Friday, 30 December 2011

Michael Barr (IJKA England) returns to New Zealand

Once again Michael Barr (4th Dan) from IJKA England came to New Zealand to study Asai-ha Shotokan-ryu karate-do with me. Michael trained intensively last year, and returned again to repeat this from across the world. More than returning it was clear that Michael’s karate has improved immensely, along with his knowledge of Tetsuhiko Asai Sensei’s Karate, so needless to say, I was very pleased!

This meant I could readily share some more in-depth principles of Asai Karate through “the database”—the IJKA Shotokan kata. We literally covered the form and complete oyo (applications) for Kanku-dai, Kashu (Hi no te), Seiryu, and Unsu as taught to me by Asai Sensei. A special thanks to Brendon Wells (1st Dan) who also trained and paired up with Michael for the bunkai/oyo-jutsu. Michael completed the 10 hours of training at the IJKA New Zealand Seminars and did many private lessons (averaging to practice for three hours every day). Because of his efforts and reigi-saho he will return to the United Kingdom with a treasure trove of knowledge.
Outside of the dojo Mizuho and I were delighted to spend social time with Michael and his wife Natalie. Domo arigato gozaimashita.

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2011).

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Some more photos from the Christchurch Seminar

Here are some pictures from the Asai-ha Shotokan-ryu Karatedo Technical Seminars I conducted in Christchurch, New Zealand (on the 17th & 18th of December). You can click here to watch the video on youtube: and here is a link to the course report: My next seminar will be Germany... For those able to attend, don't miss out. It's going to be a great course!

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2011).

Monday, 19 December 2011

Karate Seminar Report: Christchurch, New Zealand (December 2011)

Over the weekend I taught Asai-ha Shotokan-ryu technical seminars here in Christchurch, New Zealand. As promised this report has been written (and video uploaded) for the attendees of the seminars.

The weekend course was focused on a number of core issues to make one’s karate effective with particular emphasis on correct distancing and timing, and the usual combination of koshi no kaiten, tai no shinshuku and junansei.

In particular, destroying the opponents balance was practiced in varied harmony with a percussive blows (using Sen no sen, Go no sen & Tai no sen).

To highlight these points, Asai Sensei’s “traditional” applications from the five Heian/Kanku-dai, Tekki, Bassai-dai, Empi & Jion were analysed. Furthermore, the koten-gata Kashu (also known as Hi no te) was taught emphasising the aforementioned self-defence principles, fluidity and natural energy. For everyone who attended, please use Kashu to improve your movement and "physical understanding". Karate must be second-nature!

Rather than doing extensive ido-kihon most of the fundamental training was done with a partner (to strongly link the techniques/principles of kata directly to jissen-kumite/goshin-jutsu). Overall, based on the feedback I've received, it was a fantastic weekend of karate-do. I hope this report, and the attached video, assists the attendees in remembering the ‘self-defence principles’ we covered. Domo arigato gozaimashita. Osu, André.

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2011).

Sunday, 18 December 2011

2012 Seminars in Deutschland

Here is the promotional video for the seminars in Deutschland (this coming February) courtesy of Oliver and Yan Schoemburg. To avoid missing out make sure you get in early! It’s going to be a great course.

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2011).

Thursday, 15 December 2011

The Successor of Shuseki-Shihan Tetsuhiko Asai

 Some people seem to believe that I am, or are claiming to be the SUCCESSOR OF ASAI TETSUHIKO SENSEI... This is completely incorrect, I have never claimed this.

My training, and therefore this website, is dedicated to the karate of the old JKA and Asai-ha Shotokan-ryu. Logically, I practice and teach these 'martial arts approaches'.

Needless to say, I feel deeply honoured to have been Asai Sensei's deshi, and will continue to develop my skills on a daily basis... Thus, my focus is first and fore mostly on karate-geiko. I am happy to share my knowledge with those who invite me to teach at their clubs and organisations; however, I always come as "Andre Bertel the karateka", not as a representative of Asai Sensei, nor a group.

And let's face it, no one can represent another person!

