Wednesday 30 November 2022


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

Saturday 19 November 2022

Review of YouTube Videos (Uploaded over the last 12 months)

Today I have posted direct YouTube links for all the publicly uploaded videos in the last 12 months (on my official channel).


What motivates me to share new videos is literally 'THE SUPPORT OF THEM BY YOU', via your (1) COMMENTS; (2) LIKES; (3) SUBSCRIPTIONS; and/or (4) SHARING.


So, once again thank you very much for your on-going support.  You are literally the motivators of my YouTube channel. 



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

Tuesday 15 November 2022

Renshusei from New Zealand: Troy Gutry (Part II)

Day Two:

Continuing from Day One, but in back in Oita City, the theme of ‘natural energy for effortless karate’ remained. 

All 24 actions of 鉄騎二段  (Tekki Nidan) were completed in this session including the 分解 (BUNKAI—analysis/dissection) of its 基本 (Kihon) and 応用 (OYO—application); furthermore, “…applying its use of energy and shifts/transitions” for the aforementioned theme. For more clarity on this, please read my previous post: ‘Part One’:

The effortless/relaxed use of the body to ‘make impact’ (with 受技   ukewaza, 突技 tsukiwaza, 打技 uchiwaza and 蹴技 keriwaza) was also applied to sweeps, throws, takedowns, joint locks and strangulations). This highlighted how budo/bujutsu karate has many locks, chokes, takedowns/throws, but that, “… roughtly 99% of the time these respective waza are preceded by and concluded with percussive blows." Nonetheless, the theme of naturalness and effortlessness remains the same: irrespective of technique category.

Outside the dojo we also did some mini practices such as ukewaza in MUSASHI KOEN, and mae-geri keage in RYOZENJI.

In addition to keiko, we also had several nice social times. Overall, I wish all the very best to Troy. It was wonderful to catch up and to have him here as a renshusei.  押忍!!  —アンドレ

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

The following YouTube video is nothing fancy; rather, it is primarily a review for Troy; however, it generically provides a few basic insights into the use of energy mentioned here. This video footage came from 'Day Two' (November 13th, 2022).

Monday 14 November 2022

Renshusei from New Zealand: Troy Gutry (Part I)

Manjuji (Central Oita City, Japan).

Troy Gutry (3rd Dan) from New Zealand came to Oita to visit and train. Traveling with his friend Jarod, he completed two days of renshusei training. In this, and the next post, I will provide a general overview of the main aspects that I taught in these sessions, which were specifically tailored for Troy. That being said, I will not go into great detail as those are for him to share. This will also include a brief YouTube video in the second post, which will reflect the aforementioned points.

Day One

The first session was very special as Nakamura Masamitsu Shihan had us in his dojo, the Shototakuhirokan, in central Kumamoto City. Shihan had me teach Troy as he checked him from the back of the dojo (in other words, he was surrounded). Between segments Shihan gave ample advice, including many technical and first-hand-experienced historical gems.

During the water break Nakamura Shihan checked my 十手 (Jitte) and took me through some applicative variations. In sum, more homework for me.
After training with Nakamura Masamitsu Shihan.

Technically the practice for Troy comprised of 平安初段 (Heian Shodan) kata Broken down into kihon in relation to kumite/self-defense application and the Kata, in its entirety, as solo form. Hip and foot positions, and the coordination of arm actions—to maximize natural energy (keep this in mind)—was high on the agenda. We also covered the first one third of 鉄騎二段  (Tekki Nidan); that is, movements one to eight in fundamental detail in 応用 (Oyo/Functional application).

Troy at Ryozenji (November 2022).

The theme of the practice was nothing fancy; rather, I focused on ‘natural energy for effortless karate’. In sum: (a) Relaxation for speed and environmental awareness before, during and after executing techniques; (b) Moving the center for optimal use of one’s mass; and (c) Positioning of the opponent in relation to oneself and vice-versa.

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

Sunday 13 November 2022

New YouTube Video 'Short' by Oliver Schomburg Sensei

 Here is a direct link to another excellent YouTube video filmed and compiled by Oliver Schomburg (do subscribe to his channel, as it is absolutely awesome! Not only the content by the 'professionalism').  

You can watch the latest 'video short' by clicking here:

Osu and a big thanks Olli!!!

Ahrensburg Castle (2010).

