Monday 25 March 2024

The difference between Sports Karate kumite techniques and Budo Karate kumite techniques

I was asked to define the difference between Sports Karate kumite techniques and Budo Karate kumite techniques; that is, traditional karate. Accordingly, I will address this question today.


To begin with I need to state: “Yes! There are numerous differences between 武道空手(Budo Karate) and スポーツ空手 (Sports Karate) kumite techniques.


I will simply list the first five—off the top of my head—which were (and continue to be) drilled into me by my mentors: since I first came here to Japan in 1993.


Firstly, the objective of sports karate kumite technique is to defeat the opponent by snatching points in a karate match— “ultimately to win medals/trophies”, and/or, ‘to tag others more’ in the dojo.


In contrast, the prime objective of budo karate technique is to ‘finish’ an attacker in any context—primarily “to survive an unprovoked assault”. In sum, REAL KARATE. This underpins the constant seeking of 一撃必殺 (Ichigekki-Hissatsu). Only by always seeking this objective (in all forms of daily training) is one able to reach their maximum capacity.



Secondly, and intrinsically related to the first differentiation, the distancing ‘to win’ in sports karate is where one can ‘reach the the opponent’ then escape without being tagged in the process to gain a point; furthermore, make the technique(s) clean and clear for the referee.


In contrast, Budo Karate uses proper 間合 (Maai —Meeting Distance) in every technique. Therefore, the distance is inherently closer. The objective is for each (Waza) “…to be at the distance to cause the maximum amount of damage as possible, if not controlled”.


Thirdly, sports karate kumite technique is vaguely connected to the classical waza, basic kumite and kata.


Whereas and, again in contrast, the basic form, explosive power, and 応用 (Oyo) are directly linked and inseparable from Budo Karate kumite techniques. As my seniors always teach, and we follow: “Kihon, Kata and Kumite are ONE”. It is essential to add here that this is not lip service, but the reality of our training: every day.


Fourthly, sports karate technique is limited to certain offensive techniques: primarily tsuki (thrusts), uchi (strikes), keri (kicks), (ashi-barai) foot/leg sweeps, and taoshiwaza /nagewaza (takedowns/throwing techniques).


Contrastingly, budo karate techniques primarily target the most vulnerable points of the body and include all of the repertoire found in the kata. This also includes the most dangerous impact techniques, shimewaza (strangulation techniques), kansetsu-waza (joint locks, dislocations, breaks) and so forth. In sum, top priority is given to the most effective techniques, delivered to the most effective targets, in a fight: again, for survival.



Fifthly, sports karate kumite technique is shallow. It is only for karate “games”. Post competition years, it is meaningless.


In contrast, Budo Karate kumite technique evolves through one’s life. It includes waza that doesn’t require youthfulness to be highly effective. Therefore, even if one competed, “…post competition one’s waza is not sacrificed and continues to develop on the same path”.


With the last point in mind, I’d like to use an analogy. Sports karate technique is the wide and easy road. It is plastic karate. It even turns the dojo (plural) practicing the ‘traditional styles’ into McDojo. This is because the training of sports karate literally "...ingrains bad habits for real fighting/self-defense". It is why the Olympic Kumite Champion got knocked out, then won the gold medal... A true budoka would not accept a medal like this, nor any title, let alone an Olympic title. Doing such is highly dishonorable and has no place in any form of Budo. It is an embarrassment for "karate", but of course, this was not representative of TRUE karate.


To conclude, budo karate kumite technique is the narrow road. The ‘BU’ Way will never be as popular as sports. That is because it is a difficult path with minimal ‘bling’. Yes, Budo Karate is tough. Nevertheless, like anything—that is truly authentic—it brightly shines from its truth, and “…this attracts everyone who is serious about karate as traditional art and effective form of unarmed self-protection”.


 © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2024).

Thursday 21 March 2024


The Halle Dojo Committee has cancelled the seminar in June; consequently, now, my only seminar in Europe in 2024 will be Freital, Germany, in September.

