Tuesday 21 April 2015

Trainees from Germany: Peter Lampe, Frank Kölher & Rainer Schöne

Between April 17th and 19th, three karateka from JKA Germany came for training at my private dojo: Peter Lampe (4th Dan), Frank Kölher (3rd Dan) and Rainer Schöne (1st Kyu). Peter, Frank and Rainer completed two hours of private lessons on Friday evening, three hours on Saturday, and two hours on Sunday; furthermore, informal practice and explanations were given outside of the dojo as well. This included trips to the famous Aso Jinja; Kokuzou Jinja where I regularly self-train; Kumamoto Castle; the grave of the legendary swordsman Musashi Miyamoto; and to Shototakuhirokan (my instructor, Nakamura Masamitsu Shihan’s dojo), which serves as the `Central Kumamoto City Branch of the Japan Karate Association’. Due to their excellent manners, Nakamura Shihan even invited them for tea in the dojo and greatly enjoyed talking to them.

TRAINING: The private lessons I taught covered key points of authentic Budo Karate, as taught here in Japan, and the theme was “All Karate must work towards effectiveness in a non-prearranged context”. That is, techniques/applications ‘for demonstrations sake’—without them leading to effectiveness in a real fight “…are nothing more than showmanship”.  Hence, generally speaking, the lessons were based on “the necessary ingredients needed for traditional budo karate”. While I won’t precisely go into what I taught (as this was/is for Frank, Rainer and Peter) I’ll briefly outline the techniques/points that were covered:

 A brief outline of the private lessons for Peter, Frank and Rainer

 TACHIKATA: * Zenkutsu dachi hanmi and shomen; * Kokutsu dachi; * Transferring from kokutsu dachi to zenkutsu dachi; * Transferring from zenkutsu dachi to kiba dachi with yori ashi; * Tenshin (kaiten shinagara) in both shizentai and zenkutsu dachi in relation to basic koshi no kaiten and precise positioning. In sum, `position is for optimal efficiency’ and `sinking combined with te-ashi onaji’ are essential in body shifting.

TSUKIWAZA AND UCHIWAZA: (1) Choku-zuki (use of `snap energy’ and seiken); (2) Gyaku-zuki and (3) Kizami-zuki (Koshi no kaiten, Tai no shinshuku and transfer of body weight with snap); (4) Jun-zuki/Oi-zuki (Koshi no kaiten, ashi hakobi and timing); (5) Oi-komi gyaku-zuki (Collision power, timing, foot positioning and targeting); (6) Precise use of ‘chikara no kyojaku’  power in uchiwaza (the concept of muchiken with shuto and haito); and (7) Jun kaiten vs. Gyaku kaiten—via the teaching of correct kaiten uraken/kaiten enpi.

UKEWAZA: The basic ukewaza of Shotokan with focus on the following points: (a) Position of the elbows; (b) use of tekubi/the wrist; (c) Movement—avoiding `over action’ and correct distance of the ukewaza from the body; (d) projecting the energy forward; and (e) `optimal positioning’.

KERIWAZA: The main focus was mae-geri keage; however, the points given (in relation to the use of energy in tsukiwaza) perfectly applies to all of the other kicks of Karate-Do. Yoko geri kekomi was also briefly shown/detailed in this regard: Here is an overview of we covered: (i) Josokutei/Koshi action; (ii) Kicking forward the rear and high/tight compression; (iii) applying the bodyweight whilst maintaining lateral and vertical posture; (iv) Ratio of speed in hiki-ashi: 30:70; and again, like tsukiwaza and uchiwaza, (v) correct use of power.

I first met Peter in 2010 when teaching my first Karate-Do Seminar in Ahrensburg, Germany.
CORRECT KUMITE: Applying everything applied and the perfect interrelationship’ between kihon, kumite and kata: the technical essence of Traditional Japanese Budo Karate.  The maxim that “jissen-kumite (actual fighting effectiveness) is the heart of karate technique” was constantly emphasised. In order to achieve this, Gohon Kumite, Kihon Ippon Kumite and ‘Jiyu kumite no uchikomi’ (focusing on hand attacks) were utilised.

