Friday 26 February 2021

A brief comparing and contrasting of the three Meikyo kata

 As you will know from my last article on here, and from my posts in past years, I practice three forms of 明鏡 (Meikyo): Meikyo, Meikyo Nidan and Meikyo Sandan. Today, based on several requests, I decided to briefly compare and contrast them. Furthermore, I’ll include some other information I learned from Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei and other masters. Taken as whole, I hope that this post is both enlightening and perhaps even motivational for your training. Before I go on, my reason for writing this and the last post, is that I’ve been doing a lot of the three Meikyo recently; and consequently (in addition to requests for this follow-up article), I felt inspired to write this and the last post. So let’s get on with it!

The sankaku-tobi in the first Meikyo.

明鏡  (Meikyo)

This kata is practiced in standard JKA style Shotokan and has 33 movements with its one kiai at the high point of the Sankaku-tobi with migi hiji sasho-uchi (movement 32). This is the only jump in the Meikyo series. Besides this a highlight is the practice of ryosho bo-uke and bo-oshikomi. Warning! Please don't try this against someone wielding a bo seriously at you!!! The name is just a name. This is only the basic 'bunkai' to 'learn the movements/positions'. It's easy to do that with a bo in the hands. The 'oyo' or actual application is an arm lock/joint dislocation technique). Another standout point of the first Meikyo is the ‘reflective enbusen’ which is where it’s name was derived. It sum this kata is a synthesis of the three Itosu Rohai by Funakoshi Gichin Sensei and also a simplified version. As a side note it was the last kata in the ‘Best Karate’ series and was performed by my instructor Asai Tetsuhiko. I was told that this was because it was Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei’s ‘tokui-gata’. Last but not least, it was the kata that Asai Sensei randomly called when I did my Godan exam nearly 20 years ago; so consequently, it has heightened significance for me because of that memory.


明鏡二段  (Meikyo Nidan)

This kata is Matsumura Rohai, which is the longest in the series with 44 movements. The two kiai are on movement 16 (hidari tateken chudan oi-zuki) and movement 42 (migi mikazuki-geri, sasho-ate). A standout point is the slow use of moving into sagiashi-dachi making simultaneous hidari shuto jodan-uke and migi shuto gedan-uke. Another highlight is transferring from hidari shuto chudan-uke into hidari jodan yoko-nukite followed by mikazuki-geri flowing through the target via tenshin. Overall, this kata has special relevance as it was the first kata that Asai Sensei taught, outside of the ‘standard JKA kata’; accordingly, he specifically used it as a bridge for Shotokan karateka to think outside the box. To add some personal importance for me, this kata blew my mind when I found out about it! By 1993 I was already well versed in all 26 of the 'standard Japan Karate Association kata'. Finding out that there was more, and Asai Sensei was now teaching this knowledge, really amped up my motivation. That motivation still lives in me now, and was boosted via Meikyo Nidan.


明鏡三段 (Meikyo Sandan)

Meikyo Sandan, like Nidan, is an older form than the ‘synthesized Itosu Rohai’ (Meikyo) of Funakoshi Sensei. I will reveal this in the future as the history will better enhance my teaching of it; moreover, at least three other kata called ‘Meikyo Sandan’ have come into existence in recent years: even though they have no resemblance or applications similar to Meikyo Sandan. With 40 movements this kata is elegant and strong. The two kiai are found on movement 26 (migi seiken gedan gyaku-zuki) and movement 36 (migi mikazuki-geri, sasho-ate), which is also found in Nidan but with a more subtle ‘sonomama’ hidari shuto chudan-uke/kamae throughout. Excluding this kick, there are five balances on one leg in Meikyo Sandan. Three are sagiashi-dachi (in contrast with Nidan these are fast and with the foot hooked behind the sasae-ashi like Gankaku), one is ashi soto-uke (which is also quick) and one is a slow mae hiza-geri. This is said to resemble a heron hunting in a river. The great point of this kata is that it is technically mature formal exercise. It wasn't exactly my 'cup of tea' in my 20s. I was more of a 'Unsu, Hushu, Raiko kind of guy'; however, I found great depth in this kata and from my 30s. Indeed, this was not only the case with Meikyo Sandan, but this kata is typically representative of those advances in my understanding and increases in technical skill. Still, so much more to learn. Osu!


