a lesson with sensei andre bertel

karate is practiced all around the world, and whenever i get the chance to travel i like to see if there is an opportunity to train at a local club. it is a testament to karateka everywhere that i have always been welcomed into dojos with enthusiasm, and have learned much from experiencing - if only transiently - the ways karate is practiced in different countries.

recently, debbie and i were fortunate enough to travel to new zealand, an extraordinary country that had long been top of our lists of places to visit. and while we were there, alongside abseiling in a glow-worm canyon, whitewater rafting, and jumping out of a perfectly good aeroplane, we managed to track down sensei andre bertel.

sensei bertel is the international instructor with the ijka in chistchurch, and is well-known for his teaching around the world as well as in japan; a student of the late sensei asai, his karate is both excellent and distinctive.

taking a chance, i emailed sensei bertel in advance of my trip, and he responded very kindly to say i was welcome to come and train with him if i were passing through. while he was somewhat busy with work commitments, i was invited to join a private training session and had an hour's instruction that contained some valuable insights for me to take away. sensei bertel was keen to impart details of power generation, and give me the benefit of training in a japanese style, in comparison to the 'european style' of karate i clearly represented. the lesson took me right back to the basics of seiken, hanmi, and zenkutsudachi, and was enlightening in showing how much improvement can be achieved with attention to detail. with some interesting exercises dealing with flexibility and focus, and a chance to briefly run through meikyo nidan (i am currently studying meikyo shodan, and the comparison is instructive), the lesson was varied as well as in-depth. in particular, it was useful to go into the idea of different types of movement in striking, where hands need not only be hammers, but instead also "whips and needles".

overall, i found the lesson to be very useful, and has caused me to re-examine some of the basic assumptions i had made about the way i do karate. i came away inspired to train harder, mentally as well as physically, and to work on the content of the ideas presented to me.

training with different instructors is always a useful exercise, but moreso when the instructors are as accomplished as sensei bertel. in person, sensei bertel was very friendly, and went out of his way to make me welcome. easy-going in nature, his dedication in the study of karate is exemplary, and his expertise undeniable. it was an honour to meet and to train with him, and in the coming months i am looking forward to discovering how much i learned.


-neil jerome, 2012

sensei bertel's blog is here

photos taken by, and shown here by kind permission of debbie hill.

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