Sunday, 15 January 2012

Well prepared for Germany & Italy

Here are some photographs from my self-training at Sumner beach today.

I'm now well prepared and in top condition for my upcoming seminars in Germany, and Italy (in the coming weeks). These technical clinics will be fantastic for all of the attendees, and will cover many underlying aspects of Tetsuhiko Asai Sensei's unique form of Shotokan Karate-Do.

As this will probably the last post (before I depart for Europe) I want to express my looking forward to seeing everyone there. OSU, Andre.

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2012).

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Kizami-zuki, gyaku-zuki & oi-zuki

The base techniques of standard karate-do are essentially kizami-zuki (jab punch), gyaku-zuki (reverse punch) and oi-zuki (lunge punch). This is because they are the underlying kihon-waza (insofar as correctly utilising the hips is concerned) and establish `the shortest distance between you and your opponent’ from a natural position. This goes beyond straight-line attacks, as only via perfecting funnel-like lines with one's thrusts, can a karateka fully express and maximise the circular techniques which obviously deviate from these. In the above photo I am doing pre-arranged kumite with my kohai and JKF (Japan Karatedo Federation) Kumite Champion, Inada Yasuhisa (4th Dan), who is countering me with chudan gyaku-zuki.

To avoid charging off on a tangent (and addressing the diverse subject of trajectories), I’d like to say here that regardless of style: “fundamentally all karate techniques are generated by the harmonious connection of upper and lower body derived from the waist, one’s kokyu (breathing), and the kokoro (the spirit/mind)”. In Japanese culture physical energy & mental/spiritual energy is said to be found in the hara or pit of the abdomen; therefore, it shouldn’t be a surprise that one’s `koshi’ is most important in the execution of all Japanese budo (martial arts). Of course, this sounds all nice in words and written text, but it must translate into actual training, and more importantly, be constantly practiced.

Without being exhaustive here are some basic examples from the three aforementioned core foundational techniques: (1) From KIZAMI-ZUKI: age uke, soto-uke, uchi-uke, gedan-barai, uraken yokomawashi-uchi, mae-ashi mawashi-geri and so forth. (2) From GYAKU-ZUKI: essentially any offensive waza from the reverse side. And
(3) From OI-ZUKI: any oi-waza i.e. – mae geri. Also waza employing gyaku-hanmi (reverse half-facing position).

My training & teaching: When I train and also when teaching, I follow this `basic' underlying pattern of kihon, no matter how `advanced' the session is. This is because it is essential for me in my own karate, and regardless of who I'm teaching or practicing with, it immensely benefits them as well. Practice and refinement in such a manner ensures immediate and long-term technical advancement. Obviously, from there people can move on to other things, with a very solid foundational understanding. Nevertheless, the foundation constantly requires the house to be lifted, and more concrete to be poured, whilst the rennovations continue. It's like a garden, you can plant all the nice plants and continue to do so, but you still have to tend to the weeds, water the grass etc. It seems that many people are either dehyrdraing their gardens or drowning them...

Based on these fundamental aspects, it is easy to see why in Japan, irrespective of style, most traditional karate-geiko begins with many repetitions of kizami-zuki kara gyaku-zuki & oi-zuki (in ido-kihon) or their wonderful variations. Yes, these techniques are being constantly tempered into precisely trained weapons, but so are many others, directly through them.

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2012),

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

My new email address

I have cancelled to use hotmail altogether, therefore my only means of contact (by email) is through the following gmail address:

Obviously, any emails sent to my old addresses will no longer be received. Kindest regards, Osu! Andre.

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2012).

Saturday, 7 January 2012


I'm really looking forward to teaching the upcoming seminars in Europe in February. However, some people are still emailing me to book places. I am very sorry I cannot help you. Please contact the organisers in either Deutschland or Italia. Still I really appreciate the messages and look forward to seeing you all. Osu, Andre.

February 4th & 5th Ahrensburg, Northern Germany.

FEBRUARY 11th & 12th: Mira (Venezia), Italy.

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2012).

Thursday, 5 January 2012

INTERVIEW: Hanshi Renzie Hanham (8th Dan Seido Karate)

Hanshi Renzie Hanham is Christchurch City’s only karate master and a pioneer of New Zealand Karate-Do. His long and vigorous karate journey is reflected by his immense knowledge of the art, skill and deep humility. He is a wonderful example for anyone who practices Karate or aspires to begin practicing. Needless to say, I was thrilled when Hanshi Renzie agreed to do this interview. Domo arigato gozamashita Hanshi, Osu! – André Bertel (January 2012).