 I’d like to add some comments to conclude. Firstly, unless you count mae hiza-geri (movement 33 in Sandan) the only kick in the three Meikyo forms is migi mikazuki-geri. In the first kata from hidari kentsui (tetsui) sokumen uchimawashi-uchi in kiba-dachi, the chudan mikazuki-geri connects with the left open hand (sasho-ate) then one steps rearward into migi kokutsu-dachi with ryoken gedan kakiwake. However, in Meikyo Nidan and Meikyo Sandan (after sasho-ate) one spins through and steps rearward. Another point I’d like to mention is that all three Meikyo greatly utilize 重力 (juryoku/gravity). This is a focus spanning all karate-waza, nevertheless, these three kata really home in on this point for power generation. I think I will conclude on this note.

 Best wishes and best training, AB.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).

Thursday 25 February 2021

明鏡三段 (Meikyo Sandan)

In IKS we have three Meikyo kata, all of which are ‘Koten-gata’ (classical forms). The first is found in mainstream Shotokan, simply called ‘Meikyo’. This kata is a combination of Itosu Rohai that was formulated by Funakoshi Sensei. Meikyo Nidan is the Matsumura form of Rohai.


And Meikyo Sandan is another old form of Rohai. I will leave it there for now.


I have seen Kato Sadashige’s Meikyo Sandan and this kata is a completely different kata from Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei’s (just as Hushu/Fushu/Kaze no te is). Please note that I am not being negative about Kato Sensei’s kata but, in these cases, they are not same kata that Asai Sensei taught. They were made by Mr. Kato. One of Kato Sensei’s senior students told me that he wanted to ‘creatively cover the kata he was not taught from Asai Sensei’.


There are also other kata shown online (labelled Meikyo Sandan) which are bizarre, and clearly contemporary forms with no purpose. One of which is stands out features lots of spinning on one leg with manji-uke followed by lots of weak counters. Someone clearly just composed this kata apparently for looks. It is ugly because it is both ineffective and clearly non-traditional; that is, not developed with actual fighting foremost in mind.


I have not taught Meikyo Sandan publicly yet, nor to my students, as there are so many kata to teach. However, it is now high priority for a future seminar as it is an excellent kata, and beautiful—not only in its movements—but for its effectiveness. When I teach this kata in the future, I will give its history as it is impressive. And, as always, I’ll also teach all of its oyo (applications).

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).

Sunday 21 February 2021


Here I am tonight nursing a baby budgie, yet, ten years ago tomorrow, my wife Mizuho and I almost died from a natural disaster. Tomorrow is an important day for the people of Christchurch and Aotearoa New Zealand. So I thought I'd publicly share what happened to us today, a day prior to the ten year anniversary of the February 22nd Earthquake.

We were on our way to sign up for an apartment in Central Christchurch. In late 2010 we had returned to New Zealand from Japan. It was for my on-going study at the University of Canterbury.

Finally, after an extremely odd loss of direction to get to the estate agency, we were driving up Lichfield Street on the right track. In front of us were two red commuter buses. Both of the buses were moving particularly slowly, so I suddenly did something out of the ordinary, I really accelerated and bypassed the buses, then turned right into Colombo Street. Mizuho actually told me off because she was shocked at my sudden and uncharacteristic burst of speed. However, to my frustration, we were stopped at the Tuam Street intersection: via a red light. I was really worried about missing out on the new apartment.


Looking up into the rear-view mirror I could see one of the buses slowly roll up directly behind our car. The bus was there, directly behind us, for at least a few seconds before a thunderous roar occurred.


Our car bounced, and Mizuho and I literally saw the buildings begin to collapse. I pressed onto the accelerator as hard as I could to centralize our car in the middle of the intersection. I didn't have a chance to see if we'd collide with a car from the side. I just reacted in fear. I could have caused my wife to die in that moment alone.


My only thinking was 'this is it?'. The shaking was too fast, too violent. I didn’t see it, but Mizuho saw people disappear in the moments I desperately accelerated. Suddenly all vision was lost from all the dust. If you saw the images of September 11th, that was what we saw. A blanket of dust and no vision for a brief period. The only sound was what we believe to be security sirens and breaking infrastructure. Smashing glass. Other than that, there were no other sounds. While our car was damaged by falling bricks and parts of collapsed masonry, we suffered nothing but bruises from violence of the shakes. We were literally smashed into the car by it. Mizuho had several severe bruises.


After that, in shock, we were surrounded by horror. There were many seriously injured and dead around us.

This was directly behind our car on February 22nd, 2011.

 I wont talk about this anymore, except to say that this happened ten years ago tomorrow. Needless to say, we will never forget it. 

We want to honor those who passed away, lost loved ones, and those who suffered life changing injuries.

