Sunday 30 October 2022

Andre Bertel Karate-Do: TWO MILLION VISITORS!!!

It was just confirmed to me that recently this site exceeded 2 MILLION VISITORS.

I'm really surprised by this as the site has only ever been dedicated to Shotokan and Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei's extension of the JKA style; moreover, not the mainstream version of Shotokan, but our style as 'Budo'/'Bujutsu' Karate. In other words, this page has been extremely specialized and specific. 

Accordingly, I want to offer a very big thank you to the thousands of traditional Shotokan karateka around the world who have supported this blogsite and my efforts in posting training articles, and videos, over these last 15 years.

Lastly, stay tuned as there is a lot more to come here and on the official YouTube Channel:


© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).

Friday 28 October 2022

'Ball and chain impact, then skewer'

In the last few days, I've been spending the majority of my time on Kihon. Generally speaking, the IKS Shodan Examination Kihon. Of particular focus in this regard is the configurations of an optimally functional zenkutsu-dachi, fumidashi and ren-geri (namely, the combination of 'mawashi-geri kara ushiro-geri kekomi' and 'yoko-keage kara yoko-kekomi').  My Kumite training is focused on uchiwaza utilizing deai; furthermore, the combining tsuki with uchi in one fluid action (the 'whip and spear' method). With minimal need to explain, this method is consistent with my rengeri practice: to recapitulate -- 'ball and chain impact, then skewer'.

Kata training over these past few days has focused on  鉄騎二段 (Tekki Nidan); also, 抜賽小 (Bassai Sho). These two kata work in perfectly with the aforementioned 'uses of the body' and 'attacking trajectories'. For the foundational review of uchiwaza I am also utilizing 順路三段  (Junro Sandan) to supplement the kihon portion of my training. Overall, the results are coming steadily, STEP BY STEP!

OSU! - AB.

  •  © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).

Tuesday 25 October 2022

Brief history of Okinawan Karate and the rise of Shotokan:

Introduction: To begin I need to emphasize that I’m by no means a karate historian, nor wish to be known as one (or become one), but I was asked if I could concisely write an article on the history of karate “…leading up to the rise of the ‘Shotokan style' (from what I have been taught here in Japan over the years)". I’ve done this in under 1000 words, to conform with this request of conciseness.


Background: Indeed, as I’ve already stated, I’m not a karate academic, I’m a practicing karateka/student and instructor. Accordingly, the information presented here is not researched but ‘second hand’—directly, by word of mouth—from a variety of my seniors over the years. If nothing else, please note that my understanding of ‘karate history’ comes primarily from ‘JKA-style Shotokan’ Japanese masters; namely Asai Tetsuhiko, Nakamura Masamitsu, Osaka Yoshiharu, et al.


Brief history of Okinawa Karate and the rise of Shotokan:

Okinawa Prefecture, Japan—formerly known as ‘the Ryukyu Kingdom’—is located in central East Asia. It consists of 160 islands spanning more than 1000 kilometers of ocean. During its 450 years as a kingdom, between 1429 and 1897 it closely interacted with neighboring regions and, in doing so, these exchanges naturally led to and contributed towards its unique culture.


It was in this unique environment and from multiple influences that Tode, often simply referred to as ‘Te’ (‘Ti’)—the forerunner of modern day Karate came into existence.


The oldest known records of the art come from the eighteenth century, however, their factual clarity remains questionable due the secrecy of training at that time and before. That being said, what is known is that Okinawa had a very long history of its indigenous hand-to-hand combat systems; moreover, that these arts merged with various self-defense methodologies from China and elsewhere collectively formed the technical origins of Karate.


A major influence in this process was the exchange of knowledge via maritime trade.


Needless to say, the invasion of the Satsuma clan of Samurai, in 1609, was highly significant event in the history of Okinawa.


The tradition of Karate was already taught in very private manner, largely in secrecy, behind closed doors. Also, the teachings were traditionally only taught to individuals or small groups in the upper social classes.


