Monday, 15 May 2017

What kata do I teach outside of the standard 26?

Tobi yoko-geri kekomi on Andrew Makin (3rd Dan).

Kakuyoku Shodan
The opening of the 'Falling Leaf' kata: Rakuyo. It is the third in a series of kata, which includes Hachimon and Senka.

There have been some questions about what I teach outside of the 26 standard Shotokan kata, at my private dojo—International Karate Shotokan—here in Oita City, Japan. In the past I had more kata (which we still archive), but our official koten-gata have been abbreviated: to what I have deciphered as being utterly essential for my senior students across Japan and abroard.

None of these kata are compulsory, within our group, except (1) Junro Shodan for Nidan karateka; (2) Junro Shodan or any other Junro kata (free choice) for Sandan karateka; and (3) a Jiyu-gata for Yondan karateka and above. ALWAYS...Compulsary are the five Heian,  Tekki Shodan and the four Sentei-gata (Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Enpi and Jion).

The following 'KOTEN-GATA' list is what we have been following the last seven years, since 2010. I will not go into oyo (application) publicly but we have a very unique system, which is organizationally in-house, and strongly connects with Okinawa and China; furthermore and more importantly, contemporary military CQB (Close Quarter Battle).


1.       Junro Shodan

2.       Junro Nidan

3.       Junro Sandan

4.       Junro Yondan

5.       Junro Godan


6.       Kibaken

7.       Kyakusen (Ashi-barai no kata)

8.       Joko Issei

9.   Joko Nisei

10.   Joko Sansei

11.   Joko Yonsei

12.   Joko Gosei

13.   Rantai (Ransetsu)

14.   Seiryu

15.   Meikyo Nidan

16.   Meikyo Sandan

17.   Kakuyoku Shodan

18.   Kakuyoku Nidan

19.   Kakuyoku Sandan

20.   Sensho

21.   Shotei

22.   Hachimon

23.   Senka

24.   Rakuyo

25.   Kashu (Hi no te)

26.   Roshu (Nami no te)

27.   Suishu (Mizu no te)

28. Hushu (Kaze no te)

29.   Raiko (Kaminari-arashi)

The rationale behind practising these additional kata is "karate as effective martial arts". Learning new kata for 'kata sake' (pun for non-Japanese readers intended) has no meaning. These additional kata are for kumite/self-defence training 'specific for individuals'. In this regard, to individualistic specificity, they are very useful for developing high level 'Martial Art Karate' skills.

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

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Video: Transition from basic tsuki to application

Here is a new video from last year in Mira, Venice (ITALY) where I taught a seminar on Budo Karate. Special thanks to Mauro Shihan and Silvio Sensei for this footage. Osu.

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

Wednesday, 3 May 2017


To clarify to everyone around the world:

(1) I have total respect for the 日本空手協会 (JKA - JAPAN KARATE ASSOCIATION); furthermore the JKA Sohonbu Instructors.

(2)  My objectives in Karate-Do are twofold: firstly, to improve my waza, and kokoro, via daily training; and secondly, to optimally instruct others--so they can achieve a high level in Budo Karate.

(3)  I will continue to give seminars within and outside of Japan; furthermore, I will continue to accept Japanese and non-Japanese renshusei: as I have done for many years. These are my personal Karate-Do activities and have no relationship to any organization.

(4) These private activities have never been claimed as being 'JKA'/ '協会' but, rather, 'Andre Bertel' trainings/coaching events.

(5) Irrespective of any outcomes, I offer my deepest respect to all karateka in JKA Japan (instructors and members), JKA karateka around the world and, indeed, all Budo Karate groups and styles.

押忍!アンドレ。バーテル (Andre Bertel)
May 2nd, 2017. - Oita City, Japan.