Naturally when I self-practice, train at the dojo, and teach karate classes/seminars I'm executing Asai-ha Shotokan-ryu Karatedo. And naturally, my karate technique and karate articles are reflective of this. Nevertheless, I have never claimed to be the successor of Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei, merely an ongoing student of the karate he taught me.

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2011).

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Asai-ha Shotokan Karate Technical Seminars in Christchurch

This weekend I am holding technical seminars here in Christchurch. For more information click here:

I look forward to seeing the participants on Saturday. It will be an excellent weekend of Asai-ha Shotokan-ryu karatedo training. A full report will be posted later.

For those interested in attending and have not arranged to do so, you can call me at: (021) 295-8669 or email me at:

This course is completely open to all Shotokan Karateka regardless of affiliation.

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2011).

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Andre Bertel Seminar: GERMANY 2012

As you will know I am conducting Asai-ha Shotokan-ryu Karate-Do Technical Seminars next week here in Christchurch, New Zealand. And today I am happy to make a special announcement for the traditional karateka in Europe. During the first weekend of February (February 4th & 5th) 2012, I will be teaching OPEN SEMINARS in Ahrensburg, GERMANY.

For all details please click on the official poster (on the left). This will be a world-class event not to be missed for anyone serious about the Karate-Do of Tetsuhiko Asai Sensei. For further information please email the organisers at:

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand 2011.

Sunday, 4 December 2011


Here is a brief educational psychology essay I wrote last year on 'attention'. Whilst very simple, this paper provides some `basics' for karate instructors (and all other teachers) to fundamentally consider. However, before going any further, like all of my articles, do not copy or rearrange this essay for your academic assessments. It WILL be detected on 'turnitin' ( Needless to say, plagiarism is not acceptable under any conditions. Overall, I hope this essay will help whoever reads it to consider `attention' (insofar as optimal learning is concerned).

The science of educational psychology is primarily concerned about the connection between the cognitive development of learners, and the environmental influence of varying pedagogies, which controllably nurture that development. Particularly useful for understanding this relationship is the information processing model which intrinsically represents the human memory system (Mayer, 2008). Fundamentally steered by the cognitive psychological approach, this essay will endeavour to analyse the critical importance of attention in the learning process. This will be achieved by explaining what attention is, how absolutely vital attention is to learn, and lastly, what some of the implications are for establishing a formal learning environment.

What educational psychology tells us about attention?
Educational psychology tells us that attention is the channelling of mental power by which we select specific stimuli from the environment. The capacity of human attention is very limited and this is why anything that does not elicit our mental focus swiftly evaporates out of the memory system, as it fails to surpass the limitations of the all-encompassing sensory register. When considering that the sensory register is constantly being bombarded by various movements, smells, sounds, tastes, feelings and so forth, it becomes readily apparent that if our attention was being shared by all incoming stimuli it would be impossible to adequately achieve any tasks (Woolfolk, 1998). Cherry and Norman (as cited in Ormrod, 2006) provide a vivid illustration of the highly limited capacity of human attention via what is sometimes referred to as the cocktail party phenomenon. In this example there are multiple conversations going on simultaneously in a room, however it is only possible for each individual to sufficiently engage in one of them. This scenario brings to light the critical issue of mental selection. Depending on the stimuli, sometimes selection is voluntarily made, yet at other times attention is involuntarily attracted. In the case where learners intentionally attend particular information, it is typically to achieve the goals, which they themselves are motivated to achieve, or things of vested interest (Fetsco & McClure, 2005). Alternatively, the involuntarily focus of our attention may be attributed to an unexpected aversive behaviour such as startling yell or obnoxious smell. Without the cognitive processing component of attention we would be unable to achieve any meaningful tasks, as this deficit would result in the inability to focus on any particularities for less than a brief moment. Attention is therefore the only means of actively selecting information absorbed from our senses, with any significant analytical depth, and for any productive length of time.

