At the tender age of 15, in the year 1981, Sensei Eric Bortels took the leap into the world of karate. Under the tutelage of Sensei Dirk Heene and Sensei Dimitra Limneos, he discovered a passion that resonated with his spirit. His enthusiasm was particularly piqued by Sensei Dirk Heene's unique approach to karate, which transformed the art into an intellectually stimulating and engaging practice.
In 1996, he parted ways with this club to seek further growth opportunities in his own karate academy in Zonhoven, drawing upon the knowledge, skills, and philosophy of Sensei Dirk Heene. This endeavor did not initially proceed smoothly. His aim was to establish a karate academy that transcended mere karate lessons by providing a broader range of insights.
Content-wise, Sensei Dirk Heene followed in the footsteps of Sensei Kase.
Sensei Eric wholeheartedly agreed with this vision. Sensei Kase was a pioneer who elevated karate to a higher level, openly discussing the concept of harnessing and utilizing energy. This was a topic that remained shrouded in mystery 30 years ago, and even today, many corners of the karate world still shy away from open discussions, as if it were a taboo. Interestingly, this concept was deeply embedded in the teachings of Bodhidharma, who introduced martial arts from India to monks in China around 500 AD. It was an integral part of their path to spiritual growth, a concept that seems to have faded from the minds of many modern instructors. Sensei Eric faithfully adhered to Sensei Kase's teachings until his passing in 2004. He earned his first black belt, or "shodan," from Sensei Miyazaki. In 1999, he was bestowed the fourth dan, or "yondan," by Sensei Kase himself.
Since September 2011, the non-profit association GO NO SEN, founded by Eric Bortels, has been affiliated with the Federation JKS (Japanese Karate Shoto Federation).
Sensei Eric was drawn to this organization's commitment to inclusivity, particularly their work with individuals with disabilities. Sensei Asai had already developed an adapted program specifically for wheelchair users. In 2014, Sensei Eric was appointed Technical Director for JKS Belgium, and in 2017, he ascended to the role of Technical Director for JKS Benelux. Under the guidance of Kagawa Shihan, a 9th dan, Eric Bortels achieved his 5th "godan" , 6th "rokudan" and 7th "nanadan" dan in Tokyo, Japan.
In 2013, Eric Bortels emerged victorious as European Kumite Masters Champion in Italy.
At the 2016 World Championships in Tokyo, he aimed to replicate this success by capturing the coveted title of World Masters Champion. Unfortunately, his pursuit was thwarted. In September 2015, Eric secured the position of Vice-European Masters Champion in Denmark. In a triumphant moment, Eric finally achieved his goal in September 2018, becoming the World Kumite Masters Champion at the World Championships in Scotland, simultaneously earning the title of Vice-World Champion in Kata.
- In 2006 Eric was asked to teach in a school with kids with ASD and deaf impairment. As they seemed enthusiastic about his approach. Eric started to think about a way how to reach more special need people.
- After regular intervals they started to ask Eric to give sessions in institutions, day cares, Special Need schools... This ranged from people with intellectual to physical disabilities, wheelchair users, visual impairment, to people with ASD. As of regular and continuously teaching day by day (now about 14 trainings a week) became the vision more clear and the positive developments piled up:
- In 2012 Eric starts a collaboration with Ilse Rayen, pediatrician in developmental disorders and autism. From this, I-karate Limburg (region Belgium) started.
- In 2013, I-karate-Limburg grows into I-karate Flanders (Flemisch region). Non-profit organisation “G-karate VZW”
- After organizing 4 I-competitions in the country, there appears to be more interest from abroad from 2014.
- In May 2014, 80 G karateka's registered for the Belgian para-karate Champioship in Houthalen.
- Students of the High School in Ghent provided in 2014, after 1 year of research, proof that I-karate clearly promotes the physical and mental aspect of the I-athlete.
- I karate organisation of Eric is named as “I-sport revelation” of the year in March 2014.
- In august 2014 the Japanese JKS organisation officially support IKF I-karate Global.