Sunday, 23 April 2017

Intensive Private Training in Oita City

Today and yesterday we had intensive training here in Oita City. Morooka San and I practiced the core sonoba-kihon, followed by Gohon Kumite and Kihon Ippon Kumite. Kihon Ippon Kumite was, in fact, the main focus:with atttention to critial details to achieve 'finshing waza'. Kata training bolstered this effort and included Unsu, Sochin, Nijushiho and Sentei-gata Jion.

Overall, in the sense of 'Budo'/'Bujutsu', the training was literally top-level here in Japan. Hard core practice. I think that says a lot; moreover, it is great that authentic Budo Karate is continued without being watered down to sports karate, nor the Western way of theories, lots of talk, "feelings" (= get smacked over in Japan), and mere 'copy-cat movements' (= just movements) with no relation to fighting/self-defense in the real world. Real karate is a real martial art, not just an art. This is the Karate-Do I follow as do other true followers of Karate. Osu, Andre.

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

Thursday, 13 April 2017

桜 (Sakura)

(Sakura) or cherry blossoms, as most know, have a very special cultural significance  here in Japan. Ask any Japanese person “what is your favourite time of the year?” and many will say “Haru” (Spring): often in reference to the exquisite blooming of sakura.
Spring, of course, is literally the season of new life in nature, and the blooming of sakura vividly epitomizes this. What makes sakura more profound is that their life is both beautiful and fleeting: an analogy of human existence.

As the sakura bloom across Japan people have ‘cherry blossom parties’ or   花見 (Hanami), which literally translates as ‘watching blossoms’. They eat and drink heartily with family, friends and/or workmates. It is therefore a time to really appreciate being alive—and the beauties of life—on many different levels.

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

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Gohon and Kihon Ippon Kumite is KIHON TRAINING

There are two forms of kumite (sparring) purely for the training of kihon (fundamentals), these are: Gohon Kumite—Five step sparring; and Kihon Ippon Kumite—Fundamental one step sparring.

The purpose is ‘KIHON’: While both of these training drills practice the additional aspect of timing and maai (distancing), the focal point is to ‘maintain and employ perfected/classical kihon form’ whilst doing so. For this reason, I have always highly recommended that karateka do not consider Gohon and Kihon Ippon Kumite as ‘kumite’ but, rather, as ‘partner kihon’. In this way, the underpinning purposes of these partner drills can be achieved and not diminished in any way.

Gohon Kumite and Kihon Ippon Kumite WONT TEACH YOU HOW TO FIGHT: Common sense shows that doing these drills, just like doing solo kata training, will not teach you how to fight in isolation. That has never been the objective of these drills/routines; rather, their point is to teach/ingrain and further develop optimal body actions (which, in turn, become functional via ‘specific freestyle training’: uchikomi, jiyu-kumite, oyo-kumite, impact training etcetera). As a whole, Gohon Kumite and Kihon Kumite are training methods—which contribute towards overall effectiveness of karate technique—by strictly practicing the pure/classical fundamental techniques with a training partner.

Training these drills as MATCHES: This is, of course, fine, and is done here in Japan (with Kihon Ippon Kumite); nevertheless, one will not be successful if one turns Gohon and Kihon Ippon Kumite into some form of ‘restricted fight’. As stressed above, doing so, will inevitably compromise kihon—which immediately renders these drills useless. Returning to the point of matches with Kihon Ippon Kumite, in relation to the aforementioned point, the ‘winner’ be the karateka whom demonstrates superior kihon; thus, again elucidating the point of Fundamental ‘Kumite’.
Training this way doesn’t EXPRESS EMOTIONS; rather CONTOLS THEM: One of the big factors between the top level karateka here in Japan—and those around the world—is the difference of emotional expression in training. The Budo Karate Way is ‘poker-faced’. No grizzly expressions—like on the covers of cheesy martial arts magazines and depicted in far-fetched martial arts movies; no ‘post win’ high fives and dancing—as is often seen in sports karate events. Quite simply, no emotional expression. Practicing karate in this way, the proper way, means that far greater internal-control will be achieved. Relating this point, specifically to Gohon Kumite and Kihon Ippon Kumite, we can see some essential mind-body connections. This is especially the case due: to these drills requiring ‘to move the body in very strict ways’. Getting ‘stuck-in’ (forcing and rushing techniques) is an easy way to see poor control of the body and mind. To recapitulate and summarize in a slightly different way, in order to be successful, one needs to be in a very calm state to move correctly—without any technical short-cuts nor superfluous actions; furthermore, to also have ‘strict control over emotions’ (to not ‘over excite’ and, consequently, turn the drill into a quasi-freestyle exercise with one’s training partner). In this way, we can readily see how SHIN-GI-TAI is trained in fundamental kumite and Karate-Do in general.