Due to his illustrious career the following extract (and the photos featured in this interview), have been taken from Seido Karate New Zealand’s official website:

“In the sporting arena he has over 49 years experience as a martial artist and is a black belt in judo and a 8th degree black belt in seido karate and is the senior instructor in New Zealand in that art. A judo champion in his youth, he was the youngest black belt in New Zealand. He then went on to study karate, represented New Zealand and lived and trained in Japan under the world renowned karate master Mas Oyama. Whilst there he appeared in the book ‘Advanced Karate’. He is head instructor for the Seido dojo in Christchurch – the largest and longest established karate hall in the South Island. He has instructed literally thousands of people, has trained several world champions in Seido karate and has taught in numerous countries. Several of his students have gone on to achieve distinction in a variety of fields. In 1993 he was part of a team invited to Tokyo to represent New York which gave demonstrations at the Meiji shrine, ran seminars and appeared on Prime Time television. He is a director of a company Gazing Performance Systems which specialises in improving performance under pressure. The company trains people in over 60 countries and clients include major multinational blue chip companies, government departments and leading sporting organisations. The company trains in the areas of sport, business and education.

Renzie is co-developer of many of the materials used by the company. He is also responsible for the graphics and design input. Renzie also works with a number of sports people both here and overseas and has worked for the English Rugby Unions High Performance Department, conducting seminars and workshops for coaches, players and referees.

He has worked with a number of world and Olympic champion athletes in a variety of sports and attended the Sydney Olympics with the NZ triathlon team. Along with Dr Ceri Evans he was invited to give a talk on mental conditioning at Oxford University.

He has contributed to “Mind Games” – a book concerned with the mental aspects of performance published in London 2004. Renzie also contributed to “Endurance Sports Diary 2005’, a handbook for triathletes and Multi sporters.

For the last 35 years he has had his own design business and has been a judge at the New York Art Directors Club International Design Awards. He has won an International Award for his design. Renzie also illustrates and designs books.

As a musician he has produced 4 albums and as a songwriter was a finalist at Tamworth.
He presently works as a company director, graphic designer and as a therapist at a local medical clinic. He trained under Elisabeth Kubler Ross in the USA, Australia and New Zealand as well as having a background and training in other therapeutic modalities.

Renzie’s broad background gives him a unique perspective on the building blocks to success in a variety of domains. His work in the community was recognised recently when the city presented him with a civic award.”
Firstly, thank you very much Hanshi for agreeing to do this interview.

Q. What initially got you into the martial arts and karate-do in particular?
A. I started Judo when I was 14. I loved it for a variety of reasons. Judo is very honest and the dojo provided me with a surrogate family. I started karate in 1965 as a result of Doug Holloway sensei looking for somewhere to train. At that time I was the head instructor for the CanAmJu Judo club, one of the oldest in the area and he started the first karate dojo in Canterbury at their clubrooms. I guess I was attracted to karate because of its then exotic nature.

Q. For decades Seido Karate has such a great reputation for really enhancing its members’ lives and has done so much for the people of Christchurch. As the instructor at the helm of this, what has been your focus in achieving such results?

A. That’s a good question. I suspect that if you’ve been going for a length of time then the dojo builds tremendously strong lifelong friendships and karate becomes the vehicle where this is expressed. My teacher emphasises that karate should be for everyone, not just for the elite athlete but for individuals who may not be very co-ordinated, may not be flexible or fit, or that may be physically or mentally challenged in some way. This approach is both a strength and a weakness because you have people achieving a rank which in the ‘old days’ might not have been possible. For some this means a dilution of the system and I have a great deal of sympathy for that view but I think as you get older the connections you make through the practice of karate are what makes it significant. So, the process is what becomes important, not just the outcome.

Q. Living and training in Japan with Kyokushinkai directly under the styles founder Masutatsu Oyama, how would you compare training in those days with training now in both Japan and New Zealand?

A. It was long and repetitious and as you would know you hardly ever got praised. Nowadays there is a tendency for us to encourage the student which I think is good but it has it’s weak point because the student sometimes practice just to get that encouragement, not necessarily for the process itself which can mean they may not be as robust under pressure. They can become dependent on externals to define themselves, whereas in the traditional approach your sense of self came largely from within. I feel there is a time and place for both, and it depends where the athlete is in their training. Beginners need encouragement and as they get more accomplished the pressure goes on. The instructor is often more critical and then with your senior students you travel alongside of them.

Q. Kaicho Tadashi Nakamura was Oyama’s number one student. What attracted you to become his deshi and follow him when he established Seido Juku?