How important is attention in the learning process?
The importance of attention cannot be overemphasised as it is the initiator of all learning experiences. It is the mental vehicle which enables perception and etches information progressively further into the memory system. Ormrod (2006) explains that the first stage in the learning process is paying attention, which actively pulls mentally illuminated information into the working memory. Anything which enters the sensory register and fails to attract, or actively receive a person’s attendance, rapidly vanishes from the mind. Once stimuli have been selected from the environment by the learner’s attention, the information then perceived immediately crosses over into the working memory, which is the conscious phase of information processing. This transition is absolutely critical as the working memory is synonymous with what is commonly referred to as thinking. Without any exaggeration this highlights the vital importance of attention as the trigger for mental analysis and is thus the precursor for learning, and studious behaviour in general (Hohn, 1995). Obviously for information to be legitimately learned it must be actively processed further, taking into account the limitations of attention, perception and the working memory. The data must surpass this so-called “bottleneck of the memory system” of the initial two phases and be grooved deeply into the long-term memory. However, at all stages throughout the learning process, the role of attention works to initiate, connect and interconnect with other new and pre-existing knowledge stored in the brain (Ormrod, 2006). Due to the very limited capacity of human attention and the working memory, learning requires that information is thoroughly ingrained into the long-term memory system. Regardless of all these highly complex and interrelated cognitive factors, the learning process is always sparked by what the learner conscientiously attends to. Attention is therefore the most important aspect of the learning process, as without it, learning cannot proceed.

What does this implicate when structuring a formal learning environment?
Based on the fact that attention is the precursor of all learning, it is inherently the first priority for educators when structuring formal learning environments. This includes the arrangement of the classroom and also the pedagogy employed by teachers. A pre-instructional issue in captivating the attention of learners is the removal of distractive stimuli where the lesson is to be conducted. For example Pfiffner, Barkley, Schwebel and Cherlin (as cited in Ormrod, 2006) state that students who are less attentive may be kept in closer proximity to the teacher and likewise cohesively disruptive peers can be separated. Other comprehensive strategies such as closing doors to nullify sounds or directing the placement of unnecessary stationary inside of desks during presentations also work well to reduce distractions. In regards to the implementation of lessons Fetsco and McClure (2005) decisively advocate three broad teaching pedagogies to spark and maintain attention. The first of these is to arouse the perception of the learners by unpredictability, the second is the stimulation of curiosity, and the third is the variation of teaching activities and routines. Teachers can achieve such cognitive scaffolding by randomly asking questions and thus putting the onus on students to pay attention, encouraging note taking, and the utilisation of fascinating resources. All of these methods strongly promote a learning environment that epitomises top-down or attention controlled learning interactions. Maximising top down learning opportunities is essential in structuring formal education because it naturally develops superior cognitive skills in students and promotes self-steered learning. Lastly and certainly not least, teacher enthusiasm in the delivery of curriculum content and giving students regular “mental breathers” cannot be overlooked to catch and maintain student attention (Ormrod, 2006). Structuring a learning environment which optimises student attention implicates that educators must synthesise a finely tuned combination of dynamic instructional techniques, a well-organised classroom, and the intrinsic flexibility to adapt in accordance to the individual needs of the learners.

Educational psychology has long informed us that attention is literally the prerequisite for all learning, as it is the only mental process that allows us to sever through all the vast waves of stimuli, which constantly dart in and out of our sensory registers. Clearly as a result, the initiation of the information learning process completely depends on what learner’s select from their environment, and this is largely dependent upon the appropriateness, and quality of practice stimuli, which teacher’s and educational institutions are responsible for providing.


Fetsco, T., & McClure, J. (2005). Educational Psychology: An Integrated Approach to Classroom Decisions. Pearson Education, Inc.

Hohn, R.L. (1998). Classroom Learning and Teaching. Longman Publishers, USA.

Mayer, R. E. (2008). Learning and Instruction. (2nd ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education Inc.

Ormrod, J. E. (2006). Educational psychology: Developing Learners. (5th ed.). Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.

Woolfolk, A.E. (1998). Educational Psychology (7th ed.) Allyn & Bacon.


ESSAY: Written by Andre Bertel, University of Canterbury (2010); & Photographs taken on the 5th of December, 2011.


© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand 2011.

