Monday 20 October 2014

HAIEN: Down and out with severe pneumonia

A photo of my training in the early days of this website.
One of my policies, when I write articles on this blog, is “…when I don’t train I don’t write nor post”. My mentality (and not at all a criticism of others) is that “When I don’t train, I have no `right to write’ about karate”. Furthermore, I also believe doing so takes away the kokoro that comes out of this site, which has made it so popular around the world. Unambiguously, in many ways, I suppose this is utter nonsense; nevertheless, I do intrinsically and wholeheartedly believe that when it comes to Karate-Do, training takes precedence over every other aspect. Thinking and writing have their place, but can never replace the hard yards on the dojo floor. I’ve talked about this much before—in past posts—but here I am posting today; indeed and understatedly, without training for the first time in many years.

Anyway, today, I was diagnosed with serious pneumonia (39.6 Degree Celsius fever) and told that I must either be admitted to hospital, or go home and strictly stay inbed. I decided to come home, as I’m not contagious (safe for our new-born baby Mia, and Mizuho).

That being said, the doctor told me firmly “NO WORK, NO KARATE BERTEL SAN: FOR AT LEAST FIVE DAYS!” So, here I am, hypocritically breaking my own rules… Perhaps ironically, I have plenty to do here, study Japanese (desperately need to do more of that), read books, you name it,... Yet, it is really is strange not to teach nor train karate daily… And today is only my first day!!! Oh my…

You might think I’m implying I can’t relax, but that is not true either… Give me a cold beverage and good company; a walk in nature; or, especially at present, time with my wife and daughter, and I am more than relaxed.

So what am I writing about??? Basically, ROUTINES. I couldn’t work out my consistency with karate for so many years. I was really asking myself, and of course being asked by friends and family, “HOW DO YOU KEEP GOING?” I am not bragging when I say this—and you will see why—after I explain routines more specifically.

It is not my personal determination or mind-power that keeps me going. I can’t credit those attributes to myself, insofar as my daily karate training goes; instead, it is that karate training is in `my daily routine’—irrespective of how busy I get in life.

If there is not enough time for karate, I make the time. If that means getting up a lot earlier to self-train etc., that’s exactly what I have to do.

I never jeopardise other areas of my life for karate, especially family. Instead, like water, karate training flows into the gaps of my life and fills them idealistically. Perhaps there is some level of  determination involved; but, more importantly, I have a power which transcends my personal weaknesses (especially that inherent lazy streak, which we all have).

Ewwieeee, so André has a power…  Well, no! As mentioned above, it is primarily routine. Let’s compare daily karate training to the simple action of brushing our teeth.  We don’t stop brushing our teeth two-three times per day because of any factor (at least I hope that no one who reads this does…). Rather we brush on a daily basis to avoid cavities, look as nice as possible, and not `submit the world around us to extremely bad breathe’. What I am trying to say is that karate is simply a routine to me, more so than my effort: otherwise `lazy bones' would certainly win!

MY SECRET—KARATE IS CONTROLLED BY MY ROUTINE: If I am having a great day, and all is super, fine, and yes, even dandy—I still train. If I am feeling tired, glum, frustrated, or anything else—yes, I still train. What I’m trying to say here (and have indeed stated numerous times in the past) is that “Training is not controlled by my emotions: nor love or periodic dislike for karate—which has occurred consistently over the years; instead, it is a part of me. This makes keeping up training `NO EFFORT’ because it is simply what you do. It is primarily cerebral as opposed to emotionally driven. The bonus, not the main point, is what karate does for my body and mind (irrespective of my day). Needless to say, these points make us happy.
A special message for those who competed at the 13th Funakoshi Gichin Cup World Karate Championships. Firstly, congratulations!!! Secondly, the fire is burning hot now, but naturally it will cool. This is a wonderful window of opportunity to routinize your karate, so that your training moves forward consistently from now. The excitement may waver for a little while, but again, don't let this influence/lessen your training. A special thanks to Pinto Karate Dojo: for streaming the World Karate-Do Championships live. Also apologies to Lutie van den Berg Sensei and Naka Tatsuya Sensei for being unable to meet with you tomorrow night due to my illness. Of course, I am very disappointed about this.
I’ll wrap now… I hope this little article offers you something. At the very least, if you are a karateka, keep going to the dojo; and, make karate-do your routine: irrespective of how many days a week you can get to the dojo (and especially irrespective of your emotions, which are all too often hindrances to peoples life achievements and, overall, their joy).  If you do this, you will gain the most from your training and will routinely continue; moreover, should you choose to do so, you may well continue benefiting Karate-Do until your old age.

