Thursday 20 April 2023

Intermittent special training

基本 (KIHON)

A. Tateken chudan choku-zuki (Kiba-dachi).


B. Ryoken koshi-gamae kara yama-zuki (Fudo-dachi alternately from shizentai).


C. Chudan soto-uke (Shizentai): type 1 and type two — arc and linear/rotation and drive. Also, type 3: mix/hybrid.


D. Niren chudan choku-zuki kara chudan gyaku-zuki soshite chudan gyaku-zuki (Kiba-dachi followed by two diagonal twists into Hidari and Migi zenkutsu-dachi). This is certainly a classic sonoba ren-waza.


E. Shodan no idokihon: (1) Sanbon ren-zuki; (2) Jodan age-uke kata chudan gyaku-zuki; (3) Chudan soto-uke kara yoko-enpi soshite uraken yokomawashi uchi; (4) Shuto chudan-uke kara nukite; (5) Tenshin gedan-barai kara chudan gyaku-zuki; (6) Chudan uchi-uke kara kizami mae-geri soshite tate nukite; (7) Chudan mae-geri kara chudan oi-zuki; (8) Chudan mae-geri kara jodan mae-geri; (9) Uraken yokomawashi uchi; (10) Shuto jodan sotomawashi uchi kara shuto jodan uchimawashi uchi

F. Jodan age-zuki (Zenkutsu-dachi/Gyaku-hanmi).



五十四歩大  (Gojushihodai)

王冠  (Wankan)

破壊手 (Hakaishu)


組手 (KUMITE )

 基本一本組手の片羽絞め (Kihon ippon kumite no kataha-jime)



アンドレ バーテル

 © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2023).

Tuesday 18 April 2023

Review of the Freital 2023 Seminar for karateka attending upcoming events outside Japan


© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2023).

Monday 17 April 2023

Timing of 受け技 (ukewaza)

This brief article will address the timing of 受け技 (ukewaza) in relation to footwork and ‘the double action’ of the foundational ‘reception techniques’.


To begin we must first consider the pragmatic function of ukewaza from a vantage point that the karateka has sufficiently mastered the movement(s).


I’d like to do this by repeating a statement that I’ve stated countless times before: “I’ve never seen a ‘block’ used in a real fight”. Nor have I ever used one in my decade of security work in bars, clubs, and as a bodyguard, where I had numerous violent confrontations on a regular basis (I must add here, that as a bodyguard, I fortunately never had not even one physical incident).


So, as the term ‘uke’ means ‘reception’/to receive, I can say that I have utilized free versions of these waza on a regular basis; moreover, when done correctly—and their universal defensive principles are understood and applied—the Shotokan ukewaza are highly effective in the real world.


That being said, and as stated in my opening words, the ‘timing’ of all ukewaza is utterly imperative to make them useful outside of the dojo. And yes, they are VERY USEFUL.


To address this, I’ll begin with the other point I mentioned: the double action.


1.            The ‘Double Action’

It is obvious that the wind up/chambering of the foundational ukewaza makes no sense against a sudden single action, let alone a barrage of attacks. Simply put, the punch or strike is immediate and direct, and therefore intrinsically faster. Consequently, the completed ‘uke’ cannot out-speed such a single action—especially when it is completely unpredictable—which is always the case in a ‘jiyu context’ (jiyu kumite, goshin jutsu, police/security/military).


Common sense immediately shows that this is not the true meaning of these waza. Accordingly, we know that “…the ‘wind up’/‘chambering’ is the reactive response to the respective stimuli”. With that cleared up, “the second action, the completion of the waza, is thus achieving ‘kime’ as a secondary defense; a counterattack; or both simultaneously”. Indeed, the initial action is often an offensive action, such as after impacting with an 入口技 (Iriguchiwaza) one snatches the opponents wrist, and pulls them in with the 引き手 (hikite): to impact or lock/ break a joint. Irrespective, of any of these applications, we can see the critical importance of the first action of the kihon-ukewaza: especially in relation to the timing of an initial attack. That brings me to the overarching theme and criticality of ‘timing’ itself.



2.            Timing

Needless to say, one can have the faster and strongest techniques, and great external form, but without precise timing—especially under the pressure of a violent attack—one’s karate simply cannot be reliable.


