Thursday 23 July 2020


A few days back I turned 44. I am not into birthdays, but I am happy to enter a summer break from today. My only job was to visit the dojo and self train. Then spend time swimming with my wife and daughter. A wonderful summers day!!!

I was overwhelmed by birthday wishes this year, so I decided not to reply but, rather, make this post. 

Thank you all so very much. I will leave you with a few photos from today. TRAIN HARD AND TRAIN SMART!

OSU, André 

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

Monday 20 July 2020

Movement one of Heian Shodan: SHIN GI TAI

Today I will use the first movement of Heian Shodan, in isolation, as a means to broadly look at karate technique: body. mind and heart/spirit. Hopefully, some food for thought and, better still, motivation. Osu, André. 

Movement one of Heian Shodan

1A. The first movement is initiated by a simultaneous left ward hip turn into shomen; wind up of hidari gedan barai (leftward extension of the right ‘guide hand’ and left fist to right shoulder); head turn for correct chakugan; dropping the weight; and leftward inversion of the right leg/foot—turning on the right heel/kakato chushin.

There is also a natural inhalation through the nostrils, a focus of the eyes and a decisively cleared/relaxed mind. The intent is both calmness/mental control and receptiveness to the environment. To achieve this, the power is concentrated in the tanden/hara, which has a feeling of sinking into the lower abdomen and, interestingly, relaxing the eyes. That is, have a poker face, no expression. This reflects the name 平安 (Heian) which translates as peaceful.

1B. Movement one is completed by simultaneously executing a quick hidari gedan barai; driving the left leg 90 degrees forward from the right heel; twisting the waist/hips rightward into hanmi; and tightly pulling the right fist to the right—uken migi koshi (hikite); and a inaudible exhalation from the mouth.

Upon completion of movement one, consciously relax all the muscles with the exception of joint shime (namely maintenance of a perfectly erect posture—pelvis, back and neck; correctly formed fists/seiken, hikite) and knee/foot positions.

In sum, again reflecting the name of the kata, one must go from complete inaction, to explosive action, then return to complete inaction in an instant.

While this is only the first movement in Heian Shodan it encompasses all aspects of SHIN GI TAI in Karate-DO and, indeed, Karate-JUTSU. To further elucidate, this description could obviously be written in even greater detail. That being said, I think the point of this article has been sufficiently made. 


To conclude, I will quote one of my past articles, which I think fits the bill well here: 

“It is not a jumping kick or any other novelty that verifies one’s 
            karate ability. That is because any athletic individual—even without 
        any karate experience— can do such actions with a little practice. 
    Rather, it is the simplest of Kihon, which takes many years to 
    execute at a high level. Yes, it is these ‘grounded fundamentals’ 
         which ultimately define one’s true technical level in budo karate”. 

Needless to say, this point (naturally) applies to kata and kumite/self-defense also. I will wrap up on that note. Osu and greetings from sunny Oita.

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

Wednesday 8 July 2020

The Kinetic Chain

The kinematic chain, more often referred to as the ‘kinetic chain’ is a  biomechanical term for describing human movements; in particular, pertaining to using the muscles and joints in the correct order ‘like a chain’. 

The idea behind this is that “…rigid overlapping segments are connected by joints” and this creates a system thereby which movement at one joint produces and/or affects movement of another joint in the kinetic link.

Interestingly, this concept was first introduced by Frank Reuleaux—who was a mechanical engineer—in 1875. Over a century later, in 1995, Dr. Arthur Steindler adapted the theory for human movement: especially sports movements and exercise. He described the kinetic chain as “…combination of several successively arranged joints constituting a complex motor unit”.  This series or chain can be either open or closed. Closed, in the basic sense, is SHIME in Shotokan-Ryu.
The key point of understanding, for the karateka, is to use the joints and muscles in the correct order. This requires relaxation, correct technical form and full understanding of each stage of every movement. In the case of Asai Sensei, he refined this in his karate. In fact, he did so more than any other contemporary master of the art. Nevertheless—and while his karate certainly was revolutionary—he claimed that this was the “…natural ‘way of technique’ before the rise (and domination) of sports karate”.

That is “…when developing maximum impact power was the objective of all the percussive blows of karate—tsukiwaza, keriwaza and uchiwaza”—as opposed to merely ‘looking strong’ or ‘getting a point’.

Using the kinetic chain correctly will result in maximum impact, maximum pressure in locks and chokes, maximum power in throws, and so on. The correct order of bodily actions is, indeed, not the only part of the equation. Fighting is not like that. Opponent(s), environment, one’s own condition at the time and other factors all come into play. Nevertheless, being able to use your kinetic chain optimally—that is, subconsciously etched into all of your kihonwaza—is at the heart of one’s karate. Yes, it is what separates the average karateka from the good one, the good from the great, and great from the world’s most elite practitioners.

