Sunday 25 December 2022


Recently I did a special training session, which is typical for me in late December and early January. The practice broadly focused on the 15 core 松濤館 Kata as established by Funakoshi Gichin Sensei. Please note the title of this post, and the word 'broadly'. as you read on below):

平安初段 (Heian Shodan)

平安二段 (Heian Nidan)

平安三段 (Heian Sandan)

平安四段 (Heian Yondan)

平安五段 (Heian Godan)

抜賽 (Bassai)

観空 (Kanku)

鉄騎初段 (Tekki Shodan)

鉄騎二段 (Tekki Nidan)

鉄騎三段 (Tekki Sandan)

半月 (Hangetsu)

十手 (Jitte)

燕飛 (Enpi)

岩鶴 (Gankaku)

慈恩 (Jion)


Of course, later, Nakayama Sensei (and original Shihankai of the Japan Karate Association) also included 11 more kata, which now constitutes ‘the Standard 26’. Apparently, some of these kata entered Shotokan-Ryu via excursions to Mabuni Sensei’s dojo; furthermore, via Funakoshi Yoshitaka (Gigo) Sensei’s ‘missions’ back to Okinawa. It is also said that some of these additional kata were re-worked by him, supervised by his father. Most notably, Sochin and Meikyo, but also others.


Before the end of the year, I will do a few more intensive kata sessions in order to cover these 11 kata and Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei’s koten-gata. For me this training is an integral conclusion of each year: a very broad overview.


Lastly, I want to stress that ‘general knowledge of kata is fine, but very limited for oneself’. The expert should have “ more than a handful of kata which they train intensively and practice deeply”—both as solo kata and with a partner: oyo-kumite. Every high level karateka must have “ least one kata which is ‘in their DNA’”. But usually two to three. It is said that one may have up to five kata, but the time and skill required for this is extremely rare—even amongst professional instructors here in Japan.


Yes, ‘to instruct others one must practice broadly (and todays post is an example of this) but, never at the expense of acute specialization’. In sum, it must be like kata being in one’s DNA, “...otherwise truly effective and intrinsically reliable karate, as real-world self-defense, will inevitably be elusive”.



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

Saturday 24 December 2022

Tekki Sandan Performed Slowly (YOUTUBE VIDEO)

 In this YOUTUBE VIDEO (direct link below) I am doing Tekki Sandan Kata slowly. This was during my warm-up, two days ago, on December 22nd, 2022.

The rendition I'm doing is the Shotokan (old JKA style, from Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei's time); however, my version here has had personal influences/tweaks over the years by Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei, Osaka Yoshiharu Sensei, and other senior experts here in Japan. Moreover, in accordance with such tuition, I've also adapted my form in accordance with/for optimization of the various OYO (Practical applications) of each movement. Something that EVERYONE MUST DO if they want to effective karate. To do this without compromising kihon is the essence of kata being trained/practiced as Budo/Bujutsu as opposed to being an empty shell of itself. In this way, Kihon, Kata and (Jissen) Kumite are one, which results in kata being 'fighting forms' valuable for actual self-defense training. Needless to say, this is not mainstream karate now but must be preserved. The three Tekki Kata each contain numerous effective Oyo-Waza; however, what matters (like all other karate) is that they become reflexive and adaptive in any circumstance. Needless to say, this is imperative in all unarmed fighting arts, and the reason why contemporary karate is mostly ineffective. When karate is fully understood in this way, it is second to none for self-protection. The path of true karate is a narrow one which few wish to travel, but those who do are greatly rewarded by its extreme efficiency and meaningful depth.
While this video is merely Tekki Sandan performed slowly, some subtle old school variations are shown. For those who are studious, you will find them,

Season's greetings from International Karate Shotokan.

OSU, André Bertel
IKS Technical Director
 © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2022).

