my aforementioned training regime continues I have altered my kata training. While I am still working on Bassai-sho, I have switched Gankaku with Sochin; furthermore, I’ve added a random kata every practice to spice things up a little. However, unlike Sochin and Bassai-sho, I’m only doing this additional kata twice—once walking through it and once at regular speed. Today, the kata was Heian-shodan to complement Sochin insofar as waza no kankyu and chikara no kyojaku are concerned.
My (technical) rationale behind this has been to focus more vigorously on my hand/body shifting timing. Whilst this could obviously be done with Gankaku, for me, Sochin is a kata which I find particularly challenging: so I decided to further push myself by utilising it.
Gojushiho-Sho... Todays additional kata. `Natural hip position'...
Karate-Do is always a humbling experience as while we develop, more glitches appear… For me this is a greatest motivation and presents a massive opportunity. This opportunity, if harnessed well, can not only lead to increased technical development but also to foster humility and inner strength.
While I never expect to achieve `good karate’ the dream of achieving this target remains; moreover, as I improve my character through training—and this comes out in my daily life—I further understand what Karate-Do is.  
Sometimes facing one’s own weaknesses can be done by simply choosing a kata, which doesn’t suit oneself; what is more, this can transcend the physical benefits of making such decisions.
Kindest regards and best wishes from Japan, André.
Relaxing with Ryan in Oita: Sept. 8th, 2013.
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2013).

Tuesday 3 September 2013

My updated self-training regime

Here is my updated training regime. While my karate is not so good, I am constantly seeking to improve it - and of course - diligent training is the only way!

On the news front, I am looking forward to meeting up with a couple of very well-known instructors in the coming month... More about this later...

All the very best from Aso-shi, Kumamoto-ken, Japan.

Osu, André


Stationary kihon

1. Chudan choku-zuki (Hachinoji-dachi de tate-shuto no kamae); 2. Chudan jun-zuki (Hachinoji-dachi de tate-shuto no kamae: alternately advancing into zenkutsu-dachi then return to hachinoji-dachi); 3/4. Jodan kizami-zuki kara chudan gyaku-zuki (Hidari to migi zenkutsu-dachi de gyaku-zuki no kamae); 5. Chudan mae-geri (Heisoku-dachi de gedan kakiwake no kamae); 6/7. Chudan mae-geri (Hidari to migi zenkutsu-dachi de gedan kakiwake no kamae); & 8. Chudan yoko-keage (Heisoku-dachi de gedan kakiwake no kamae).

·        30-50 repetitions of each (not including a slow warm-up of 10 repetitions).


1. Chudan jun-zuki; 2. Sambon ren-zuki; 3. Mae-geri kara jun-zuki; 4. Yoko-kekomi kara gyaku-zuki; 5. Mawashi-geri kara gyaku-zuki; 6. Yoko-keage ashi o kaete yoko-kekomi; 7. Ippo sagatte jodan age-uke kara mawashi-geri, yoko uraken-uchi soshite chudan jun-zuki; 8. Chudan soto-uke kara yoko-empi, yoko uraken-uchi soshite gyaku-zuki; 9. Chudan uchi-uke (kokutsu-dachi) kara kizami-zuki soshite gyaku-zuki; 10. Chudan shuto-uke (kokutsu-dachi) kara kizami mae-geri soshite shihon nukite; 11. Ippo sagatte gedan braai kara chudan jun-zuki soshite chudan jun-zuki; & 12. Renzoku-geri: Mae-geri kara yoko-kekomi, mawashi-geri soshite gyaku-zuki.

·        20-30 repetitions of each (not including a slow warm-up of 5-10 repetitions).

·        Please note: the stance in ido-kihon is zenkutsu-dachi unless otherwise noted.


Uchikomi practice: In addition to the `standard waza’ this month I am focusing on `legs followed by hands’ i.e. – mawashi-geri kara gyaku-zuki; mae-geri kara jun-zuki etcetera. My emphasis is on attacking with a strong penetrating keriwaza (with high knee action and full body power/body weight committed) then mixing up the timing my hand attacks. For example, landing the punches `kihon style’ with stance completion; before landing; and after landing—with a defence being focused during my kicking attacks (i.e. – as in kaeshi ippon kumite).

·        30 times for each variation at maximum speed; varying timing between each rep.


Bassai-Sho & Gankaku
·        Eight repetitions of each (alternately slow then fast) changing direction each time i.e. two times to the north, then south, east and west.

·        Primarily focusing on relaxation `on the launch’ of techniques and full use of the hips.

·        Secondly, on moderation of tachikata.

© André Bertel. Kumamoto, Japan (2013).