Bugeisha Club

Founded with protection in mind, Bugeisha Club has evolved to be a force to be reckoned with. A collective of mixed Asian women working across the creative arts, they explore their strength and skills by envisioning themselves as warriors of a dystopian future. Through nunchucks, martial arts and contortion, they rigorously prepare for the unknown apocalypse, challenging cliched notions of their gender and ethnicity.

"We’re creating our own universe essentially. We're creating in a sense, our own version of superheroes or women who survive an End of the World movie. The creative aspect is us being able to create our heroines, versions of whoever we wanted to have seen growing up basically."



A conversation with Mana Kimura Anderson, Founder of Bugeisha Club and Louise Millar, Seed Strategy Director*

What does community mean to you?

Mana: Community is part of human nature. It's so intrinsic for people. I think for a lot of people once they do join a community, they realise how much they, body and soul, were craving it and it's something that nowadays is not prioritised.

What I see is something very circular and safe and round – something where everyone's involved, everyone's a part of it and It doesn't make up that shape without everyone involved.

What do you think has driven you, what's reflected that for you?

Mana: For me personally, it was realising that if I don't become the person that I wanted to see I might not be able to find it. That's what I was searching for growing up was, a version of myself that I could look towards so I decided to be that person. Whether it's leading by example or showing a version of what can exist in the world that was a driving force.

Bugeisha Club started quite organically, but what are your reasons to be? What made you feel like this is an established place and it matters.

Mana:Originally, it started to help my friends and protect female talent and then it morphed into a collective. It still echoes this idea of protecting each other and a sense of camaraderie. It’s having each other's backs within the creative sphere,and having a platform to be able to have a voice for ourselves and share our magic especially in very predominantly white spaces.

So you're collaboration is described as a collective of creative athletes preparing for the apocalypse. How does this juxtaposition of creative pursuits and its survivalist ethos define the identity of your club?

Mana: The apocalypse narrative is initially more suited to the athletic pursuits but the beauty in the creative part is that you have to imagine the apocalypse. There's no way of knowing what it could be like so it enables us to create this other world for ourselves, our version of superheroes. It's being able to create our heroines.

Members of your club are obviously musicians, dancers, actors, martial arts artists, how does this interdisciplinary approach contribute to the club's unique creative expression and activism?

Mana: It’s the ability for us to shape these characters individually. The most exciting thing is to take a step back to watch my friends do their thing. It's that melting pot that actually [when you] chuck everything in and have no idea what's going to come out of it because the possibilities are limitless.

Can you give us some of the essence of what it means to be in the club. So in the sense of what it means to be an alliance between mixed Asian women and how it's shaped your identity and purpose?

Mana: It's this idea of power in numbers like Power Rangers. When we all come together, there's amazing things that we can do. As women, we've been conditioned to believe that there's very limited space for us but with Bugeisha Club, my hope was opening that door wider for everyone else to come with you. If one person's on the up, it's about bringing everyone else up with you.

Do you plan on maintaining this exclusive type of members or is it your ambition to open it up to broader groups? How do you intend on maintaining the roots of its identity whilst growing its presence?

Mana: The common denominator for Bugeisha Club is for women and non-binary people. We're still in the process of figuring it out but [we want] each member to have their own world and their own platform. E.g. I have room and capacity to expand my personal community through the Nunchuck Army whereas April does Pilates and Tai Chi. The Nunchuck Army is not only for mixed Asian women so come and join the Nunchuck Army!

Are there any consistent challenges or obstacles that you face that maybe threatened the ability to keep your club active?

Mana: Legal stuff... Working with brands and their limitations of using nunchucks and bow staffs. It's an interesting conversation of how our tools are translated into wider public opinion because they are weapons but how we use them is very different and is done with very different intentions.

Otherwise, resources and space have always been a big problem. There’s limited third spaces especially then having to wrangle the legalities of using nunchucks in the UK. There is a demand and people are asking for [classes] but I don't want to charge them money.

So you've done a few commercial projects and brand collabs, can you tell us a bit about the experience, the good, the bad, the ugly? You spoke about the legality of some of that but maybe some good ones and what made them good? .

Mana: The people you work with often leave the most lasting impact on how you viewed a job. Even if you end up with an amazing end result if you had a bad experience during the process, you’re not going to be thinking that fondly of what you end up with.

There was a shoot that I’d done where we were all women on set. We made a point to speak about how limitless we felt during that creative process and we hadn’t realised potentially how the presence of men in those spaces can impact us. It can be a very vulnerable and tender space, so when you exercise female energies you can really amplify that and bring the best out of that magic.

Otherwise, it is invaluable when you believe your voice is heard. I think often the tricky thing as talent is when you feel like you have more to offer and it’s not being respected. It’s an ongoing battle when you’re on commercial jobs.

And the bad…?

Mana: Difficult negotiations and feeling taken advantage of. I’ve made an “agent” email where the name is quite ambiguous whether its a man or a woman, and ethnicity-wise so if I have to deal with any commercial brands I tell them to speak to my agent

[Another thing is] the transparency of fees. When I first started I had no idea where to begin, and from the brand’s perspective they are trying to milk you for all you’re worth but it’s setting an example. I’m more likely to work with a brand if I feel like they were honest and had integrity from the get-go. It's not about me having more money but it is about transparency.

What about brands you want to talk to and what would genuine support look like to you with brands and how you’d want to be represented, dream partnerships and strategies and tactics to support your communities further.

Mana: My big one is gaming. I am a big gamer, and I want the Nunchuck Princess to head in that direction. One of my dreams is for her to get a Fortnite skin… That would be so cool. She has all the components to become a character: she’ll have the weapons and whatnot. I’d love to work on character development and styling. Historically, Asian women representation, whether it's in films, animations or in games and the stereotypes of how they’re represented is done so badly. Normally, you gravitate to a character that looks most like you, but for me they were always quite gentle and the smallest, timid female characters - I was like that is not me.

*This conversation has been condensed and edited but has strived to remain as close to the original word for word version as possible.

Find out more.

Whether you'd like to hear out more about the insights and approach behind Cultivating Communities, campaigns and other Seed experiences, or to talk in confidence about upcoming campaigns, we'll introduce you to those within the team with the most relevant experience and examples to discuss further.

Email Jen@seedmarketingagency.com