Karate-Do: A simple life

I ran into one of my former primary/elementary school classmates who remembered me practicing karate 30 years ago. He couldn't believe I was still training. Here are a couple of random quotes that I think nicely sum up my motivation to practice three decades on (and my approach to training). I've intentionally not used the words of karateka or budoka. Also, please excuse that there is nothing too profound in here... But certainly some food for thought, which goes beyond words and steers a lifestyle. Karate-do, a simple life!


"Don't let what you cannot do interfere with what you can do." - John Wooden

"The difference between a successful person and others is not a lack of strength, not a lack of knowledge, but rather in a lack of will." - Vince Lombardi

"Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever." - Lance Armstrong

"Nobody's a natural. You work hard to get good and then work to get better. It's hard to stay on top." - Paul Coffey

"I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." - Thomas Jefferson

I'd wrap up by saying that I could have selected a number of other quotes, but as they say "less is sometimes more". The simple life of karate-do requires action, then everything else falls perfectly into place. There is time for reflection and discussion while the body is recovering...

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2011).

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Our 5th Wedding Anniversary

Yesterday Mizuho & I celebrated our fifth wedding anniversary here in Christchurch-City, New Zealand.

This special year we went to the Kinji Japanese Restaurant (Sushi Dining Kinji). It was great to meet the owner/chief Kenji San and enjoy his great Japanese food! It was our first time there and we really enjoyed it. Overall, Mizuho and I have had a super day together. Thanks for all the well wishes from our family and friends!

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand 2011.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

The Secret of Karate

December is here and 2011 is rapidly coming to an end. With the seminars here in Christchurch on the 17th & 18th (, a grading, and the annual beach training, it will be a great month of traditional karate-do.

The SECRET of good karate is found in quality practice/training. One's technique, application, and body mirrors this. Accessing high-level instruction is therefore paramount in karate. Our technique must "speak for us" before any discussion on karate begins. Otherwise valuable practice time is wasted.

THEREFORE, THE SECRET OF KARATE IS TO SHUT UP & TRAIN! There is time to talk after practice when the body is exhausted.

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand 2011.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

New Karate Video on Youtube

I'm admittedly very sore from training today from ample shinshuku practice. Will need to stretch plenty tomorrow morning. Here is a newly uploaded video on Youtube.

I have many projects in the works at present. The next seminar in Christchurch will be a second wave of technical aspects I've not taught openly before. `Step-by-step' I am uncovering the karate I have been taught and the critical elements required to execute it. As those who have attended my seminars and lessons know, this karate is not sports karate!

Many of the drills I've taught in past seminars (here in New Zealand, Japan, Italy, USA, Germany & Australia) serve as the introduction. Now it is time to go to the next level. As Asai Sensei always said, "Step-by-step".

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand 2011.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

We never stop learning

Practice, practice & more practice! Here's my updated training regime. Shodan-shinsa no tame no kihon: (1) Sanbon-zuki; (2) Jodan age-uke kara chudan mae-geri soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; (4) Chudan soto-uke kara yori-ashi (kiba-dachi) chudan yoko empi uchi, uraken yokomawashi-uchi soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; (5) Chudan shuto-uke (kokutsu-dachi) kara kizami mae-geri soshite shihon nukite; (6) Chudan uchi-uke kara jodan kizami-zuki soshite chudan gyaku-zuki; (7) Mae-geri kara mawashi-geri; (8) Mae-geri kara yoko-kekomi (same leg); (9) Yoko-keage ashi o kaete yoko-kekomi (kiba-dachi); (10) Mawashi-geri; (11) Ushiro-geri; & (12) Shuto yokomawashi-uchi.

(a ) Empi; (b) Hangetsu; (c) Unsu; & (d) A random Asai-ha Shotokan-ryu koten-gata dependent on my daily technical focus.

( i) Kihon ippon kumite: Asai-ha Shotokan-ryu 14 core waza (jodan, chudan & mae-geri); & (ii) Jiyu kumite no uchikomi renshu.

