Sunday, 20 May 2018


As many know here in Japan and around the world, I teach a special group of kata in their original form.
My concept of karate - from Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei - is that Kihon is KUMITE and Kata is KUMITE. And, from what I was taught and sought after, was/is KUMITE means EFFECTIVE SELF-DEFENCE as opposed to competition or sparring. This is by no means disrespecting competition kumite (nor taking away the importance of jiyu kumite) but, rather, focusing on karate as a martial art of self-defence: a martial art of survival outside of the dojo.

These bujutsu kata return us to the origin of karate as an unparallelled martial art of self-protection. From that point, we can return to classical Shotokan with a realistic view as opposed to a competition shaped view/understanding.
Todays practice was KATA. The two kata I trained were JITTE (Ten Hands) and KAKUYOKU SANDAN (Cranes Wings Third Level).

All three Kakuyoku are very challenging when taught and practised with full understanding. They offer superior skill to Shotokan karateka. What I can only refer to as 'an unfair advantage'. Unfair, because so many are caught inside a syllabus and system: as opposed to focusing on karate as effective bujutsu (martial arts).

The karate I am seeking is not for the majority, rather, a very small minority. I'm not interested in mainstream popularity in the karate world but, rather, the serious minority. 

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2018).

Thursday, 3 May 2018

Two days of training in Kumamoto City

I traveled to Kumamoto to train under Nakamura Masamitsu Shihan.

I was again honored by Shihan to teach the youth brown and black belt classes—Kanku Dai (kihon, kata and applications). After that I taught the advanced senior class—Bassai Dai (and again 'kata based' kihon, kata and street defense applications).

It was especially great to catch up with Nakamura Shihan, Akiyoshi Sensei and the Nakamura family; Katayama Senpai; Ogasawara Senpai and, to my surprise,  Tyler  Higo (and family) whom, by chance, were back  in Japan from Canada!!

Away from these classes, Shihan kindly allowed me to use the dojo the next day for another three + hours. This was an opportunity to train myself and give Tyler some personal training. What made this all the more special was that Akiyoshi Sensei attended the entire time; and Nakamura Shihan also joined us in the second half of the training. Tyler did really well, so I am looking forward to seeing his karate next time he is here in Japan.

The training focused on reliable BUDO KARATE. Weight transfer 'timing' with the correct coordination of the johanshin (upper body) and kahanshin (lower body) was the main technical aim. I wont detail the training except to say that a lot was practised via this theme. Kata included Jion and Unsu; furthermore, a koten-gata was also trained. Effective kumite training, for the real world was also covered in depth: so, the speicifics for gohon, kihon-ippon, jiyu-ippon, oyo and jiyu-kumite were vividly highlighted.

In sum, I would again like to thank Nakamura Shihan, Akiyoshi Sensei and the Nakamura family for their kindness, training and support of my Karate-Do.
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2018).

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Trainee from Australia:David Rush Sensei (4th Dan)

David Rush Sensei (4th Dan) from Norwa, South Coast, Australia recently came for training. Rush Sensei is the chief instructor of ‘South Coast Shotokan Karate’:
What impressed me about David’s karate, besides being a great guy, was his excellent sense of ‘ma’ and his technical fluidity; furthermore, when he came here, he came with many points that he wanted me to help him with - so I could prepare well. Consequently, he went home with plenty of refined points for his ongoing technical development and, also indeed, for that of his karate students at South Coast Karate.

In addition to training we also enjoyed a lovely time with him, his wife Mayumi, and her parents from Hiroshima—all wonderful people—who made the most of the onsen’s in neighboring Beppu. Indeed, one of the great things about training - anywhere here - is that the very best hot springs, in Japan, are less than a 15 minute commute from Oita Eki.

Returning to David Sensei’s training, I must say that I was impressed by his speedy assimilation of the points I taught: including Shotei (Dai)  Kata, which was a new kata for him. Overall, this reflects his daily physical training and serious seeking of Shotokan Karate as Budo/Bujutsu. Until next time David. 押忍! !
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2018).

Sunday, 29 April 2018


You can click on the following images from KARATE AKTUELL. The publication features an advertisement for my upcoming seminars in Halle, Germany (on June 30th/July 1st, 2018).

Apparently there are only a few places left, so if you have not registered yet, and intend to go, good luck!!

This weekend course is Part Two of my seminars last year, which was held in Krefeld, Germany. Actually, I am very excited to present the content of this years seminar, as it will unveil previously untaught aspects.

