Friday 17 November 2023

Zawan-Dachi 座湾立ち

 Zawan-Dachi 座湾立ち (Description: ‘Wide-Seated Crossed Leg Stance’. Literally, in Nihongo: ‘Seated Bay Stance). 

Zawan-dachi is essentially a wide Kosa-dachi which allows for maximum KOSHI NO KAITEN.


This tachikata is found in several Ryuha/Kaiha but is no longer commonly practiced in mainstream Shotokan (outside of the students of Asai Sensei, and offshoots from his influence within the old ‘pre-split’ JKA).


As alluded to above, it is primarily used for TENSHIN WAZA—rotational/spinning techniques; in particular, kaiten-uraken, kaiten-enpi, kaiten-shuto, haito, and various keriwaza. In IKS we also practice it with tsuki and with partner resistance. Rather than for practical application this challenges and develops core stability/balance and internal awareness of these aspects: especially when engaging in rapid movements. Consequently, this improves explosiveness in the standard Shotokan-ryu waza. 

左足前座湾立ち (Hidari ashi mae zawan-dachi) with 左回転裏拳 (Hidari kaiten-uraken).

A major advantage of spinning in this stance (as opposed to zenkutsu-dachi, kiba-dachi, etcetera) is that it done immediately (on the spot by simply compressing). Compare this to movement nine of Heian Sandan etc...

In practice, these spinning techniques are made to frontal targets, which is very powerful but requires significant fine motor skills.


While this is certainly applicable, the main application of Zawan-dachi—in actual self-defense—is against attackers at one’s side or rear. This requires minimal fine motor skills (and capitalizes on the the more difficult frontal attacks practiced in the dojo). 

押忍, André

右足前座湾立ち (Migi ashi mae zawan-dachi) with 右回転猿臂 (Migi kaiten-enpi).

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

Monday 13 November 2023


Tanaka Masahiko Sensei: movement one of 慈恩 (Jion).

The technique 中段内受け同時に

下段受け (Chudan uchi-uke doji ni gedan-uke) is a ‘simultaneous middle level inside-outward reception and low-level reception’.


It is featured in six of the ‘standard 26 Shotokan kata’ for a total of 18 times! 

Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei correcting 'Chudan uchi-uke doji ni gedan-uke'. 

Four times in 平安三段 (Heian Sandan)—movements two, three, five and six. Once in 慈恩 (Jion)—movement one. Three times in 半月 (Hangetsu)—movements 11, 13 and 15. Four times in 鉄騎三段 (Tekki Sandan)—movements two, 14, 15 and 35. Once in 珍手 (Chinte)—movement 13. And five times in 慈陰 (Jiin)—movements one, 16, 21, 30 and 31.


While the 分解 (BUNKAI) for learning the correct initiation, trajectory and completion is an 受け技 (ukewaza), the 応用 (OYO) is classically a hold break (either outside-inward with the initiation or inside-outward with the completion); however, the more common use is a hold break and/or ukewaza with a simultaneous impact. This aspect is highlighted by Heian Sandan, which clearly Itosu Anko Sensei placed this ‘double block’ twice in succession; thereby, clarifying its offensive and counteroffensive meanings.

The G.O.A.T of Kata: Osaka Yoshiharu Sensei. 平安三段 (Heian Sandan)

Hangetsu kata applies this waza with open hands. The uchi-uke utilizes haito, while the gedan-uke is done with shuto. This is also the only kata where this technique is applied with a 180 degree turn and a kiai, which again elucidates it containing an offensive action.


Jiin features this waza the most. Four out of the five times—it is executed in the kata—it is uniquely performed with the chudan uchi-uke being done with the rear arm (with gedan-uke over the lead leg).

Whether applied in a grappling scenario, as in Tekki Sandan, or after planting a kick (as is done in Chinte), Chudan uchi-uke doji ni gedan-uke is clearly an important and applicably versatile waza in Shotokan Karate. Accordingly, like other such commonplace techniques, must be practiced to enhance one's foundational self-defense skills; thereby, becoming instinctively reactive as opposed to consciously applied: which inevitably lacks reliability in the real world.

I'd like to conclude by emphasizing that "...when a waza is repeated many times in various kata, pay close attention to it". This is never an accident or coincidental.