Here is the official poster for the 2024 FREITAL, GERMANY SEMINAR in both German and English.


 © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2024).

Wednesday 20 March 2024

Do your HOMEWORK!!

One young Japanese Nidan asked me “How can I become a world class karateka?” While one could give an exhaustive answer, I thought to focus on a single point in isolation: 


"Practice must not be limited to the dojo". -- "The world is my dojo!" (T.Asai). 

That is, practicing and refining what you’ve been doing in your Dojo Training. This type of ‘training’ can range from a very brief mini sessions, less than a minute, to a session that exceeds class times. Likewise, it can be in a dojo or anywhere for that matter, in a dogi and obi, or in daily apparel. Sports gear or suit!


Doing this practice reinforces and refine what your respective 先生 (Sensei) taught you.


For example, if a bad habit is highlighted, one can simply focus on correcting this over and over again with repetition. Actually, this literally makes correcting errors and refining easy. Be specific for yourself and watch your skill incrementally improve.


It will also make your respective Sensei happy with you, as they will notice that you've worked on the corrections/adjustments that they taught you/corrected you on.

Hidari chudan gyaku-zuki: 'Homework Practice' - March 20th, 2024.

Explosive speed and power can also be developed in these practices. Using specific bodyweight calisthenics and weights to strengthen specific muscle groups (especially ‘functional weight training’) can really lift one’s skill level. However, age, base fitness, health, injury and so forth, must be taken into account. The key here is to listen to your body to protect your wellbeing. Training can be hard, but we must all avoid harming ourselves as much as possible. As Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei always said: “Step-by-step”. 

Returning to the analogy of homework, think of children who attend all their classes at school, yet skip their homework. With the exception of a very small minority, these children academically don’t excel. They might get through school and graduate. They might even attain a degree at university. Nevertheless, they will never maximize their potential. It reminds me of some of my colleagues at college who lived by the saying “C’s get degrees”. My personal aim was always the A+, which meant if I fell short, I was still far above the passing rate.


While I am by no means academically smart, I realized with doubling my workload—doing ‘lots of homework’I'd get the top scores most of the time; moreover, the content of what I learned would permanently remain with me. Many senior karateka who focus on practical 'bujutsu karate' stress that "...regularly training in your shoes and daily clothes is not only good, but also absolutely essential".


Accordingly, every day I train in my dogi in the dojo, but I also often self-practice—outside of dojo—in my regular clothing, as mentioned above. When the weather is good, I enjoy practicing outdoors on various surfaces. These extra practices are my “Homework Sessions”. One of my coaching sayings is “Muscle memory = 'brain washing' your body to act and react optimally”.


I do not claim to be good at karate like those above me, Asai Sensei, Nakamura Masamitsu Sensei, Osaka Yoshiharu Sensei, et al. These gentlemen are literally masters of the art, karate legends… Nonetheless, I’m following in their footsteps as best I can, with all my limitations. While I may never reach anywhere near their respective levels, such seniors have and continue to inspire me on a daily basis here in Japan. It is also a great honor to share such masters personal teachings with the younger Japanese Shotokan exponents, and karateka around the world.


Irrespective of any deficits that I have, one asset I have is self-awareness and an academic (and practical) understanding (and methodology) of pedagogy: “the art of teaching/coaching and learning/improvement”. This academic background has no meaning as an instructor of Shotokan Karate unless it achieves real world results; that is, tangible and on-going karate skill improvement.

 Some people might find it hard to get motivated, but if you think too much you've already lost the battle. It is in the post-training/post-practice period where you will find great satisfaction. As I have said countless times before, karate training must not be based on feelings. Rather, like brushing your teeth or bathing each day. That way, irrespective of enjoying it or not, keiko continues regardless. This is 'THE DISCIPLINE OF KARATE-DO', which transcends the dojo and positively influences other dimensions of your life.

Snapping 'Migi uraken jodan yokomawashi uchi'.

In sum. DO YOUR HOMEWORK: (1) enjoy it (improvement in skill, physicality, and character/strong spirit is a joy); and, (2) reap the benefits



 © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2024).

