To be honest, I know nothing about Japanese martial arts and culture, except from what I have read from the novel Shōgun by James Clavell as a teenager, and from what I picked up in cartoons, pop-culture, toys, 80s television, and video games.
Shōgun was a good read back in my teenage days, but it was mostly written from the perspective of a white man and the novel had more references to the hero’s Ron-Jeremy-like appendage than to the swords of that time.
Anjin-san, Storm Shadow, Snake Eyes and Shintaro. Those were my only points of reference when it came to katana-weilding masters. I won’t even add Blade as Wesley Snipes was more vampire than ninja to me and I am that ignorant.
So when I was invited by a friend to take pictures of the Sugawara Sogo Budo Philippines, who just opened a chapter of their dojo in Quezon City, I got all excited and immediately dropped all my other plans for that weekend.
I found myself commuting to the Morato area in Quezon City on a lazy Saturday afternoon and walked a bit while re-acquainting myself with the area as I haven’t been there since before the pandemic hit.
While walking towards the location, my mind drifted into this visual of me taking pictures of middle aged men, in a run down temple with their little padawans training in the outer courtyard. My imagination starts getting ahead of itself, taking me into fight scenes of men with giant swords in combat, think Monster Hunter or Elden Ring… then you’d start seeing, flying ninjas, Master Yoda, little Grogu, and uncle Matt from Fraggle Rock…
Clearly, I was being my ignorant self and playing all of these images in my head, but hey, it’s my imagination so it’s my world (drifts into daydreaming, err… meditative state).
Dream sequence done, back to reality
And so I walk up to the facility and it turns out the venue is a modern Yoga place on the penthouse of an office building which was not what I had in mind, but equally incredible as it is. The place has this zen vibe to it that makes you feel like you just entered the most quiet spot in a spa resort and knowing you are really just smack in the middle of the noisy Morato-Timog area makes it all the more awesome.
Then, the uncultured, ignorant me forgot to take my shoes off as I was welcomed by Martin, the sensei of this local dojo. That bit was kinda embarrasing as the signs were not made for my eye level. Note to self: I am taller than the average local dude, but being tall is not a valid excuse, I should know by now that yoga places everywhere would have you remove your shoes.
After the hi’s and hello’s, I just planted myself as a 300-pound, fly on the wall and started taking pictures. Yes, 300, I crossed into the weight category since after the holidays and I am reminding myself every second that I have to slim down.
Sugawara Sogo Budo
This is not your typical after-school martials arts class found in your neighborhood or like the one in the Netflix series Cobra Kai that any kid or adult can just walk into and join by paying a fee. You need to setup an appointment. These guys are the real deal.
Wrapping up as this needs to get posted
I’ve enjoyed the entire afternoon of taking pictures of these guys and hope to come back and take more when they get more membes in. Hopefully, I get to expand my knowledge in this field and get to understand more the culture and the workmanship behind the tools they use.
Gonna have to do more of this. Getting out more on weekends to unwind, decompress. That’s the goal.