Kindest regards from my Japanese futon, André
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2014).

Wednesday 8 October 2014

Updated training regime: a return to the sentei-gata

Warming up: my private dynamic stretching routine.
At present I am reviewing the sentei-gata: Bassai Dai, Kanku-Dai, Enpi and Jion. Needless to say, this is a big step from the five Heian and Tekki Shodan, however, I am now tackling `the big four’ in light of them. In addition to these kata I am working on Gohon kumite (Five step sparring); Kihon ippon kumite (Fundamental one-step sparring); and once again going through the JKA syllabus kihon. In my own training this is currently focused on the 9th, 8th and 7th Kyu exams.

Balancing this, at the Kumamoto Chuo Dojo one of my seniors (Mr. Katayama who is in his 70s) is going for his JKA Sandan soon; consequently, kihon practice with Nakamura Shihan has naturally been focused on the Sandan curriculum.  For those of you who don’t know this includes: (1) Kizami-zuki+ sanbon ren-zuki; (2) Jodan age-uke + same arm chudan soto-uke + gyaku-zuki; (3) Chudan uchi-uke in kokutsu-dachi + kizami-zuki + gyaku-zuki; (4) Shuto-uke + kizami mae-geri + nukite; (5) Stepping back with jodan age-uke + advancing with mawashi-geri + uraken yoko-uchi + chudan jun-zuki; (6) Mae-geri + yoko-kekomi + mawashi-geri + gyaku-zuki; and (7) Mae-geri + yoko-kekomi + ushiro-geri kicking frontward, sideward and rearward: before returning the kicking foot to the floor (with both right and left legs). Perhaps a little off topic, but it really impresses me how we can find several of these renzokuwaza (combination techniques) in the 1960s JKA textbook, `Dynamic Karate’. Other groups do this as well, but the JKA have some very special points which pertain to the origins of these waza.
Kanku-dai kata.

That being said, it is very interesting how everything comes back to the core fundamentals—the core foundational principles, irrespective of complex renzokuwaza, kata, kumite, self-defence or impact work. When this is a physical reality—all aspects of training unite—and shingitai can be optimally worked towards. Contrasting my previous months kata training, of the six shitei-gata, with the more advanced sentei-gata; furthermore, my current `basic’ kihon work (in my self-training) with the `advanced training’ (under Nakamura Shihan and Akiyoshi Sensei); and the aforementioned point can be vividly seen.
Presently I'm focusing on deai in jiyu-kumite as depicted here in Germany.
It is from this reference point that the lines between basic and advanced become blurred and often undertake a sort of ‘polar reverse’ if you will. In my case, this has constantly occurred over the last three decades in karate-do and will certainly continue to do so. Such learnings are what make karate so challenging and, at the same time, so enjoyable. Osu, André.

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

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Hirota's Latest Karate Uniform: The `TAKUMI'

A while back I bought the `Takumi’ (Craftsman), which is the latest dogi (karate uniform) from Hirota. I can honestly say that it is the best dogi I have ever worn in my karate career—actually the best by far! Until now, their `Pinak kata’ was, in my opinion, the best karate suit on the market.

Probably the most accurate way to explain the Takumi is that it’s half-way between the `Pinak Kata’ and ‘Pinak Kumite’. It has paper thin material which moves with the body yet it is firm. This means it gets the best of both types of Pinak… Not to mention, it dries rapidly.

Comfort and how a dogi hangs/”sits” on the body are probably the most important points when it comes to karate uniforms, and the Takumi is unparalleled in both of these aspects. Accordingly, I rate this new suit 11/10… `11’ because I can’t see Hirota, or any other companies, ever outdoing it. Of course, I’d like to see them prove me wrong, but I really can’t see this happening. Essentially, this dogi is certain to become “the standard” for all experts (and world level competitors alike).

With all these points in mind, make sure you get the perfect size for you!!! And, as always, I strongly recommend going through Kuroobiya to ensure this: because they are the best in Japan at achieving an optimally fitting dogi. Hamid and his team at Kuroobiya will ensure you get the right size (which is critical, as the Takumi is a fully tailored uniform and thus requires real specifics to get it right).
Hirota's measurement chart... Looks easy, but requires a thorough knowledge of the product: in relation to your own
specific wants and needs.
Here is a link to the Kuroobiya homepage—it is a one of the few karate websites I have bookmarked:
 Taken as a whole, I can’t overemphasise the excellence of Hirota’s Takumi: this new dogi has lifted the bar to an unprecedented height.
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2014).