Iaido Beginner Course

Dear All,

I am now pleased to be able to confirm the following:

Iaido Beginner Course
Date – Wednesday 29th September
Time – 8:30pm to 10:30pm (please arrive for around 8:15pm latest)
Address – Brownhills School, Deakin Avenue, Brownhills, Walsall WS8 7QG (just off the A5)

The course will last 10 weeks, and will cover the basics of Japanese Swordsmanship including basic techniques) reiho (etiquette), sword care, Japanese sword traditions and history.

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I got dragged around the Bank Holiday sales today.  There ain’t much more I hate than that, to be honest.

However, this one turned out different (hehe).

We went to some warehouse or other – and I came back with two monstrously huge fans, a fire extinguisher, a black coir entrance mat, some ceiling speakers, a filing cabinet and some office stationery.

As we plan to have a little admin office, the filing cabinet and other bits & bobs will come in useful.  As we plan to have a sound system (to play M.C. Hammer) in there, the ceiling speakers are ideal.  For the floor area, I think two extinguishers should suffice – so at least got one so far, and the fans – combined with our hi-tech aircon system (the windows) – should ensure the dojo stays cool on the five hot days each year that the UK enjoys.  Superb!

The mrs is not used to seeing me smile while shopping…

– Scott

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New Logo

Well, with the new dojo moving (slowly) forwards, we thought we could apply ourselves to other elements of our group, like our branding.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we are not a company but we want to be professional in every aspect of our practice – plus, we like club tshirts and that kind of thing – so we thought it was time for a new logo to go with the new building as the old logo was knocked up with the minimum of thought, based on a tsuba design I liked.  Yeah, definitely time for a new logo – especially so when you consider I am an illustrator and John is a professional graphic designer.

The question is – what do we do?  Something with a sword?  A tsuba?  A sword and a bokuto to reflect our arts?  A pic of Musashi because we all secretly want to be him?  Hehe.

Actually, I have an idea.  I print it, get the markers out and have a scribble – hmmm, it has possibilities.

Due to our study of Hyoho Niten Ichi-ryu kenjutsu, I chose Miyamoto Musashi’s mangum opus painting – his jolly fine ‘Koboku Meigekizu – Shrike on a Dead Branch‘ (or ‘…in a Dead Tree’) done in sumi-e style.  Now, I love sumi-e anyway, but this is just something else.  How he captured such character in so few brush strokes is beyond me, even with an art appreciation background.  Amazing stuff from someone many people consider just a thug.  For readers who are unaware of this work of brilliance, here it is:

(for those interested, the original is in the Shimada Gallery, Kumamoto – I offered them a few quid for it but they said no and chucked me out)

This painting is pretty much priceless, and is instantly recognisable to martial artists worldwide who are aware of Musashi.  For those unaware, Musashi is as much revered for his painting and sculpture as he is for his swordsmanship – and yet people seem to picture Musashi the fighter more than Musashi the artist.  Funny that, in that the Shrike is pictured in the same way.  Many people ignore the Shrike’s beautiful looks, it’s very striking call or its ritual dance when attracting a mate – and instead remember it for being a bit of a killer as it’s modus operandi is to catch insects and smaller birds and impale them on thorns, earning it the nickname butcher-bird.

I’m sure Musashi, being a nature buff, sat and watched the shrike and saw both sides of this beautiful creature.

Quite a flowery, inspirational moment I just had there.  Better not do that again in public.  Anyway, back to the logo.

As I have zero sumi-e skill, and nor did I want to just nick The Big M’s artwork, I decided to stylise the aggressive little chap instead.  While I set John’s creative mind in motion to create something off the top of his head (I didn’t tell him I was using the original artwork), I cheated and started with Musashi’s Shrike itself, taking his outline and sharpened it up:

The original:

and the stylised and simplified version:

While I was working on this, John was creating his own shrike logo:

When we bought the two designs together, it was quite funny that we had a similar layout in mind, but it was apparent that both were wide of the mark – mine had too much of a cartoony feel, and John’s was quite cool but too much like a generic bird of prey and not so recognisable as a Shrike.  No probs, we say – lets take the best of each and weave the two together.  I asked John to take my design and give it more character and less comedy, retaining the shape of the shrike from Musashi’s painting but stylising it to match his concept.  The result was this:

Mmmmmm, now it is starting to look pretty good.  Still not great though.  So, print it out, grab a drink and sit and think about it.  You know, do the Musashi thing – “you should meditate on this” type of deal.  So we did, and John and I chatted about it – and we came to the opinion that it lacked detail, style.  So, back to researching the Shrike, looking at the various species, the Loggerhead Shrike, the Great Grey Shrike, the Mountain Shrike.  We picked up a few pointers from the photos, added more feather details and John applied a more striking mask.  It’s starting to come together.

