Saturday, 6 March 2021


At a higher level, the foundational techniques are highly variable in the sense of individuals; nonetheless, the keys points and actions remain largely the same.

 For example, one person’s shuto-uke (sword hand reception) may be more or less extended than another’s.

At the ‘brick laying time’ of “… laying and setting one’s foundation” (I’m quoting myself here, and will do several more times in this article) ‘the three core chudan ukewaza’—sotouke, uchiuke and shutouke— have the elbow ‘one fist width, to one and a half fist widths, from the body’.

Practicing keriwaza at Usa Jingu, Usa-City, Oita.
Certainly, THIS IS IMPORTANT up until ‘at least the Shodan stage of one’s karate training’; however, with a strong foundation “…in order to maximize oneself as a budoka—one must customize waza according to their own bodies and ‘what makes each waza most effective for them’”.


This is where some instructors come unstuck… Even those with high Dan and especially those locked into mainstream organizations. The reason this occurs is quite simple: these instructors take everything from their organizations as pure ‘karate gospel’. That is, sweeping and generic statements and requirements blanket all aspects of their own art. Accordingly, irrespective of how skillful or not skillful these individuals are, in actual budo/bujutsu they are functioning at a low level: again, irrespective of how they move. Yes, being  ‘technical parrot’ is not a good thing for any budoka “…if one wishes to go beyond a low to intermediate level”. Put another way it’s like grown adults who never leave home.


This is by no means an attack on any organization; however, it highlights the importance for taking self-responsibility irrespective of ‘where one is’ in their training and karate journey in general: organization or no organization. Yes, organizations are often good, but obviously people are not organizations. I’ve heard people say, “I’m so and so”, proudly quoting the acronyms of well known karate groups.


Shote-Sho Kata at Yusuhara Jinja, Oita City (2006).

Well, that’s fine, but they are not that organization. They are THEM. And just because they are ‘a member’ of any given group doesn’t mean they are reflective of the elite members in it. Connecting to a group is of course fine, but it should not be used as an individual’s ‘karate identity’ nor as a cover for their own technical level. An acronym doesn’t make one’s karate good nor will it save you in a fight. Sadly, a lot of people act like it will! 

To recapitulate, everyone, irrespective of organization, years of training, grade, qualifications, tournament victories, etc., must take responsibility for their own karate.


Returning to basic technique and to the shuto-uke example at the start of this article…  Just because ‘so and so sensei’ (or an organization as a whole) told you “this is the correct way” or, even, “this is the only way”: each karateka must practice/train and experiment for him/her selves—'TO FIND THE BEST WAY FOR THEMSELVES!’.


My training and coaching methodology is this… I tell everyone, “Don’t just listen to me. Test it out! Make your karate work for you”. DON’T BLINDLY LISTEN—to André Bertel or anyone else—PRACTICE, TRAIN, LEARN AND TEST. This cycle is constantly revolving for everyone who is actively seeking excellence in any field.


Let me give another example, from kata… I was teaching in Germany and one nice instructor, who I don’t know well, was complaining how his country “…is not keeping up with the latest changes in kata coming from Japan”. He then asked me “what is correct way now?”  He did this after showing me differing ways of doing chudan kentsui hasami-uchi in Bassai Dai. I answered, by saying “If you did a grading under me, you’d pass on all of these variations except one of them, depending on how you would apply them”. The one which was wrong was bio-mechanically wrong; that is, it was just movement. Thus, it was just plainly incorrect. My point was to illustrate ‘bigger picture’ to him. To want to add here that, while I don’t know this individual well, he was an utter gentleman throughout his talk with me, and I admired his enthusiasm to ‘get things right’. I hope that my explanation has ‘freed up his karate more’ and led to his self-improvement. Likewise, I hope this to those who are reading this article!


In sum, one must find the best way for themselves in reference to effectiveness. The WAY WHICH MAXIMIZES YOUR EFFECTIVENESS IS THE CORRECT WAY FOR YOU!


I was interviewed last year, here was one answer when asked about my coaching methodology/pedagogy:

“I do not believe in getting hung up on things that are technically irrelevant; rather, I focus attention on the things that really matter—from the top down. In this way, the organization supports the maximum development of individuals.”


This is a core principle of IKS (International Karate Shotokan), how I train each day, and indeed how I teach; moreover, it is, as I said before: UNIVERSALLY THE CORRECT WAY. Osu, André



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

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