Accordingly, and needless to say, the timing of the foundational techniques must be fully understood and trained properly. Certainly, the ukewaza are no exception to this, and arguably timing is their most important element.


Unfortunately, most Shotokan groups no longer practice the pre—WW2 timing of the foundational ukewaza. And, in fact, primarily train the timing of the second action as “…mostly a defense against basic karate waza, which never occur in self-defense”. While this is useful practice for basic form and 分解 (Bunkai — the analysis of movements and their respective trajectories when initially learning kihon/kata), it is not related to 応用 (Oyo —practical application) and 実戦組手 (Jissen Kumite — real fighting).


So, what is the ‘old school (pre ‘fist kendo’) timing, which makes the ukewaza effective (in the practical ways mentioned above). The answer is the same as 突き技 (tsukiwaza); that is, ‘do not slow the hands down to be in time with your body’. Instead, ‘the hands must be quicker’. Thereby, in the case of the Part One of this article, ‘The Double Action’, it is absolutely clear that one must ‘wind up’/‘chamber’ the ukewaza rapidly. In this way, kihon, kata and kumite are all consistent: harmonious with each other.


This means that the initial action, more than a specific waza, becomes a ‘flinch reaction’, which—rather being for specific attacks—responds appropriately to whatever the attack may be. This is the higher meaning of ‘reception’ in karate, which is rarely perfected now and seriously undermines the practicality of the art.


By no means does this completely alter teashi-onaji; rather, it is actually supports it. I always point out to my trainees that “gaining milliseconds is the aim of professional sprinters”. Of course, milliseconds are what win medals and break records. In Budo, they can determine success or failure.


In the case of ukewaza, perhaps life or death. And kogekiwaza, the difference between a grazing blow or a knockout.


A case study: consider movements 18 to 21 in Heian Shodan (the four shuto chudan-uke in kokutsu-dachi). Of course, this sequence is also found in Heian Nidan (Pinan Shodan), Kanku Dai and, although extended, Sochin as well. This oyo is obviously important, however, allow me to purely focus on the ‘performance timing’.


Mostly, people do this in a sluggish way. It may look quick, but it’s mostly robotic.


Correctly timed, the wind ups and completion of each uke must slightly outpace the steps and turns. This is the correct timing if one is interested in karate as an effective form of budo/bujutsu. All of what I’ve explained above verifies this point. Many top level instructors may dispute what I’m saying, however, this is not about the microcosm of today’s karate, it is about karate when it was highly  functional.



3.            Warning

Keep in mind what I’m explaining here is not a radicle change. It’s subtle. Just as I emphasized above: ‘milliseconds make very big differences in skill/performance/outcomes’. This elucidates a very-very important point in Shotokan Karate: “…the highest execution of kihon is ‘optimal technical moderation’ established for oneself”. Taken as a whole, if what I’ve explained in this article makes your timing strange, it means your technique is wrong. This timing is ‘nearly indiscernible’ to the naked eye; however, it’s affects are highly determinant in effectiveness and non-effectiveness.



© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2023).

Wednesday 12 April 2023

Monday 10 April 2023

反撃 (Hangeki) 101


There seems to be some real confusion about  反撃 (Hangeki) or ‘Counterattacking’ in 五本組手 (Gohon Kumite), 基本一本組手 (Kihon Ippon Kumite), and 自由一本組手 (Jiyu Ippon Kumite).


Some people assume that they must also counter with either 中段逆突き(Chudan gyaku-zuki) or 上段逆突き (Jodan gyaku-zuki). Yet, others are more ‘creative’ and counter with a wide range of 技 (waza).


Both of these ways are both right and wrong, with the exception of creativity, which is outrightly incorrect.


Let me explain from the direct teachings I’ve received from two of Japan’s greatest Shotokan masters: Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei and Osaka Yoshiharu Sensei. What I am explaining here today is not 'André Bertel's theory'. No, this is the 'old school JKA Shotokan' that I have always trained. It is also what my seniors want to see preserved, as it's dying from the suffocation of sports-centric karate.


So, to answer this question about HANGEKI: The correct counter is  ‘the best counter in that very moment, in that very instant’. That is, the waza which in that split second has: (a) the best distancing to cause maximum damage to the opponent; (b) the best angle of attack in relation to both yourself and your opponents positioning (i.e. – their kamae, tachikata, shisei, etcetera); (c) it also utilizes a karada no buki (weapon of the body) most appropriate for the area being targeted; and (d) is the most direct—immediate— and ‘simple waza’ to achieve the three aforementioned points (‘a—c’). THIS TRAINING IS SO VERY-VERY IMPORTANT, EVEN IN PRE-ARRANGED-KUMITE!