The most important person in Gohon Kumite and Kihon Ippon Kumite: Besides exact kihon, and having the emotional control required to do so, never forget that “...THE MOST IMPORTANT PERSON IN ALL FORMS OF YAKUSOKU-KUMITE (Pre-arranged Sparring) IS ALWAYS THE DESIGNATED ATTACKER”. There are multiple reasons for this, however, the most critical is “...that always making/using correct maai for one’s attacks must become second nature”. There is no exception to this rule. Second only, to this point, is the need to offer stimuli for one’s training partner to respond. Put another way, an out of distance technique requires no defensive response; thus, if an ukewaza (reception technique) is employed, it is inherently an error.

CONCLUSION: Kihon, kata and all of the different forms of kumite training collectively work together to optimally develop the defensive and offensive capacities of karateka; however, the objective of each drill must be fully understood and followed in physical practice. Failure to do so will waste training time; moreover, groove bad habits. When practicing Gohon Kumite and Kihon Ippon Kumite think about how much they imitate/resemble a real fight. When one does so, it is evident that they do not, nor can, prepare one for jiyu-kumite nor self-defence. Irrespective of this, they are excellent building blocks—when understood and trained correctly—that greatly contribute towards solidifying the foundational skills which (in harmonious combination with kihon, kata, and the other forms of kumite) result in an ever-improving freestyle capacity.

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

PS – You may have noted that I have not mentioned Jiyu Ippon Kumite: this was intentional. I will write an article about it in the near future. 押忍, André.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Trainees from Germany: Andrea Haeusler and Torsten Uhlemann

On Friday 7th and Saturday 8th of April—Andrea Haeusler Sensei and Torsten Uhlemann Sensei (JKA Germany)—came for private training at my dojo here in Oita City.

As they operate their own dojo, Fuji San Karateschule Münster (click here to visit their clubs homepage: the sessions were essentially ‘instructor trainings’ focused on key points of top-level Budo Karate here in Japan. Accordingly, kihon was the main aspect—in relation to kata and kumite.
In sum, it was great to see Torsten Sensei and Andrea Sensei do so well over the two days of training here in Oita. I wish you both the very best for your remaining time here in Japan! Osu, André
© André Bertel. Oita City, Japan (2017).

Saturday, 8 April 2017

Foreign Renshusei (Trainees)

The following list includes the non-Japanese karateka who have come to Japan and had private lessons with me. Others have come to train, but the following karateka have: (1) officially applied to be renshusei; (2) have been accepted; and (3) completed training as renshusei. To those on this list, "Omedetto gozaimasu!!!"