A. For Hanshi Andy and myself we felt that the approach that we had experienced in Japan lacked some technical aspects and possibly a spiritual dimension. We had both attended zen sesshins under Sasaki Roshi and felt that this aspect was missing in Kyokushinkai. In Japan I had asked who was the best Kyokushin instructor and everyone said Kaicho. We started corresponding with him and because of the politics involved in Kyokushin invited him over to resolve some of the issues. Eventually he agreed and along with Shihan Shigeru Oyama they came to New Zealand in 1974 to conduct seminars. The year after Kaicho resigned and started SeidoJuku and we naturally followed. I have tremendous admiration for Kyokushin but certainly have no regrets about the path I have taken.

Q. What are the main technical and philosophical differences between Kyokushin and Seido?

A. Technically they have many similarities. Kaicho has introduced his own katas, prearranged sparring , kobudo katas and two man drills. I would say the syllabus in Seido is more comprehensive which is again a strength and a weakness. Kyokushin by its very slogan ‘The Strongest Karate’ clearly puts its line in the sand. When we were in Japan they would tell us that a shodan in Kyokushin was worth a higher rank in any other style and as young men we liked to believe this myth. We all changed our minds when we went along to the Shotokan headquarters and watched members of the Japanese team train. As you would know they were very skilful and impressive and we went away from there with a great appreciation of the style and practitioners. Also in our dojo we had exponents of Chidokan and Budokan training and the first black belt in Taekwondo in Canterbury, a Malaysian – Jerry Yee. It wasn’t difficult to realise they all had something significant to offer.

Q. How has Seido evolved since its beginnings?

A. Initially it was similar to Kyokushin but over the years it has become more accessible and probably broader in its appeal.

Q. Seido also has kobudo in its syllabus. What do you believe are the main benefits of traditional weaponry training for karateka?

A. We don’t start kobudo until the student is a shodan which means they have been practicing for at least 5 – 6 years. We only practice bo, sai, jo and later the sword. From my perspective the main benefits are experiencing different kinds of body movement and of course with a weapon in your hands there is a completely different dynamic in terms of distance, posture and so on. Evasive movement becomes more important.

Q. Kyu and dan examinations in Shotokan are short affairs where only a handful of kata are performed, no more than a dozen kihonwaza, and typically one to three rounds of kumite. Contrastingly, the Seido examinations are physically and spiritually testing. Can you explain the rationale behind this?

A. There are very few situations in western culture where people can be challenged physically and mentally outside of the competitive arena. I’ve always felt its important that people be tested and taken to their individual limit. So, in this dojo everyone knows what is required for shodan, the black belts know what is required for nidan but the rest are kept secret. The reasons for this are that each of the subsequent promotions are distinctly different and present different challenges for the participants. It takes them out of their comfort zones and into unfamiliar territory, because they don’t know how to prepare. So it becomes as much a mental battle as a physical one. This way I feel there is a progression which hopefully acknowledges their changing status. I don’t think this is a better way but it fits with my perspective.

Q. Do you have a favourite kata and if so, why?

A. Sushiho. I like the large movements and the dynamic nature of it.

Q. Likewise do you have a personal kumite technique or principle that you favour or favoured when you used to compete?

A. When I was competing I wasn’t that sophisticated to have a guiding principle that I was aware of, I was happy just to survive. Because of my judo background I didn’t mind being in close which didn’t suit a points system but worked for contact. My two favourite techniques were yoko geri and de ashi barai. I’m keen on developing the ability to change angles and the distance between yourself and your opponent. Unfortunately different rules develop specific strategies which again become the exponents greatest strength but if the rules of engagement change can be their greatest weakness. When we used to compete in University tournaments our style wasn’t suited to the types of rules and vice versa. Eventually we would adapt but whenever there is competition, there will be rules and by its very nature this becomes a limitation. On the other hand tremendous skillsets are developed around this.

Q. You have taught several world Seido karate champions. What do you believe are the pros and cons of tournament competitions?

A. I feel everyone should compete at some stage, if only to experience the emotional anxiety that often precedes it and to see how they function under that kind of pressure. As you know being skilful and effective in the dojo is one thing, being skilful in competition is another and being effective in the street’ is altogether different. Each have their own levels of intensity and require some adjustment which if you haven’t experienced you can find the adaptation required difficult. Three things are important I feel: Clarity, Intensity and Accuracy. Most people have a level of intensity but unless they are clear about what they’re doing, then they won’t be accurate. Tournaments can help develop clarity in that environment.