In this regard and contrary to popular belief, there is no evidence to support that Karate was ‘practiced in secret’ as the result of a government ban. Rather, teachings were kept ‘in house’ by the different masters, with students taught based on their individual discerning.


In fact, in the early twentieth century Okinawa inaugurated an official Karate training program within its education system. To be precise, in the 34th year of Meiji (1901). The first institution with Karate in the school curriculum was Shuri Jinjo Gakko and the master coordinating the training was Itosu Anko Sensei. The following year (Meiji 35) Karate was introduced into the curriculum of the Okinawa Prefectural Teacher’s Training School. Three years later, in Meiji 38, an official Karate program was also implemented at junior high schools. As a result, Karate become a more open part of life in Okinawa.


In 1918, several famous experts formed a karate study group, the ‘Karate Kenkyukai’. Those included in this group included Funakoshi Gichin—who was made the president, Mabuni Kenwa, Miyagi Chojun, and others.

Masters Mabuni (SHITO-Ryu), Funakoshi (SHOTOKAN-Ryu) and Miyagi (GOJU-Ryu).

Three years later, in 1921, the Crown Prince Hirohito visited Okinawa during which, on March 6th, in the main courtyard of Shuri Castle, he witnessed a Karate demonstration led by Funakoshi Gichin Sensei.


The following year Funakoshi Sensei was invited to Tokyo to demonstrate Karate at Japan’s ‘First Physical Education Exhibition’ that was held between May 30th of April 30th of 1922. Funakoshi’s Sensei’s performance was critically acclaimed and resulted in a request for a demonstration at the Kodokan by Kano Jigoro Sensei, the founder of Judo. Kano Sensei by that time was already a highly influential figure in Japanese society with much power and a member of the nation's International Olympic movement; thus, his patronage all but guaranteed the acceptance of Karate in mainland Japan.


The demonstration at the Kodokan was a major success and resulted in Funakoshi Sensei giving demonstrations at various schools of swordsmanship including the Hekkitsukan, Musu Shinden Ryu, and many other groups.


The interest in Karate expanded so much that Funakoshi Sensei decided to stay in mainland Japan and continue to promote the art. Upon deciding to do this he moved into the Meishojuku, which was a hostel for students from Okinawa. It was here from which he began teaching a small group of students, amongst whom included Konishi Yasuhiro. Konishi was a teacher of Jujutsu and Kendo, moreover, had close ties with Keio University. Accordingly, he became a very important catalyst in the promotion of Karate.


In 1924 Funakoshi Sensei adopted the Kyu/Dan ranking system from Judo. Earlier he had also began utilizing a lighter version of the dogi used by Judoka.



Later in 1929 Funakoshi Sensei changed the name of Karate from 唐手 to 空手. This was reflective of Karate being recognized as a martial art of Japan; moreover, the mental state optimal for combat: mushin—emptiness. It is also the origin of name ‘Kanku’ from its opening movements; furthermore, the opening of Unsu which signifies ‘Hutsuun jindou’—“Parting the Clouds, Seeking the Way”.


Ten years later on January 29th, of 1939, Japan’s first full-time purpose-built dojo was opened: ‘the Shoto Kan’ (‘The House of Shoto’). It was officially named after Master Funakoshi’s pen name, in his poetry and calligraphy, to honor his promotion and stewardship of the art. This is what led to his style, and teachings of Karate, to become labeled (by his senior students) as ‘Shotokan-Ryu’.

The 'Shoto Kan'.

While the ‘Shoto Kan’ was burnt to the ground several years later in one of the massive bombings of Tokyo in World War Two, the skills handed down in the dojo survived by its members. Consequently, due to this and its technical excellence, Shotokan-Ryu (the karate of 'the Shoto Kan') went on to become, by far, the most popular and widespread karate style in the world. — André

Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei, the greatest propagator of the SHOTOKAN style post WW2.

 © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).

