Saturday 31 July 2021


 I have an exciting announcement for the followers of Budo Karate!

 After much effort I managed to acquire and, more importantly, have been dissecting a copy of Nakayama Masatoshi Senseis epic textbook: Karate-Do: 精神と技法 (Kokoro to waza). Fittingly, I am doing this in the 108th year since Nakayama Sensei was born. 

'Kokoro to waza' was only made in 日本語 (Japanese language); furthermore, thanks to kind correspondence with several seniors, I found out that, until now, it is largely not known about outside Japan! WELL, THIS CHANGES FROM TODAY!!!


Another important point was that 'Kokoro to waza' was orginally published in 1985, two years prior to Nakayama Sensei’s passing. However, the version I have is the literally the ninth print of 300 special editionsin memorial of Nakayama Senseiall of which were released in 1987.

All of you will recognize many famous photos in this book, however, few outside Japan will know that this textbook was the source of them.


Content… It includes the the content of (what is known in English as) 'Dynamic Karate' but has been greatly updated and extensively expands on that publication. This again elucidates that this was Nakayama Sensei's greatest written work. 

Most importantly, I need to state here that 'I am not wishing to tease anyone reading this'! 

Rather, I want to clarify that 'I want to share information here' via some articles (from my translating and analysis of ‘Kokoro to waza’). So stay tuned!

To conclude, my hope is to pass on some positive and uplifting energy at this time for the followers of Budo Karate here in Japan and around world. While Budo Karateka are certainly the minority, it is this minority that will KEEP TRUE KARATE ALIVE.


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

Monday 26 July 2021

Present Training Regime

HERE IS MY PRESENT TRAINING REGIME. I have added some notes about repetitions and also my objectives. If nothing else, I hope it gets at least one person around the world into their dogi and practicing outside their regular dojo-geiko. I'll leave it there for the time being. Osu!!

基本  (KIHON)                                                                                                             


その場基本 (Sonoba-Kihon)


1.     Migi jodan choku-zuki kara hidari chudan choku-zuki (Hidari ashi mae sanchin-dachi).


2.     Hidari jodan choku-zuki kara migi chudan choku-zuki (Migi ashi mae sanchin-dachi).


3.     Migi chudan gyaku-zuki kara hidari chudan tateshuto-kamae (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).


4.     Hidari chudan gyaku-zuki kara migi chudan tateshuto-kamae (Migi zenkutsu-dachi).


5.     Hidari chudan kizami mae-geri kara migi jodan mae-geri keage (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).


6.     Migi chudan kizami mae-geri kara hidari jodan mae-geri keage (Migi zenkutsu-dachi).


7.     Tate enpi-uchi kara ushiro enpi-uchi, mae enpi-uchi soshite yoko enpi-uchi (Heiko-dachi).


8.     Uraken yokomawashi-uchi kara kaiten uraken (Heiko-dachi kara kosa-dachi).


9.     Shuto sotomawashi-uchi kara shuto uchimawashi-uchi soshite shuto otoshi-uchi (Heiko-dachi kara fudo-dachi).


10.Sanbon ren-zuki (Heisoku-dachi kara zenkutsu-dachi).



Repetitions: 10 warm up reps—super slow; then, 30 or more reps with maximum speed without compromising form. Pertaining to this point, the concentration on ‘chikara no kyojaku’ and ‘waza no kankyu is high on my ‘sonoba-kihon’ agenda.





移動基本 (Ido-Kihon)


(1) Either oi-zuki or sanbon ren-zuki; (2) Mae-geri or ren-geri; (3) Chudan mawashi-geri; (4) Yoko-keage (Kiba-dachi); (5) Yoko-kekomi (Kiba-dachi or zenkutsu-dachi). (6–10) The five core Shotokan-Ryu ukewaza followed by a single tsuki (the four closed fist ukewaza followed by chudan gyaku-zuki, and shuto-uke coupled with chudan tate-nukite).


Repetitions: 10 warm up reps—five in each direction, again like sonoba-kihon these are super slow. I then do as little as ten reps with speed, but usually 20–30 depending on my daily condition, namely, fatigue level. Every year in summer this is the same as humidity in Japan at this time is particularly volatile—even for me, as someone who loves the heat. Indeed, in regards to heat and humidity, serious training is a different beast from other daily activities. On a positive note, this is something to overcome and warm ups, metaphorically speaking, become a breeze. The technical focus in this ido-kihon practice is ‘heels, toes, knees, hips and the top of my head’—namely for ‘maximum transition of weight/the center, and the snapping of limbs into the imaged target’.


