Our Story - Who are we ? Where are we coming from ?
And where are we going to ?
Our story began in the summer of 2005, when the founder of BudoExport and Seido, Jordy, arrived in Japan. 19 years of age at the time and without university degree, he devoted one year to intensive Aikido practice before enrolling in a three year study course focusing on Japanese language and culture in France and Japan. During those years, he continued to spend much of his time in different Dojos, also getting into Kendo and Judo.
BudoExport: The Beginning
After having made some working experiences in Japan, he decided to use his language abilities, knowledge about the Japanese culture including martial arts and his passion for computers to create BudoExport.com, an online shop, selling Japanese martial arts equipment to Francophone countries. This is how BudoExport became re-seller of famous Japanese brands, some of them also internationally known, others more confidential outside of the archipelago.
The concept worked right away, thanks to Jordy's unwavering dedication towards his customers, but also in particular because of the limited supply available in French and for the reasonable pricing. Yet, Japan is an aging country, suspicious of change, and the milieu of martial arts is one of the most conservative, reluctant to innovate. Given the difficulty to meet the expectations of French practitioners, many of whom where friends on the mats, he created the brand Seido with the support of Maho, a Japanese practitioner who was raised in Spain and working for BudoExport.
Seido - Birth of a Brand
The philosophy of Seido is to cut down on intermediaries and thus getting directly to the source, meeting Japanese craftsmen scattered around the country, with the goal of establishing partnerships based on mutually beneficial agreements. Very quickly, Jordy discovered a true passion for crafting, for the traditions handed down from father to son for generations. Years after years, strong relationships were created on a personal and professional level with many artisans and the Seido catalog was expanding. New products were created to meet specific requests, and great attention was paid to customer feedback to continue to improve and innovate.
The Seido team grew and was joined by practitioners of different Aikido styles, Judo, Karate, Kendo and Iaido, from countries as diverse as Japan, Spain, the US, Belgium, Burkina Faso, Algeria, Morocco, Switzerland, Germany and France. This great variety of profiles profoundly enriched the company's culture, shaping an international vision: open, unprejudiced, on both, the geographical origin as well as the "technical" (martial arts) origin of each.
The time was ready to spread this philosophy more widely. Following numerous requests from our Japanese fellow practitioners, SeidoShop.jp was born and it finally got possible to order from within Japan.
Very soon, requests in English multiplying, SeidoShop.com (in English) was created, what opened the door to the world.
In 2015, Seido bought its own building in order to stabilize its financial situation and improve both its service and the quality of life of its employees. A big house in Tokyo suburbs that offers the comfort of a house, and the space need to our activities.
In 2016-2017, we have opened a "BudoStudies" department, producing excursively free contents and entirely funded on Seido's profits which has led to the publication of hundreds of high quality videos on Youtube, a few articles, and the financial support of various medias and researchers.
And in 2018, we have decided to cut on the very last "consumerist" event we were participating in, the Black Friday, to redirect part of our profits to NPO such as Amnesty international or Doctor without borders.
Seido, creating a Philosophy
People realize little by little that our planet's resources are limited and start understanding the need to consume differently. The model "all made in China" that reigned supreme in the second half of the 20th century gradually runs out. The access to globalized information speeds up the overall awareness, and allows the consumer to recognize the conditions in which his cloths are manufactured in Pakistan, Vietnam or Bangladesh by children as young as 10 years of age.
Should this not mean for martial arts practitioners - people open to a higher level of moral and ethics - to take action, think of a new model of consumption and act according to it as part of their practice?
At the same time, we realize, that with the aging of the Japanese society, its production capacity, as well as its capacity for innovation, is dropping. We sadly see, that many artisans are about to give up hope for the future, convinced that they will be the last of their lineage and that soon everything will be made in China.
Convinced that "the world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch and do nothing", we give ourselves a mission: offer something else, work differently and making our suppliers and our customers understand this.
Thus, this sometimes also means to work against the advice of our craftsmen and partners - but in their own interest. And that we also must take the time to explain to our martial arts friends and customers, that we are not just a business like any other.
In all areas, some retailers/brands are choosing to take control of their production, even relocate, sometimes not by choice but by necessity (lack of local production) to grow their business and their turnover.
However, this is not the choice we made. We decided, concerning Seido, to offer only equipment 100% (or almost 100%) manufactured in Japan. Almost? Yes, almost. Because Japan hardly produces cotton, it is virtually impossible to source Japanese high-end cotton and thus, it comes from South Asia. However, we accomplish in Japan the weaving, cutting, sewing, laundry and dyeing, steps that do not require major overhaul of the country's industry, but are accessible to all companies that make the means available.
We do not want to buy our craftsmen to control them, but would like to teach what we, in our industry, have: The vision of a global world of the 21st century. We want to pass on the foundations of love for Japan, that many foreigners, living here or abroad, possess. We wish to convey our and our client's respect for their work and dedication. We want to put joy and pride in this sector that does not attract young people anymore and that, for the Japanese, represents only the image of the old and dying past.
Our ethics has lead to some important success, and notably a price raise of wooden weapons and Iaito that we have been pushing for years (it was the first price revision in 20 years).
After 9 years of discussions, we have also convinced one of our main partner to open an international department and hire one of our former interns. This decision revitalized the brand and surely improved the quality of life of the company employees and partners.
Have we succeeded? Not yet. Let us be honest, there is still much work to do. We are not sure to win this battle, but we intend to persevere till the very end.
All in all, Seido is a success, of course, despite the difficulties in the production of the Hakama, or concerning the quality of certain products, but the situation has stabilized and the outlook, that used to be uncertain, looks brighter.
KuSakuraShop, available in English and French is a success as well. KuSakura is the most celebrated Japanese company in the industry, focusing mainly on Judo equipment, but struggling to find its audience and to convey its message. Today, Seido and KuSakura collaborate for both Aikido and Judo equipment. Our philosophy touched the almost century-old company, and we have been entrusted with the development of the brand at an international level according to our criteria, in exchange for a steady assistance concerning the development of Japanese craftsmanship and manufacturing/design concerning Aikido equipment.
We are aware of the apparent futility of some of our efforts. Our only role is to be the interface between you and the craftsman. Although the globalization of the economy has made many forget that this is exactly the role of the merchant, being a communication tool, a link creator.
In the Japanese tradition of the Edo era, the peasant and the artisan, were above the traders in the social pyramid, but the system was quickly perverted, allowing the rich merchant live better than the real creators and producers of wealth. Rings a bell? A society perverted by those who do not produce wealth but play with other's life?
That is why we aspire to be different. We are useful to society especially if we can create the link. We strive to do good, fair and in the utmost honesty, with respect to the artisans and to you, the martial artists.
Seido is the first Japanese company to have invested in producing contents for Non Japanese, such as our Youtube channel. It is also the only company that constantly puts efforts into Kobudo equipment (probably the smallest market of the industry). It is the only company run by practitioners (surprising isn't it?) and the only company run by foreigners.
We are foreigners living in Japan. Some of us have spent about half of their lives here. We are uprooted, citizens of the world, that is what shapes us. We are practitioners, persistent practitioners, passionate, also when it comes to the philosophy and ethics that underlie the practice. This is what defines our actions today.
We will not compromise our values. We will complete our projects as long as Seido exists. This is our motivation, this is our ethic.
But, choosing this way, we do need you. The manufacturing artisan and you, as the consumer, are the two sides of the same coin - and we, we are here to do the communication.