Monday 11 March 2024

Renshusei from Deutschland (PART TWO)

This YouTube video is a "subtle reminder" for the following karateka from Deutschland, Stephan (4th Dan), Peer (4th Dan), Axel (4th Dan) and Andy (3rd Dan): all of whom came here to Oita as IKS RENSHUSEI on March 4th, 5th and 6th of 2024.

This video is primarily to remind them of the key points. I was very happy to see their technical development over the three days of training here in the dojo.

In particular, linking KIHON, KATA and KUMITE to achieve the TRADITIONAL WAZA/OYO.
During the training, the basis of Kihon and Kumite training were primarily (by request) Hangetsu, Jion and Kakuyoku Nidan.

As always impact training and oyo (practical application) were of prime focus. IKS is first and fore-most BUDO/BUJUTSU KARATE.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2024).

Thursday 7 March 2024

Renshusei from Deutschland (PART ONE)

 Axel, Stephan, Peer and Andy came as Renshusei here in Oita City. Axel and Peer came, before, so this was Andy and Stephan's first time. 

The experience of Renshusei is very special. 


It models the private training I received from Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei, which follows Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei and Funakoshi Gichin Sensei.

I want to congratulate Stephan, Peer, Axel and Andy on completing their training here. Big respect to all of you. OSU!!

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2024).

Friday 1 March 2024

PART TWO - NORTH ISLAND... February 2024: Kapiti Coast, New Zealand Seminar Overview

 On February 17th and 18th I taught a Seminar on the Kapiti Coast, in the North Island of New Zealand. The event was conceptualized, organized and hosted by Allan Youl Sensei (3rd Dan) and his organization, KKA Karate Academy. Here is a link to their official website:

On a personal note…The last time I was in that region of the country, I was competing there, which was all the way back in 1993, which was also the year when I first went to went to Japan to train. Thus, my beginnings with Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei. So it was a full circle, so to speak.

This seminar also marked the 10th Anniversary of the KKA Karate Academy, so I’d like to once again offer my congratulations to Allan Sensei and all of his members. おめでとうございます!!!

In regards to the seminar content, as I have not been in New Zealand for several years many of the kihon, drills and fundamentals points overlapped with the South Island/Christchurch course (a week earlier); that being said, several other aspects were worked on, as it was my first time to teach there.

As promised, the kata was different. As it was my first-time teaching in Kapiti (and many of the karateka were unfamiliar with Asai Sensei’s advanced extension JKA-style Shotokan) I used 鶴翼初段 (Kakuyoku Shodan) to connect the dots between kihon and jissen-kumite —via this kata—and its respective 応用 (Oyo).

To reiterate, a key point was Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei’s differentiation between 分解 (Bunkai) and 応用 (Oyo). This aspect is critical in physical training for Shotokan to be the highly effective self-defense art that it is (as opposed to merely being a form of ‘fist kendo’). The karateka attending clearly embraced this point, especially pertaining to the practical use of our art.

Overall, it was great to share classical applications of Shotokan, from the pre-WW2 /pre-competition era; in sum, a return to the ‘self-defense focused’ karate of Funakoshi Gichin Sensei. It is my hope that “…while we strongly hang on to the advancements of karate in the more recent decades, that we work together to preserve the bujutsu knowledge of the past”.

I really enjoyed working with all of participants in the seminar and, in addition to budo/bujutsu karate practice, there was plenty of great camaraderie; furthermore, no politics!

Unambiguously, this was again reflective of Allan Sensei and his team, and also all the other clubs/organizations who attended.

As a fellow student of Karate-Do, I want to offer each and every one of you a big 押忍 (Osu) from Japan.

[The following YouTube video is for those who physically participated and provides reminders/cues about several of the key points covered. Kata notes and supplementary video links have been provided to Allan Youl Sensei to share accordingly].

André Bertel

To watch the YouTube video, click on the following link. Any comments, especially from the seminar participants, will be appreciated.
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2024).