In addition to the usual calistenics and impact work I've also started to do a little running again. On the weekend I went for a decent 8km run. My lungs and heart handled it easily, but the run definitely fatigued my legs (as my quads and hams were already very tired from all of my karate training). As you may know I am a very big believer in jumping exercises such as plyometrics, however I try to keep my programme varied to achieve the best results. Regardless of what one does, occassionally mixing things up is very important. We never stop learning if we "keep practicing and training"!

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand 2011.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

JKA All-Japan Championships: The Golden Age

The first seven Japan Karate Association (JKA) All-Japan Championships are legendary in the traditional karate world. No bouncing around in kumite or posing in kata. Unlike today the concept of ichigeki-hissatsu (a single finishing blow), was reflected in all matches and all movements. Pure Karate! Here are the results of these seven competitions. Please note I have only used Sensei for my late teacher Asai Tetsuhiko to not exhaust you with this title and for the relevance to my karate (and the karate on this blog/website). Needless to say, all of the karateka who won places in these early events are indeed "Sensei" of the highest calibre. At 28 years old in 1963, Asai Sensei won the kata at the seventh All Japan's and this was his final major event. Overall, this post not only outlines my teachers national titles, but also reflects the Golden Age of the Japan Karate Association.


1st: Hirokazu Kanazawa
2nd: Katsunori Tsuyama
3rd: Masahide Nakamura

1st: Hiroshi Shoji
2nd: Masaru Sakamoto
3rd: Shojiro Koyama


1st: Hirokazu Kanazawa/Takayuki Mikami
3rd: Masahide Nakamura
NB - No second place as there was a draw between Takayuki Mikami & Hirokazu Kanazawa. Budo not sports... So no need to give a second place!

1st: Hirokazu Kanazawa
2nd: Takayuki Mikami
3rd: Shigeru Saito
• Hirokazu Kanazawa (First JKA Grand Champion)


1st: Takayuki Mikami
2nd: Hirokazu Kanazawa
3rd: Masaaki Sato/Hiroshi Shirai

1st: Takayuki Mikami
2nd: Hirokazu Kanazawa
3rd: Shigeru Saito
• Mikami (Second JKA Grand Champion)


1st: Masaaki Sato
2nd: Takayuki Mikami
3rd: Asai Sensei/Toru Yamaguchi

1st: Hiroshi Shoji
2nd: Takayuki Mikami
3rd: Hirokazu Kanazawa


1st: Tetsuhiko Asai Sensei
2nd: Hiroshi Shirai
3rd: Takayuki Mikami/Keinosuke Enoeda

1st: Takayuki Mikami
2nd: Tetsuhiko Asai Sensei
3rd: Hiroshi Shirai
Tetsuhiko Asai Sensei (Third JKA Grand Champion)


1st: Hiroshi Shirai
2nd: Keinosuke Enoeda
3rd: Takayuki Mikami/Yutaka Yaguchi

1st: Hiroshi Shirai
2nd: Takayuki Mikami
3rd: Toru Yamaguchi
• Hiroshi Shirai (Fourth JKA Grand Champion)


1st: Keinosuke Enoeda
2nd: Hiroshi Shirai
3rd: Hirokazu Kanazawa/Yutaka Yaguchi

Tetsuhiko Asai Sensei
2nd: Toru Yamaguchi
3rd: Takeshi Nakaya

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand 2011.

Gichin Funakoshi Sensei's 20 Precepts of Karate-Do

I know you have read them numerous times before; nevertheless, each of the following '20 Precepts of Karate-Do' (written by Funakoshi Gichin Sensei) are always worthy of reflection.


1. Karate begins with courtesy and ends with courtesy.

2. There is no first attack in Karate.

3. Karate is an aid to justice.

4. First control yourself before attempting to control others.

5. Spirit first, technique second.

6. Always be ready to release your mind.

7. Accidents arise from negligence.

8. Do not think that Karate training is only in the dojo.

9. It will take your entire life to learn Karate; there is no limit.

10. Put your everyday living into Karate and you will find "Myo" (subtle secrets).

11. Karate is like boiling water. If you do not heat it constantly, it will cool.

12. Do not think that you have to win, think rather that you do not have to lose.

13. Victory depends on your ability to distinguish vulnerable points from invulnerable ones.

14. The battle is according to how you move guarded and unguarded
(move according to your opponent).

15. Think of your hands and feet as swords.

16. When you leave home, think that you have numerous opponents waiting for you.
It is your behavior that invites trouble from them.

