Monday, 14 July 2014


Kihon-geiko: the beginning, end and full circle of Karate-Do.
Fundamentally speaking, traditional karate-do functions to progressively acquire “ever more control over one’s actions”. It is not that “every technique or movement is something you can ‘directly use’—in a self-defence scenario”—clearly that is a ridiculous notion; however, ‘collectively speaking’ (in the technical sense), via increased control, “…all techniques do indeed contribute to an increased capacity to defend oneself”. The late Shuseki-Shihan of the JKA (Japan Karate Association), Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei, emphasised this revealing point when he stated that “karate-do masters all bodily actions”. What he was meaning is that `by mastering all types of movements, and grooving the optimal ways to move into our sub-consciousness, we will respond to any given situation appropriately`.  This transcends any `style’. Unambiguously, if this `technical level’ is achieved, inevitably the ultimately trained martial artist will be produced.

Movement 44 my tokui-gata: Gojushiho Dai.
True karate-do is budo, not gymnastics, nor a game of points: The techniques of traditional karate-do have never been about accumulating points or `merely appearing to be strong’; rather, they are all about achieving ichigeki-hissatsu (the capacity to `finish an adversary with a single blow’). Consequently, this means that, in the technical sense “…the body must be controlled, as much as possible, to heighten one’s chances of achieving `ippon-waza’”. Naturally instructors have differing methods for developing this acute level of control (via their self-training and, indeed, when they instruct classes). Today I’d briefly like to share my generic approach/training methodology, which underpins my practice of karate-do. It is what I’ve dubbed ‘A-E training’ and is based on ‘everything being broken down into five distinct parts’; furthermore, it coincidentally (and amusingly) relates to the acronym `AE’ (Accident and Emergency). Needless to say, this is the hospital department you should be aiming to send an attacker (or attackers), should you need to use your karate in self-defence.

What is `A-E training’? `A-E Training’ is quite simply breaking down all karate techniques into five segments or parts. These are as follows: A. Pre-movement; B. Initiation/start of movement; C. Mid-movement; D. Impact point (target penetration); and E. Completion of movement (a decisive return to stillness). Accordingly, this practice forms a full circle, from inaction returning to inaction: with the technique existing `in the middle’. In this way, it addresses ‘not telegraphing’ your movement; the order of joints/muscles used in your action; the complete trajectory of your technique; the point of impact; and the follow through ‘to completion’, which intrinsically pertains to ‘balance’ and, ultimately, `recovery’. Of course, you could say that `A-E training’ also addresses other areas, and it certainly can; all the same, from my personal experience, the aforementioned technical aspects ‘are best optimised through this form of practice’. As I always say to my students in New Zealand, and around the world, “don’t listen to me, try for your selves”.
Enpi kata: Migi jodan age-zuki.

Further practice – utilising `A-E training’: On the sheer `physicality’ front, acceleration/deceleration from `A-B’, `B-C’, `C-D’ and `D-E’ can be studied. For example, full-speed then freeze on the four points following `A’ (the pre-movement position). It is worth mentioning here “…that one in theory could make this `10 part practice’ (i.e.  `A-J training’)”; however, I’ve generally found that beyond ‘five-part-practice’ tends to be unproductive. By and large, this can be best be found when practising with explosiveness (accordingly this is because the range of motion is too short when one exceeds `the three active stages’ of karate techniques; that is, ‘B to D’); hence, beyond `A-E training’ I prefer to deconstruct the drill from A-D, A-C, A-B, then utilise `fluid’ practice.

`A-E training' with jiyu kumite no kihon.
Yet… further practice utilising `A-E training’: I won’t discuss this too much in depth; however, it involves applying each `active stage’ against a makiwara, sandbag and so forth. In this way we can drill techniques to be effective at varying ranges; moreover, subconsciously understand their strengths and shortcomings depending on timing, and maai (meeting distances).

The late and great JKA Shuseki-Shihan, Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei.
On the whole, and at the very least, I hope this article has offered some food for thought; moreover, that is goes beyond the realms of your thoughts and leads to the physical improvement of your karate. All the best, André.

© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto-ken. Japan (2014). 

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