Needless to say, after all my solo work, sonoba-kihon and ido-kihon I use the makiwara and/or the sandbag to practice impacting with maximum power. This training is where I spend most of my time in kihon.






Solo practice of attack, defense and counterattack with:


A.        五本組手 (Gohon Kumite).

B.        基本一本組手 (Kihon Ippon Kumite).

C.        自由一本組手 (Jiyu Ippon Kumite).

D.        居取り(Idori).


Kumite is the easiest and most ‘fun’ part of my current training regime. And I’m not going to lie, it’s very laid back. What I do is ‘cruise through’ these four forms of Kumite then blast them out—both attacking and defensive/counter-offensive portions—twice or three times. In particular, I’m being loose with the counterattacks, using a lot of different waza, tachikata and various forms of unsoku. What makes this fun, even though I’m doing it without an opponent, is that I must counter 'instinctively'. The challenge here is to not do anything superfluous or ineffective. A weak point of many karateka is to think the fight is over after an impact. This is the point of zanshin, which must not be overlooked and is an important aspect of the IKS.


I must add here—that I know that—‘some criticize the practicality of IDORI’; moreover, they believe it is an outdated practice from ancient Japan. I understand this thinking; however, to be straight-up, it is incorrect. Allow me to clarify the purpose of idori practice and its benefits. First, I want to say “yes, it is not necessary”, just like kata is not necessary to fight; that being said, like kata, it can allow one to develop extremely refined skills that can help one to greatly boost fighting skills. In particular, I would like to quote a common thing said by all of my seniors here in Japan, in regards to idori training: “idori practice makes the hips and kahanshin, in general, come alive”. I want to expand on this point. I believe that idori is one of the means to take these aspects to the next level, furthermore, to further refine ground-power, which is a key point of the karate that I teach.





I really don’t want to bore anyone reading this, however, as much as I love the practice of kata, my current regime is not very interesting/exciting to explain. In saying that, it is achieving my goals and actually steering my overall routine in the technical sense.


The five kata I am using to refine my skills, at present, are as follows:


I.          平安初段 (Heian Shodan).

II.        鉄騎初段 (Tekki Shodan).

III.       二十四歩 (Nijushiho).

IV.       王冠 (Wankan).

V.        雷光 (Raiko).



The repetitions of each of these is highly variable, however as always, I tend to do each kata at least five times and up to nine times. Furthermore, I’m rarely doing all five in one day. Usually just one to three of them. During the weekdays, I follow this routine but, on Saturdays and Sunday’s, I do whatever kata I feel like to conclude my practice. For example, last Sunday I worked on珍手 (Chinte), 気法拳 (Kihouken) and 掌手小 (Shote-Sho).



Generic purposes of my current kata practice. Firstly, please refer to my notes about present kihon and kumite training. As brief as they are, they give a good basis of my daily attention. Secondly, I would like to very briefly/generically explain my purpose with each of these kata: Heian Shodan—large scale waza. I really can’t say enough about this kata, 40 years on—much of which has been full time, it is my SENSEI. A work in endless progress and with no end. Tekki Shodan—well, it could be any of the three Tekki (or indeed Kibaken); however, the focus is the same, in-fighting. Close range striking work, which seamlessly connects to my grappling training. Nijushiho… Always, continuity, smoothness, transitions and natural energy—all of which, all of you who experienced Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei will know this kata radiates. Wankan—a short kata with everything ‘joe-average’ needs in a street fight. And Raiko, just complexity and challenge of it. It’s just such a difficult kata; nonetheless, because of that, it pushes boundaries and helps me to stay on track with karate as bujutsu, due its use of all the sinister karada no buki (weapons of the body).


So that sums up my current training here in July of 2021, as of today, Monday the 26th. I hope that this post finds you all well. I really want to send my positive energy to senpai, peers and juniors here in Japan and around the world. Osu!!! 

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

Friday 23 July 2021

How old are you? That's a useless question! Instead, let's consider the benefits of Karate Training!!!

Many people have questioned my age, so I now just say "MADE IN 1975".

Revision of today's dojo training: July 23rd, 2021.

Some have even accused me of still being in my 20s. While that is usually a compliment, usually in the karate sense, 'youth as an instructor' is usually condescending. The funny thing here is that I'm now officially closer to 60 than 30, let alone being in my 20s. Thankfully, as we all know, the 60s (nowadays) are officially 'the new 40s'. 

Anyway, I believe in six generic things about karate, which pertain to age, looks, and its holistic benefits. I recommend these, and honestly do so, to those considering to start or return to karate training. I will briefly outline these here today. 