For those attending, do not forget your notebooks!!! Unlike most seminars, it is going to be a weekend of karate that will immediately, and in the long-term, revolutionize your technical skill and application: if Shotokan as 'pure budo/martial arts' is your aim.

For a taste of this way of Karate, here is a link to my official YouTube Channel:

Best wishes from Oita City, Japan.
André Bertel

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2018).

Monday, 16 April 2018

Wednesday, 11 April 2018

Andrea and Torsten Return to Oita

I just had the pleasure to once again have Andrea Haesusler Sensei and Torsten Uhlemann Sensei (from Munster, Germany) here in Oita. They came for three evenings of high-level training with me. I`ll provide a brief rundown of some of the key points covered during their time here. However, I will not list everything nor give so much detail, as this belongs to them: for putting themselves on the line at my dojo.

SESSION ONE: Sunday, April 8th (8pm—10pm)

v Kihon—focus, how to achieve maximum speed and, simultaneously, max transfer of weight.

-         Timing of oi-zuki (attacking with stance movement/transition).

-         Timing of gyaku-zuki (attacking with stance movement/transition).

-         Timing of jodan age-uke, also second major form of jodan age-uke with application.

-         Timing and application of chudan ude-uke (uchi-uke and soto-uke)

-         Timing of chudan shuto-uke and kokutsu-dachi (also movement one of Heian Nidan, with the same concept).

-         Mae-geri: correct `fixed` use of the hips in stationary mae-geri. Increasing kicking snap and perfected application counter-kicking.

-         Case study: Timing of the hands and feet. Selected movements from (a) Heian Yondan; (b) Kanku-Dai; (c) Sochin; (d) Unsu. Proof of these points in practical application.

-         By request from Torsten: Unsu Kata. In brief, (1) `Setting keito`; (2) The fixing of the head and rear foot—avoiding `floating` with the four tate-shuto/gyaku-zuki; (3) Correction and optimal application of fuse mawashi-geri and coming up from the ground; (4) Haito-uchi kara mae-geri, jodan soto-uke soshite gyaku-zuki—head setting, haito trajectory and corrected use of ashi-kubi in prerfect harmony with koshi no kaiten (case study: Kanku Dai and, later in the lesson, Heian Yondan); (5) Gedan-zuki and gedan uke-zuki clarification; (6) Jodan haito-uke and gyaku-zuki—use of hiki-te and the trajectory of gyaku-zuki in kiba-dachi; and (7) the moderation of fudo-dachi when transitioning to zenkutsu-dachi: with jodan age-uke kara chudan gyaku-zuki (movements 47 and 48—also related back to the four same stance transitions earlier in Unsu.

SESSION TWO: Monday, April 9th (6pm—8pm)

-         Choku-zuki and gyaku-zuki with tenshin: Focus on the changing of the seichusen, kakato-chushin, tsumasaki and koshi no kaiten. Ground power combined with junanasei.

-         As previous but with teisho.

-         Shoulder snap exercise with enpi-uchi. Single arm practice then the more difficult two-arm variation. Relationship between ushiro enpi-uchi and uraken tatemawashi-uchi; furthermore, otoshi enpi-uchi. Case study: Heian Yondan Kata—movements 11 to 13. 

-         Key point of Enpi Kata fundaments for effective renzokuwaza. In particular `extension—pull through`, ground power and use of juryoku (gravity). Using this example for other karate applications. Special analysis of age-zuki.

-         By request from Andreas: Nijushiho Kata. Special focus on correct yori-ashi in combination with technique to maximize impact. The timing of tsukami uke and correct executing of haito sotomawshi uchi were also taught in detail. This was concluded with key oyo (applications) corresponding with the fundamental corrections taught in detail.

-         Correct Gohon Kumite: Defending with stance and movement; and attacking with stance and movement. Extension/Advancements of this with tobi-konde. Controlling maai.

-         Kihon Ippon Kumite: slow motion with concentration on perfect kihon. Whilst Gohon is to drop and step back, Kihon Ippon is to drop to a place where ones maai is perfect for a hangekiwaza (counterattack).

-         Jiyu Kumite: Only two focus points—only attack with the correct maai and only attack with full large scale techniques. `Lose magnificently`. Only oi-komi gyaku was covered

-         Check of Jiyu Ippon Kumite: my only focus was to recapitulate the maai of the attacker as covered in Jiyu Kumite. In Budo Karate/Bujutsu Karate, maai must not be to score but, rather, to make maximum impact.

