Sunday 31 August 2014

Progressing in Karate-Do forward requires the full circle

Movement four of Enpi kata: hidari chudan kagi-zuki (kiba-dachi).
While I am still strictly adhering to the training programme I started in August the prime emphasis has been on “referencing everything to Heian Shodan Kata”. In this way, whether doing kihon, other kata, kumite or oyo (applications) my training is `H1-centric’.

This training is highly technical pushing me to my limits; nonetheless, it is acutely renewing my understanding. It goes without saying, Heian Shodan always does this to experienced karateka; that is, it presents the ultimate challenge in karatedo: technically, psychologically and, of course, on deeper levels.

I’ll always be a beginner of karate-do in my heart and mind, and also in my training. In saying that and encouragingly, I am far beyond where I was, since returning to Japan in August of last year, “…yet I’m back at the very beginning”. My point here is that “Karate-Do is such a wonderful art”: it pushes us to become whole via a constant cycle. As the title of this post states "Progressing in karate-do literally requires the full circle". In this regard and in this way, I only hope that one day I can truly be a `good karateka’. Despite achieving this target, or not, I’ll continue pushing toward this goal.
Kindest regards from the first day of Japan’s autumn.
Osu, André Bertel  
Movement three of Heian Shodan kata: migi gedan-barai (zenkutsu-dachi hanmi).

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

Sunday 24 August 2014

Latest self-training regime

Here is my latest karate-do training regime. I hope it finds you happy, healthy, and training hard. Especially those, enduring the cold, in the Southern Hemisphere!!! Best wishes from boiling Nippon. Osu, André Bertel       


(A)     Stationary kihon

1.      Chudan choku zuki (hachiji dachi)

2.      Chudan gyaku zuki

3.      Chudan mae-geri

4.      Chudan yoko keage (heisoku dachi)

5.      Mae geri kara yoko kekomi soshite ushiro geri

Hidari mawashi-geri in ido-kihon practice. `Axing' with the josokutei utilising the `roll over of the hips': a traditional `basic'.
(B)      Ido kihon: Kogeki (Tsukiwaza to keriwaza)

6.      Chudan jun zuki

7.      Sanbon ren zuki

8.      Chudan mae geri

9.      Chudan yoko keage (kiba dachi)

10.  Chudan yoko kekomi (kiba dachi)

11.  Chudan mawashi geri

12.  Chudan ushiro geri

13.  Yoko keage ashi o kaete yoko kekomi (kiba dachi)

(C) Ido kihon: Hangeki (Ukewaza to hangekiwaza)

14.  Jodan age uke kara chudan gyaku zuki

15.  Chudan soto uke kara chudan gyaku zuki

16.  Chudan soto  uke kara yoko enpi (kiba dachi)

17.  Chudan uchi uke kara kizami zuki soshite chudan gyaku zuki

18.  Gedan barai kara chudan gyaku zuki

19.  Chudan shuto uke (kokutsu dachi) kara nukite

20.  Chudan shuto uke (kokutsu dachi) kara kizami mae geri soshite nukite

 ·        Repetitions: Stationary kihon – “40+ of each”; and Idokihon – “20+” (not including a 10 rep warm-up set).


i. Kihon Gohon Kumite (Jodan, Chudan and Mae geri).

ii. Kihon Ippon Kumite (Jodan, Chudan, Mae geri, Yoko kekomi and Mawashi geri).

iii. Jiyu Ippon Kumite (Jodan, Chudan, Mae geri, Yoko kekomi and Mawashi geri).

·        Note: All defences and counters `the most foundational’: i.e. kihon-ukewaza followed by gyaku-zuki). Focus on kakato chushin in attacks, and kime in general. Repetitions: Five sets of each form of kumite including one `warm-up set’.


Main focus: Shitei-gata (Heian Shodan, Heian Nidan, Heian Sandan, Heian Yondan, Heian Godan and Tekki Shodan).

Secondary focus: Sentei-gata (Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Enpi and Jion).

General—interrelated focus: Tokui-gata (Gojushiho Dai).

·        Daily breakdown of kata training based on my typical ‘seven day routine’ with focus on one or two different kata per practice session. Repetitions: If one kata, approximately 20 reps; and if two kata, around 10 repetitions of each (depending on daily condition).
Hidari yoko-keage doji ni hidari uraken yokomawashi uchi: Movement six of Heian Yondan Kata.
 © André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto, Japan (2014).

Wednesday 20 August 2014

Motivation for the `long haul'

Self-practicing `hidari kizami mawashi-geri' (ido-kihon) yesterday.  
 Often people ask me “what is your key to my motivation in karate-do?” and, while I’ve talked about this before, I’d like to reiterate my mental approach today. I’d like to emphasise here that this is not `something new’, or a `new revelation’ for me. It is reflective of my training since I was very young.

Fundamentally, I believe that “…if we let go of our egos, we become liberated”; and consequentially, we gain a level of motivation which doesn’t waver and `much deeper satisfaction’ from our karate practice. Those who are better than us, we admire and respect; likewise, we do not compare ourselves to those we have surpassed (or are ahead of on the karate path).
This means that that “Your karate then truly becomes `your karate’”; thereby, setting the stage for you to bolt forward and `to really win battles against yourself’. Irrespective of whom you are, what your goals are, and any other factors, I believe this is the ultimate key to motivation in our wonderful martial art.