Ten years on, if one or both of us had been taken then, we would not have our beautiful daughter now and, indeed, so many life experiences since then. We often reflect on those who died that day and can only feel deep empathy for them and their loved ones. Beautiful life and time taken away. 

Mizuho and I will remember that day for the rest of our lives. Our love, thoughts and prayers are with you all at this time.


André and Mizuho Ono


 © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021). 

Wednesday 17 February 2021

The bad days in the dojo are often more productive than the good ones!

Movement six of Meikyo Sandan: Migi chudan kagi-zuki (Yori-ashi kiba-dachi).

 Today’s training, I went through the 気法拳  (Kihoken) forms—Issei, Nisei and Sansei. 真拳 (Shinken), which is commonly (and incorrectly) referred to as the fourth Kihoken kata. Furthermore, I practiced 掌手小 (Shote-Sho) and the three 明鏡  (Meikyo) kata.

 For kihon it was the first two renzokuwaza in the IKS 国際空手道松濤館 

Nidan Syllabus. The requirements I have for the Nidan Exam comprises of merely three ido kihon-waza and two sonoba kihon-waza. We do not test kihon separately above Nidan, so Nidan is the final independent testing of kihon. Accordingly, I have very specific requirements which are very budo/bujtusu orientated: unlike the standard Shotokan requirements, which are merely 'for the test'. Our kihon is for ongoing development, so I cut out all of the irrelevances (many of which are real time wasters in training). My thinking is that the syllabus must promote excellence, not just be something one needs to past 'exams'.

Movement 23 of Meikyo Sandan: Hidari soto ashi-uke doji ni hidari jodan soto-uke.
I must add here that these two kihon-waza also covered my kumite practice; again, amplifying that our syllabus is not only for tests but, rather, lifelong budo/bujutsu.

Movement one of Shote-Sho: Migi kakuto doji ni teisho suigetsugamae (Migi ashimae nekoashi-dachi).

Movement four of Meikyo Sandan: Hidari shuto gedan-barai (Yori-ashi kiba-dachi).

          I want to share something with you to encourage you! 

Today was not my best day in my self training, let’s face it we have and good and bad days; nonetheless, even in my teens I found that (as the title of this post says) "...the bad days in the dojo are often more productive than the good ones!" My advice is that you keep this in mind!!! It's one of my real secrets of motivation and actual tangible progression.

 Train hard, train smart and make the most of yourself! WHY NOT???

Positive energy to everyone. Osu, André.

The final waza of Shote-Sho: Hidari tateshuto doji ni migi shuto jodan sokumen-gamae (Hidari ashi mae fudo-dachi).

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).

Sunday 14 February 2021

Today's training I dedicate to Morgan.

Besides watching the YOUTUBE video please read the description underneath it. 

© André Bertel,  Oita City, Japan (2021).


Friday 12 February 2021

In Memory of Morgan Dilks

 In memory of


 (November 30, 1974—February 8, 2021).

 Earlier this week a very dear friend was lost. Earlier today, a beautiful celebration of his life was held in Palmerston North, New Zealand.


We have been deeply grieved by Morgan’s departure and offer our heartfelt condolences: especially to his wife Yuko, daughters Yuri and Miya; his parents; siblings; and many friends.

Words cannot suffice so I thought I'd share some links on my blog, over the years, which include articles and clips from YouTube. Whether a family member or friend I hope you enjoy these. I had so many wonderful times, in and out of the dojo, for over 20+ years with Morgan, his beautiful family, and students/friends.  My family and I will always cherish these times.


André Bertel

Wednesday 3 February 2021


Today I will make a post with just images from my self-training. The first is KANKU DAI KATA, the second is KIHON (SONKYO MAE-GERI), the third is KIBAKEN KATA, and the fourth is the entrance to where I practiced.

 I hope this finds everyone, who reads this, in good health and spirits. My objective is to send positive energy and to motivate. ENTHUSIASM is one of the greatest human traits. However, it is not just automatic. It takes work! Of course, work is hard, but brings great benefits when accompanied by perseverance. Indeed, OSU NO SEISHIN is ‘the spirit of perseverance’ so all karateka must seek these aspects. This is SHIN-GI-TAI.

You can do anything if you follow these points and stick to them. The challenge is in making these words a 'consistent reality'. GO FOR IT!


Just to update, a new video will hopefully be uploaded soon. Until then, a big “OSU” and positive energy from Japan. – André.



 © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).

Monday 1 February 2021

突き (TSUKI)


Chudan maete-zuki with nakadaka-ippon ken.

