Thursday 29 April 2021

My current daily self-training

 Finally, here’s my current daily self-training regime. Rather than give reps, sets, durations, and other such details, today I thought I’d focus more on my points of attention and lastly my methodology. Sorry if this schedule may seem not so interesting on paper/screen; nevertheless, it’s been a very challenging schedule for me and, at times, fun. Before I begin, I would like to wish everyone who reads this the very best. Hopefully it provides some useful information and perhaps even some motivation. 



Kumite with my student Lyall Stone. Lyall was in the group of my first students to achieve Shodan.

基本  (KIHON)

Tachikata practice… “Fronting up with the front stance”…

1.     Zenkutsu-dachi with various unsoku: forward, rearward, leftward and rightward, diagonally forward and backward, and with all the variations of tenshin.


In particular, I’m really focusing on projecting my ‘front stance’ forward during

all footwork; furthermore, during the various transitions into shomen/zenmi,

hanmi and gyaku-hanmi.



Foundational tsukiwaza and enpiuchi no waza:

2.     Chudan choku-zuki (Shizentai).

3.     Chudan oi-zuki (From zenkutsu-dachi, gedan-barai).

4.     Jodan kizami-zuki (Stationary zenkutsu-dachi).

5.     Chudan gyaku-zuki (Stationary zenkutsu-dachi).

6.     Jodan kizami-zuki kara chudan gyaku-zuki (Stationary zenkutsu-dachi).

7.     Asai Sensei enpi-uchi combination no. 1

8.     Asai Sensei enpi-uchi combination no. 2


My main objective at present is to move as naturally as possible: SHIZEN-KARATE (I will upload an article about this soon). In particular, with relaxation of muscles, full use of shime on the joints, and speed with precision.



Freestyle kihon:

From jiyu-dachi with a freestyle kamae transiting through zenkutsu-dachi (Keriwaza kara tsukiwaza).


9.     Chudan mae-geri keage kara chudan oi-zuki.

10. Chudan mawashi-geri kara jodan gyaku-zuki.

11. Chudan ushiro-geri kekomi kara chudan gyaku-zuki.


To sum up my ‘main focus’ with these three renzokuwaza, which I am currently working on is as follows: (a) A high and tight knee chambering; (b) Relaxed ‘whip action of each keriwaza; (c) Trajectory in combination with tai no shinshuku—not strictly classical but practical hip ‘extension’ whilst still ‘getting the weight into each keriwaza’; and (d) The descension/compression and expansion for the follow up tsukiwaza… There is much more to this last point as it also entails a high level of situational awareness which, needless to say, I’m always constantly working on.



組手  (KUMITE)

Application of the aforementioned ‘legs followed by hands’ in the context of DEAI; furthermore, the extension of training via the switching of legs and setting of the hips to control maai. Overall, the waza must have destructive power (in reality), which is consistently reliable. In this regard, the use of energy and fluidity/adaptability is of special importance in this training. In sum, techniques will be combatively unreliable if they can only be used in a specific context with maximum impact power. This is my current focus in my kumite training.



Today my kata training consisted of Heian Shodan, Heian Nidan, Bassai Dai and Raiko. However, I’ve also been covering all of the other kata in my general training.


More than ‘what kata I am doing each day’, my use of energy has been my major focus. I’m sure that you have already recognized that this is perfectly in harmony with my current kihon and kumite training: of course, that is not coincidental. My target is always ‘gaining results based on evidence as opposed to feeling(s). This is why, as a coach, the demand for my teaching is high. The fact is that high level training combined with evidence-based analysis not only gets results—it keeps getting increasingly the individuals skill-level. I am not bragging about this but, rather, stressing the need for karateka to also follow this methodology for themselves (if they don’t already). Any other way is literally like taking a long and complex journey without a map or means of accurate navigation. I will say it again, training and teaching must be scientific. YES to the knowledge of the past: TRADITION. But also YES to CONTEMPORARY KNOWLEDGE. People ask why I always improve and this is the answer. Don’t get fooled by talk and gimmicks. Many people now have all sorts of ideas and articulate them well. As Mike Tyson says: “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”. I'll leave that there…