Sunday 23 October 2022

Additional Home Training (Supplementary Practice)

In addition to daily dojo training/practice I always review key parts of each session at home. Often these sessions are short but, sometimes like today, I get into my dogi and do an hour--or even longer--of 'homework'. Over the years I have found these practices to be invaluable, just like at university when studying for a major exam.

Home practice today. At 46 years old I still review my trainings after dojo-geiko.

Kurumaisu-karate challenges the johanshin (upper body) in isolation.

 In addition to really refining one's karate, each home/non dojo-training helps 'to make time in the dojo more productive' and enjoyable! Not to mention it is good for the health. The benefits of short bursts of regular exercise have been well documented in recent years.

Last, but not least, people can make such practices in accordance with their daily schedules; thereby, making it possible " keep improving irrespective of how busy one is". What's more, this practice will contribute to your productivity outside the realms of karate!

OSU!  - AB

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).

Tuesday 18 October 2022

The Autumn/Fall weather has finally reached Oita

 Finally, the Autumn/Fall weather has reached Oita City. While warm-ups may take a little longer, trainings will certainly be a bit more pleasant and easier to endure without the high humidity here in Kyushu. Irrespective of what we prefer, we must always see the positive.

Recently I've 'amped up my training'. New specified goals set for the remainder of 2022 and the first quarter of 2023.


Greetings and best wishes from Japan. OSU, Andre Bertel.

Enjoying a post admin stroll today near Oita University before heading to the dojo for training.

 © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).

Thursday 13 October 2022

Karate Kata: Funakoshi Sensei's Direct Teachings

 I recently found a text by senior students of Funakoshi Gichin Sensei, in Japanese (from ‘Karatedo Essentials’), which I thought was well worth translating into English. It is a concise piece about KARATE KATA, which is said to reflect Funakoshi Sensei's direct teachings.  – André Bertel

“Kata has been handed down since ancient times as a practice method that allows anyone to repeat and perfect the essential movements of the body for self-defense, even when one is without a training partner.


The various kata are said to have originated from what our predecessors left behind and tried to pass down to the next generation; namely, training forms which result in the ability to protect one’s own life in self-defense, when one’s life is at stake; that is, to control an attacker in an actual conflict.


Our predecessors compiled the main points of the movement that can control the opponent as a form. To more specifically expand on this point, as you master the movements contained in the kata you will naturally learn how to use your body in the most optimum and instantaneous manner.


As you practice kata over and over again your body becomes softer and your actions become stronger. In addition to this, the pursuit of thoughts, required by each movement, leads to the discovery of the deeper techniques of Karate-Do.


There is no difference in the process and results of kata practice between those of our predecessors and those of today.


The established kata of the SHOTOKAN are as follows: Taikyoku (unique to the Shotokan), Heian, Tekki, Bassai, Kanku, Jutte, Hangetsu, Enpi, Gankaku and Jion.”


 Later on, in the text it is worth mentioning that there is also great emphasis on the ‘landing of the feet’ when moving in kihon and kata; in particular, making no sound and being both swift and adaptive/elusive. Also as stated in my translation above, much focus was on fluid power, relaxation and swiftness of the limbs to maximize impact power. If nothing else, my hope is that this post has brought you the reader closer to Funakoshi Sensei's direct teachings. I, for one, found it both fascinating and educational as a Shotokan practitioner. I'll wrap up on that note today. OSU!

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).

Tuesday 11 October 2022

Karate for Self-Defense: Funakoshi Gichin Sensei's Karate 'Way'

One of the things that Funakoshi Gichin Sensei recognized was that ideally, karate—in the case of self-defense for the average Japanese citizen in his day—needed to “…increase the distance from the opponent or opponents when defensive and counteroffensive measures”. This was especially in consideration of attackers concealing weapons, the commonality of multiple attackers and, indeed, against those who are grappling specialists. Keep in mind here how much time Funakoshi Sensei spent with Kano Jigoro Sensei, the founder of Judo, and in the Kodokan—the Mecca of Judo. 

In sum, he refined karate “…to cater for the self-defense of the average person with no interest in fighting”; rather, to maximize the chances of survival when suddenly attacked. 