Firstly, karate training helps us to LOOK YOUNGER. Yes, shape and muscles, but also our skin.

Secondly, karate training helps our bodies to FEEL YOUNGER. More energy, range of motion, better functioning organs etc...

Stationary ushiromawashi-geri practice.

Thirdly, karate training helps us to BE MENTALLY STRONGER. Yes, that 'Osu no seishin' really builds inner strength and that vital attribute of resilience.  

Fourthly, karate training FORGES A POSITIVE MENTAL ATTITUDE which, needless to say, is an utterly priceless asset every day!

Fifthly, karate training FORCES US TO BE HUMBLE... If you train every day or regularly each week, you will be humbled by how there is always 'so much more' to improve on. 

Sixthly, karate training GIVES US AN ART, which makes it something more than its original purpose of self-defense.

These reasons and others are why I'm still doing the art of Karate four decades on. Still so much to learn, improve on, and ESPECIALLY 'gain' from daily training. Osu, greetings and positive energy from Western Japan.

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

Thursday 15 July 2021


Introduction: To begin, let’s consider the basic training of ‘stationary chudan gyaku-zuki’. From hachiji-dachi with ryoken daitai mae, advance with hidari gedan-barai into hidari zenkutsu-dachi. Assume hidari tateshuto-gamae. From this position execute migi seiken chudan gyaku-zuki followed by reassuming hidari tateshuto-gamae. Repeat for 30, 40, perhaps 100 + times (if you are at a crazy Japanese University karate club) then change and repeat on the opposite side. Certainly, this could be the opening of kihon practice in any dojo, anywhere, at any level.


Okay, so that being said, rather than talk about the seichusen, koshi no kaiten, shisei, tai no shinshuku, chikara no kyojaku, kokyu, etc., today I thought to instead focus “…on a point often insufficiently addressed with chudan waza (middle level techniques)”; that is, ‘exact positioning’.


What do I mean by EXACT POSITIONING? Well, this is the ‘exact positioning’ which is “…the foundational form and reference for making waza at any other target”. So, for starters: IT IS THE REFERENCE POINT FOR ‘KIME’. I want to answer this in a way which doesn’t restrict you by organization, dojo or particular instructor’s preferences nor ‘contemporary trends’. Rather, I want to share with you, a basic method to ensure your chudan positioning is correct, by yourself.


So, what is this method?


To cut straight to the point, the exact position for YOUR CHUDAN-WAZA is longest point from initiation to impact with that particular waza. For example, in the case of the chudan gyaku-zuki (as briefly described at the start of this article) one often sees the tsuki inclined or too high. This actually shortens the range (more importantly, in budo, the depth of target penetration to cause damage). Obviously, this also relates to personal safety as well; thus, it has both essential offensive and defensive elements.


Also consider the tate shuto… This waza is at longest point at about the crease of one’s own shoulder height. Again, it is common for this waza to be too low, even amongst advanced practitioners. Some people even visibly bend the elbow! This is what I call a ‘banana position’: as is not only dysfunctional but ugly. The idea is to ‘make as wide a mote as possible between you and your opponent’. This also creates a larger scale hiki-te, which of course results in more power for pulling the opponent and/or decisive blow with the other hand/arm.


How about keriwaza? Indeed, the same thing applies. Your chudan kick, say chudan mae-geri keage, should be aimed to be the longest range between you and your opponent. Think of thrusting a spear into your adversary. A sports karate practitioner will want this length to hit the opponent just enough to snatch a point, but as far away as possible to avoid being scored on (actually, the escape here is the main game, which is why it is nearly impossible for non-taggers to win). Whereas, budo karateka will want the kick to be ideally as far away as possible, however, without compromising the penetration of their sokuto (kakato or tsumasaki) for  maximum damage to the respective target. Some Shihan here in Japan say that correct chudan technique must at least be able to break two boards (and no folks, we are not talking about ‘friendly boards’).


Therefore, if two karateka were side by side, at the same distance from their opponent, and had the same reach and flexibility, the budo karateka would inevitably be closer to their opponent than the sports karateka.


This is the difference between a ‘safe tag’ and ‘the optimization of the techniques long distance without compromising the potential for maximum damage’.

What's so funny about this article is that it runs seemingly contrary to the instructor manuals of all styles. That is, waza should be the most direct line/shortest distance. Actually, this does not contrast with what I've said. Only that, what I have written here, is what is practiced amongst the elite of Japan. Just remember, there are two groups! The elite IN GROUP and the 'general masses' OUT GROUP. If you want to go to a high level in karate, you must train the way the 'in group' does: especially in regards to simple matters (yes, kihon). Otherwise, you will just be a follower. Nevertheless, that's fine if that's all you want from karate. There are not rules only goals and choices. 