2. UHLEMANN, Torsten (GERMANY) 2017

3. SCHOEMBURG, Oliver (GERMANY) 2017

4. LAMBEIN, Kathleen (BELGIUM) 2017

5. ANG, Eden (SINGAPORE) 2016

6. BARR, Michae(ENGLAND) 2016


8. ROBERT, Yann (FRANCE) 2015

9. ROBERT, Phinh  (FRANCE) 2015



12. MORALDE, Noel (AUSTRALIA) 2015

13. MORALDE, Heidi (AUSTRALIA) 2015   


15. LAMPE, Peter (GERMANY) 2015

16. KÖHLER, Frank (GERMANY) 2015

17. SCHÖNE, Rainer (GERMANY) 2015

18. PINTOS, Leo (AUSTRALIA) 2014

19. JORDAN, Pietro (ITALY/CANADA) 2014

20. LEHMANN, Christa (SWITZERLAND) 2014

21. DILKS, Morgan (NEW ZEALAND) 2014

22. RIVAS, Sergio (SPAIN) 2013

23. DUKAS, Bryan (SOUTH AFRICA) 2010


25. JEHU, Lyn (WALES/JAPAN) 2009

26. DILKS, Morgan (NEW ZEALAND) 2008

27. LEHMANN, Christa (SWITZERLAND) 2008

28. KELLY, Ben (IRELAND) 2007 

PLEASE NOTE: This list will be periodically updated and re-published when foreign karateka come and complete training at my dojo.
Application to be a renshusei: To apply please email me directly at: In your email include the following: i. your proposed dates to train; ii. full details: if other karateka will be coming with you; iii. dan rank(s); iv. age(s)—please note, those under 18 must be accompanied by a parent/caregiver; and (v) any questions/inquiries that you may have.
 © André Bertel. Japan (2017).

Monday, 27 March 2017


One of my personal students after learning 王冠 (Wankan) requested that I perform it slowly online. Wankan is a kata that I merely know - not one that I presently practice; therefore, I am regretful that I cannot give it the justice it deserves. Irrespective, I hope that this helps people seeking to learn Wankan correctly - in the technical sense -  as I have seen many strange versions posted online, which is, of course, very regretful. Best wishes from Japan, Andre Bertel.
·         Rei (Musubi dachi)

·         Yoi (Ryoken daitai mae, Hachiji dachi)

1.      Ryoken chudan kakiwake uke (Migi kokutsu dachi)

2.      Ryoken chudan kakiwake uke (Hidarii kokutsu dachi)

3.      Ryozenwan jodan hasami uke (Hidari ashi dachi)

4.      Migi ashi ippo mae

5.      Hidari ashi ippo mae

6.      Hidari tate shuto chudan uke (Migi zenkutsu dachi)

7.      Uken chudan zuki (Migi zenkutsu dachi)

8.      Saken chudan zuki (Migi zenkutsu dachi)

9.      Sasho gedan sukui uke/Usho koko gedan osae (Hidari ashi mae neko ashi dachi)

10.  Hidari tate shuto chudan uke (Migi zenkutsu dachi)

11.  Uken chudan zuki (Migi zenkutsu dachi)

12.  Saken chudan zuki (Migi zenkutsu dachi)

13.  Sasho gedan sukui uke/Usho koko gedan osae (Hidari ashi mae neko ashi dachi)

14.  Hidari tate shuto chudan uke (Migi zenkutsu dachi)

15.  Uken chudan zuki (Migi zenkutsu dachi)

16.  Saken chudan zuki (Migi zenkutsu dachi)

17.  Migi kentsui chudan uchi mawashi uchi (Kiba dachi)

18.  Hidari chudan mae geri keage (Migi ashi dachi)

19.  Hidari chudan jun zuki (Hidari zenkutsu dachi)

20.  Migi chudan mae geri keage (Hidari ashi dachi)

21.  Migi chudan jun zuki (Migi zenkutsu dachi)

22.  Hidari chudan mae geri keage (Migi ashi dachi)

23.  Hidari chudan jun zuki (Hidari zenkutsu dachi)

24.  Saken chudan uken gedan yama zuki (Migi ashi mae fudo dachi) “EI!”

·         Naore (Ryoken daitai mae, Hachiji dachi)

·         Rei (Musubi dachi)
© André Bertel. Oita-City, Japan (2017).