This elucidates again, what I’ve written and lectured about in the past: ‘Karate was never a fighting (dueling) art, it was designed and has technically evolved (amongst the budo practitioners) purely for unarmed self-protection’.


Again, that brings us to probably the most famous saying in karate, again from Funakoshi Sensei: 空手道に先手無し (KARATE-DO NI SENTE NASHI). There is no first attack in karate.


Many people now believe that karate is not effective and, such quotes, when understood ‘out of context’ (and understanding of what real karate is) adds to this misconception.


The simple fact is “…How one trains their karate is how effective one will be”—and I must add here—“irrespective of ‘style’ or ryuha/kaiha”.

In saying that, some still claim that the prospect of karate being effective in street self-defense, is nil.


This presumption is both wrong and too simplistic. Such a blanket statement is irrefutably folly.


Karate is as good as any other art for self-defense—if rudimentary self-protection is the aim. And, yes, for the majority of people in the world, rudimentary self-defense is more than enough. Especially, “when they are taught properly and train to develop highly effective, adaptable and reliable skills”.


So, some might criticize the Shotokan Way, including 空手道に先手なし… But if they do, they have clearly never experienced true karate, nor understand ‘what karate was actually designed for’ (as stated in the opening of this article). This is a shame, but it’s not their fault, as real karate is an increasing rarity. 


To reiterate, karate was not designed for competitive fighting, but to deal with an unprovoked attack. Expanding on this point, it was specifically designed for normal people who simply want to mind their own business and, if absolutely necessary, stop an attacker or attackers.  That is, karate was designed ‘to survive’ not to duel.


Again, and of course, as stated above, “…karate will never have this capacity (its ‘original technical objective’) unless this is literally and concertedly ‘the constant objective’ in each individual’s training”. 


To conclude, if karate is trained properly, in, dare I say,—‘ the traditional/bujutsu way’—the practitioner WILL possess highly effective defensive and counteroffensive skills. This underpins ichigeki-hissatsu, which just like karate as a whole, is also misunderstood. This is not my opinion but ‘WHAT TRUE KARATE IS’. Overall, this is why ‘Karatedo ni sente nashi’ is so important in both defense and counteroffensive measures. True karate is not a game. Lastly, if you’d like to read more on this topic, here’s a link to an article I wrote in 2009, which ties in nicely with this one:


                     © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).

Sunday 9 October 2022

IKS DAN EXAM KIHON (Brief summary in English)

 At present IKS only tests Kihon in independently (after kyu) at SHODAN and NIDAN respectively. After which, kihon is examined within the execution of kata and kumite. From Sandan and above, kihon is also examined within the Oyo (Application) of Kata. This does not necessarily mean strict form, but the underpinning use of the body and physics, which are universal in Budo/Bujutsu.

In sum, the ten kihonwaza for Shodan and five kihonwaza for Nidan are as follows. Please note, that the tachikata used is zenkutsu-dachi unless otherwise noted in brackets. 






























  1. CHUDAN MAE-GERICHUDAN OI-ZUKI・MAWASHI-GERI ・CHUDAN GYAKU-ZUKI ・ USHIRO-GERI KEKOMI URAKEN YOKOMAWASHI UCHICHUDAN GYAKU-ZUKI                                                                                                                                                                                                                              







                                    © Andre Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).

Saturday 8 October 2022



This week I spent most of my time working on kihon, much of which was practicing techniques from 自由な構え (jiyu na kamae). The link and bidirectional reciprocation—between the classical and freestyle waza—is an utterly imperative aspect of training for senior kyu grades and above. Before I outline my two-hour practice, from today, I thought I’d talk a little about classical and freestyle training.


Okay! So, on one hand, if jiyu kumite is the total focus, “karate” itself is lost and metamorphoses into something indistinguishable. We see this in ‘freestyle karate’ which—without the classical kata, kihon and yakusoku-kumite—I would strongly argue is no longer karate. Rather, such ‘styles’ simply uses the name ‘karate’ as a sales pitch or means of somehow connecting to the oriental fighting arts.