 To conclude, I’d like to say that Peter, Frank and Rainer are really great guys whom I am honoured to have met through Karate-Do. They train hard and are serious about their personal development of Budo Karate technique. Accordingly, they really did their best (and did very well) to take in what was being taught to them ‘during every second of practice’. And, outside of the dojo, they were a lot of fun to spend time with. It was a wonderful time of karate keiko and camaraderie. Moreover, they not only made a very positive impression on me and my family, but also Nakamura Shihan. We certainly look forward to seeing Peter, Frank and Rainer again in the future here in Japan, not only as karateka but as friends. Osu, André.
Kokuzou Jinja, Aso-shi.
 © André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto, Japan (2015).

Thursday 16 April 2015

Not representing Kumamoto-Ken

Competition is to test oneself. Winning is irrelevant.
 While I won the Kumamoto Prefecture title, in the men’s individual kata, I have decided to not compete for Kumamoto at the JKA All Japan’s at the end of June.

There are several reasons for this, but the prime is that I cannot justify dedicating "all of my practice to kata" between now and then; and hence, I’d be doing JKA Kumamoto an injustice. Secondly and connected to this, only one person can enter the individual kata at the JKA All Japan’s (for Kumamoto Prefecture); thus, if I enter I will be taking away a ‘Kumamoto no senshu’ from being able to represent their province. To me, even though I won, this is simply not right.

My purpose for entering—“to test myself”: Lastly, my purpose in entering this year’s JKA Kumamoto Prefecture Championships was never to win but, rather, to simply test my karate. To win or not win the title is never my concern. Of course, it is great to win in Japan, due to the technical standards: but that is nothing more than a bonus. My karate is not, and has never been, for tournaments. While I will certainly compete again to test out my skills—and fully respect those dedicated to ‘Budo karate competition’, I’ll only enter so when it doesn’t interfere with my overall Karate-Do objectives.

So who will represent Kumamoto at the All Japan Championships? Well, while I win the gold medal,  this years `Jun Yusho' (and several years undefeated prefecture kata champion)—Kishigami Kazuto San—will now be going. I wish him the very best of luck in his kata reparations for the 58th JKA All Japan Karate-Do Championships. Osu, André.
© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2015).

Wednesday 15 April 2015


Tekki Shodan in the Shitei-gata eliminations

Over the weekend the 34th JKA (Japan Karate Association) Kumamoto Prefecture Championships were held in Tamana-Shi.
Result: YUSHO!!! – Kumamoto Prefecture Men’s Individual Kata Champion!!!
Actually, the Shototakuhiro Dojo (JKA Kumamoto Chuo Shibu) won a total of eight medals at the prefecture championships: Five gold, two silver, and one bronze. Of course, the real thrill is to see these youngsters and their talent. Here is a list of the club members who won titles and/or placed:

Kento Hiyoshi – Elementary School 4th Grade Boys Individual Kata – Champion

Shiki Uchida – Junior High School 1st Grade Boys Individual Kata – Champion

Hyuga Takamori – Junior High School 2nd Grade Boys Individual Kata – Champion

Aiko Omori – Elementary School 5th Grade Girls Individual Kata – Champion and 3rd Place Individual Kumite

Saki Hirai – Elementary School 5th Grade Girls Individual Kata – 2nd Place and 2nd Place Individual Kumite

André Bertel – Men’s Individual Kata – Champion

Heian yondan in the shitei-gata eliminations

I’d especially like to offer my thanks to Nakamura Masamitsu Shihan for this title which, after nearly a decade, will be my last serious competition. Osu, André

© André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2015).

Gojushiho Dai in the final
Gojushiho Dai Kata - Kentsui hasami uchi
It is very hard to win in Japan, especially for foreigners. A gaikokujin winning at prefectural level here is unprecedented.
The Shototakuhiro Dojo (JKA Kumamoto Chuo) Team.