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

Wednesday 9 November 2022

The 15 Stances of 'Dynamic Karate'

I was asked to make commentary on the 15 tackikata (stances) specified in Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei’s classic publication: ‘Dynamic Karate’. I’ll make some more detailed case comments    later but, in sum, there are seven ‘shizentai’ (natural positions) and eight ‘karate specific/specialized positions.' They are as follows:


Shizentai: Heisoku-dachi

Shizentai: Musubi-dachi

Shizentai: Hachiji-dachi, Uchihachiji-dachi, Heiko-dachi

Shizentai: Teiji-dachi

Shizentai: Renoji-dachi







Fudo-dachi (Sochin-dachi, please refer to my later notes)








A key point here, which I should probably highlight is that ‘shizentai’ doesn’t only mean hachiji-dachi. Please note how Nakayama listed seven, three of which he paired together.


A second aspect worth noting here is the absence of: (1) Zenkutsu; (2) Hiza-kutsu; (3) Kosa-dachi; (4) Tsuruashi-dachi/Sagiashi-dachi (Migi/Hidari ashi-dachi); and (5) Jiyu-dachi. This is because these tachikata are sometimes regarded as hybrid stances or transitional positions of the above listed ‘base 15’. Of course, there are other stances also like Kihouken-dachi, Moto-dachi, and others, but these too (at least in Shotokan) are stances within stance transitions/movement).


It is also interesting to point out that those with strong links to Funakoshi Gigo Sensei uniquely separate Sochin-dachi from Fudo-dachi. That is, Fudo-dachi is an in-line tachikata; whereas, Sochin-dachi is the JKA styles wider Fudo-dachi. This runs parallel to Zenkutsu and Zenkutsu-dachi.

Osaka Yoshiharu Sensei: Nakayama Sensei's finest technician.

I need to also mention that what is widely referred to as Zenkutsu now (the narrow/inline and smaller scale Zenkutsu-dachi) was termed ‘Shokutsu-dachi by Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei and, according to him, this was the term used until the late 1970s


As an instructor, I personally define more stances to optimize my teaching—than that listed in ‘Dynamic Karate’; that being said, like the other older texts, it holds many subtle gems for those wishing to advance their skill.

Yes, in many ways karate has advanced. However, in many ways, mainstream karate has also been diluted as a form of budo/bujutsu. Accordingly, if one is to maximize their Shotokan karate development it is imperative to “...determinedly continue to draw in the knowledge of the past whilst swimming through the ocean of contemporary karate”. In this way one will maximize the present through the past and, indeed, the past knowledge from the present. 押忍!!アンドレ  バーテル


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

Monday 7 November 2022

半月立 (Hangetsu-dachi): The original version

Every so often I'm asked “What is the correct way to do Hangetsu-dachi?” So, today I will address that Question; furthermore, I’ll share some key points I’ve learned (here in Japan, over the years) from the very BEST OF THE BEST!
Oliver Schömburg Sensei (3rd Dan Germany), and myself, practicing Hangetsu Kata.
Before I do that, I want to point out that: (a) what I am writing here today is not my opinion or unique methodology; (b) also, that this method is not a new ‘way’ adopted/evolved by the mainstream organizations here in Japan; and (c) that this IS 'the HANGETSU DACHI' handed down from Master's Funakoshi Gichin, Nakayama Masatoshi, and Asai Tetsuhiko.
With these experts in mind I also need to apologize in advance that I am qualifying this post today 'via name dropping'; however, the Hangetsu-dachi which I practice and teach is the original (which was previously taught in Shotokan as Seishan-dachi) and this really needs to be clarified. Otherwise, there is no reason for me to write and publish this article. It is gift for you: the reader.
What’s ironic here is that we are preserving the original Seishan stance as most styles and, indeed, Shotokan organizations have extensively altered it. Just to clarify, the only alteration I make (from the original form) is the use of the name ‘Hangetsu-dachi’ as opposed to its original label of ‘Seishan’. In other words, I simply use the ‘Shotokan label’, which utilizes mainstream Japanese. Accordingly, I'll adhere to this term throughout this article.
The original ‘Hangetsu-Dachi’
半月立 (Hangetsu-dachi), meaning the ‘half-moon stance’ is an
intermediate tachikata between zenkutsu-dachi and sanchin-dachi. Its forward and rearward strides are similar to zenkutsu-dachi, however, the inward tension on the knees are closer to that of sanchin; hence, it is categorized as an ‘inside tension stance’. Don't be confused by this term! Simply know that the pressure goes to the sokuto/outside 'sword' edges of both feet, and the knee and thighs lightly squeeze inward. This dynamic heightens the awareness of 'centralization' and allows the karateka to maximize switching between the three main axis's to optimize explosiveness. 