However—at the same time—without the various forms of freestyle/jiyu kumite, effective karate cannot be tested and developed. Keep in mind Funakoshi Gichin Sensei’s precept: 形は正しく実戦は別物  (Kata wa tadashiku jissen wa betsumono) which primarily points to the fact that, ‘while kata is important, real fighting is different from it’. To summarize, “…true karate cannot separate classical and freestyle”. They literally need each other.


In saying that, freestyle/jiyu kumite should primarily be practiced in the Budo manner, that is “…controlled but with kime at all times”; that is, not disintegrating into a tag match. Put another way, in any given moment, if the offensive (or counteroffensive) technique is not controlled it must have the potential to cause serious damage.


Thus (to complete this training), full contact techniques must constantly be practiced and tested on the heavy bag, impact, shields, focus mitts, the makiwara etcetera. In this way, one will develop their karate fully and, needless to say, freestyle/jiyu-kumite training will not result in constant injuries.


In sum, (a) we must train for brutal effectiveness; (b) we must train to preserve the classical art of karate; and (c) we must train for the morrow by mitigating the risks of injuries to ourselves and our respective training partners.


Last but not least I wish everyone the very best in their training and excellent health. 

押忍!!  Andre



Outline of my kihon training since: 令和410月5日()



The first eight renzokuwaza are self-explainable (From Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei and Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei). All of these are 移動基本 (Ido-Kihon). The final practice is その場基本 (Sonoba Kihon). In all cases I had no set number of reps; instead, I trained until failure. That is, until I needed a short interval. The complete session, excluding the warm-up and cool down, was 120 minutes in duration.


1. (Jiyu-dachi, jiyu na kamae) Kizami-zuki kara sanbon ren-zuki (zenkutsu-dachi).


2. (Jiyu-dachi, jiyu na kamae) Chudan mae-geri keage kara chudan oi-zuki (zenkutsu-dachi).


3. (Zenkutsu-dachi, jiyu na kamae) Ippo-sagatte jodan age-uke kara chudan mawashi-geri, uraken yokomawashi uchi soshite chudan oi-zuki.


4. (Zenkutsu-dachi, gedan barai no kamae) Jodan sotomawashi uchi kara shuto jodan uchimawashi uchi.


5. (Jiyu-dachi, jiyu na kamae) Kizami-zuki kara jodan oi-zuki (zenkutsu-dachi), chudan gyaku-zuki, uraken yokomawashi uchi (kiba-dachi), shuto jodan sotomawashi uchi soshite shuto jodan uchimawashi uchi (zenkutsu-dachi). Some of you will recognize this renzokuwaza from Nakayama Sensei's 'Dynamic Karate'.


6. (Zenkutsu-dachi, jiyu na kamae) Chudan mae-geri keage kara chudan oi-zuki, mawashi-geri, chudan gyaku-zuki, ushiro-geri kekomi, uraken yokomawashi uchi soshite chudan gyaku-zuki.


7. (Kiba-dachi, jiyu na kamae) Yoko-geri keage ashi o kaete yoko-geri kekomi.


8. (Zenkutsu-dachi, gedan barai no kamae) Jodan age-uke kara chudan gyaku-zuki, chudan soto-uke, chudan gyaku-zuki, gedan-barai soshite chudan gyaku-zuki.


9. Sonoba-kihon: (Jiyu-dachi, jiyu na kamae) Jodan age-uke kara gyaku-zuki (zenkutsu-dachi); (jiyu-dachi, jiyu na kamae) chudan soto-uke, gyaku-zuki (zenkutsu-dachi); (Jiyu-dachi, jiyu na kamae) gedan-barai soshite gyaku-zuki (zenkutsu-dachi). The focus of this training is to compress into jiyu-dachi with each uke then expand into zenkutsu-dachi for each tsuki; in sum, the practical maximization of tai no shinshuku (the contraction and expansion of the body).