17. Beginners must master low stance and posture, natural body positions are for the advanced.

18. Practicing a kata is one thing, engaging in a real fight is another.

19. Do not forget to correctly apply: strength and weakness of power,
stretching and contraction of the body and slowness and speed of techniques.

20. Always think and devise ways to live the precepts every day.

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand 2011.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Kihon Hangeki Renshu video

Here is a brief video on kihon hangeki renshu (basic counterattack practice). This is used for introductory jiyu-kumite training for kyu grades and can obviously employ any techniques. No combinations here, just single kizami-zuki (jab punches) and single technique counters.


© André Bertel, Christchurch, New Zealand (2011).

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Some video links

For other video links related to this blog please visit my youtube channel at:

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand 2011.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011


Here is the kihon training method I presently advocate. It is very-very simple, very “Japanese style” and gets long-lasting results fast. There are no fancy combinations… There is nothing to hide behind, your posture, movement, stances, and techniques have to be effective. Make this your `daily regime’ and long combinations soon show themselves as being ‘time wasters’ (why not save that for kata?). What’s more, if you can do the core techniques properly, everything else is a breeze.

Following this routine on a daily basis under an exceptional instructor will boost one’s karate incredibly because it only deals with what really matters. In saying that, unless the trainees are vigorously monitored and corrected this routine can groove extremely bad habits. Furthermore, the offensive techniques must be all practiced with full power against a target such as the heavy bag. This has been talked about in my past posts, so I will not address it today.

Practice method & repetitions: Practice each technique in a stationary stance then on the move. In both scenarios start with at least ten slow repetitions and then follow this with at least thirty repetitions with maximum snap. Regardless of speed, the count shouldn’t be too fast. This is to ensure that techniques are practiced fully and that continuity of motion doesn’t not interfere with the decisiveness of techniques (please note that ido-kihon is in zenkutsu-dachi unless otherwise noted).

So here we go...

1. Stationary: Chudan choku-zuki from shizentai (hachinoji-dachi or heiko-dachi).
2. Ido-kihon: Chudan oi-zuki or sambon-zuki.
3. Stationary: Migi then hidari chudan gyaku-zuki in hidari & migi zenkutsu-dachi.
4. Ido-kihon: Chudan gyaku-zuki.
5. Stationary: Jodan age-uke.
6. Ido-kihon: Jodan age-uke kara chudan gyaku-zuki.
7. Stationary: Chudan soto-uke.
8. Ido-kihon: Chudan soto-uke kara chudan gyaku-zuki or yori-ashi yoko empi-uchi (defending in zenkutsu-dachi then driving forward with yori ashi into kiba-dachi).
9. Stationary: Chudan uchi-uke.
10. Ido-kihon: Chudan uchi-uke kara chudan gyaku-zuki.
11. Stationary: Gedan-barai.
12. Ido-kihon: Gedan-barai kara chudan gyaku-zuki.
13. Stationary: Chudan shuto-uke in migi & hidari renoji-dachi.
14. Ido-kihon: Chudan shuto-uke kara nukite (driving forward into zenkutsu-dachi from kokutsu-dachi).
15. Stationary: Chudan mae-geri in heisoku-dachi.
16. Stationary: Migi then hidari chudan mae-geri in hidari & migi zenkutsu-dachi.
17. Ido-kihon: Chudan mae-geri or chudan mae-geri kara chudan oi-zuki or ren-geri.
18. Stationary: Chudan mawashi geri (alternate legs from shizentai landing in zenkutsu-dachi then stepping back into shizentai).
19. Ido-kihon: Chudan mawashi-geri.
20. Stationary: Ushiro-geri (alternate legs from heisoku-dachi rearward landing in zenkutsu-dachi then stepping forward into shizentai).
21. Ido-kihon: Ushiro-geri.
22. Stationary: Yoko-keage in heisoku-dachi.
23. Stationary: Yoko-kekomi in heisoku-dachi
24. Ido-kihon: Yoko-keage (single technique training with kosa-aiyumibashi in kiba-dachi or yoko keage ashi o kaete yoko-kekomi).
25. Ido-kihon: Yoko-kekomi (kosa-aiyumibashi in kiba-dachi or in zenkutsu-dachi).