-         By request from Torsten: Unsu Kata no tobi-kaiten. Basically, the main point covered was tai no shinshuku and correct and specifically focused use of ground power.

Fuse mawashi-geri... Level up!!! Photo courtesy of Andrea and Torsten.

-         To conclude some key fundamental points of tachikata and unsoku were covered. Also, the `from behind` mae-geri and ushiro-geri of Asai Sensei.

SESSION THREE: Tuesday, April 10th (6pm—8pm)

v Kihon—key points based on my evaluation during Sessions One and Two.

-         Level up points of Nijushiho Kata.

-         By request from Torsten: Kihon-gata ‘Junro Yondan’ and Koten-gata Kakuyoku Nidan.

-         Conclusion: review and clarification of key points from all three sessions.

To sum up, Andrea and Torsten are really lovely people; furthermore, they are serious about their developing their own karate-skill levels and openly sharing their knowledge with their students. This statement is proven by them regularly coming here to Japan to train and study authentic Budo (Martial Arts) Karate. Based on this, I believe that those who learn from them at them--at their dojo, in Germany, 'Karateschule Fuji San Munster'--are very fortunate.

Andrea and Torsten, my family and I wish you a wonderful time for your remaining days here in Japan!
Osu, André Bertel

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2018).

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Sakura in full bloom: The first training of April

Here are some images from training today. 

Kata training included the four SENTEI-GATA (Bassai-Dai, Kanku-Dai, Enpi and Jion), which I am now revising based on older versions here in Japan (to improve effectiveness in self-defence). Also, Sochin, Seiryu and the opening of Unsu, which I will not detail here.

Practice also included 'timing training' with kihon ukewaza and choku-zuki 'reactivity'.

The beauty of today was the presence of sakura in full bloom.

Osu, André

Andre Bertel (6th Dan): "Karate in my last few years, in my 40s, has allowed me to better understand what was passed on to me. My goal now is to continue improving myself through daily training and to hand on my teachers karate in its purest form".

Friday, 23 March 2018

Newspaper article

I just recieved these lovely photos from a newspaper article back in New Zealand. 

Training with my late teacher, Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei. Hard to believe that he passed away nearly 12 years ago.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2018).

Monday, 19 March 2018

Here is an article on the excellent blog of my friend Oliver Schomburg:
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2018).

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Why 'CHUDAN' so much? A bigger picture

One question, which is often asked, is “why we practice chudan tsukiwaza (middle level punching techniques) so much. Well, there are two reasons: one is for training and the other is for self-defence application. However, before I outline these I want to state something that many people teach and astonishingly seem to believe.

1. Here is a typical, and incorrect, understanding about why chudan tsukiwaza are practiced so much: “The advantage of punching chudan is that the torso is a larger target and is less mobile than the head. Furthermore, a chudan level technique has greater range than a jodan tsuki for all the obvious reasons. In sum, chudan punches score more ‘points’; hence, they are practiced more”.  -This is 100% SPORTS KARATE.

Well, firstly, I’m not denying that chudan punches aren’t great for winning competitions. I won many matches, and was New Zealand National Champion many times, by often employing chudan tsukiwaza. Nevertheless, and needless to say, competition karate is just ‘a testing ground for ones karate’ and certainly ‘not the origin of technique nor the purpose of the art’.

2. So why so much chudan in our traditional training? I will briefly outline both purposes, as said above—one for training and one for application…

Firstly, for TRAINING: We practice/train chudan-waza for ‘centralization’; that is, everything starts from the center and, furthermore, it is from this point that variations/deviations can most easily be made. Another way to think of it is that “chudan is the marker point for the extremes of height variations (which constitute ‘jodan’ and ‘gedan’)”.

Mid-level tsukiwaza essentially allows us to optimally train both vertical and horizontal tai no shinshuku of the torso—combining the use of the seika-tanden and opening and folding of the seichusen, which underpins the use of the back muscles in relation to the chest muscles.

Secondly, for APPLICATION: Before I go into this point, I’ll need to address two points. Firstly, context. This is an area which many karateka overlook or disregard; however, it largely establishes the training approach and, directly pertaining to that, optimal effectiveness with one’s karate outside of the dojo.