Monday, 20 March 2017

JKA Syllabus Update (Part II - Commentary)

 The JKA (Japan Karate Association) has just officially updated its grading requirements. This syllabus will be implemented from April 1st of next month (2017). You can click here to access my translation: Before I begin, I’d like to say that I really like the changes: especially in regards to kihon, and hence this 'commentary' post. OK, So lets have a brief look into the update…


Kihon will now be tested up to and including the Nanadan/7th Dan examination. For the Rokudan and Nanadan tests, like several years back, the kihon will be randomly requested on the day by the head examiner.

From Nidan to Godan the techniques required will be pretty much the same; that being said,  the omission of kizami-zuki followed by sanbon renzuki stands out. Instead, the more classical sanbon ren-zuki is demonstrated. One exception to this—is the sandan exam—which has the examinee demonstrate ‘kizami-zuki kara jodan jun-zuki soshite chudan gyaku-zuki’. Great to see a punching attack which is practical and reflecting of sanbon ren-zuki.

Nidan to Godan all have the following three pre-existing renzokuwaza, which I believe really stresses their value for technical development and in the context of assessment: (1) Jodan age-uke kara chudan soto-uke soshite chudan gyaku-zuki (blocking twice with the same wrist); (2) Chudan uchi-uke kara kizami-zuki soshite chudan gyaku-zuki (switching from kokutsu-dachi to zenkutsu-dachi); and (3) Shuto chudan-uke kara kizami mae-geri soshite nukite.

The historically long featured combination of ‘ippo sagatte jodan age-uke kara mawashi-geri, yoko uraken soshite chudan jun-zuki’ will now be tested at both Nidan and Sandan level. This has replaced the previous Nidan combination, which utilized ippo-sagatte gedan-barai followed by two chudan jun-zuki attacks.

Another technique no longer being tested is gyaku-zuki (idomokuhyo); however, the classic JKA 'kicking mae-geri keage to the front, yoko-geri kekomi to the side and ushiro-geri kekomi to the rear—balancing on one leg' remains for the Yondan and Godan examinations.

Lastly, an interesting point is that the ‘Mae-geri keage kara jun-zuki’ combination previously tested at Nidan shinsa is now featured at Yondan; furthermore, gyaku-zuki is added to this renwaza for Godan examinees.

In sum, there are indeed less techniques; however, there are more exams featuring kihon: this is great!!  It seems to me that this is elucidating "...what techniques are deemed the most important and beneficial to lift everyone's technical levels"; furthermore, there seems to be an emphasis on stronger, more robust, combinations. In many ways, this is “...drawing a line in the sand between budo karate, and karate that lacks true ‘kime’”.


There are some pretty interesting changes insofar as kata is concerned. I will outline the main two. The first is the fact that those taking the ikkyu/1st kyu examination can once again select from any of the four sentei-gata: Bassai Dai, Kanku Dai, Enpi or Jion. The last syllabus (implemented in 2014) required either Bassai Dai or Kanku Dai (disallowing the selection of Enpi and Jion).

The next and even more positive standout is that from now "...Tekki Nidan and Tekki Sandan are required for those taking the Yondan and Godan examinations". For Yondan, the grading panel will randomly call a kata from Heian Shodan to Tekki Nidan; and for Godan, Tekki Sandan will be added to this list. This change is again reflective of a focus on budo karate and, again, is reminiscent of Nakayama Masatoshi Sensei’s era.


The most obvious change is the removal of Kihon Ippon Kumite (Kiri kaeshi) and a return to standard Kihon Ippon Kumite and Jiyu Ippon Kumite for the Sankyu/3rd Kyu and Nikyu/2nd Kyu examinations. In the case of mawashi-geri, in jiyu ippon kumite, it is now optional to kick either jodan or chudan (the last syllabus made chudan compulsory). It is also worth mentioning that for those—over 60—jiyu kumite can be exchanged with Jiyu Ippon kumite. While this is not new, the updated syllabus document strongly points this out as its conclusive remarks.

Taken as a whole, the updated JKA grading syllabus is an excellent overhaul. While the syllabus was already excellent, the latest changes have lifted the bar further by further simplification and even greater emphasis on kihon at the higher echelons. Osu, André

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