 The one thing that is taught by many older masters here in Japan is that TSUKI is not a ‘punch’; rather, “tsuki is tsuki—a THRUST”. Whatever ‘karada no buki’ one is applying, when executing a tsukiwaza, it is like driving with a spear. Indeed, in the case of circular tsuki (as opposed to the more commonplace linear thrusts) it is applied in a more like turning and driving with a bo (staff).

In this way we can see the immense power of karate tsukiwaza, moreover, their relationship to self-defense as opposed to ‘fighting’/’dueling’.

 If this were not the case, we would undoubtedly see these waza in boxing, and the like. There is no doubt that boxing is the supreme art of ‘dueling with punches’.

 The traditional karate tsuki, with the exception of two-handed tsuki (reference: Hangetsu, Kanku-Sho, Bassai Sho, Junro Nidan, Hachimon, etc) is deeply connected to the hiki-te. The hiki-te, again (beyond the basic aspect of 'action/reaction'), is all about pulling the opponent in, off-balancing, blindsiding, and setting/positioning them for an optimally effective impact. Furthermore, once the hiki-te is applied, “…the level of fine motor skills required to achieve a highly reliable and destructive blow (or blows) is immensely mitigated”.


Here’s an example I use. ”You can compare tsuki without utilizing the hiki-te (in the bujutsu sense) as being like facing a pitcher in a baseball game. Comparatively, when the hiki-te is applied, the pitcher vanishes and game switches from baseball to Tee-ball”.


For those of you, who may be unaware of Tee-Ball, here is its definition: “Tee-ball is a team sport, which is primarily used to introduce four to six-year old’s to baseball, softball and cricket. Basically, the child bats the ball off a STATIONARY POST (the tee); thus, immensely simplifying the ability to strike the ball.


Returning to karate… Again, as stated already, this is one of the functions of the hiki-te: 'to momentarily make a target STATIONARY,  UNBALANCED and BLINDSIDED so ‘the big hit’ becomes much easier. 


From this point alone, we can see that karate is not a military fighting art; but rather, it is a civilian art of self-protection.


The techniques and approaches are not based on ‘having a fight with someone’; instead, it is based on 'someone else initiating a potentially life-threatening violence against you, your loved one's, or others, who are maliciously attacked’. That is not to say that ‘preemptive attacks’ are not employed but, again, they are done in a way in which ‘the aim is to finish the opponent as quickly as possible’ (as the context is always self-defense). I will reiterate: the aim is 'defensively fight', not to 'be a fighter'.

Impact training is absolutely imperative training  in Budo/Bujutsu Karate.

In this regard, I need to clarify about ‘ichigeki-hissatsu’, which literally means ‘to finish’ with one blow. This is the aim of ALL KARATE TECHNIQUES. That is, the bar is raised to the highest point, so each karateka aims to maximize their potential. Yes, the aim is to end the conflict with the first hit, however, we also train in combinations. One piece of advice I received as a child—when I was still a kyu grade karateka—was “The first one stuns them, the second knocks them out, and the third makes sure that it’s over”. I have ended fights with one tsuki but usually it takes more.


It is here that I need to mention that we have many atemi/kyusho (vital points) to hit and dangerous karada no buki (weapons of the body) we can attack them with. For example, a tsuki with shihon-nukite to the eyes, hiraken to the throat, nakadaka ippon-ken to the temple, and so forth. When “…such waza are combined with the traditional use of hiki-te—they can produce devastating effect—even by slightly built and aged karateka”.


Conclusion: Please remember, IT IS FINE to refer to say ‘a gyaku-zuki’ as a 'REVERSE PUNCH’; nonetheless, its literal translation is a ‘thrust’: ‘even when snapped back’. The English term 'punch' describes the surface level intent (in many ways watering it down), whist the Japanese literal translation describes both the action and conveys a more destructive attack. 

Just like the term ‘uke’ is not ‘block, rather a ‘reception’. I too loosely use the terms punches and blocks (as they are widely used outside Japan and, indeed, amongst the younger generation within Japanwhom mostly now only practice 'sports karate'); however, one must know "...the literal translation of each waza, position, and movement, to achieve the essence of it". I should write more about this in the future. I’d like to end with a quote: “Tsuki is not limited to seiken, but the seiken is the foundational fist for all the others (please note the initial photo in this article). To conclude, I hope that you find this article of some use in your training. Osu, André

The 'deep' kizami-zuki. It is also important to practice the variations of tsuki for adaptability in application.

 © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021).