This project started with a conversation between me and Izzy (better known to his thousands of subscribers as the 30yearoldninja). We thought it would be cool to make an aikido video about the program he’s currently enrolled in – the Kenshusei Course with Mugenjuku Aikido, Kyoto.
When me and Izzy talk our conversations don’t end with ideas, they end with action. This is just one of the many bridges between life in and out of the dojo.
At first glance Jacques Payet was just a man on a bike, one foot on the pavement keeping balance as he waited to cross the street. Early autumn earth toned clothes covered the frame of this 7th degree black belt aikido master. Payet sensei is one of those people who when you see the impression your eyes leave turns out to be minuscule in comparison to the impression left in your memory. Chris sensei, Andy sensei, Nick sensei, Naomi, Izzy, Chris and Yasu, these members of the dojo who I worked with closely over the filming period, together with Payet sensei have collectively taught me a huge lesson in aikido – which is to say, a huge lesson in life. Thanks once again, really!
The Kenshusei Course is as currently enrolled Chris put it, “A one year crash course in aikido… my best opportunity to learn good aikido.” This is what the aim of my job was, to focus on the currently enrolled Kenshusei members going through daily Kenshusei Course routines, practices, lessons and such. Another goal was to highlight Kyoto. There is another Kenshusei Course offering in at the Mugenjuku Tokyo dojo, so I wanted to distinguish the two. This was extremely easy simply because you can point your camera in any direction on any street in Kyoto on any given day and capture something interesting. Well… I may have sugar coated that a bit but the fact remains: the ancient capitol of Japan, Kyoto, is filled with culture only available here, and no where else in the world.
Festivities, events, museums, temples, shrines, sakura, beautiful red and orange maple leaves, rivers, mountains, city, country – you name it. Find it here in Kyoto. My plan was to film a few popular Kyoto sightseeing spots such as Kiyomizu Temple, Kinkakuji, Kyoto Station, Arashiyama, and if I was lucky a festival. Turns out, I was extremely lucky. I finished filming at the dojo on a friday, and on the following tuesday there was the annual “Festival Of Ages” (or Jidai Masturi). This is where I got all those ‘ancient’ Japanese shots which I used in the beginning when Nick is talking about “getting to know the culture and people who created it [aikido].”
I spent 18 hours in the dojo with my camera during mid-late September and mid October. I needed to finish the video by early November, when recruitment for next years Kenshusei Course would begin.
True, this is a promotional video I made for Payet sensei and Kyoto’s Mugenjuku Aikido to use in their recruitment and dojo related activities. Specifically speaking, this is for foreigners (people living outside of Japan) who are interested in coming to Japan in pursuit of aikido training. However, at the onset of this project I knew there was a bigger why. Like I mentioned earlier, when Izzy and I talk we like to set high standards, realistic goals and make concrete action steps. The standard I set out to make as a filmmaker was simple:
#1 MAKE THE BEST AIKIDO VIDEO OUT THERE
Before even setting foot in the dojo, I spent a few hours scouring YouTube for ‘motivational’ ‘martial arts’ ‘promotional’ videos. The only ones I thought were good were this AWESOME jujitsu one, this judo one, this judo one, and a few parts of a few other videos. If you know other awesome martial arts videos (not necessarily on YouTube) please share them in the comments below! My goal was to set the bar for aikido videos.
#2 MAKE THE BEST VIDEO POSSIBLE
I am by no means where I want to be in my filmmaking career. Yet, oddly, I am in the sense that just as a top level filmmaker would, I too am doing everything I can with everything I’ve got in every way possible. Our available equipment and resources differ – yet we both utilise our available equipment and resources to the fullest. Or do we? In fact, I think this – the ratio of available resources to the rate said resources are utilised – can be used as a measure when considering qualities of a filmmaker (ie: ingenuity, creativity, professionalism).AS A CAREER EVOLVES SO TOO WILL RESOURCES, SO TOO WILL POSSIBILITIES
Therefore, on a deep personal level my why to do this project was to set a clear benchmark. An indication of what was possible to me at this particular point of my career. A footstep on the long path. A rung on the ladder so to speak. With each project I do to the fullest of my capabilities I am reaching new heights and enjoying the view as it gets better and better. I need to look back at this video like, “Hahah, wow… that’s the level I came from. That’s how I started. That was the extent of my possibility back then at that time.” I am continuing to build these kinds of benchmarks, effectively stretching the boundary of what’s possible – for me as well as any one else in the industry.
I recently lost my slider by making a very stupid mistake at the airport on my way to Hawaii from Japan. My immediate thoughts were, “Now how am I going to make amazing videos?!” and “When I get back to Japan to shoot the Mugenjuku Aikido video, what am I going to do?!”Amongst others, I had many doubts stemming from a decrease in my already limited resources. However, doubts kill more dreams than failure ever will (a quote I recently came upon which really struck a chord with me) and I couldn’t agree more. Instagram photographers, Garage Band producers, FC Barcelona starters who grew up playing with soccer balls made of recycled grocery bags… the common theme is simple – use available resources to the fullest no matter what you do. Yet again, we cross the bridge between the dojo and streets.GIVE 100% IN 100% OF WHAT YOU DO
When you use one arm to control your opponent, don’t do so using one arm. Instead do so using your entire bodies energy – channeled through your arm. When your opponent attacks with a quick powerful strike, use every bit of his strikes power to your advantage.
#3 MAKE THE CURRENT KENSHUSEI STUDENTS FEEL PUMPED UP AND REJUVENATED
After the 2nd day of shooting in the dojo, it became clear to me that I should make a piece that will completely blow the minds of the current dojo members. Sure, this video is going to be seen mainly by those who have never set foot in the Mugenjuku dojo, but for those who are living the aikido life here 20+ hours a week (those I mentioned earlier) it’s easy to become so focused on the lessons and forget about just how amazing of a commitment they represent.
So many times I just wanted to grab them by the gi and say, “Hey! You flew across the world to fulfil a self-made commitment to learn aikido by one of the best teachers possible. Now you’re doing just that! In the awesome city of Kyoto, Japan! You’re crazy! You’re so awesome for doing this, showing us what commitment and desire look like. You make me want to match this kind of positive healthy lifestyle. Does your family even know what you do in here everyday?! Do they even know what you look like in a gi? If you showed your friends back home this video what would they say? Are you still as stoked about aikido today as you were during ‘hell week,’ because you should be, I’ve only seen you for a week or so and I can already see improvement!” Most of all, I want to say thank you. Thank you for allowing me into the dojo and sharing keys to happiness with me. Aikido is really more than a martial art.AIKIDO IS A WAY TO BE HAPPY -Jacques Payet