From this critical understanding it is easy to see that Gyaku-zuki is regularly the best choice 'hangeki-waza'; however, this, by the nature of kumite, is “never always the case”. Keep in mind that this is not referring to beginners here. Often the mae-geri, enpi, shuto-uchi etc, is optimal for kime. This must become second nature if one is to truly become a 'karate expert', as opposed to merely being a 'karate performer' (which according to Osaka Sensei is "all too common now").  


Important point for lower grades and confirmation for instructors (common-sense - but just to clarify): In reference to beginners, when they counter with Gyaku-zuki they must not alter their stance by moving nor bend the upper body forward; thereby, breaking their 基本 (fundamentals). Likewise, they shouldn’t lose the kakato-chushin of the rear foot. Rather, they should not worry about ‘not reaching the target’ at the expense of their technical form. Their focus must be to achieve excellent form and steadily increase their speed, power and accuracy.


This point of ‘reaching the target’ is also misunderstood by many advanced practitioners. Reaching the target is fine if one doesn’t practice budo karate and just wants to accumulate 'points'; however, for budo karateka—irrespective of 流派 (ryuha)—we must use a waza which 'will cause maximum damage to the respective target (if not controlled).'


As I have stated before, “…this is the real meaning of control in karate’. The sun-dome principle, and rule in traditional shiai, is firmly based on this. It is not merely based on reaching or surface impacting with techniques.


This type of karate, which is now the norm all around the world, actually results in less ability to fight. Why?  Because it is "subconsciously grooving incorrect maai whilst counterattacking (and attacking for that matter)". Many people with high Dan certificates from Japan do not fully understand this and, consequently, "...their training and teaching is sports karate": even though they think they are doing budo karate, and that is preached to them. The sad thing is that these people deep down know that their karate is combatively 'near useless'; yet psychologically fool themselves into believing in their paid Japanese ranks and instructor hero's. Interestingly, the 'instructor hero's become their own personification to justify their own skill. What I say about this, is one thing. A person's association, and stars within it, cannot attribute karate skill and ability to oneself. Nor can selfies with them. Two words: WAKE UP!

In true budo karate, the control we exert means that if the sun-dome rule is not applied, the waza we are using is no different from when we desire to break thick boards or concrete tiles. Also, the waza distancing is the same as when we do full-contact bag work.


In this way, the various forms of yakusoku-kumite are harmonious and contribute to all forms of jiyu-kumite including actual self-defense.



アンドレ バーテル

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2023).

Sunday 9 April 2023

Some generic notes on Shotokan-Ryu

1.  (KIME)

The technical highest point of Budo and Bujutsu Karate is the ability to generate  (Kime): even under most extreme pressure. This “… this ‘true kime’ transcends the mere physique performance and theoretical understanding of karate; moreover, can only be acquired and exist from endless correct and intense practice”. This is the essence of ‘the trinity of karate’: 基本 (Kihon),   (Kata) and 組手 (Kumite).


2. Some important points, in brief, pertaining to 松濤館流の技 (the Waza/Techniques of Shotokan-Ryu)

a. 追い突きと逆突き

追い突き(Oizuki—chasing thrust) and 逆突き (Gyakuzuki—reverse thrust) are the two main tsukiwaza of Shotokan. Oizuki also commonly referred to as 順突き(Jun-zuki) is executed by the hips and upper body moving straight towards the target whilst making a step. The tsuki hand and the foot that is forward are on the same side; furthermore, 逆回転 (gyaku-kaiten) of the hips is applied. In contrast, gyaku-zuki is applied utilizing 順回転 (Jun-kaiten); that is, where the hips and upper body rotate towards the target; also, the hand delivering the thrust is on the same side as the rear leg.

b. 突き技と打ち技

Generally speaking 突き(Tsuki) and 打ち(Uchi)  are determined in relation to the direction of force being applied pertaining to the forearm. In the case of tsuki, the forearm being extended. For uchi, being applied at a right angle. There are exceptions to these points, but for the most part in Shotokan, this is the case and characteristic of it as a ryuha.