Whilst it is used for both defensive and offensive actions it is more often used for defense ("...due to its configurations to naturally cover up then launch explosive counterattacks).
Over the years here in Japan I have been taught that Hangetsu dachi is a natural position for absorbing blows whilst maintaining balance. 
Furthermore, as eluded above, a transitional stage in unsoku/movement. This point highlights that rather than being ‘fixed positions’, in actuality, they are in fact “key points in the transition of the center in conjunction with the optimal application of techniques”.
Returning to the classical description of hangetsu-dachi above and we can readily visualize one defending in sanchin-dachi then transitioning through hangetsu-dachi into zenkutsu-dachi (or fudo-dachi) to make a counterattack. Alternatively one might, say, contract into hangetsu-dachi and make an immediate counter from there; or expand for a larger scale waza. Irrespective of its use, the natural and optimal use of the human body—in real world self-defense—is the point of all karate ‘stances’ and techniques in general. This immediately brings to mind the old adage: “if
it’s not broken, don’t fix it”.
So, let’s look at the exact Hangetsu-dachi as demonstrated by Nakayama Sensei. This was the original Seishan dachi learned by Funakoshi Sensei, and came to the IKS (International Karate Shotokan) via Asai Sensei, and other prominent students of Master Nakayama; thus, in a direct line from Funakoshi Sensei and, in particular, Masters Itosu, Azato and Matsumura.
The original seishan-dachi (HANGETSU-DACHI) demonstrated by Nakayama Sensei

Some instructors from Japanese organizations have tried to correct my stances based on their respective groups changes to them. This has included my hangetsu-dachi. They have said things like: “That’s not correct now, that’s the old way!” and/or “The organization has updated the stance”.
The first scenario I take as a great compliment, as I don’t want to be
 'swayed by the wind of ever-changing karate trends’. In the second scenario, I always ask “so, why the update of the stance?” When I ask this question, the answer is always unclear (or includes what I can only describe as 'plastic bunkai'); thus, immediately indicating the changes are, at best, cosmetic fluff.
In this regard, many times Nakamura Masamitsu Sensei has told me "... not to change my karate to the 'new style' and continue follow Nakayama Sensei’s way”. Osaka Yoshiharu Sensei has also consistently stressed “The recent changes to the kata have not only been unnecessary but 'have negatively compromised' the unique characteristics of Shotokan”.

To conclude, for an overview of Hangetsu kata, here's a direct link: André Bertel's Karate-Do: HANGETSU KATA (
 © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).

Wednesday 2 November 2022

YouTube Seminar Video: BAVARIA 2022 (Part 4)

 At the bottom of this post here's some extra footage from the Bavaria, Germany Seminar (earlier this year). You can click on the YouTube link to watch it. It was filmed and kindly provided from Oliver Schömburg Sensei (3rd Dan). If you haven't aleady, be sure to check out his EXCELLENT YOUTUBE CHANNEL: olliwaa - YouTube

The theme of the 2022 Bavaria Seminar was "START OVER"; accordingly, it was a simple course. Literally my first-time teaching outside Japan since the pandemic began; hence, it was a literally a 're-start' international seminar for me and 'review' for all of the karateka who attended.

2023 will see a wave of new and more sophisticated points at my seminars. The theme from now will be "MOVE FORWARD"! A significant amount of the upcoming content has never been taught outside of Japan before. I'm really looking forward to conducting these sessions and further contributing towards the spreading of Shotokan as Budo/Bujutsu.

In addition to the serious content and technicality of the seminars, as always, they will also be a wonderful time of friendship through Shotokan Karate.

See you in 2023!

