Sunday 21 June 2020

Micro Details are INFERIOR

Firstly, I will outline todays two-hour technical training, excluding the 45 minutes of endurance work that followed. I'll wrap up this post with some comments on the ever growing 'micro detail' focus of karate, which is allowing many around the world to reach high Dan: but lack the tangible skills to have such levels. Osu, Andre

基本 (KIHON)

TSUKIWAZA FOCUS: Both Jodan and Chudan ‘OIZUKI’ and foundational renzokuwaza based on them; namely, (1) sanbon ren zuki, (2) kizami zuki kara sanbon ren zuki; and (3) ‘blitzing’. Too many points worked on to describe in this post, but maximum effect underpinned all the these; namely, an unstoppable impact. This was something I learned during my security years. The art of the ‘king hit’, which rarely fails and even if not knocking out the opponent, renders them useless for follow up attacks. Oi-zuki directly from shizentai is the perfect ‘sen no sen’ technique in this regard. It still shocks me that so many people disregard oizuki as useful on the street.



平安初段 (Heian Shodan), 慈恩 (Jion), 鶴翼二段 (Kakuyoku Nidan) and 雲手(Unsu). The dark horse of this group was Unsu, as I matured out of it, but today, I managed to reproduce some magic making all movements large scale, kihon exact, and completing with a diagonal twisting jump. Strange, as Unsu is now off the radar for me but, as I’m sure you know, such things happen in the heat of training. No, I wont be seriously returing to Unsu, but occassionaly for variation...

Jion today was my base kata. Thanks to personal advice from Osaka Yoshiharu Sensei, I have gained so much from this formal exercise…. Even though it is such a technically きつい kata. More about this later, I actually do an ‘old school Takudai version’ of Jion. It is same version taught by Asai Sensei, Osaka Sensei and Tanaka Sensei.


Heian Shodan was my link to kihon and kumite. I would like to talk about this more in this post, but I should physically (via a seminar in the near future). However, as stated at the start of this post, I will make one brief comment worth your reading time…

The tendency now amongst the major karate organizations is to focus on micro details—especially for Western members of Japanese groups. What I call 'little tweaks' here and there. Nevertheless, while this is important, it is inferior to MASS/COLLECTIVE movement of the body. This focus on micro-details causes people to get small minded (into numerous small points), which matter, but not as much as bigger issues. Needless to say, when these issues become the prime focus, one discontinues seeking optimum effectiveness. I saw this with one instructor from my home country, New Zealand, who has a 6th Dan but cannot do any basic technique well. In fact, his karate shouldn't even be Shodan standard.

Organizational brand labels and photo opportunities justify this 'karate way'; however, peoples actual karate speaks for itself - irrespective of such associations.

IF YOU DO KARATE, WHY NOT SEEK TO MAXIMIZE YOURSELF - NOT HIDE BEHIND ORGANIZATION BRAND LABELS AND PHOTOS WITH INSTRUCTORS... If you do karate, why not maximize YOUR OWN KARATE. In reality, this is all that matters in self-defense, and underpins the self-training (outlined above) that I did today, and also IKS members around the world. 

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Saturday 20 June 2020

13th Anniversary of this Blog

I did not mention but yesterday marked the 13th Year since I began this blog. It was three months after I moved back to Japan, in 2007, that I began.

Unlike other sites, covering endless numbers of styles and topics, this blog has stuck to just one thing: SHOTOKAN KARATE as BUDO/BUJUTSU.

Still, even as a non-commercial blogsite, it's had quite a few visitors and a significant number of followers. Which, considering the non-commercial nature of the blog, and the narrow subject matter that it covers, is really quite remarkable.

Here is a link to the very first post, which was simply titled 'Yoroshiku Onegaishimasu' and outlined my basic objectives of the blog:

I offer a big 'OSU' and thanks to all of my supporters around the world. Next year will mark 40th Year in Karate-Do, the 14th Anniversary of this Blog, and the 15th Anniversary of Asai Sensei's passing. Hopefully there can be some special events around these times.
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Friday 19 June 2020

Avoid "THE BLUR": My latest training regime

Here is my latest self-training regime. I hope that it finds you well, and in good spirits; moreover, that you are seizing the opportunity to further advance your karate skills in this interesting time. Irrespective, if you are open, here is something for those who are serious about your karate. Hint: Note the system more than the regime... Osu, Andre

基本 (KIHON)

     1. Sanbon ren zuki
     2. Jodan age uke kara chudan gyaku zuki 
     3. Chudan soto uke kara chudan gyaku zuki 
     4. Chudan uchi uke kara chudan gyaku zuki
     5. Gedan barai kara chudan gyaku zuki 
     6. Chudan shuto uke (kokutsu dachi) kara nukite
     7. Ren geri: Chudan mae geri keage kara jodan mae geri keage
     8. Mawashi geri kara chudan gyaku zuki
     9. Ushiro geri kekomi
1 10. Yoko geri keage ashi o kaete yoko geri kekomi (kiba dachi)