Thursday 22 December 2022

Trainees from England: Sunil Das (and family)

 Sunil Das (Sandan), his wife, and three sons recently came to Japan for renshusei training here in Oita. Based in England, Sunil wanted to learn more subtle details of the Shotokan system; more specifically, traditional Budo/Bujutsu technique.


Accordingly, this assigned me as an instructor to re-teach him many of the fundamental kihonwaza, tachikata and unsoku. The removal of superfluous movements was high on my agenda in this process; furthermore, the correction of fundamental actions to fully use one’s mass, move with maximum velocity, and with the ideal form, trajectories and targets. It was great to see Sunil so happy when things made sense and ‘the gaps were filled’ via the underpinning fundamentals.


With this experience and the resulting understanding, truly effective karate begins to appear. That is, kihon, kata and kumite really become one—not merely on an intellectual level, but in application; thus, harmoniously resulting in the destructive waza that technically characterizes our art: ‘ichigeki-hissatsu’. This was taught not only within the context of the fundamentals and partner training drills but also via the 応用 (Oyo: applications) of various Shotokan kata.

Sunil now has plenty of homework, and newfound knowledge, that he can share at his own discretion. Overall, we wish him and his family the very best in their training. 

December 21st, 2022.
押忍 — AB

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

Wednesday 14 December 2022

One is never too old to practice Karate-Do: YouTube Video

 In this video I was told by Nakamura Masamitsu Shihan to slowly take Katayama San (who is well into his 80s) and Ogasawara San through SOCHIN KATA at the Shototakuhirokan.

I'm leading with the count as Nakamura Shihan (seated) watches on. Akiyoshi Sensei also observes from the sidelines. This was at the conclusion of the Friday evening class in late 2019.

Actually, I just stumbled across this footage (two days ago). The reason that I decided to share this is that I feel really inspired by older karateka ‘still being on the dojo floor’. This perfectly reflects the maxim that ‘Karate is lifetime Budo’; furthermore, that ‘one is never too old to practice'. This is undeniably one of the beauties of Karate.


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

Tuesday 13 December 2022

Renshusei from Australia: Don Walker (Part Two): YouTube Video

Below is a brief YouTube video from Don Sensei’s recent training here in Oita. As opposed to showing the ‘learning processes’ this video is primarily for Don ‘to provide subtle and useful cues (from the lessons)’.

In sum, and irrespective of not being ‘a spring chicken’, I’m very grateful for Don Sensei's intense focus throughout his time here as a renshusei; in particular, his highly pragmatic questions; ‘seeking of effectiveness and efficiency over aesthetics’ (budo/bujutsu as opposed to ‘sports’); and last but not least, the wonderful camaraderie.


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

Thursday 8 December 2022

Renshusei from Australia: Don Walker (Part One)


Don Walker Sensei (Godan) from Western Australia came again to Oita for training.


In addition to some pictures, and possibly some video footage, in the upcoming 'parts', I thought I’d share a few brief thoughts and comments about the training to begin with.


In his 60s Don is still constantly seeking to develop as a karateka, and is always on the floor in his dogi. His approach is therefore not only humble, but concentrated and serious about ‘evolving his personal karate skill’. Before I go on, if you use the 'search engine' (on this blogsite) you will find several posts on Don's past training here.


KEIKO SUMMARY: In brief, between Tuesday and Friday, kata trained included Bassai Dai, Hangetsu and Chinte. Furthermore, Kihon and Kumite were focused on the practical training and application of Karate-waza. In particular, I focused on Budo/Bujutsu  'MAAI' this time, via various kumite drills. However, as always (and it cannot be stressed enough): "...within true karate,  基本 (Kihon),   (Kata) and  組手 (Kumite) are inseparable". This is often stated by various individuals and groups but rarely the case in tangible term's.

I will not fully detail what was specifically taught, over the days Don was training here, except to say that ‘a fair amount of the content has yet to ever reach the shores of Australia’. In sum, he put himself on the line. Accordingly, that knowledge is for Don Sensei to share/teach at his own discretion.