Many of my students have benefitted from this knowledge and ALL have have greatly improved their karate via it. While this is just one aspect, it is undeniably a highly important KIHON.

Asai Sensei summed up 'the kinetic chain' in 'layman's terms' when he provided his example of the Chinese ‘Seven Jointed Whip’ and, also his favorite weapon: the kusarigama, which is a sickle on the end of a chain.
This, in part, is the essence of whip action, wave motion and what Asai Sensei referred to as 'chameleon'; that is, a mix of different elements,  techniques and/or weapons of the body: within one action. This topic is EXTREMLY ADVANCED.

To conclude, by seeking to use each chain link in the correct order, precise form, and use of power/energy. This can be done by oneself through thorough practice and/or by accessing high level mentorship. In any case, merely learning such movement has no real meaning unless it is applicable in a freestyle context.

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

Sunday 5 July 2020


Today I trained really hard. This is something that I do not do all the time, but of course, is sometimes necessary.

The practice was fully devoted to kata training, starting with Heian Shodan over and over again. Really tough but wonderful practice!!! Following this I worked on Sochin and Nijushiho. At present Sochin is high on my agenda as it coincides with my training objectives for advancement. Also, based on personal advice from Osaka Yoshiharu Sensei, who I thank very much for his input into my development.
To conclude, I went through the Joko Kata... Which IKS is the only karate organization in the world with the original versions of these formal exercises (developed by Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei).
The versions I learned were actually, outside of the group trainings, very different; moreover, make them relevant to overall training and, particularly outstanding. I have yet to teach these versions to anyone. So this is yet another job I must do to avoid them being lost.

Looking at Joko kata (taught and practiced in the mainstream), they are merely just big blocks of kihon; hence, their unpopularity. When people learn the real versions, I believe that they will be inspired! Also, as a side package, they will learn the origin of Yahara Mikio Sensei's karate.

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

Wednesday 1 July 2020


At the dojo today. July 1st. Part Two of 2020 begins...

The karate that I practice and teach is primarily based on being relaxed. There are, of course, other aspects; however, this aspect underpins everything else. Accordingly, this is where I will start today: the very beginning of 'Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei's Way'. From these five base points starting with relaxation, one can begin to learn the more advanced aspects and applications of his bujutsu focused karate. So, far, I have not shared all of these points with any of my students; however, in the next few years I hope to complete this process, then move on to teaching them the more advanced/sophisticated aspects of Asai Sensei's karate. I believe this must be handed down for the future, Osu, André

(1) Relaxation: Relaxing is indeed not only physical, it is mental. To have a soft body one must relax their mind. You must ‘go back to zero’ in order to reach one hundred percent of your capacity. A great physical start point—and reference as one progresses—is to focus on using the joints as opposed to unnecessarily using the muscles; that is, let the muscles do their job without conscious tension. MAXIMIZE SPEED/VELOCITY…

Support leg drive in Ushiro-geri,
A key point is that relaxation is not necessarily visible. The standard Shotokan-Ryu form is still normal when it comes to the classical techniques and kata. What matters is the internal movement and the impact/effects of movements, not what is seen externally.

(2) Newton’s Second Law of Motion: The powerful force that launches an effective attack is the use of Newton’s second law of motion. Acceleration (Quality = Force). The body’s center of gravity must move from zero to 100% to utilize this law. FULLY USE YOUR WEIGHT/MASS…

Besides these first two points there are other physical mechanics such as (3) The natural use of circular ‘wave’ action; (4) The principle of parabola; (5) The use of leverage; (5) Force mechanics, and so forth… Nevertheless, everything really begins and ends with the first point: RELAXATION.

Movement 18 of Unsu Kata: Moving the center in harmony with technique and the transition into kiba-dachi.
In addition to relaxation, these other four points, form the base of Asai-ha Shotokan-ryu. Mastery of these base aspects means that the next door can be opened. I hope to train someone, hopefully several karateka, to this level within the next five years. Today is July 1st, so the second half of the year begins... I hope this brief article and, photos attached (from my training today here at the dojo), encourage you in your training; moreover, for those who are serious, provides some motivation and perhaps a clearer target!!!
To conclude,,, Asai Sensei always said: “Karate is easy”. He did not mean karate is easy to do, but one must be relaxed. Also to maximize 'natural energy'. This is the karate I was taught, which I follow and teach. – André 
古典型 (Koten-gata): 舞鶴大 (Maizuru Dai) is the second to last 'crane form' in the IKS.
 © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2020).