押忍, André

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

Thursday 9 November 2023


Here are the official kata of IKS (INTERNATIONAL KARATE SHOTOKAN). I have republished this for those taking IKS Dan Examinations in 2024. 

Osu and greetings from Japan.

André Bertel
IKS Technical Director

                                © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2021, 2023).

Wednesday 8 November 2023

30th Anniversary since first coming here to Japan

Kumite with my dear friend, the late Morgan Dilks Sensei. 

This month marks my thirtieth year since I first came to Japan to study Shotokan Karate-Do. 15 of those years, I've lived and trained here daily. This ranged from several three months stays; a three-year stay; and now, an over ten-year stay.

More importantly I have been personally mentored by many of 'The  JKA Shotokan Greats'. Especially, of course, Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei. But also, the likes of Osaka Yoshiharu Sensei, Nakamura Masamitsu Sensei, and others

Learning from the very best in the world, in this environment, and for so many years, is: (1) the foundation of my own karate; and (2) the foundation and content of what I teach/pass on to Renshusei (Trainees) here at my dojo and in Technical Seminars: here in Japan and abroad.

My efforts in learning from these great masters, over these years, has not only been to improve my own karate, but to also build up the best Shotokan karateka in the world. Furthermore, to preserve this knowledge internationally, which has not been openly taught outside of Japanese karate inner circles. 

押忍, André

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (Novembe2023).

Thursday 2 November 2023

Karate 'Trends'

Old school Unsu Kata. Not as polished, but with every waza executed with effective intent.

One major piece of advice—to those seeking 武道空手 (budo karate)— that ‘I can’t emphasize enough’ is: “…to follow the 伝統的基本 (traditional kihon) as opposed to ‘trends’”. This especially pertains to sports kata and sports kumite.


This does not mean that technique does not evolve but, rather, (traditionally) it has and continues to evolve based on improved effectiveness/efficiency. Indeed, and needless to say, many waza have reached their optimum form. In these cases, increases or maintenance of form and/or explosive power will be the objective in training.


Also, for higher level karateka, the kihon changes in form based on their individual physiques and a multitude of inevitability variable attributes. One such example is the foundational ukewaza. Depending on say, the length of a person's arm, they might alter the distance of their elbow from their body.


While the usual form is having the elbow one fist width from the body, this should be slightly altered by Dan grades if a more effective form can be used.  Otherwise, the standard version “the reference form”, should be kept. Such an alteration by higher ranks must be evaluated through kumite and impact training.


Some instructors have very ‘set’ ideas about what is right or wrong. This is because their understanding is only basic. Everyone should know that here in Japan there are two versions of karate within large organizations. The ‘general version’ where everything is set, which they make the masses do. And the ‘elite version’, which is done by the professional instructors and personalized/adapted for them individually.


This is the first reason why you see differences between the different famous instructors. Yes, they teach the ‘general version’—and teach it as gospel; however, they themselves practice in the ‘elite’ manner.


The second reason you see differences is “the original research that each instructor does”, but this is a natural continuation of the ‘elite version’. In fact, the ‘personalization of kihon for the individual’ fuels optimal research.


A danger in these regards is where one begins researching without sufficient budo skill; thereby, resulting in the practice/training and (in the case of those instructing) teaching of ineffective karate.


For karateka who come for my training, I do not teach the ‘general version’; instead, everyone I teach receives specialized training unique for them—based on the tradition passed down to me here in Japan. This methodology functions to optimize the karate skill of trainees immediately and bolster their long-term improvement. Ironically, this has bought our training back to the way karate was original taught in Okinawa, whilst not deviating from the improvements made through the evolution of Shotokan-Ryu.


To reiterate, if you follow the trends like ‘the latest way of moving in tournaments’, you will inevitably move away from the traditional way; that is Budo Karate.


Two concrete examples from kata:

Movement 42 of 観空小 (Kanku Sho)

挙動   右前屈立   左手首後方中段掛受   右拳右腰    左脚立 左掌に右中段三日月蹴   回転飛び   右脚前屈   腕立て

Migi zenkutsu dachi, Hidari tekubi koho chudan kake uke, Uken migi koshi, Hidari ashi dachi, Hidari sho ni migi chudan mikazuki geri, Kaiten tobi, Migi ashi zenkutsu, Ude tate


This jump is often done high or even with a tobi yoko-geri kekomi added! This MUST be low and sharp to be optimally applicable.