Once again, this exemplifies the point that ‘those who earnestly seek, reap the reward's'. A big bow to Don Sensei and an equally big thanks to Bev for the constant immersion.


Don Sensei, his wife Bev, and myself at the conclusion of the first day of training.

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

Monday 5 December 2022

Saturday 3 December 2022

Trainees from Central India (Part One)

Tekki Nidan (Movement 24): Hidari uraken jodan uchi/Migi zenwan munemae suihei gamae.

Mr. Sudhir Parab (from Mumbai, Bombay) and Mr. Kailas Lohar (from Pune, Maharashta) once again came to Oita for training.

'Budo/Bujutsu KIHON' from Yakusoku-Kumite: The two hours at the dojo included Gohon Kumite, Ippon Kumite and Jiyu Kumite; with a focus on underlying budo/bujutsu fundamentals for them to improve. In particular, I had Kailas and Sudhir work on: (a) their attacks - especially pertaining to effective and optimal maai'; (b) the 'wrist/waist connection in their ukewaza; and (c) instantaneously/reactively selecting (and countering with) the most effective waza in the moment. 

The correct maai to attack is what determines the effectiveness of Yakusoku Kumite practice for both the designated attacker and defender.

 Budo/Bujutsu Jiyu Kumite: I focused on the main point that " jiyu-kumite the fundamentals are maintained in the context of freestyle, so that maximum damage can be inflicted at any moment"; thus, control is not only 'to make controlled contact' but, rather, the contact is the same as full contact without 'going through' the target. Therefore, it is that "...percussive waza are landed with full commitment of the legs and hips, and the weapon of the body connecting with the respective target; nevertheless, with the limb not fully extended". In this way, if the opponents, say jaw, was in fact a board, instead of stopping you'd simply fully extend the limb to break it. This is the exact 'Budo/Bujutsu' use of the SUN-DOME rule. In sum, unlike sports karate, in Budo/Bujutsu, the focus is ICHIGEKI HISSATSU. Therefore, merely reaching the target, which can attain a 'point' IS NOT REAL KARATE.

Impact Training
Beyond this control, 'following through' impact training was also practiced. I primarily focused on instructing haisoku and sokuto-kerwaza targeting the groin; namely, haisoku mae-geri keage and sokuto yoko-geri keage (also a variation of mawashi-geri to impact from an angle. Needless to say, groin kicks are devastating, and if the kicker is skillful, extremely hard to defend against in a street fight. In IKS we constantly focus on full contact impact on a variety of training tools. Moreover, "...we target the weak and vulnerable points of koryu-karate, which require 'minimal fine motor skills to reliably apply' under the most extreme levels of psychological pressure".

I also taught variations from different angles (the criticality of 'instantaneous and fluid adaptability') and contrasted these with kekomi. Besides seiken-tsukiwaza open hand attacks were also practiced. Once again, the aim was using the lower body and core, and relaxation of the attacking limbs.

Kata: To reinforce these points Heian Shodan Kata was trained; furthermore, by their request, Tekki Nidan Kata. Certainly, kata helps to reinforce the optimal mechanics for self-defense and, whilst making movements to the extreme, allows us to also practice the more damaging actions of Shotokan -- with full speed -- without needing to care for a training partner.
Overall, it was great to see Sudhir and Kailas eyes further opened to 'old school karate' based on real world self-defense, which with all its brutal effectiveness is also a beautiful art. In sum, I wish them both the best in their Shotokan endeavors. OSU, AB.

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

Thursday 1 December 2022

Daily post-dojo supplementary practices: For oneself and boosting other's skills as well

Some images of my daily post-dojo supplementary practices. I do a daily review of dojo training each day in order refine skills.  I refer to this as 'professional practice' and, while it is not fun, it really boosts one's technical level and ability to instruct more effectively; that is, not only appear to teach well but really help others to achieve a high level in Shotokan.

An intentionally overextended oi-zuki.

Henka mawashi-geri no renshu

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