OSU, André

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

Tuesday 1 November 2022

The Okinawan Budo Karate inherited by traditional Shotokan-Ryu

The Karate of Okinawa can be categorized in four distinct ‘ways of practice’: (1) 武道空手 (Budo Karate)—the traditional classical ‘way’; (2) Karate for health; (3) Karate as a form of ‘movement art’—which can readily be seen in Okinawan dance; and (4) sports/game karate. Today, I will focus on the karate we do: 武道空手 (Budo Karate). I will do this BASED ON DOCUMENTS THAT I RECENTLY TRANSLATED FROM OKINAWA. Concluding this process, I will confirm ‘the most advanced waza of Okinawan Budo Karate’, which has also been handed down to its pure descendants (thus and accordingly, 'inherited by/within traditional Shotokan-Ryu). ― André 


What is the 武道空手 (Budo Karate) of Okinawa?

Traditionally the karate of Okinawa was based on self-defense. In particular, the emphasis being on the ‘perfection of defense’ and the seeking of ‘one hit finishing techniques.' (Please note here) This was hundreds of years before what is now known as 'Karate' reached mainland Japan. Therefore, it was not based on the evolution of competition in the 20th Century nor based on Kenjutsu nor Kendo.

The classical/original form of Karate, therefore, intrisically possesses a fierce killing style that is technically incomprehensible to those who practice sports karate. In theory, both may seem possible, however, their practice and training are like oil and water.


Ethics whilst turning the body into a self-defense weapon

Budo karate is therefore a martial art which can both take and save lives in unprovoked life and death determining altercations. For over half a millennia it has been honed and refined by experts and passed down accordingly. This has resulted in its deepening sophistication and increased stateliness as an unarmed defensive art. Moreover, whilst the physical skills and effectiveness have continued to be advanced, Karate has been revitalized in contemporary times to also embrace human ethics; thereby, balancing its physical power—which literally turns the human body into a weapon—with a solidified and necessary moral code. While the aspect of Kobudo cannot be looked over, the essence of Karate is that of ‘having the destructive potential of a weapon’ even when unarmed. Indeed, Kobudo training can contribute to this skill, but unlike impact training and strength work, is not a prerequisite of unarmed Karate prowess.

No rules and the 'generic purpose of kata'

One distinct physical feature of Budo Karate is that there are no physical or technical restrictions in both attack and defense; that is, the entire human body is subject to attack. Accordingly, it is utterly critical to develop a perfect system of defense. The ferocity of classical attacks makes the ability to defend against them of the greatest importance, especially at a subconscious and precisely reactive level. Rigorous kata practice is needed to reach this level as defense and attack must eventually become one. It is often said that “Simultaneous activation of this defense and attack and the acquisition of kata are directly proportional to one's proficiency”. 


受技 (Ukewaza): The most advanced technique of Budo

Expanding on this point and to conclude, in Budo Karate, the most advanced ‘waza’ are the ukewaza (reception techniques) as these actions literally control the opponent; furthermore, by fluidly accepting and neutralizing an opponent’s continuous attacks, one can physically and psychologically stop an attacker. Again, this is why kata, irrespective of school always begins with an ukewaza. Allow me to recapitulate and shed a little further light on an imperative point here: ‘the ukewaza of the expert is their most advanced and therefore, most sophisticated technique, in application. That being said, the rarity of those with this capacity can be likened to a four-leafed clover.


Overall, this high-level skill highlights the Budo Karate Proverb: “Do not be struck by your opponent, nor strike them, and emerge unscathed”. This is the psychological and technical maxim amongst the masters of Budo Karate in Okinawa; furthermore, amongst the masters of the Ryuha and Kaiha which have fully maintained these traditions and propagate them on mainland Japan and, indeed, across the world. Of course, this does not literally mean one’s attacker is unscathed but, rather, that their own attack was met with a reception—which collectively establishes the level of damage that they incur. The determinants being: (a) the intensity/force/ferocity of the attackers strike; and (b) the particular response and decided level of power—in sum, ‘the kime’—used in relation to the attackers' action or actions.


I’d like to conclude by saying that what I’ve briefly explained here will be incomprehensible for most people; moreover, perceived as being ‘unrealistic in the real world’: especially in response to a violent attack. Of course, this is completely understandable as this type of ukewaza is simply not understood now. It is old ‘school karate’ which can only be kept by its constant training and the complete knowledge that underpins it.


Irrespective of this knowledge or lack of it, “…at the highest level of the Karate of Okinawa (and the traditional disciplines which have descended from it) this type of ‘uke’ still defines the pinnacle of Budo Karate expertise”.

押忍! ― AB.

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