Shotokan Karate has a special place in my heart. As a child I was lucky enough to live in Japan for a year. I studied Shotokan for that year under a (then 5th dan) black belt called Sensei Takahashi. Moving back to Scotland afterwards, and specifically back to my beloved Highlands, while welcome, meant that I could never carry it on. The 80 mile plus round trip for every session was simply not viable.
Over the last 30 years, I have never forgotten Sensei Takahashi, and I have never forgotten the lessons of respect, discipline and the value of practice, that he taught me so well, despite the language barrier. Perhaps it was because he was such a good teacher, or perhaps it’s because these principles are universal, or more likely, it’s a generous helping of both. It has certainly stood me in good stead in all other aspects of my life.
So when I finally found a genuine Shotokan Dojo in my home town, I jumped at it. Not for me – I’m old and busted ( Men in Black fans will get this one ) – but for my daughter ( the new hotness ). I felt it would give her a wonderful start in life, and I firmly believe that almost two years in, it’s had a demonstrably beneficial effect on her. She loves it, and she has already learnt these fundamental and valuable lessons.
Sensei Bert of the Dalgety Bay JKA dojo ( http://www.jkakaratedalgetybay.co.uk/ ), absolutely embodies all of these principles and instils them in his students with sublety, grace and no little amount of modesty. So when he built one of the very few purpose built dojos in the UK, and I got the chance to document the opening event; a day of learning for his students under the tutelage of the awe inspiring Sensei Ohta ( 7th Dan ), followed by official opening speech by Gordon Brown, former PM of the United Kingdom… it was a no brainer.
I wanted to provide Bert with a great story. One that he could come back to time and again, to enjoy, remember and use as a tool to promote the dojo. Single images are great, but photostories are infinitely better at getting the message across about what you are about, what’s involved in what you do, and they rule the roost when it comes to solidifying, or capturing memories.
I firmly believe in the power of photography as a storytelling device. Telling stories with photographs is a skill which is slowly being lost, in my opinion. The focus ( pardon the photographic pun ) on the single image over a body of work is leading to a situation similar to the music industry. Where the album is in trouble and individual songs are king. Sites like Flickr, Blipfoto et al, are great forces for good in photography, but they devalue the story too. It’s my firm belief, that we need to do what we can to keep the photostory alive.
The Dojo project is the first of these attempts on my behalf. I hope there will be many more. There are a good number of other photographers out there doing something similar too. Hopefully we can all make a difference.
I’m still working on the final project, but already I know that this project has delighted Bert and achieved it’s initial objective. Once I’ve developed it a little further, I’ll post it fully up here. But for now, here are a selection of images which tell the story of the day.
I have to say, it was an honour and pleasure to meet Gordon Brown. He was a true gentleman and I found him to be very approachable.
For those of you who are interested in photography as a storytelling device. I can heartily recommend Phonar (http://www.phonar.covmedia.co.uk/ ), run by Jonathan Worth and Matt Johnston at Coventry Uni. It’s free, open and absolutely at the cutting edge of learning in a connected world.