So, over the following few days, we adjusted, tidied, scrapped, redrew and generally went through the process that this kind of design work warrants – and we eventually came out with two designs, one in full colour (our quite appropriate corporate colours of black and blue, hehe) which will be our official logo, and one simplified and further stylised version that will be used where a single colour only is available:

…and with our HEIJOSHIN title?  Click on ‘em for full size images…

To say I am chuffed is an understatement.  I love this design, and now after mucho reading up on them, love the Shrike.  I can see why Musashi felt the urge to spend time painting such a creature.

So, thanks to John for his hard work, and once again, all contact details can be found on the links page under ‘corporate links’.

– Scott

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Rendered Images – Changing Rooms

Continuing the rendered imagery.  This time we have changing rooms!

3D modelling by Scott, rendering by John.  We take commissions!

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Rendered Images – Dojo

Bored with waiting for all the legal stuff, so with both John and myself into CAD, we thought we’d get chopping on how the dojo will look once finished.  Still unsure as to floor & panelling finishes, but this should give you a rough idea as to how it will look.

3D modelling by Scott, rendering by John.  We take commissions!

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Layout Agreed

Had a chat to the landlord today.  All good news!  He has agreed the layout of the place and our lease will be in the post tonight!

Layout is here.

One step forward!

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Warehouse? Dojo?

Here are a few pics we took a month or so back when we first saw the building.  Very much an empty shell at the moment…

[AFG_gallery id=’9′]

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A Home from Home – Again!

There really aren’t many permanent dojo around these days. My first dojo was one of these rare places (Walsall Martial Arts back in 1984) and was a converted social club with a dojo on the first floor and a bar/changing rooms/Karate Champ arcade game on the ground floor. Six days a week there was keiko, mostly traditional karate (Wado-ryu) but they enjoyed a few guest instructors teaching other goodies from time to time. I pretty much lived there for years, and was a home from home for me.

Eventually it was bought out by a large karate organisation that turned the teachings from traditional wado to something, well, still traditional, but different. As a consequence, a lot of the membership didn’t feel the urge to relearn a lot of stuff and eventually, the club folded due to dwindling numbers. The building was bought by the local college and became an annexe for students to use as a Duke of Edinburgh’s Award centre. I did some volunteer work there for a few years, taking the kids out into wild country (Dudley? Wolverhampton?) and teaching them orienteering etc. Walsall College eventually stopped the D of E courses and the once-great-dojo-turned-activity-centre was emptied, and stayed that way for a couple of years.

The building was knocked down last year. I tried to get access one last time before it got destroyed in the name of progress to make way for a shopping centre, but the fat idiot with the word ‘security’ on his jacket (heh, the only thing secure about this guy was the fact that no-one was nicking his lunch) said no. So, I took a few pics and went home, smiling about great times when I started out as a budoka.

For those of you interested, I was forced into budo by my dad as he wanted me to join the family tradition of boxing. I refused, he was adamant, I wouldn’t budge, he continued etc etc. Eventually I gave in and said I would have a go at martial arts instead of boxing. We looked around on the weekend, visited this place on Monday and by Wednesday I was a karateka! This was when I was 11.

Anyway, back to the dojo thing. I took pictures, went home, showed the mrs my pics and regaled her of stories of times gone by in my second home. She lasted 15 minutes exactly before nodding off, bored senseless. Eventually, Sleeping Beauty woke up and asked me why I didn’t run our group out of a permanent dojo? I said quite simply ‘costs more than keeping bloody horses’.

I explained that even the commercially-minded guys tend to hire out premises on a weekly/monthly basis. 97% of martial arts groups* in the west are not capable of maintaining premises due to the constant ebb and flow of their student input.

(* I made that up)

However, we have spent a lot of money over the years hiring venues for practice, and the mrs being very good with money (unlike me) got talking, worked out our current costs and informed me the astronomical expenses we were coughing up at the moment. I also considered our student retention rate. Since starting over four years ago, we have lost three students – two moved abroad and are still practicing and one to serious injury. We have lost zero students to apathy/disinterest/moving on.

Hmm, the club is growing, we have added an extra night of practice to the schedule, the guys pay the dojo fees via standing order to maintain financial stability – and with a bit of tweaking (and hiring the dojo out to other interested groups), we could possibly have a permanent dojo.

This was not good. Ever since then, I have wasted One-Meeellion-Man-Hours (Dr Evil voice needed there) on number crunching, researching costs and making enquiries – all with the plan of running our MA studies from our own place. Instead of paying a fortune to borrow other peoples’ premises, we could pay a fortune and have our own! Somewhere to train, to meet up, to chat after keiko, to serve as the Second Dojo (the pub), to hide from our other halves! Superb! Might even put a Karate Champ arcade game in there!

We sign the lease in a fortnight. WOOHOO!

– Scott

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…and so it begins…

Well, the determination to avoid blogging has failed me. There are plenty of useful blogs out there for the serious budoka to sign up to, and I doubt there will be much useful stuff on here to fill your meditative moments with inspiration – but we do need an outlet for news etc, and to log a fairly big project we have planned!

…soooo, welcome to our blog. I am sure it won’t be of much interest to most, but it will be of use to our members and a few people that are connected with us – and I guess that this is reason enough to do this. Either way, thanks for stopping by.

– Scott

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