c. 猿臂

猿臂 (Enpi) denotes any waza impacting with an elbow in classical Shotokan-Ryu. The direction or action of the elbow is described with words preceding enpi. Furthermore, there are two groups of enpi, one belonging to tsuki and one to uchi. Enpi belonging to tsuki include: 横猿臂 (Yoko-enpi), 後ろ猿臂 (Ushiro-enpi) and 落とし猿臂 (Otoshi-enpi). Enpi belonging to uchi include: 縦猿臂 (Tate-enpi), 前猿臂 (Mae-enpi), 回し猿臂 (Mawashi-enpi), 振り猿臂  (Furi-enpi) and so on.


d.  足技

蹴上げ (Keage—rising kicks) and 蹴込み (Kekomi—thrust kicks) like uchi and tsuki are determined how the force of the lower leg is applied “…in relation to both force and direction/trajectory”. In kekomi, like tsuki, the lower leg is extended by it preceding the knee. In regards to keage, like uchi, the action is at a right angle. To achieve this, and in clear contrast with kekomi, the knee precedes the whipping action of the lower leg. In addition to these waza there are also 踏み込み (Fumikomi—stamps) which are the most common ashiwaza in the 26 standard Shotokan kata; furthermore, 振り蹴り(Furigeri—swinging). Various forms of 膝蹴り(Hizageri—knee kicks) and 足払い (Ashibarai—leg sweeps) can be performed in all of the aforementioned technical categorizations which I’ve outlined.

e. 内受けと外受け

内受け (Uchiuke—inside receptions) and 外受け (Sotouke—outside receptions) need to be clarified as different karate ryuha and kaiha define them differently. In Shotokan we follow Funakoshi Gichin Sensei’s labeling. Accordingly for us, uchi-uke represents the outer aspect of the forearm with its trajectory coming from the inside to the outside of the body; that is, ‘inside-outward’. In the case of soto-uke, it represents the inner aspect of the forearm and travels from outside in; thus, being an ‘outside-inward’ action.


f. 上段と中段そして下段

上段 (Jodan—the ‘upper level’), 中段  (Chudan—the ‘middle level’), and下段  (Gedan—the ‘middle level’) must be clearly defined ‘target areas’ as they are often not fully understood outside here in Japan. Jodan is every target on the neck, face and head in general. The reference point in basic training is the jinchu. Chudan is every target on the torso. The reference point in basic training is the suigetsu, otherwise referred to as the mizo-ochi. Gedan is every target “from the lower abdomen downwards”. The reference point in basic training is the myojo, also called heso-no-shita.


© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2023).

Thursday 6 April 2023




Sanbon ren-zuki (jodan oi-zuki followed by niren-zuki: chudan gyaku-zuki then chudan maete-zuki) in zenkutsu-dachi. Utilize fumidashi to attack with the upper level chasing thrust—targeting the jinchu—then make two stationary middle level thrusts—both targeting the suigetsu. Lock into shomen at the end of your step, then slightly open the hips for the reverse thrust. Finally vibrate the hips for the final thrust into shomen. Note the above image.




Joudan age-uke kara chuudan gyaku-zuki. Move utilizing fumidashi into zenkutsu-dachi and make the upper level rising reception rotating into hanmi; then counter rotate into shomen making a middle level reverse thrust to the suigetsu. Attack with tekubi—with all of the basic ‘closed fist’ uke—and counterattack utilizing seiken with your thrusts.




Chuudan soto-uke kara yoko-enpi soshite uraken yokomawashi uchi. Move utilizing fumidashi into zenkutsu-dachi and make the middle level outside reception rotating into hanmi. From here counterattack by driving forward into kiba-dachi with yori-ashi to make yoko-enpi impacting the 上肋骨 (ue-rokkotsu: the upper ribs). Lastly, remaining stationary in kiba-dachi conclude with uraken yokomawashi uchi.




Shuto chuudan-uke kara chuudan tateshihon-nukite. Move utilizing fumidashi into kokutsu-dachi and make the sword hand middle level reception rotating into hanmi. From here counterattack by driving forward into zenkutsu-dachi, and rotating into shomen, with chuudan tateshihon-nukite. Note — the target in solo training is centralized at the suigetsu; however, in application, typically (me: the eyes).



