The Phoenix Dojo Story
This project started as a lot of talk in 1983. Rob Ingram wanted to have a place to train on the rural property he shares with his wife Helene Dobrowolsky. The problem is, the site is located a kilometre from the nearest road. To bring in building supplies requires a hike over hilly terrain and crossing a lake.
If you want to see what that is like, go to Getting Stuff to Kazekan.
Beginning in 1999, when Rob finally had some money together for the project, the materials were carried in stages. First, the materials were dumped at the highway. For the second stage, they were brought in a hundred metres or so, just to get them away from the road. Next, they went down a long hill and through the spruce forest to stage 3, beside the lake. Using a canoe and a floating dock, lumber and supplies were floated half a kilometre across the lake and piled near the cabin site on the other side. In the final stage, the stuff was carried up a steep hill then over to the dojo site, about 150 metres from the dock. It took two years to get in enough materials to get started.
In all, it took Kita Kaze, friends and relatives three years to move in the materials.
While all this was going on, logs were cut and brought to the site to dry. Some were brought onto the site with Andy Holmes. We used log rollers placed one in front of the other just like they did for the pyramids. These would form the pillars for the dojo.
The site for the dojo was cleared and staked out in 2001. Construction of the floor was completed that year and tarped up for the winter. As with many buildings in the Yukon, the building rests on pressure-treated wood pads that act as a kind of a snow shoe to keep the structure from sinking in the somewhat active ground.
In the spring of 2002, the logs were peeled and trimmed.
Over a three-day period in May, Rob, his brother Don, and the Duff Cousins managed to erect 13 pillars, each 10 feet high, and build the lower portion of the 2x6 wall.
For more on how the pillars were put up, go to Pillars and Walls
The walls were framed through the summer. This was very difficult since the frame walls had to fit in between log pillars and nothing was square. With the walls framed and sheeted with plywood, we moved on to building the trusses on site. Thanks to the friendly neighbourhood truss plant, we had a template that gave a pitched ceiling without using any 2x4s over 10' long.
With temperatures dropping and snow pending, the last week of September and first week of October were the big push to get the roof covered in. Rob, Helene and Maureen Moore worked daily at the task. The roof was closed in by November.
See the story of Putting on the Roof
Once we could get into the dojo in May (the snow is a problem before that) we began moving in the Yukon tongue and groove pine flooring.
Throughout May, Rob and Maureen were full-time residents at the dojo until the floor was in and finished.
The first week of June, Technical Committee arrived for a weekend meeting and training session in the new building.
Every Sunday, the kobudo and iaido students trained for three hours at the dojo. As Mervin Harper was involved, training was followed by wonderful lunches on the deck or the dock.
In August, iaido renshi Ken Maneker and godan Catherine Maneker blessed the dojo with a weekend seminar.
Finally, in the snows of September, we had our last training session. We topped off the season with three one hour sessions by belt group and a big pot luck dinner around the fire.
At this point Kazekan is like a big gazebo with a fine wood floor.
Having trained in Kazekan for two years, this year I decided I just had to insulate and panel the interior with tongue and groove pine. I couldn't afford to buy all the materials at once, so I just got enough to do half the walls. This made it a little easier to pack in and store the materials as well.
We have managed, through some renovation jobs Maureen Moore is working on, to score a few old windows that fit the holes we have. I was reluctant to lose the shoji screen look we have now and the translucent light that warms the dojo but, now that first window is in, I have changed my mind. It is terrific to see out.
Since 2003, we have had an annual iaido camp with Ken Maneker in June. Catherine Maneker has led what she calls "some of the sweetest" Zazen meditations sessions ever in the dojo. We have had Andy Holmes teach karate sessions as well as putting him to work. He spent a week here with his wife Cathy and had a very close encounter with a large black bear that was interested in what they had barbequed for dinner. My wife Helene has had several sessions at Kazekan with her tai chi group. To learn more about tai chi in the Yukon see the website for Tai Chi Yukon.
Mostly, we use the dojo for Sunday iaido and kobudo training and I get out to practice solo on a regular basis. The dojo is, of course, a work sink where there is always something to add. And I enjoy that aspect of it. But it is mostly a wonderful place to train and contemplate.
Helene Dobrowolsky and Joelle Ingram take a break from insulating. You can see the "fun house" mirrors I installed on the left.
We have two windows installed now. I enjoyed the shoji effect but it is great to see out.
We just got back from a wonderful trip to the Ozawa Cup in Las Vegas over the Easter weekend and we were looking forward to a complete change of pace by snowshoing into the dojo for the first training of 2007. I got about 100 metres from the dojo and this is the sight that greeted me. I confess, I wept. Six years of hard work and it was totally flattened.
This was a year of exceptionally heavy snow for the Yukon and this is the time of year when the snow gets very soggy and heavy. People in town had been shovelling their roofs off and we were actually worried that the 30 year old roof in the cabin may be in some danger. Easter is usually the time we come out to shovel things off. Well too late this time. It looks like the walls just blew out in all four directions and the roof caved in.Click here for more on the devastation.
The thought of rebuilding and carrying in all those materials again is more than a little daunting. Unfortunately, I have been suffering from headaches resulting from a neck and back ailment for about seven months and will not be able to carry the loads I used to. We really want to rebuild but we may have to raise the money somehow to bring the materials in by helicopter. Although some of the materials may be salvagable the trusses and walls look shot. It looks like a summer of trying to clean up the mess, salvage what we can and figure out some way to protect the floor. But we are going to rebuild.
Go here to see the Phoenix Project !
The site before the work began
Andy Holmes on the floor frame in 2001
Framing the lower walls between log pillars, 2002.