In sum, if you follow this formula, you will easily self-establish the EXACT POSITION for all of your chudan-waza. This transcends organization and teacher as “…it is dictated by optimum effectiveness FOR YOU”; furthermore, there is a bonus: karate in this ‘expansive way’ fully expresses the correct form of Shotokan-Ryu and, consequently, expresses beautiful movement. 

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

Monday 12 July 2021

Explanation of updated IKS Kata Requirements

Daily self training, July 12th - 2021.

 I have been asked about the kata requirements for those wishing to attain dan with 国際空手道松濤館 (International Karate Shotokan), based on a post earlier this month. It is a good question as our system is different.

I’ll briefly outline the IKS Kata Requirements here today (up to Godan), which were recently updated. Furthermore, I will conclude with an explanation why IKS is differs from other groups.



Other groups: In most Shotokan groups the candidate must select one kata from Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Enpi or Jion; furthermore, one kata is randomly called by the examiners from any Heian or Tekki Shodan.


The IKS syllabus reflects Masters Funakoshi, Nakayama and Asai's life-works.

IKS: In IKS the candidate must select one kata Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Enpi, Jion, Jitte, Gankaku or Hangetsu; also, one kata from any Heian or any Tekki. Note – we allow more options while, at the same time, more specialization. In sum, the Shodan examination allows the examinee to select what is best for them amongst the 15 kata established by Funakoshi Gichin Sensei.

弐段 (NIDAN)

Other groups: Other Shotokan organizations typically allow Nidan candidates to pick their favorite kata (from any kata above Heian and Tekki Shodan). Then the examinees randomly request one kata from Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Enpi or Jion.


IKS: Again, IKS is different. While the first kata is the same as other organizations (covering the 26 Shotokan kata established by Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei) the second formal exercise is also free choice. However, we require it to be one from Tekki Shodan, Tekki Nidan, Tekki Sandan, Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Enpi, Jion, Jitte, Gankaku or Hangetsu.




Other groups: The Sandan examination is one’s free choice Shotokan kata and often followed by a kata randomly called by the examiners. In my experience (under Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei) these kata typically include Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Enpi, Jion, Jitte, Gankaku or Hangetsu.


IKS: In IKS the candidate must select their two favorite Shotokan kata and also one of the official koten-gata, from Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei. The candidate must also demonstrate 3-5 oyo-waza (applications) from one or a mix of these three kata.


Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei not only spread karate to the world, he was also a genius teacher.

·        The IKS kata requirements for the 四段 Yondan and 五段 Godan examinations are the same as the Sandan, but increasingly higher technical standards are necessary in order to pass.

So WHY does IKS have different kata requirements from other groups?



The first reason International Karate Shotokan has a different system is because it is a BUJUTSU FOCUSED group. That is, while some are serious competitors, the IKS syllabus is not for competition, it is for maximizing bujutsu skill via the grading system. Interestingly though, this actually gives an edge for competitors, and I believe, ‘will break the current stagnation’.



A unique point is that we have 27 Shotokan Kata and 38 Kata from Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei. These 65 kata are not just meaningless number; rather, it is number which gives our members more options to find the best kata for their physique, individual strengths and weaknesses, age, health, injuries and so on.


In addition to the five Heian and Tekki Shodan, one could go through the entire IKS syllabus with only three kata! At Dan level, three kata is all one needs to practice!!!



In this regard, the IKS syllabus has returned kata training to the ‘pre competition’ style of practice in which experts ‘specialized’ (as opposed to having shallow knowledge).  Of course, outside of one’s specialization—and as a coach—broad knowledge is also important and “fun”; nonetheless, in bujutsu karate depth of skill is the essence of karate. Accordingly, karate experts traditionally have one to three kata, which they can literally fight with. The IKS syllabus acutely follows this model.



In particular, I want to highlight a practice I faced as I went up the ranks, which I completely disagree with (and accentuates my previous point). That is, RANDOMLY SELECTED KATA BY THE EXAMINERS… This practice is like a memory test that promotes mediocre karate at best. What are they testing? Simply checking if one knows ‘stuff’? It actually amputates kata from fighting and promotes karateka to do kata which are not suitable for them.


I’m not saying not to learn all of the kata, and to train them all. But training is different from examinations. Black belt examinations are “ evaluate the karateka’s BEST karate, with the objective of establishing whether they have met the standards required for the next Dan”.

