Monday, 15 January 2018

Strong seiken (fore-fists) and shuto (sword hands)

Relaxing the fists lightly, before and after kime, is an important skill; however, it can only come after strong fists have been mastered.
OPENING STATEMENT: Regularly I find that people have swift and strong movements, however, their karada no buki (weapons of the body) are often weak.

Needless to say, this post could address the many different weapons of the body; nevertheless, today, I’d like to focus on: (1) the most common form of fist: 正拳 ‘seiken’ (the fore-fist); and (2) the base form of all open hands in Karate-Do: 手刀 ‘shuto’ (the sword hand).

So, here we go…

正拳 ‘SEIKEN: One of the first things—taught in karate—is ‘how to make to a proper fist’. Yet, look at the immense numbers karateka, and even high ranking Dan grades, who have weak or ‘incorrectly formed’ fists.

The problem is not that these karateka do not know how to form seiken correctly, rather, it is about a loss of consciousness/awareness of their fists. Underpinning this is the commonly eventual “…too much focus on the movement at the expense of the weapon”. In other words, this is like a warrior, holding a spear, and focusing on ‘moving the staff only, as opposed to ‘also focusing on the tip of the blade’.

The source of this error is “the difficulty of simultaneously having firm fists and relaxed arms/shoulders”. This skill requires to essentially be able to autonomously compartmentalise: (a) shime/squeezing of the weapon; and (b) the looseness for everything above the wrist. Needless to say, this applies also to the shime of foot formations and relaxation of everything above the ankles in ashi-waza (leg techniques). In sum, this skill—in all techniques—clearly elucidates “the constant relationship/interaction between hard and soft”.

My advice is that ‘karateka spend more time hitting the makiwara’ then ‘to strictly use their makiwara fists’ throughout their Kihon and Kata. With constant practice and review, relaxed arms/shoulders and strong seiken will be achieved.

手刀 ‘SHUTO’: It is also commonplace for karateka to have weakly formed ‘sword hands’. Like seiken, if not firm nor correctly formed, shuto will be less effective—or even nullified—as a weapon.

To avoid this, make sure: (1) the four fingers are as straight as possible and tightly connected; and (2) the thumb is bent to a 90 degree angle and firmly placed on the side of the hand—as opposed to the ‘palm side’. In the case of the regular, most commonly practised, shuto-uke in Shotokan-Ryu, one must also make sure that the wrist/back of the hand is kept straight; that is, in line with the forearm.

I think it is important to recognise that poorly formed sword hands are a result of indecisive understanding of various techniques and their meanings/applications. A good example of this is something I often have to correct on black belt karateka: tateshuto-uke. I cannot count the number of times I have seen people with their thumb pointing sidewards when doing this technique. In this case, they have confused this technique with tsukami-uke (the grasping reception). Failing to have the thumb connected to the the side of the hand results in a significantly weaker waza. This is obvious when one thinks that the impacting sword hand is comprised of five digits connecting together with the ‘knife edge’ of the hand striking. Not connecting the thumb to the side of the index finger, therefore, means “…losing (give or take) 20% of reinforcement of the weapon”.


I believe that this article requires no further explanation; that being said, I’d like to conclude with a relevant quote that originally came from Azato Ankou Sensei (one of Funakoshi Gichin Sensei’s karate masters): 人の手足は剣と思え“Hito no teashi wa ken omoe” (this basically means ‘Think of peoples hands and feet as swords’). Winter greetings and very best wishes from snow covered Japan. Osu!

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).

Monday, 1 January 2018


2018 is upon us, another year is here...

How can one maximize it? The answer is 'to break barriers'... To go to the limit and dare to cross it.

This is not merely karate, but our existence. I somewhat apologize for being so philosophical, yet this is the reality. PUSH BEYOND!!


Happy New Year. OSU! 
- AB

Saturday, 30 December 2017

Andre Bertel International Seminar, GERMANY 2018

 Below are the official posters for my International Technical Seminar in Deutschland (Germany) 2018: one in English and one in Deutsch.

For those who manage to get in, see you there!! Happy Winter holidays from Oita City, Japan. Osu, - André Bertel.

Monday, 25 December 2017


My second interview on NHK television. This time at the illumination of Funai Jo. Unfortunately, the video is from a family members TV, and the video cuts off!! Regardless, here it is. Osu.

Sunday, 17 December 2017

Special training

Today I did a special training of very special kata from my late teacher. I was very privileged as I was the only one taught these highly advanced kata and their applications. Normally, I practice these kata in isolation. However, today, I did an unprecedented training of them all.

