Tuesday 25 July 2017

Seek skill and strength

Irrespective of all the politics in the Karate World, just train! Seek to become stronger every day.
 Many people have high Dan, grading rights, and qualifications, but do not have the technique to back these accolades. Such karateka know how weak they are, and hide behind their ‘political qualifications’, showing up, paying money, and kissing ass. The funny thing is, everyone knows who they are.
Don’t be these “karateka”. Seek to be strong and skillful
through daily training. Talk with your technical skill and strength. Irrespective of political outcomes, you will have effective karate and the greater karate world will respect you.
Osu, André Bertel
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).

Sunday 23 July 2017

Jiyu Ippon Kumite

To address many people around the world, who have requested this topic, today I will briefly describe and give a handful of tips on proper Jiyu Ippon Kumite. I hope that you all find that this covers your questions.
Description of Jiyu Ippon Kumite: After bowing the training partners face each other in shizentai (hachiji-dachi)―with ryoken daitae mae―with one partner as ‘the attacker’ and the other ‘the defender’. They both then advance into jiyu-dachi with a freestyle kamae and a spirited kiai: followed by announcing their respective attack.

The first attack is “Jodan” (Jodan oi-zuki); the second attack is “Chudan” (Chudan oi-zuki); the third attack is “Mae-geri” (Chudan mae-geri keage); the forth attack is “Yoko-kekomi” (Chudan yoko-geri kekomi); and the fifth and final attack is either “Chudan mawashi-geri” or “Jodan mawashi-geri”.

A)    The Designated Attacker: Prior to launching each offensive technique the attacker announces their attack, then, moves forward to get their optimal maai. This maai is the optimal distance, in which, their respective percussive technique will achieve the greatest damage to the anatomical target. When this position is achieved, the attacker 'launches in with full commitment' with a 'do or die mentality'. Upon the completion of their attack they maintain zanshin in a strong forward facing tachikata.

B)    The Designated Defender: In the case of the defender, they must not backpedal nor run away; instead they must hold their ground. A rearward movement with defense is acceptable, but only at the last moment: in the case achieving the best maai for counterattacking.

Ukewaza―Reception techniques are usually as follows: (i) Jodan age-uke; (ii) Chudan soto-uke; (iii) Gedan-barai; (iv) Chudan soto-uke; and (v) either Chudan uchi-uke or Jodan haiwan-uke. The hangeki, or counterattack, is usually either jodan or chudan gyaku-zuki. I'd like to stop here and explain why this is the case.

Hangekiwaza―An important note on hangeki (counterattacking): “…the expert instantaneously selects most direct and simple option”: Some styles, organizations and clubs practice a plethora of hangekiwaza in Jiyu-Ippon and other forms of Kumite. Significantly in contrast with this ‘stylistic approach’, elite karateka must never ‘consciously choose from techniques’ but, rather, spontaneously react with the most effective and immediate/simple option. In karate, this is gyaku-zuki due to the aforementioned points; furthermore, muscle memory via fundamental training and kata. In sum, this goes back to the maxim in Japanese Budo: "…mastering a few techniques results in trustworthy effectiveness; whilst merely collecting a multitude of techniques―is nothing more than shallow movement―irrespective of outward appearance/style”. Ironically, with mastery of the gyaku-zuki counter, the karateka will automatically counter with, say, a  mae-geri (when the distance is out), and hiji/enpi-uchi, hiza-geri, etcetera, when up close.

On the whole, once all of the attacks are completed, the roles of attacker and defender/counterattacker are reversed. This process can continue, or―as typically done in a general/group class context―(after fulfilling both roles) training partners change. Irrespective of this point every time the drill concludes karateka display mutual respect by engaging in ojigi which, in this case is the standing bow.

Some tips for training

Obviously I cannot list everything, in a post; however, here are some key points, which are often done insufficiently:

    The attacker is the main person in all forms of Yakusoku Kumite, including Jiyu Ippon Kumite; consequently, if their attack has incorrect maai, or they do not sincerely aim to hit their opponent, the training is completely wasted. I see this a lot on videos of Western instructors who post a lot on Youtube. Here in Japan, amongst serious karateka, we try our best to hit, not cooperate with the defender.

1.1)    Still, as Jiyu Ippon is completed in one action, the attackers tsuki and keri must not chase the defender but, rather, impact on target ‘where it is’. In this way, the attacker is forced to develop swift techniques, as opposed to pointlessly relying upon ‘drill based’ prediction.

1.2)    Kiai on the attack, not only the counterattack. Often people forget to kiai on the attack, which is reflective of them just going through the motions. I’ll reiterate… The attacker must aim to defeat the defender. Here in Japan, in the serious dojo, you will go to hospital if you do not defend with all of your might. In sum, the attacker provides the stimulus in order elicit a useful response and, ideally (in the case of the attacker), that is optimally connecting their blow.

