Creation of an Icon

Late in 2008, just prior to announcing that we were to become our own independent Martial Arts organisation, it was decided that we would need our own distinctive pendant for our students to wear as a symbol of their acceptance into the Bushido Martial Arts “family”.

This pendant would be granted to a worthy student who had demonstrated both their commitment to the 7 virtues of Bushido and their frequent, regular contribution to BMA’s values and to the progress of the style and its students.

After deciding the symbol, the next question was as to what principles and or philosophy that the pendant should portray to the wearer and to somebody who might be examining it. Without knowing what it was to represent, we would not have been able to decide on the form it should take.

That part, being what the pendant should portray, was relatively easy to decide. In forming the Bushido Martial Arts group Renshi Anthony already had a very clear idea about achieving a new, better, invigorated Martial Arts style rising already tempered and finely honed from the cauldron of the past associations and experiences with other Styles – a rebirth in the style of the mythical Phoenix, the only bird of its kind, that had burnt itself on a funeral pyre to rise with renewed life and vigour, to continue anew its life purpose.

Next, it was necessary to imagine what such a mythical creature may look like and to design an image which would symbolically indicate the roots of the new style and the underlying aims to which the new style aspires. Over several months, much discussion and many redrafts, Sensei Victor designed the brilliant image we have adopted as our symbol.

Now that we knew what was wanted and had a very firm design in mind which we could confidently describe to anyone, we needed to find someone who could manufacture the pendant to our specifications and – more importantly – to our budget.

We had a simple set of criteria in mind. The pendant had to be

  • of excellent quality,

  • cast in sterling silver,

  • be 22mm in diameter,

  • the 3 kanji characters representing the word “Bushido” should be fixed to the wing and not cast as an integral part of the wing

  • of affordable cost and,

  • finished and available by the end of June 2009, two weeks before our Dan Presentation Dinner on the 12th of July 2009.

This next step, finding someone who could perform the task of translating our idea for the pendant into reality, at an affordable cost, proved to be the most difficult of the steps in the process. Over the next 3 months, Sensei Roger visited over 2 dozen “manufacturing jewellers”, most of whom revealed themselves to be only order takers who would send the work to a true manufacturing jeweller, thereby increasing the cost while not contributing any value to the process. These jewellers were quickly eliminated. Others promised to quote but, most of these, even after repeated follow up, did not keep their word and respond with a quote. One by one, with time swiftly passing, they were also eliminated from consideration.

Finally, just as we were considering developing a plan B, we found a jeweler who is an experienced, practising Martial Artist and who empathised with the values and aims of a group such as ours. It was Scott Anthony of PureEnvy in Hyde Park, who understood what our requirements were, who could meet our budget and importantly, meet our timetable which was only 8 weeks away. It was now the 1st of May 2009.

The manufacturing process, from this point is that:

  • a drawing of the pendant is made and agreed

  • a 3D image is then made and agreed,

  • a wax mould is then created and approved

  • the master mould is then made for further castings

  • a first casting is created and approved, and finally

  • the full order is then filled.

One could easily believe this to be a very straightforward process which could easily be achieved in the time available.

However, the 3D image needed to be redrawn a number of times so that the kanji characters representing the word “Bushido” could be clearly and strongly fitted on the right wing of the Phoenix. In fact an extra pinion was added to the right side wing to provide a secure base for the characters. A couple more weeks had now passed.

Now the first tangible version of the pendant, the wax mould, was made. But it was much too large. It was beautiful but it was 27mm in diameter, when it should have been 22mm. The wax mould had to be redone, which due to some difficulty at the silver foundry, would take an unexpected couple of weeks more. There were now only two weeks left to meet our deadline.

Finally after several visits to Scott Anthony of PureEnvy in Hyde Park, the new mould arrived and was almost perfect! Except, we decided to ask if we could we have the kanji characters for the 7 Bushido virtues of the Samurai engraved on the back of the Pendant. This required more redrawing until a week later we were advised that there was not sufficient space available on the back. Not to be deterred and because we wanted the pendant to be perfect from the start, we asked if our slogan “Traditional values in a modern style” could be engraved on the back of the pendant. After some more discussions and redrawing with the ever patient Scott Anthony, it was concluded that the slogan could be included. Now the final design had been confirmed but there was only one week left before our deadline! An impossibly short amount of time for all of the remaining processes of careful staging to be completed.

Finally, the Wednesday before the presentation dinner we were advised that the rough cast pendants had arrived but, on inspection, it was clear that the containing circle and the ring through which a chain could be passed, were too thin and fragile. This meant that Scott would have to cut off the inadequate sections, melt down the silver, remake the containing circle and the attachment ring and seamlessly solder the new parts onto each of the 25 pendants. After that each one need to be polished and packed – all in 2 working days!

In the end, Scott rang Sensei Roger at 10am on the Saturday morning of the presentation dinner and advised that the outer ring would be strengthened and replaced on all of them and all of them polished, ready for collection by 4pm that day. Which of course is what occurred.

Since then, Scott kindly, for the payment of some of Chris’ chocolate coated home made Gingerbread, inscribed a number on the back of each of the 25 pendants for us.

I suspect that the next batch of pendants will be a much easier, less harrowing event when it occurs.

Sensei Roger Catchlove