Q. In addition to your 8th Dan in Seido Karate you are a talented musician, renowned graphic designer and mind coach. Can you tell us about these activities and their relationship with your karate and vice versa?
A. I’ve been fortunate to work with a variety of elite sports people and for the last two years, and alongside Dr Ceri Evans ( a Seido 5th dan) and the All Black’s psychologist Gilbert Enoka who worked with the All Blacks to prepare them for the World Cup. So I’ve had an opportunity to see first-hand the impact, and the resilience, that top level sport requires. I don’t see too much difference between mind-sets required in any of the sports. Of course strategically they are different and use different energy systems but a swimmers brain for instance is much the same as a karate exponent. In terms of design and music, I feel they complement martial arts. Kaicho is a very skilled calligrapher, and I’m sure this is true of many senior karateka- that they are skilled in other areas. This stops them becoming one dimensional. We have all experienced what it’s like to be surrounded by people who agree with everything we say. Long term this can be harmful, at least for me it would have been so I’ve always tried to be involved in a couple of areas to maintain a balance. Other people can achieve this without having other things but I couldn’t.

Q. Lastly, are there any more things you would like to share about your karate journey for the readers of this interview?

A. Yes. In my experience it’s important to enjoy the process, rather than fixate on an outcome. Especially if you want to sustain an effort over a long period of time. Every martial art has their heroes and its own mythology and it’s great to have these heroes as role models but theirs is their own story. We can’t copy that. In the beginning we try to model ourselves on others which is great but eventually we have to find our own voice and tell our own story. If we do this for ourselves, we need to allow this in our students, once they reach a certain point. Then, in many cases we become the student. I believe you have gone through a similar process. Once you’re in a position of leadership things are not so black and white anymore because you become more aware of the individual’s story and what bought them to this place and time. I think this makes us more compassionate and I would hope makes us all more magnanimous. Finally, I greatly admire your particular path, it must have taken a great deal of courage. We never lose that competitive spirit but I think as we get older we look for and desire those things that connect us rather than those things that keep us separate. This way we can make a meaningful contribution to the society we live in.

Thank you for this opportunity. It’s very much appreciated. Whaia te iti kahuranga ki te tuahu koe me he maunga teitei. Aim for the highest cloud so that if you miss it, you will hit a lofty mountain.


Do itashimashite! Thank you very much Hanshi for giving this interview it has been a great honour for me. Christchurch is very fortunate to have a karate instructor of your calibre, knowledge and experience. I wish you and Seido Karate New Zealand all the best for 2012. Osu, André.



© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2012).

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Andre Bertel Karate Seminar: Italy 2012

I am being flown to Venice Italy to teach a special course at Mauro Mion Sensei's dojo in Mira. The course is being organised by Silvio Cannizzo Sensei.

To book a place please contact JKS Italia through their website:

Look forward to seeing you all there! Osu, Andre.

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2012).

Monday, 2 January 2012

Christchurch's only Shotokan Karate Instructors Class Resumes

The 2012 Christchurch Shotokan instructors training began today. Obviously, this is an important training for Traditional Shotokan in Christchurch as no one else here is capable of training in Shotokan at this technical level.

The content of the first session of 2012 was directed by eight kata (Junro-Nidan, Jitte, Gankaku, Sochin, Bassai-Sho, Kanku-Sho, Meikyo & Gojushiho-Dai). After performing them several times, their kihon, and self-defence applications were broken down. To conclude training various drills for precise timing in kumite were practiced. Overall, it was a fantastic few hours of advanced Karate-Do training with Lyall Stone Sensei.

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2012).

Sunday, 1 January 2012


My first karate-geiko of the New Year today was marked by a new self-training regime which I will outline below. Before doing so I'd like to wish everyone a very happy new year. - Osu, Andre.

PS - In less than a month I will be flown to Germany conducting seminars in Ahrensburg (just outside of Hamburg) then travelling Venice, Italia to teach a course in Mira. If you haven't seen them, here are two videos from my recent seminars in Christchurch, New Zealand:


Kihon: Shodan, Nidan & Sandan grading syllabus (varied intensity and ranging between 10-50 repetitions depending on daily condition). This is concluded by random Asai-ha Shotokan-ryu drills and exercises.

Kata: Not fixed advanced kata in preparation for European seminars. General class: Heian, Junro, Tekki and the four sentei-gata as usual.

Kumite: Monday (Gohon kumite); Tuesday (Kihon-ippon kumite); Wednesday (Jiyu-ippon kumite); Thursday, Friday & Saturday (Jiyu-kumite & Oyo-kumite).

© André Bertel. Christchurch, New Zealand (2012).