1.3)    Fully express shomen and hanmi appropriately; furthermore, tai no shinshuku in attack, defense and counterattack.

1.4)    Eliminate all tension: use junansei (softness) to generate speed/explosive power―via natural energy. Added to this, breath and technique are one: start and conclude together... More about this at a later date.

1.5)    Remember the weight of your attacking limb. Throwing this weight combined with launching the backbone forward helps to create large scale and penetrating tsukiwaza and keriwaza. While this is fundamental in Jiyu Kumite, it must always be fully expressed in Jiyu Ippon Kumite: which is regarded in Japan as the bridge from Kihon Kumite.

I will leave it there for today. All the very best from Oita City, Kyushu. Japan.

Osu, Andre

© Andre Bertel. Oita-City, Japan (2017).

Saturday 22 July 2017

July Training with Nakamura Masamitsu Shihan

 This weekend I went for training with my instructor, Nakamura Masamitsu Shihan, in Kumamoto (JKA Kumamoto Chuo Shibu: Shototakuhirokan). In addition to a great Karate-Do practice, it was of course, really wonderful to catch up with Nakayama Shihan, Akiyoshi Sensei (and the Nakamura family), Katayama Senpai and Ogasawara Senpai. Overall, and as always, a wonderful time.

I offer my huge appreciation to Nakamura Shihan and the Nakamura Family.

Osu, André.
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).

Thursday 20 July 2017

Backlog of videos

七月十七日 (月): Training in 津久見市 (Tsukumi City) on July 17th, 2017.
Today is my birthday. So, I thought I'd quickly answer many requests to backlog some videos on my Youtube Channel. Firstly, before I do that, I first have to offer huge thanks to all of my family, also my friends, karate senpai (seniors) and students across Japan and, indeed, around the world.

I have so much appreciation to you all. ありがとうございます.

By the way, to further promote Oita-Ken, here is link to Tsukumi's official webpage: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tsukumi,_%C5%8Cita

On to the backlog of videos... For much more, visit my Youtube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/andrebertel.


© Andre Bertel. Oita-City, Japan (2017).

Sunday 16 July 2017

Toe Direction

The direction of your toes doesn't have to be 'perfect'; however, perfection must always be sought after in daily training.
A very important aspect,  especially in regards to unsoku/ashi-hakobi, is ‘TOE DIRECTION’. This is not only about external form but optimal efficiency, angle of movements and, consequently, transfer of power.

Besides intention, spirit, trajectory, and positioning: the power in the Karate-Do I practise, and teach, is ‘generically derived’ from four main sources:

1) Propulsion / Transferring of weight: via moving the body;

2) Compression and expansion – vertical power;

3) Rotation of the hips/waist –horizontal power; and,

4) Relaxation: and resulting ‘snap’ of techniques.

Toe direction is especially important for ‘propulsion/transferring of weight: via moving; but almost equally as important when comes to rotation of the hips/waist: as it is one of the keys to perfectly coordinate the upper, middle, and lower sections of the body; in particular, the ‘harmonious twisting’ of the ankles and hips.
Above and beyond this point is that, here in Japan,—the advanced method employed by the more elite practitioners—
is close-guarded or, as the saying goes, ‘kept in-house’.

Obviously, mastery and continuous practise of this imperative aspect of Kihon is vitally important: if one is seeking maximise the effect of ‘martial arts karate’ techniques.

I'd like to conclude with an encouraging point… For many karateka, especially non-Japanese practitioners, directing their toes correctly is particularly troublesome. The good thing is that this can be overcome by knowing where, and how, to use ones power: especially by using the aforementioned elite method. More than anything else, this relates to the correct use of kakato (kakuto chushin)—heel centralisation/centreline  and tsumasaki—the toes of the opposite foot when moving.

In this context this ‘fundamental’ doesn’t only relate to coordination but, again, as mentioned above, weight transfer.
Hence, ‘snap’ can be made by the lower and upper body and, simultaneously, maximum bodyweight can be applied: the ideal mix of heavy and light, hard and soft.

Once karateka can do this, they can move on to much more advanced aspects. My plan this year has been to include this aspect then within my teaching schedule and, then next year, we will begin to go well beyond this (and other vital elements). Overall, 2017 has been, and continues to be—a technical springboard for 2018 and, indeed, into the future. My best wishes to everyone here in Japan, and around the world, from an increasingly hot and humid Oita Prefecture.

押忍, アンドレ

© Andre Bertel. Oita-City, Japan (2017).