Yeps, that's me here on the right side on our recent trip to the forge in China. So i'm responsible keeping up with the website, customer service, sales, administration, cleaning the toilets,... ;)
In other words, a one man show which allows me to get to know you, as a visitor / client, pretty well (and visa versa) and treating you on a very personal and relaxed tone.
Since you clicked the 'my story' link you must be interested in how i ended up with this shop right ?
Let me give you the ultra short version...
It all started back in the early '90's when i saw Jackie Chan and Bruce Lee appearing on the screen but since there were no kungfu schools around at that time , it was only in 1995 that i took my first steps in the (Chinese) martial arts world.
A few years later i ended up at the house of Zhang Lipeng (a former Shaolin monk) as a private student and what was planned to take 1/2 year ultimately took 3 1/2 years. Since his father was still living and teaching in China, the step to go to there (after Lipeng switched Europe for New York ) to 'taste' the real deal became very easy.
My first visit in 2000 was a bit of a cultural shock and didn't take longer than 3 weeks. But soon the 'training vibes & curiosity' came back and in 2001 i decided o go back and stay there for 6 months. It became a crazy and unforgettable time that 'shaped' my personality in a big way. But don't let me start about that or i will end up writing a book :)
With the little communication i had there, friends asked me if i could take 'some' weapons back home. I went to some shops, bought some stuff (and some extra's) and took it home. To my surprise, all of the "extra's" were sold in no time and it didn't look like a bad idea to try to have some of that stuff shipped to here.
The idea of getting back to a 'regular' life after all of these great years , where training took a central place, didn't look very exciting so why not trying to get an online shop off the ground ? After all, i had build up a small portfolio of sources in China where i could buy stuff and have it shipped to here...
Warrior Supplies was born and i believe the first online store went online around 2002.
There was interest and sales were being made but it took 2 years to finally be able to make a full time living out of it. Nothing fancy or outrageous (still as i speak) but enough to survive and i was my own boss.
Besides the Chinese weapons , i also sold some 'Japanese style wallhanger' type of swords. You know that kind where you can get a complete set of 3 swords with display for less than €100...
One day , somebody called me up to ask if i also carried 'real Japanese swords'... he didn't mean the authentic one's made in Japan where he needed to spend a few thousand euro on but rather the 'Chinese made' one's that could be used for practicing iaido and tameshigiri.
Back at that time, i needed to search on the www to check what the word 'tameshigiri' meant ;)
From that day on, a new chapter started in my life and the more i rolled into the Japanese martial arts world, especially the world of the Japanese sword, the more it fascinated me. It became an obsession and i wanted to absorb as much information as possible.
While learning about the history and the technical aspects , i was getting involved in communications & discussions about it (both on forums and with clients/visitors) and it became clear that just dealing with some major brands wasn't going to be satisfying .
Both from a business and a personal point of view.
I used to be a metal worker and loved to 'create' things so if i really wanted to keep this thing exciting s, making my own line of swords would be the way to go.
I was no swordsmith so the skills to make this ' i want to create my own' thing was not going to happen . But i had sources in China who could help me out :)
I started to look around and gave various forges the opportunity to present me with their work. Long story short : after a few years of trial and error (and lots of money waisted) only 1 was coming out as being ok to deal with. Yeah it was ZhuiFeng in case you couldn't guess...
Now , a few years later i'm happy with the result but do realize that it's still far , far away from an authentic katana that is being forged by a master swordsmith in Japan. But at least i can present something original, unique, not mass produced and affordable to most people who share this passion and satisfy my 'hunger' to create stuff of my own.
Maybe some day, when i have the space and tools i will give it a try to really make my own stuff but for now i keep it with practicing Tsukamaki and soon some Tsuba work.
Well.. this is the short version of the story and there's no need to keep you busy....
I think now it's your turn to tell me something about you so hook me up at Facebook, Twitter or Google+ , send me an email or give me a phonecall...damn all these ways to connect with people these days :)
Talk to you !