Be forewarned; what follows is a shameless attempt at marketing (with a bit of a twist).
This past September Randy Simpson posted his article “A Review of the 12 Oz. Hemp Canvas Gi from Earth-Gi”. At the same time we changed the TKRI.net supplies page so that this is the only gi advertised on it. This was after quite a lot of consideration. The change was only made after we felt convinced that this was a product we could endorse. TKRI makes no money on gi sales referred either through our main site, or through the article on this blog. Randy was in contact with the company to confirm that the gi’s were not manufactured in sweat shops, he researched the claims regarding the environmental benefits of hemp as opposed to cotton, and even after all of that we did not endorse the product until Randy himself had bought one and checked it out.
I do not make any money teaching karate. I charge my students money to cover some of our club expenses, however I am not prepared to do what is required to make teaching a financial success. I have seen places that are successes financially and usually they give me hives. I like that all of the TKRI clubs are exactly that, clubs. As businesses they are tremendous failures (so far anyway). I am not philosophically opposed to making money from budo, it is just very hard to do without compromise. Karate is something I elect to do, my livelihood does not depend on it, so I am free to be pretty idealistic about it. If the clubs ever get to a point where they are in the black financially then that will be tremendous (more like miraculous), however the point of TKRI is not to create another karate business.
The affiliations TKRI has with companies like Amazon do not bring in much money, In fact they do not even bring in enough money to pay for the website. The purpose of our website is to provide our students (and the larger karate community) with resources that will help them better understand karate. We also hope that the sites help us get the word out about our organization and to help with recruitment and special events. There are products on the site that are offered by companies that do not even offer affiliate programs, therefore we do not make any money from the sales of them. That is fine, we want to offer stuff on the site that we feel is useful more than we want to make money. If we can make a little to offset some of our expenses it is a plus. If you are curious about what we do when when we have a little cash take a look at the “About TKRI” page on our website for a partial list of events we have sponsored.
On our site you will find two separate Amazon powered stores, one for recommended videos, and one for recommended books. I am pretty proud of them, especially the book store. The bookstore has a very deep selection of books on a variety of subjects may may be of interest to karateka. You will find books on Buddhism, Shinto, Confucianism, Asian History, Japanese arts, budo, karate, judo aikido, sports science, and a wide array of other subjects. I think the most useful section is titled “TKRI Recommended“. We at TKRI have bugged lots of our friends for recommendations in order to create this list.
We have limited space on the server we use to host the TKRI site. By including the Amazon powered stores we can have the pictures and reviews of the books available on the site. The files do not take up space that we are paying for. Our ability to have so much information regarding books that we feel strongly about available to our friends and students is extremely useful to us. This is regardless of whether or not people actually use the stores for purchases.
Some of the very best titles listed in the recommended section of our bookstore are published by Koryu Publishing. They carry Dave Lowry’s books, Diane Skoss’s excellent books on the various koryu, and one my all time favorite books on martial arts, Ellis Amdur’s “Dueling with O’Sensei”. Koryu is run by Meik and Diane Skoss. The Skoss’s are friends of TKRI. They have both presented at TKRI events. They are both highly skilled and dedicated martial artists.
I have worked at several bookstores over the years. The small independent neighborhood bookstore was decimated by the large chains like Barnes and Noble and Borders in the nineties. On-line retailers like Amazon are now having a similar impact on these companies. I think there is a place in the market for large on-line stores and the big chains, however there is something very special about the charm and niche specificity that a smaller store can offer. Whenever I can I try to shop at small local shops. They are just fun places to be. Almost always the people in these smaller stores are book lovers.
There are a lot of crappy books on the martial arts in the market, there are not that many really good ones. Sensational books with poor scholarship, full of dubious claims, fill the martial arts sections of many bookstores. Authors can make a lot more money taking the low road. Koryu only carries quality books by very qualified authors. I would like to invite you to take a minute and look at the post by Diane Skoss on her blog “Koryu Musings“ called “Amazon.com vs Direct Purchase”. When you are done do yourself a favor and spend a few minutes looking through the excellent selection of titles available from Koryu at their bookstore. If you are in a position to buy, consider buying directly from them to help support quality publishing.
If you have some time get out and visit a few local businesses.