 Needless to say, this was a fun training, rather than a serious one. I think it is important to occasionally `just enjoy training’

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Current self-training regime

Here is my current daily self-training regime, which I have used over the last month and a half. As followers of this blog around the world know, this training, which I undertake each day, is reflective of the daily socho-geiko (morning training) of my late teacher, Asai Tetsuhiko Shuseki-Shihan.

Finishing training at Gokoku Jinja, Oita.
基本 (Kihon): Currently I am working three techniques: firstly, oi-zuki; secondly, gyaku-zuki; and thirdly, mae-geri keage. However, Im  training all three with the following variations of karada no buki (weapons of the body): seiken, nakadaka ippon-ken, hiraken and shihon-nukite for both punches; and koshi/josokutei and tsumasaki for mae-geri. Taken as a whole, the aim is optimal form and trajectories, explosiveness, maai, maximum impact power and appropriate targeting; in particular, 急所 (kyusho). I would like to add here that these points are nothing secret; rather, they are merely the weak points of the body (derived from the meridian points of traditional Chinese medicine). Enough on that topic today: as nothing beats a poke in the eyes and kick to the testicles. 

Asai Sensei applying what he called 'koken' and what is more commonly referred to, in Shotokan, as kakuto. His unpredictable timing and impact power was nothing less than incredible. Nothing like the karate of the present time.
  (Kata): My kata training is currently quite broad to wrap up 2017. Im practising the following: (1) Taikyoku Shodan as a kihongata specifically for shomen and hanmi in zenkutsu-dachi, kakato-chushin, and the forward channelling of power; (2) Tekki Shodan for jiyu-kumite/self-defense, in particular, utilizing and optimizing ground power with lateral movement; (3) Enpi for the aforementioned points in Taikyoku and Tekki: but with a great focus on chikara no kyojaku; (4) Nijushiho for fine tuning―especially in regards to transitions; and (5) a Koten-gata, which varies every few days, based on my condition and any aspects I decide to further address; for example, yesterday I practised Kakuyoku Sandan to further work on my use of 重力 (juryoku/gravity) in techniques. 
Kotengata: Kibaken, which I originally learned from notes (kindly provided by Jon Keeling Sensei of Northern California).

組手 (Kumite): My kumite training at present is focused on the bujutsu karate applications for self-defence. The techniques and principles Im working on are directly related to my current kata practise. In sum, this includes aspects which I have never taught other karateka before. I will begin disseminating this deeper well of knowledge in Europe next year.

Soon I will change this routine as it has recently passed its peak. This process and analysis is how I have continued to grow especially in the last two decades. One of my motto's is "never seek mediocrity". This includes technique, application and dry humour. I will end on this note. Train hard and smart. Osu!!
Mae-geri kekomi utilizing tsumasaki as the karada no buki.
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).

Monday, 11 December 2017

Joshua Block from Germany visits

Over the weekend Joshua Block, from Germany, came for training here in Oita City. Of course, in addition to karate practice, it was lovely to catch up with him.

A.    Kihon: The main thing we worked on was using ones ‘kinetic chain’ correctly for optimal ‘snap’—in combination with applying the maximum amount of bodyweight: when executing various karate techniques.
B.     Kumite: The aforementioned aspects were then practiced in various forms of kumite with the most emphasis being on Kihon Ippon Kumite and Jiyu Ippon Kumite. 

C.     Kata: Again, to further in-still the correct use of ones kinetic chain and weight transfer into the target, the kata Seiryu was practiced; and its oyo (applications).  This essentially summarized all the previous technical points covered over the weekend, but from a more advantaged angle; thus, providing a window for deeper physical understanding. The training of Seiryu was the technical high point of the weekend.


In sum, it really was a great weekend of training and nice times. It was especially heartening to see him lift his technical skills, in several key domains. All the very best Joshua for your remaining time here in Japan. It was great to have you here! Osu, André

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).

Wednesday, 29 November 2017


Over the weekend karateka from Australia visited Oita—to practice Budo Karate with me—for two days. One of the practitioners was Don Walker Sensei whom I met, through the late Carl Marriott Shihan (whom first brought me to Western Australia), several years back.The focus during the six hours of training was ‘Karate as a martial art of self-defence in the real world’. This was achieved by the transmission of the foundational knowledge of Bujutsu Karate from which one can return Karate to its original potent form. While this certainly exists within the broad category of `Karate-Do’, for most karate around the world, it is either not practiced at all or, more commonly, practiced incorrectly.