Movement one of 岩鶴 (Gankaku)

右後屈立   両甲上段側面合わせ受

Migi kokutsu dachi, Ryoko jodan sokumen awase uke


This waza has dropped to chudan by the majority of competitors, and in doing so has lost all of its meaning. And let’s not get into all of the 上段横蹴り蹴込み (jodan yoko-geri kekomi) replacing the 蹴上げ (keage), which again, invalidates the original intent and corresponding effectiveness of these waza sequences (in correspondence with uraken jodan yokomawashi uchi).


One concrete example from kumite:

間合 (Maai)

Sports Karate ‘multiple point sparring’ distancing comes primarily to mind. The 間合 (Maai) is not related to real karate as it is not optimal for delivering blows with maximum impact.


By merely reaching the target one can get a point, furthermore, this also allows the attacker to ‘escape being scored on’ more easily. In sum, the Kumite becomes not Kumite but a highly athletic game of tag. The major problem with this is that it programs karateka to fight worse in a real fight which is, (needless to say and not understatedly) highly problematic. Actually, this is most probably the main reason why some people disregard karate as an effective martial art: and rightfully so, in regards to sports karate ‘tag’ (whoops… I meant ‘kumite’). Overall, and on top of sport karate being useless, it also severely sucks as a sport for spectators.


Now here’s another problem due to trends… Even if clubs and individuals don’t compete, they often still follow the trends of this ‘fighting style’. Unless it is old school JKA style Shobu-Ippon, it has no relationship to reality. Sports karate kumite is not only a boring sport with no relationship to budo, but embarrassing for karate as a whole. 


Of course, there is nothing wrong with competition (traditional competition is great, again, i.e. - old school JKA rules); nonetheless, and even in such quality competitions, one must avoid sacrificing budo karate kihon and following the trends of sports karate. Allow 'the traditional budo karate kihon' and 'effectiveness (through testing)' to guide you. In this way, rather than aimlessly following trends you will be a trailblazer and maximize your karate skill and ongoing technical development. You will also, without trying, achieve the Japanese look of techniques, which will set you apart from (what I call) the ‘plastic form’, which is all-to-common now.


Some may choose to follow the ‘sports karate’ path and all the ‘latest trends’ it spreads; however, this road goes in a different direction from the way of (Bu)—both (Do) and (Jutsu). In my case as a practitioner and teacherand for the International Karate Shotokan—"BUDO/BUJUTSU KARATE IS THE ONLY KARATE". Some claim they can simultaneously walk both paths; nevertheless, I’ve never met anyone who has done this and optimized their skills. Nor had Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei, Osaka Yoshiharu Sensei, Nakamura Masamitsu Sensei, et al. This is because these ‘WAYS’ are technically like oil and water. 

This doesn’t sit well in this current world where ‘everything must be accepted’. In this regard, I adamantly believe that budo karate shines a light on past values and understandings which are no longer ‘the trend’.


押忍! — André

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

Wednesday 1 November 2023

Supplementary sessions

In addition to regular dojo training, I have always recommended (for those wishing to maximize their karate development): supplementary training. This is simply reviewing what has been covered in dojo-keiko. I also use these practices for 'base strength training'.

These sessions require: (a) minimal space; (b) any amount of time (even a few seconds or minutes, here and there, is very beneficial); (c) can be done anywhere you are comfortable to do them. 

Furthermore, these supplementary sessions can be done in any apparel (you don't need to be in your dogi/obi). Training equipment can be used such as weights, heavy bag or makiwara, but it totally depends on your personal aims and situation at the time.

For example, you might be in a suit and necktie and simply want to review a small part of a kata that you constantly get wrong. In your office you can do this part of the kata ten times, here and there through the day. Small practices like this can lead to making your weaknesses your strengths! 

Do such supplementary practice at your own leisure and enjoy the holistic health benefits they provide. Also, watch your karate  really improve!!!

押忍!! — AB


Ura mawashi-geri: Safety style for competition. I don't practice this.

Ura mawashi-geri: REAL -- axe with kakato.

Base strength training.

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