自由一本組手 (Jiyu Ippon Kumite): Like in the final practice of kihon the focus is on fully applying tai no shinshuku for evasion and defense, then to counterattack; furthermore, in the loading for the attacking techniques. In both attack and counterattack from the compressed position, the emphasis is on “…compression without allowing any power to be lost upwards but, rather, focusing power horizontally through the target”.

'Axing' the chudan mawashi-geri to achieve a 'heavy' kick.
Kakato-otoshi... The unpredictable 'heel drop' more commonly known in English as an axe-kick.

I did not practice kata, as such, in this session, but concluded by cooling down by going through 拔塞小 (Bassai Sho) a few times.


© Andre Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).

Tuesday 4 October 2022

Renshusei applications, Dan Exams and Transfer of Dan


Many people are now enquiring about coming to Japan for renshusei training, also about transfer of Dan to IKS and Dan exams.


Before booking trips to Oita it is once again essential to book your days and times as early as possible to ensure you secure them. It is naturally based on a 'first-in-first served' basis. 


Likewise, those wishing to attempt Dan Examinations (or transfer existing Dan grades to IKS), it is better to apply well in advance. The next International Dan Examination outside of Japan will be held in Freital, Germany, in February of 2023. 

Trainees in Japan can also attempt Dan Examination (if they fulfil all the prerequisites); however, confirmation must be given before arrival; so, that the administration for the examination can be fully completed.


All enquiries can be made via email:

 Osu, Andre

© Andre Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).

Monday 3 October 2022

Supplementary outdoor training: A focus on the five 'foundational' Heian Kata

Movement one of HEIAN NIDAN KATA (Pinan Shodan): Hidari haiwan hidari sokumen jodan yoko-uke doji ni migi zenwan hitai mae yoko-gamae (Migi kokutsu-dachi).

Yesterday’s supplementary training was outdoors in order to make the most of the beautiful weather here in Oita. While we are nearly halfway through Autumn/Fall the temperature was 31 Degrees Celsius (nearly 88 Degrees Fahrenheit). Accordingly, I enjoyed practicing in shorts and a t-shirt.

Movement five of HEIAN SHODAN (Pinan Nidan): Hidari chudan oi-zuki (Hidari zenkutsu-dachi).


My focus today, in this attire and environment, was on kihon; namely, via the five 平安 (Heian).
Movement seven of HEIAN SANDAN: Hidari chudan morote-uke (Migi kokutsu-dachi).

 I went through all five kata in this series several times concentrating on the core tachikata, unsoku, kihonwaza, and also my mental state/mindfulness during the initiation, execution and completion of each action, not to mention 'zanshin'. Needless to say, to any seasoned karateka, Heian are the foundational kata of Karatedo and, as such, never get easier.

Just before completion of Movement 20 of HEIAN SANDAN: Saken migi kata ue koho tsuki-age doji ni migi chudan ushiro-enpi (Yori-ashi Kiba-dachi).

Movement 15 of HEIAN YONDAN: Migi jodan mae-geri keage (Hidari ashi dachi).    

In my opinion, at least in the English language, I always strongly emphasize that "...the Heian are the ‘foundational kata’ ". This is largely because labeling them as ‘basic kata’, (at least in contemporary English), can also incorrectly imply that they are 'easy' and/or merely for beginners.

Movement 18 of HEIAN SHODAN: Hidari shuto chudan-uke (Migi kokutsu-dachi).

Indeed, we all know that nothing could be more further from the truth. The five Heian kata elucidate where our kihon is by offering the minimal ability to ‘cover up’ any errors or weaknesses; that is, they mercilessly expose our technical foundations and the  underpinnings which determine our overall effectiveness (in the context of 'critical kihon underpinning core efficiency in freestyle application'). 

HEIAN GODAN: Hidari tekubi hidari sokumen chudan kake-uke/uken migi koshi (Kiba-dachi).

In sum, the Heian kata  always force us to eat some metaphoric ‘humble pie’ which, of course “…is UTTERLY ESSENTIAL in order to grow and advance in skill”.

 © Andre Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).