Reps and intervals: At present my idokihon training is quality-focused as opposed to ‘quantity’ and fitness/endurance. That is, I’m practiced each of the 10 renzokuwaza five times both up and down the dojo like taikyoku-ken (tai chi). My focus is threefold: (a) optimally using my kinetic chain; (b) moving/transferring my center; and (c) large scale and relaxed limb actions which are directly influenced by the previous two focal points.
After these ten very slow and soft reps, I repeat with five times up and down the dojo with full speed. My aim here is to make every technique as when I did them slowly and lightly. In particular, focusing on lightness and avoiding any shortening of actions—especially when ‘winding up’.
 In sum, I am merely doing 20 reps of each set of techniques. I would like to add here, that after each set of 20, I’m returning to shizentai to do shin-kokyu—to fully recover—before moving on to the next waza.


Jiyu Ippon Kumite is dominating my present kumite practice; however, with multiple counters. What I am doing is not only countering decisively once but with at least two or three techniques—all of which are ‘full’/large scale waza. Each of these has the intent to finish the opponent, which is an inherent characteristic of budo/bujutsu karate. My counters are all intentionally random/spontaneous.

On a lessor scale, I’m also reviewing Asai Sensei’s Kakuyoku ‘trap and impact’ techniques which, as you will know, are a very standard part of my daily training.

Overall, I am mixing all of this training up freely. The number of repetitions varies day by day, but is not less than three sets of attack and defense at full speed. Attacks are standard: Jodan (Jodan oi zuki); Chudan (Chudan oi zuki); Mae geri (Chudan mae geri keage); Yoko kekomi (Chudan yoko geri kekomi); Mawashi geri (Jodan mawashi geri); and Ushiro geri (Chudan ushiro geri kekomi).


My kata training is once again going through a ‘diverse wave’, which can be split broadly between three types—foundational, advanced (Shotokan Ryu) advanced (Asai Ryu). While that may not sound very sophisticated, it stresses a key point… the foundational kata I’m presently working on are full just that: ‘for my kihon’. Likewise, all the ‘advanced kata’ are advanced (primarily for application). I must stress here that I’m not denigrating the basic kata; however, at present I’m simply using them to sharpen my base skills.

(I)                Recently each day my foundational kata has been either 序の型 (Jo no kata),  平安初段 (Heian Shodan) or 順路初段 (Junro Shodan).

(II)             Advanced kata—standard Shotokan Ryu: either 慈恩 (Jion),  燕飛 (Enpi), 鉄騎初段 (Tekki Shodan) or五十四歩大  (Gojushihodai).

(III)           Advanced kata—from Asai Sensei: either 鶴翼 (Kakuyoku), 八門(Hachimon), 風手 (Hushu) or雷光 (Raiko).

Taken as a whole, my kata training has been focused on three kata each day: one from each of these groups. My practice of each kata is eight times each. Alternately slow then with regular speed. Consistent with my current Kihon practice, the aim is quality. Hence, between repetitions I am having sufficient rest times with shin-kokyu.

While I am still getting a good workout, this month I’m really keeping is technical; thus, more anaerobic than anything else. As for my aerobic fitness, since the onset on the global pandemic I’ve dedicated extra time to cardio training.

To conclude, I want to stress that ‘sometimes you need to take it easy to improve’. This doesn’t mean to be lazy but, rather, “not get caught up in the intensity of training”—what I call “the blur”… at least, not every time!!  Before that next waza, kata, or round of Kumite, recover fully before repeating. In this way, you will not only protect your body, you will also better perfect your technique and, potentially (if you follow the structure of my schedule above), you will increase your explosiveness.

All the very best from Oita City.
Competition was never my focus. However, winning titles in Japan and New Zealand certainly helped my development.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Sunday 14 June 2020

序の型 (Jo no kata)... Not NEEDED, but valuable lessons

序の型  (Jo no kata) is a simple kata for initial kihon training, developed by Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei.

明鏡 (Meikyo Kata) a formal exercise 'reflective' of the loftiness of kihon.
In the case of IKS (International Karate Shotokan), Jo no kata is one of our non-syllabus kata: like Gyaku-zuki no kata, Shinken, Kihoken, Kyakusen, Ransetsu (Rantai) and so forth. That is, they are 'training kata' which are not permitted for selection during examinations. We use these kata periodically to enhance our kihon practice.

With this context in mind, Jo no kata provides an alternative 'kihon template', which if used well can be very beneficial: not only for beginners, but also periodically for veteran karate instructors.