Gedan-barai kara chuudan uchi-uke, joudan kizami-zuki soshite chuudan gyaku-zuki. Move utilizing fumidashi into zenkutsu-dachi with gedan-barai rotating into hanmi. From here draw back into neko ashi-dachi with chuudan uchi-uke. Counterattack by driving forward into zenkutsu-dachi stretching into an extreme hanmi with joudan kizami-zuki flowing into chuudan gyaku-zuki locking into shomen. The targets of this renzuki are the jinchu and suigetsu respectively.




Advance into zenkutsu-dachi with chuudan mae-geri keage kara chuudan oi-zuki. Keep the hikite and opposite arm sono-mama (set in place) when making your keri. Aim for the opponents suigetsu with both waza firstly with josokutei then with seiken. In application, this is kick to the opponents testicles followed by joudan thrust, ideally after their body has folded from the kin-geri. Note — unweighting the kicking leg is automatic when kicking; however, it must also be consciously applied with one’s thrust to apply maximum body weight/mass with snap. Furthermore, maximum connectivity of the jouhanshin and thrusting arm must be made by completing the waza in shomen. Please note that these important kihon points directly relate to the oi-zuki in sanbon ren-zuki.




Chuudan mae-geri keage kara joudan mae-geri keage. This waza is also simply referred to as 連蹴り (ren-geri). Assuming ryoken gedan-kakiwake gamae in zenkutsu-dachi advance with two consecutive mae-geri, the first aimed at the suigetsu and the second at the jinchu. With both keriwaza impact with josokutei.

When kicking remain in shomen throughout, both fists sono-mama in the kakiwake position, and the head set and level. Both fists and head form a set triangle. As in all kicks raise the knee high and as tightly (as compact) as possible; furthermore, drive with the knee of the sasae-ashi and maximize kakato-chuushin in the same manner as tsukiwaza. Avoid stretching your step between kicks; rather, keep the action tight. In application this is initially a kick to the groin. An upper level kick to the jaw or throat can then be applied. Alternatively, the opponents head can then be pulled down for joudan hiza-geri (ref. — movement 25 of 平安四段).




Uraken yokomawashi uchi. Move utilizing fumidashi into zenkutsu-dachi and make the back fist side roundhouse strike rotating into hanmi. This waza, unlike the stationary rendition following soto-uke and yoko-enpi is a lunging attack. Note — the target in solo training is at shoulder height for ‘arm alignment practice’ and understanding; however, in application, typically the komikame (the temple). This waza is light and fast and, like keriwaza, has a speed ratio of 3:7 for whip-like snap. Sharp ‘koshi no kaiten’ (rotation of the hips) is very important in maximizing this action. Also tightly compressing the arm, optimizing the elbow as a fulcrum, and fully using the extension, and retraction, of the hikite arm.




Shuto jodan sotomawashi uchi kara shuto jodan uchimawashi uchi. Move utilizing fumidashi into zenkutsu-dachi and execute the sword hand upper level outside roundhouse strike rotating  into hanmi. Then rotate into shomen and counter rotate back into hanmi with the sword hand upper level inside roundhouse strike. These strikes are aimed at both carotid arteries. It is important to note that these are two separate large scale waza as opposed to being made in quick concession and, thus, too small. Furthermore, the sotomawashi uchi is a lunging attack whereas the uchimawashi uchi is stationary. Wind ups are both large actions with the intent like tameshigiri with a katana.




Tenshin chudan gyaku-zuki, also referred to as ‘kaiten-shinagara gyaku-zuki’ is executed by first extending a reverse thrust in a stationary zenkutsu-dachi (shomen). From this position, turning on the kakato of the lead foot spin 360 degrees and make gyaku-zuki with the opposite seiken. In this koshi no kaiten, the axis of the front hip is utilized (running up a plum-line to the front shoulder) along with the hikite. The focus of the hikite is to fully engage the scapula to assist turning rapidly. Moreover, the tai no shinshuku is maximized. This requires that mid-way through rotation, as the moving foot is drawn towards the sasae-ashi/jiku-ashi, one must assume the position of sitting in a chair with good posture. From this position one expands into zenkutsu-dachi to execute the tsuki. The target is centralized at the suigetsu. Overall, this waza along with kaiten shinagara choku-zuki, are the most basic and critical underpinnings of tenshin, which is an imperative base-skill in IKS: inherited directly from Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2023).