Accordingly, if we evaluate a random kata, most likely it will not be their best karate; therefore, we open the door for a potentially easier pass. In fact, from my experience, that’s what it always does! It gives a gateway—an excuse—to bolster scores for a passing grade.


Many people were shocked in Europe when they saw me fail examinees! I was shocked about that. Some karateka from a major organization said to me “we have never seen this before”. So, obviously, for some, the grading no longer has any meaning. IKS is all about strictness. It is not pass and fail, it is pass or not pass. No one fails as just by taking an exam the individual has put themselves on the line. That being said, to pass a person below standard is to make DAN meaningless; furthermore, damage karate as a whole.




Scenario One: Some older person who can’t kick above knee height being told to do Kanku Dai in their Nidan Exam. It is a ridiculous notion to make them do this, what relationship does this have to bujutsu?


Scenario Two: What about some extremely frail person being told to do, say, Jion. Would they use these types of waza/applications in a self-defense situation? Is this the fighting style they would use? Again, it is not only a pointless exercise, it’s a counterproductive one!



Now, by requiring the examinees to select what kata they will demonstrate ‘forces them to ascertain the best kata for themselves’… Otherwise, THEY WILL FAIL THE EXAMINATION! Therefore, in IKS Dan Exams they need to understand and be aware of themselves in their selection process. This is literally bujutsu when one must ask themselves “are the techniques in this particular kata optimal for my fighting skill, body type, physical attributes”, etc.


Moreover, over the years—as we inevitably change—we may also have to change kata. Therefore, the IKS kata grading requirements also requires FLUIDITY OF AWARENESS as opposed to being a static system. While a static system functions, it cannot function to allow the individual to optimize their potential. This underpins why International Karate Shotokan has this new system for the kata portion of Dan Examinations.

I hope this confirms why the 国際空手道松濤館 (IKS—International Karate Shotokan) has a different approach to kata. This way is by no means claiming superiority, however, it does aim to maximize each and every individual.

Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei not only refined Shotokan but revolutionized it. A return to karate as 'Bujutsu'.

Osu, André Bertel

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

Friday 9 July 2021

The false claim of SUPERIOR STYLE

 I recently heard someone claim that SHOTOKAN is inferior to the karate of Okinawa. Well, while I deeply respect all other styles (and other fighting arts for that matter), claiming SHOTOKAN is WRONG or INFERIOR to any other system is not only incorrect, it’s both ridiculously stupid and utterly arrogant.

Nakayama Sensei, Shoji Sensei, Abe Sensei et al., performing Kanku Dai Kata.

I’ll prove this from now by quoting myself (from an article I published in 1994 for the ‘New Zealand Martial Arts Magazine’).


“Regardless of style, the objective of karate techniques is to deliver maximum power with different weapons of the body via thrusts, strikes and leg techniques; furthermore, maximize chokes, joint dislocation/breaking techniques, sweeps, throws and takedowns”.


Based on this CORRECT UNDERSTANDING: “…Accordingly, superior styles do not exist. Rather, optimally achieving these physical goals—in the technical sense—is what establishes superiority”.


To reiterate, it is: (1) The individual’s physical capacity/ability in regards to aforementioned points; (2) The quality of mentor(s) that the individual accesses; and (3) The quality of training partners that they have.


From my nearly 40 years experience  (much of which has been full time, with more of a quarter of that time training daily here in Japan) ‘the best karateka I know’ come from Shotokan, Goju Ryu, Wado Ryu, Shito Ryu, Seido, Kyokushinkai, Shukokai, Uechi Ryu, Ryuei Ryu, Wado Ryu etcetera… I think I’ve made my point. These awesome karateka are INDIVIDUALS from all of the authentic styles. Not one style is THE BEST.


In sum, all true karate styles can lead to the highest peak of the mountain with the high-quality training, the best mentor(s), and the optimum environment. To provide a concrete example, all three of these reasons are what led me here to Japan, initially, in 1993.


Anyone who thinks that Shotokan, or any other AUTHENTIC KARATE STYLE is ‘wrong’ or ‘inferior’ (to another system) is not only utterly stupid, but totally arrogant; moreover, establishes that they do not understand what real karate is.


And, if they are not stupid, it obviously means that they have a hidden agenda in making such unequivocally false claims.


I am very proud to be a karateka and practitioner of Shotokan. Furthermore, I will not tolerate anyone dissing Shotokan, nor any other authentic karate style. In addition to being technically incorrect, it is deception; therefore, not in the spirit of Karate-Do.


André Bertel

(7th Dan)




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