- In 2015 Eric starts official a second organisation Non-profit organisation “I-karate Global” This organisation works on a world level as a federation.
- IKF organizes its first European championship in Belgium in May 2015, 105 G-karateka’s register.
- I-karate Global organizes its first World Cup in Belgium in May 2016, 150 G-karateka’s register.
- In 2016 the Belgium karate federation ask Eric to be in charge for the para-karate. Unfortunately they stopped the cooperation in 2020. No explanation never was given.
- Eric now gives lectures and workshops to teachers, trainers... he strives to make this methodology universal.
- There is a meeting with Eric of providing a PARA-karate training module within the official over all sport organisation according to this methodology, But Eric did not agree to the conditions that were proposed to him.
- Workshops are now given abroad: Hungary, Ireland, Sweden, Slovenia, Morocco.
- JKS Benelux organizes in September 2017 the European Championship Shotokan in Hasselt in combination with the Para-karate of I-karate Global.
- In 2018 Eric writes the first practical handbook to integrate everyone with a disability into I-karate.
- In May 2018 Eric was invited for a conversation about para-karate with the World Karate Federation, which continued in July in Japan with the Secretary-General of the World Karate Federation. The next conversation followed at the world championship in Madrid in November 2018, however, with little outcome . 3 Belgium Para-karateka’s participated at the WKF championships but unfortunately at their own expense.
- In September 2018, an Erasmus+ sport project IKONS, launched by the University of Rome, will be scientifically proved on Eric's methodology with persons with the "Down Syndrome".
- In September 2019 Eric started a pilot project in 3 Special Need schools via
- "A Heart For Limburg." Unfortunately, this was postponed by Corona until december 2021. The idea was to use this methodology in schools as a basic movement not karate related anymore.
- Many Inclusive-competitions according to Eric's methodology are now being realized. These competitions can be found on our website: www.i-k-f.net (Sweden-Hungary-France-Ireland-Romania-Belgium)
- In 2020 Eric set up a new organisation ICP-move, in which Eric's methodology will be further deepened and will be applicable to all weaker target groups (the elderly, toddlers...) as well as a basic method for multiple sports. www.icp-move.com
- In oktober 2021 Eric and his team gives a demo to Hasselt University and UCLL, the university and the high school will now include this methodology as a basic subject matter. Also the College ‘high school’ is following now to implement this method.
- After 2 years of work Eric invents a tool for blind people bVc (Buddy Vision Connect) with which blind people can more independent. A buddy is giving impulses true a mobile phone to the Blind person. Eric is working on developing new sports with this tool.
- In 2020, ICP-move started developing an APP for weaker target groups to exercise at home.
- In 2020 Eric has his own YouTube channel I-karate Global. Here one can train at home via videos. Also the online competitions can be watched. I-karate Global - YouTube
- In 2020, I-karate was chosen as a finalist for the #Beinclusive awards.(A European contest)
- In 2020, Eric and his team hosted the first Online Inclusive European Championship. 206 participants from 17 countries offer themselves a great success also because of COVID issues Eric wanted to offer a possibility for disabled students. But Eric goes even further in April 2021 he and his team organize the first Online Inclusive World Championship with 304 participants from 26 countries. (results and livestream can be found on the YouTube channel I-karate Global)
- On October 2nd 2021, the positive scientific evidence of the 3-year Erasmus + project IKONS for people with DS was presented by his team, and on November 18th 2021 in Rome. www.ikons-project.eu the 40 weeks training schedule explained by Eric can be found in 6 languages.
- In September 2021, the organization of Eric Bortels was accepted at the special olympics.
- I-karate will be a demonstration sport in May 2022 at the Belgian Special Olympics.
- In November 2023, Eric passed his 7th dan exam in Tokyo, Japan.
Through their commitment and perseverance, the group of I-karateka is growing larger and larger, attracting interest from many countries. Inclusive karate thus contributes to the further development of karate as an inspiring and powerful pedagogical tool. Eric believes that karate (a sport) should be accessible to everyone, regardless of their disability, and that it should be practiced more widely.