A. Context—civilian unarmed self defence:

Without wasting any time, the context of karate is ‘civilian empty-handed self-defence’; that is, when understood correctly—at least in the case of Shotokan—“…karate is not for the battlefield, mutually agreed street fights/duals, nor for competitive fighting.”

The fact is that warfare and duals primarily involved weapons for thousands of years. Blades for stabbing, clubs for hitting, arrows for shooting and, in more recent centuries, weapons firing bullets, explosives, etcetera. In all cases, when the weapon(s) is/are gone, or the ammunition is out, unarmed martial arts are the last resort… In other words, and please excuse my language, it’s the “oh shit” moment for ‘warriors’. Unarmed combat is the literally the final option.

Karate is not an art for warriors or professional fighter’s—and it never has been—rather, it is a martial art ‘for the average person’ who needs reliable skills to repel an attack on the street. Clearly, this is different from people training to enter K1 kickboxing, cage fighting events, and the boxing ring. This is why, when karateka enter such events they need to cross train in competitive fighting arts such as boxing, judo, college wrestling, Muay Thai etcetera.

Ultimately, Funakoshi Sensei completely disagreed with tournament karate and, likewise, his motto was “Karatedo ni sente nashi” (there is no first attack in karatedo). Nonetheless, he also said that karate, by itself, is enough for 'complete self-defence'; accordingly, let’s now generically look at oyo (application): to understand 'why' this is the case.

B. How to apply karate?

So now I have explained the correct context of karate, Master Funakoshi’s words should make more sense; moreover, they unambiguously tell us two key points about the use/application of karate techniques. The first point is that karate is applied in response to an attack—which again highlights 'personal protection' as opposed to a dual context (or the battlefield). The second point, which he also stated, was that karate was too lethal for ‘matches between exponents’. Clearly, therefore he was strongly against karate tournaments and, more importantly than this, “…it elucidates that the karate, he was talking about, was nothing like the ‘kumite’ found in modern tournaments (both now in 2018, right back to the first All Japan Championships in 1957).

It is very worth mentioning here that “the first All Japan tournament was held in the year Funakoshi Sensei died 1957—after he was dead)”. Just an unlucky coincidence? Well, based on his published opinions, which I have conveyed above, that is highly unlikely.
Funakoshi Sensei opposed competition as his karate was too dangerous, and he didn't want to water karate down.

So, to reiterate, Funakoshi Sensei stressed that “…the application of karate is for 'self defence' and is 'extremely volatile'”. This is why ‘when we see kata, it doesn’t resemble competition kumite’. Sure, there are relationships but, indeed, very dim ones.

OK, so let’s return to the point of this article: chudan tsukiwaza… Surely, if karate was so dangerous in application it wouldn’t teach so many 'body shots'. Yes, body punches are, of course, highly effective, but (for obvious reasons, and generally speaking) it is natural to prioritize head attacks.

Well, as I learned many years ago from Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei: "Most of the chudan punches in the 'time capsules of our art'—the various kata (which, again, ‘coincidentally’ Master Funakoshi emphasised)—are, in fact 'jodan attacks' when applied". Over and over again, we can see that the techniques in the kata result in the opponent’s head being lowered, by the use of gravity, being folded forward at the waist, and so on.

What’s more, is “…that the head is positioned directly in the line of the ‘chudan trajectory’; moreover, in a position that disallows the neck to do one of its most important jobs: 'to move the head in relation to an impact/trauma', thus, reduce any potential damage to the brain”.

In sum, the opponent is highly exposed as they are off balance, potentially disorientated, and have become, at least momentarily, a ‘sitting duck’ for a king hit with a ‘chudan-waza’. The funny thing is that this ‘way’ can be applied effectively by small and/or physically weaker people and, most importantly, “…can be devastatingly applied by someone with minimal prowess”. In particular, this last point is essential as “fine motor skills have an extremely poor rate of success under the pressure of a violent assault”. From reading this, you will now see what Funakoshi Sensei meant by his words and how, karate, for the most part, has lost it’s direction.

Today I have used the example of chudan tsukiwaza to highlight a bigger picture. I sincerely hope that this article has enlightened you in some way, or provided a different thinking platform. Overall, and needless to say, merely thinking about such points is insufficient. The key is, as I have always stressed, daily and correct physical karate practise and training. In this way, karate can be returned to ‘the unparallelled martial art of civilian self-defence’ that it actually is. Osu, André

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2018).