I’d like to make one more comment, in regards to optimal kata training. Everyone is limited with kata including myself (that is, no one can master all of the kata, if we are talking about ‘karate as bujutsu’/’kata to enhance one’s combative ability’); therefore, “…specialization in one to three kata (which is the ‘traditional way’) is optimal. That being said, ‘training generally’ is also a good practice, and is particularly essential for lower dan practitioners and instructors”. Let me reiterate… Kata training for instructors and lower level yudansha is twofold: (1) Tokui-gata—specialized kata practice (including complete oyo/bunkai); and (2) Broad practice.


What’s interesting about the broad training—besides maintaining general knowledge (which is obviously important when coaching others and ‘adding some spice to daily practice’)—is that “…every so often it results in karateka 'bringing in a new kata' into their tokui group.” This happens for several reasons, the most obvious being: (a) an increase in technical maturity/skill/knowledge; (b) aging; (c) injury/illness; (d) a recognition that another kata is better suited or more useful for their ‘jissen-kumite development’, and so forth.  For example, I can name many senpai here in Japan whose tokui-gata were Unsu, Sochin or Gojushiho Sho in their youth, but now their ‘tokui’ are kata such as Meikyo, Jiin, Chinte, Hangetsu and so on.


One might say this is because of ‘competition’ which certainly has some merit; however, from my own training and discussion with these seniors, the main reason is ‘fighting style’/practical application of their kata (via their self-training and corresponding research). Certainly, age and injuries come into play; however, as also said above, technical maturity is also a major factor. This highlights an important saying in Shotokan: “The depth of one’s karate is found in the most simple waza and kata”. As I’ve stated in the past, “An Olympic gymnast within a few seconds of observation can make an Unsu jump better than any karateka; yet, to make a good oi-zuki will take them years of training”.


I hope from what I’ve outlined today—via providing you with my current self-training regime—shows a seamless line connecting Kihon, Kumite and Kata; moreover, that you can see a tangible formula for literally improving your karate prowess irrespective of where you are presently.


Greetings from Oita City, Kyushu, Japan.

アンドㇾ バーテル


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

Tuesday 27 April 2021

Doryoku no seishin wo yashinau koto (cultivating the spirit of effort)


Doryoku no seishin wo yashinau koto

André Bertel

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

Monday 12 April 2021

温故知新 (Onkochishin)


Asai Sensei taught me that "ONKOCHISHIN is critical in Bujutsu". 

 温故知新 (Onkochishin) means “to study and learn what happened in the past, and to utilize the knowledge gained from this to acquire deeper knowledge; furthermore, an expansion of this knowledge”.


We can see onkochishin in the formation of what became known as 松濤館流 (Shotokan-Ryu) and its ongoing evolution. Certainly in the other kaiha/ryuha also.


It is very important to retain and work to ‘attempt to master’ the karate knowledge of the past; however, it is also very important “…to use this knowledge as a springboard to deepen and expand karate”.


More than anything, to be fruitful, cerebral knowledge/understandings must be a part of physical karate training itself—as opposed to merely being 'budo/bujutsu academia'. Otherwise, onkochishin cannot be a part of one’s karate.


Onkochishin in karate must intrinsically be founded on bujutsu/budo, otherwise it cannot legitimately be onkochishin for effectiveness in unarmed self-defense. Karate ineffective in this regard is nothing more than bodily exercise and art. Bodily exercise, sports and art, independently (away from Budo/Bujutsu), can and never will constitute true karate: irrespective of social change.


Needless to say, this aspect of karate is a major part of the Shotokan-ryu, the Asai-ha karate, that I practice and teach; moreover, this sets “…a major divide between authentic karate and current mainstream shadow of the art”.





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