Supplement this kihon (and the aforementioned impact training) with the eleven kihon-gata (the five Heian, Junro and Tekki-shodan) and kihon kumite (Gohon & Kihon Ippon Kumite). The main point is "TO KEEP KIHON PRACTICE SIMPLE"; therefore, always remember "the biggest asset of kihon training is simplicity". Overall, when working on the `advanced' kata and kumite the more simple and perfect your kihon-geiko is, the better your karate will become.

© André Bertel, Christchurch, New Zealand (2011).

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Obsession with form

There are two broad problems amongst karate practitioners: The first is “poor technical form”; and the second is “obsession with form”. While these are at opposite ends of the scale, they both result in ineffective karate.

Obsession with form is the problem which most, if not all mainstream Japanese organisations typically have. What happens is that they are so consumed by form that they spend too much time on cosmetics as opposed to making their karate effective. Of course, karateka should always be seeking better form, but form has purpose and this purpose is to achieve effectiveness within the context of the style one does i.e. – Shotokan, Shito-ryu, Goju-ryu, Wado-ryu etc. A great example is Mikio Yahara Sensei who is known for his stiff ankles. His back foot in zenkutsu-dachi cannot go much beyond 45 degrees and his kokutsu-dachi rear foot simply doesn’t get to that 'textbook ideal' 90 degree angle… Needless to say, he still has wonderful karate. I can personally relate to this (with my stiff ankles) and similarly have never found it to lessen my effectiveness (note my kizami-zuki photo from todays training). A fellow instructor once said to me "you can't do zenkutsu-dachi with your rear foot at that angle". So I replied by saying "you think about my rear ankle while swallowing your own teeth". My question is when did zenkutsu-dachi and other karate techniques/movements/stances become so obsessive?

Another example is of course is my late instructor, the legendary Tetsuhiko Asai Sensei, who was limited by his small frame. People criticise the continuity of his movements, but this is how he made his karate work for himself.

Obviously, this doesn’t mean we can just settle for lapses in our form or personal abilities. The art of karate is to constantly seek `personal perfection’… Not obsessively but with application in mind. Moreover, SOME THINGS DO MATTER AND MUST BE DONE otherwise our karate will be useless. For example the correct use of kokyu (breathing), tai no shinshuku (contraction and expansion of the body), koshi no kaiten (rotation of the waist) etc. Someone like Asai Sensei could break a damp hardwood board a foot behind his head (without utilising his waist); thus, to copy his favoured small-scale hip action would clearly be foolish…

Problem two – POOR TECHNICAL FORM: Poor technical form means “incorrect form and ineffectiveness”. Incorrect form is `style based’ and ‘ineffectiveness’ is dependent on one’s ability to apply techniques. In the case of smaller people, we must develop ways to make up for our smaller body mass and strength. And for bigger people, often speed is an issue. Of course, these are mere generalisations… We all know big people who are very fast and small people who are amazingly strong. My point is that poor technical form is not only about form but its relationship with physicality. If you want to discuss correct positioning and movement compare the greats i.e. – Sensei’s Asai, Kase, Enoeda, Yahara, Osaka, Imura, Ueki, Tanaka etc. They are all different but the important points are the same and all of them have or had destructive karate-waza.

Karate is about GOING WITH WHAT YOU HAVE GOT / OPTIMISING WHAT YOU HAVE! Not settling for less, but aiming to have the best technique you can. The secret is to not be obsessed with form but rather use form as a vehicle to optimise the application of your techniques. Asai Tetsuhiko Sensei once said “Kihon is for kumite, kata is for kumite and kumite is for kumite”. His point was that while karate is an art as opposed to a sport, it is first and fore-mostly a MARTIAL ART.

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2011).