I will not detail the trainings but will say it was a highly productive time and a great chance to spread Karate-Jutsu to Australia on a higher level. 

Overall, we wish you all the very best for your remaining time here in Japan. Osu, André

 © André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).

Monday, 13 November 2017

順路初段 (Junro Shodan)

The 順路 (Junro) and 常行 (Joko) kata are essential for those who wish to achieve a very high level; however, they must be practiced properly. The problem is that very-very few know the correct movements, key points, and applications. Many organizations have simply 'turned the Junro and Joko kata into Heian movement'.

Today lets consider the objectives of Junro Shodan, followed by an outline...

The 40 movements of this kata, done in the way 'they were originally designed', result in a catapulted progression. Sadly, 'Shotokanization' of this kata for competitions (and, indeed, the other kata from my late Sensei), have largely invalidated their 'purpose of design'. Some have attempted to 'stylistically' imitate the Junro; however, this is again pointless, as it misses their application for actual fighting.
Tsukiwaza in kihon, kata and yakusoku kumite keeps the heel down and foot flat, but in freestyle practice, the heel drives then lifts. This is a critical understanding in Karate.

The key points of Junro Shodan are as follows:

1. The main theme is: push and pull.

2. Next, is gravity.

3. And equal to gravity is ground power.

4. Un-weighting the lead leg to transfer weight (and timing of techniques in relation to this: for maximum impact). This point transcends Junro and is one of the core aspects that separates sports karate and the bujutsu (martial arts) karate of the past.

5. And, finally, related to point one and underpinning any optimal use of the body, maximising the kinetic chain for maximum effectiveness.


1. Drop down moving the left leg outward to form kiba-dachi and execute hidari sokumen gedan-barai.

2. Pull back the left foot to heiko-dachi apply hidari sokumen jodan uchi-uke.

3. Advance into hidari zenkutsu-dachi with hidari chudan nobashi-zuki.

4. Kaiten shinagara migi gedan-barai (migi zenkutsu-dachi).

5. Hidari chudan gyaku-zuki.

6-10. Turn 180 degrees and repeat movements 1-5 on the opposite side.

11. Turn 90 degrees to face shomen in hidari zenkutsu-dachi with hidari gedan-barai.

12. Pull the lead foot back into hidari ashi mae neko ashi dachi (Hidari chudan uchi-uke).

13. Drive forward into hidari zenkutsu-dachi with migi chudan gyaku-zuki.

14-16. Repeat movements 11-13 on the opposite side.
Tenshin is an essential aspect of Asai Sensei's karate and is found throughout the Junro, Joko and Koten-gata.

17. Advance with migi chudan gyaku-zuki in hidari zenkutsu-dachi (KIAI). 

18. Turn 270 degrees into hidari kokutsu-dachi with migi jodan-barai.

19. Pull back the lead foot into migi ashi mae neko ashi dachi with migi chudan soto-uke.

20. Drive forward into migi zenkutsu-dachi with hidari chudan gyaku-zuki.

21. Zenshin migi chudan gyaku-zuki

22-25. Turn 180 degrees counterclockwise and repeat movements

18-21 on the opposite side.

26. Turn 90 degrees clockwise and make migi gedan-barai facing ura shomen in migi zenkutsu-dachi.

27. Pull back the lead leg forming migi ashi mae neko ashi dachi with migi jodan age-uke.

28. Migi kizami mae-geri.

29. Drive forward with the lead leg into migi zenkutsu-dachi with hidari chudan gyaku-zuki.

30-33. Repeat movements 26-29 on the opposite side.

34. Zenshin hidari chudan gyaku-zuki in migi zenkutsu-dachi.

35. Advance with the left foot (tsugi-ashi) then pivoting 270 degrees on the left heel move into hidari kokutsu-dachi with migi chudan uchi-uke.

36. Migi jodan shihon nukite (yoko nukite) transferring into migi-zenkutsu.

The points found in Junro Shodan expand to the most advanced Koten-gata and, in turn, boost the understanding of the standard Shotokan-Ryu kata.

37. Hidari chudan oi-zuki.

38-40. Turn 180 degrees and repeat movements 35-37 on the opposite side.

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Peter Sensei and Rainer San 2017 (PART TWO)

Only photos to reflect a great time of Budo Karate, Bujutsu Karate and friendship with Peter and Rainer from Germany.

Osu, Andre

© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).