Wednesday 8 April 2015

Key terminology for the traditional kumite match

In addition to competing, in the men’s black belt kata, at the upcoming JKA (Japan Karate Association) Kumamoto Prefecture Championships I’ll also be judging. In light of this, I thought that today I’d outline the key terminology for the traditional kumite match; furthermore, the whistle commands for match officials.


1.    Senshu seiretsu: Announcing the competitors to line up before or after a karatedo match/event).

2.    Shomen ni rei: Asking competitors to bow to the front.

3.    Otagai ni rei: Asking competitors to bow to each other.

4.    Shobu ippon hajime or Shobu sanbon hajime: Beginning either a one point (elimination) match or three point (finals) match.

5.    Yame: To “stop” a match (to award points, warnings or penalties etcetera) to or conclude it.

6.    Moto no ichi: Telling a/the competitor(s) to return their start positions.

7.    Tsuzukete hajime: To restart the match.

8.    Tsuzukete: Telling the competitors to `fight on’ (continue) if one or both stops during the match.

9.    Ato shibaraku: Alerting the competitors that there is only 30 seconds of time left in the match.

10. Aka / Shiro: Indicating the `red’ and `white’ competitor.

11. Jodan: To indicate an upper-level/head attack.

12. Chudan: To indicate a middle-level/torso attack.

13. Tsuki:  To indicate a punch.

14. Keri: To indicate a kick.

15. Uchi: To indicate a strike.

16. Renzoku-waza: To indicate a combination technique.

17. Waza-ari: To indicate a half point (“not quite an ippon”).

18. Ippon: To indicate a full point (a blow with the potential to `finish’).

19. Awasete ippon: To indicate that score added together makes a full point.

20. Torimasen:  Indicating no point is to be awarded.

21. Hayai: Indicating that one attack is faster than the other (in an exchange of blows).

22. Aiuchi: Indicating simultaneous attacks; thus, no score.

23. Maai: Indicating that distancing was wrong; hence, no score.

24. Ukete-masu: Indicating that an attack was blocked.

25. Nukete-masu: Indicating an off target attack; and therefore, no score.

26. Yowai – indicating that an attack was too weak; and accordingly, no score.

27. Keikoku: Cautioning one or both of the competitors.

28. Chui: – A formal warning.

29. Hansoku: Disqualifying a competitor. (Note – the announcement of `shikkaku’ is used for more serious disqualifications).

30. Mubobi: Indicating non-defending.

31. Jogai: Indicating out of bounds.

32. Hantei: Indicating decision time.

33. Aka no kachi / Shiro no Kachi: Indicating red or white is the winner.

34. Hikiwake: Indicating a draw.

35. Sai Shiai: Indicating a rematch.

36. Sai-Sai Shiai Indicating a secondary rematch.

37. Sakidori: Indicating a “sudden death” match, in a second rematch situation; that is, the first competitor to score will win the match.

38. Shobu hajime: To begin a “sudden death” match.

39. Shugo: Indicating a call a meeting between the corner judges and centre referee.

40. Kiken: To indicate a withdrawal of competitor/competitors.



a) Long whistle blow followed by a short whistle blow (Start / Hajime).

b) Two short whistle blows (Stop / Yame).

c) Three short whistle blows (Call to have a judges meeting / Shugo).

d) Long whistle blow followed by a short whistle blow (Decision time / Hantei).

e) Short whistle blow (Lower flags or score boards).


a) Five short whistle blows to stop the match.


a) Long whistle blow (Full point / Ippon has been scored).

b) Short whistle blow (Half point / Waza-ari has been scored).

c) Five short whistle blows (Attention call to the Head Judge).

I have been slowly going back and renewing my qualifications with the JKA and hope to increase my judging skills this year. My target, in this regard, is to return to being an A-Kyu Shinpan (Judge) and also `reach the roof’ with my other qualifications (as a JKA Godan). But, of course, training is always the `number one’ priority. Step-by-step… All the very best from sakura covered Japan. Osu, André

 © André Bertel. Aso-shi, Kumamoto. Japan (2015).