Today's training for me was mostly kata.... Foundational formal exercises, namely: Jo no kata, Heian Shodan and Junro Shodan. From all three of these kata, the main focus was KIHON. While it is not necessary to do Jo no kata, if it is fully understood as Asai Sensei taught it:  it can have immense benefits. Especially in regards to technique, stance and movement 'interrelationships'. I repeated these kata many times and lost count as to how many, To wrap up, I went through Meikyo and Yokotawaru-tatsu to relax.

My kihon practice today was just the five main forms of back roundhouse kick: (1) Ura mawashi-geri with the rear leg; (2) Ura mawashi-geri with the lead leg; (3) Ushiromawashi-geri with the rear leg advancing - mid range; (4) Ushiromawashi-geri with the front leg (outward spinning then advancing) - close range; and (5) Ushiromawashi-geri stepping up with the rear leg - long range. Please note the three basic usages of the jiku-ashi/sasae-ashi from my videos. Ushiro-geri precisely follows this pattern. I spent very little time on this part of my training, I feel between five and 10 minutes at the most.

Returning to the majority of training in this session: Kihon-gata. My belief is that I am a permanent beginner and this is the heart of 'Jo no kata' for veteran karate instructors and elite competitors alike. I am not happy with my karate in 2019. 2020 is level up, and next year I will not be happy with 2020. Every year our technical skill must increase, not only in our mind, but by tangible/measurable outcomes, which are objectively observed then objectively re-evaluated.
Many people ask why I always get better and better: year after year. The answer is hard work coupled by a truly scientific approach to practice/training and, of course, having the best mentor. These elements get real results; however, most prefer to 'merely be members of groups' and hide their karate behind brand labels. My advice for everyone is to return to kihon and return to seeking self-maximization. True understanding of Jo no kata actually teaches this, but this lesson, by most, will largely be ignored.
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Sunday 7 June 2020

Thinking of Asai Sensei

Today, Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei would have turned 85.

 Recently, I have been reviewing all the kata that he introduced, most of which I learned directly from him. This is a process I regularly do, even though I only specialize in a handful of kata.

Today’s training was again focused on 雷光 (Raiko), which I have been reviewing from my notes. I’m also working on the five 常行 (Joko) for my kihon, of which I was bestowed unique renditions.

I’m very thankful to Asai Sensei for his mentorship—and will continue to strive for improvement—as he encouraged me to do.

The journey continues... The memories give power.



© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Wednesday 3 June 2020

Multi-Dimensional 'Top Down" — Training Approach

Today my self-training was two hours long and dedicated to four kata: 鉄騎二段 (Tekki Nidan); 騎馬拳 (Kibaken); 二十四歩 (Nijushiho); and 雷光 (Raiko).

After that I went for a 5km mountain run to push my legs and stretch out.

My present focus is multi-dimensional, as I have so many things that I want to improve (to optimize skill development). The challenge, in this regard, is discernment; that is, to prioritize what is most important to work on, then practice with a ‘top down’ approach. I guess I should write more about this topic soon, as it might be useful...

Irrespective of style, organization, group I would like to use this post to wish you the very-best of happiness and health; furthermore, optimal training. Lastly, I’d like to send positive energy to my students, here in Japan, and around the world.

There are great things to come with our organization: 
国際空手道松濤館  IKSInternational Karate Shotokan.

Osu, André

 © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).

Monday 1 June 2020



This post will outline how to get DAN from INTERNATIONAL KARATE SHOTOKAN.
There are only two ways to do this: (1) By having a Japan recognized diploma; and/or (2) via personal contact. For example, someone who does not hold a Japan recognized diploma but is checked here at the dojo and their level is verified firsthand.

Without either of these, to attain Dan from the International Karate Shotokan, one must take a physical examination.

My reason for writing this is that literally dozens of people, over the last few months, have applied to transfer Dan—who do not have acceptable certification. I am by no means being nasty, but we cannot accept such diplomas for transfer: as it would undermine our group. Before sending an application and a copy of your Dan certificate please read on…

Examples of official recognized diplomas include those signed by Japan-based organizations and signed/stamped by world renown instructors. For example, if you have a JKA Diploma signed by Tanaka Masahiko Sensei, an IJKA Diploma signed by Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei, a Kase-Ha Diploma signed by Kase Taiji Sensei and so forth.

We do not accept Dan from the WKF, as these are decided by national federations; however, we do accept JKF (Japan Karatedo Federation) certification.

I hope this clarifies who is qualified to apply for IKS Dan Transfers.  To conclude, I’d like to say that the Dan system exists to verify standards; therefore and accordingly, without standards it has no meaning. One of the objectives of the International Karate Shotokan is to ‘return Shotokan standards to what they were’—before "...the mass pass rate became the norm".

If someone has a Dan rank from an official organization we will accept it; however, when they attempt their next Dan they will need to meet IKS standards to pass. For those who do pass, they will be individuals who really deserve their grade.

OSU, André 

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).