The ambitious junior or competitor as `a motivator’…
As the lyrics of `The Fly’ by U2 go, “It’s no secret that ambition bites the nails of success.” Some see this as a good thing, but I personally disregard this as well (as it only works to a certain level and takes one psychologically away from the highest level of motivation). Again, I’ll say it again, “motivation to me should not be about others”. That way, regardless of outcomes, the process is always emphasised over the product (or result). To me personally, this is the MEANING OF KARATE-DO: the WAY or PATH of karate. Truly, it is THE PROCESS, and quality (and authenticity) of this process, that matters most.

By and large, as I wrote in my 1996 karate-do memoirs “…don’t set the bar too low, nor too high. Set it at a height where you are challenged, but not so much that it is an impossibility”; furthermore, and just as important for motivation (and as discussed today), don’t worry about whether some can jump higher than you, or have `yet to reach your heights’. They (others) are insignificant when it comes to your karate! What matters is that “YOU KEEP PUSHING FORWARD without letting your ego becoming puffed up, nor flattened”. Focus on the process: the process of self-progression, which can only be maximised when it is "...devoid of ego that is steered and swayed by comparisons".  This, of course, transcends karate-do.
Kindest regards and best wishes, André.
Movement four of Seiryu kata during my self-practice.
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto, Japan (2014).

Sunday 17 August 2014


Every so often I make a complete return to the start of my karate-do training. These days I like to describe it as `a self-reboot’.

Technically, at least for me—because I’m not a naturally talented karateka, not physically big, nor strong—I really need to do this; that is, to go back to the critical details of kihon and work on them in the most detailed way. Needless to say, I am also doing this via yakusoku-kumite/kihon-kumite (especially gohon and kihon ippon, but also jiyu ippon kumite); and—of course, within the `so-called basic kata’ (Heian shodan, nidan, sandan, yondan, godan, and Tekki shodan). Basic... YEAH RIGHT! Humble pie... Yes, certainly!!!

Beyond technique, I use these periods of `starting karate-do all over again’ to assess what karate-do is to me `personally’, and what karate-do truly is: in the traditional Japanese context. This aspect is something I began to do when I first came to Japan for training, at the JKA (Japan Karate Association), 20+ years ago...

At present, while I am doing this `self-reboot’, I'm continuing to practice my current tokui-gata; the four sentei-gata; oyo-kumite; and jiyu-kumite. However, these aspects are currently overshadowed by the aforementioned focal points.
For those, whom have followed my blog for the last seven years, you will know that this strays from my previous `reboots’; nevertheless, I am also attempting `to keep the momentum up’ from my previous months of practice. In this way, `this reboot is doing something a little different’; and therefore, adding a little spice to my training.

This process began on August 15th with a vigorous three day training stint, to commemorate eight years since the passing of my late teacher. I have much kansha for the 13 years I personally learned from him.
アンドレ バーテル

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

Friday 8 August 2014

Deutschland Seminar Video

Below is a video from my last seminar in Germany in 2012. Like the previous video, from the United Kingdom, these YouTube uploads have essentially been to clean up my files and, hopefully, offer something useful to karateka around the world. As I always say, “we must talk with our karate-do”. In this way of thinking, via photographs and videos, I've aimed to verify my understanding; thereby, giving legitimacy to my writing/articles. The reality is that " many say so much, yet we never see their actual karate!"

By the way, many people are saying that since I re-joined the Japan Karate Association (JKA) I’m no longer doing what I have learned over the last 30+ years… I’d like to assure everyone that: (a) I am dedicated fully to JKA; and (b) that I practicing everything I was taught prior to returning to JKA.
Taken as a whole, JKA has been encouraging me to continue practicing my karate in the way I was: prior to re-joining. All the very best from Japan, André Bertel.

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

Thursday 7 August 2014

Spanish karateka comes for private training

A karateka from Spain, Josu Duran, recently travelled to Japan for one-on-one training at my private dojo. He flew directly from Spain and travelled Aso-shi. During his time here I have the covered essential kihon (namely, the core Shotokan waza “… especially techniques in zenkutsu-dachi” with different unsoku/ashi-hakobi; ‘kakato chushin’; shisei/postural alignment; koshi no kaiten; tai no shinshuku; and so forth).

Expanding on this, I used several kata to work on the above mentioned kihon-waza (and generic principles). However, the main focus has been on ‘reworking’ Josu’s tokui-gata, which is currently Chinte.

On the kumite front, I have again `honed in’ on the technical points stressed in kihon. Consequently, in an attempt to reinforce this teaching, I have utilised Kihon ippon kumite and Jiyu-ippon kumite.

Kumite: jodan ushiromawashi-geri.
Overall, I can see it has been a real challenge for Josu. But what is admirable is that he has fronted up to training with me. Besides his punctuality, in regards to training times, he is a good bloke. With continued practice of the critical points, I have taken him through, he will certainly improve. Good luck (Ganbatte) Josu!!! – André Bertel.
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2014).

Teaching Josu how to do kihon ippon kumite and jiyu ippon kumite correctly; moreover, their specific training 'purposes'.