What has the specific school of Karate known as Goju-Ryu got to do with marketing?

I have been trained in Goju-Ryu Karate as a teenager. As a kid, I didn’t quite understand the philosophy behind the martial art. I knew that Karate was meant as a defensive skill, not an offensive one. Some people made the mistake of learning Karate so that they can run others down. However, even as a kid, I understood the age-old Chinese saying, “There is always a higher mountain”. But of the deeper philosophy of Karate, it only came to me when I revisited the subject while I was doing philosophical research.

Goju-Ryu Karate was derived from ancient Chinese and Indian martial arts by Master Miyagi Chojun, (1888-1953), as a highly systematic discipline combining both “hard” and “gentle” movements. Later, Shinto priest and yogi, Master Gogen Yamaguchi, said of the 5 secrets of Goju-Ryu Karate: “Master the basics. Move quickly. Have a calm and sound mind. Be nimble. Be smart.”

Actions: 5 secrets of Karate for marketers

What then, have these 5 secrets of this school of Karate got to do with marketing? Plenty!

1) Master the basics. In marketing, or any business field, if you haven’t built your foundation, whatever else you attempt to build will be shaky and futile. For example, if you haven’t done enough research into your own strengths and weaknesses, and the competition (and their strengths and weaknesses), whatever advertising, public relations, direct mail, or events you attempt to create, will not be based on sound principles, and will fail.

2) Move quickly. If you are not fast and efficient today, no matter how large or small your business is, you will not survive. This is the world of fast, faster, and fastest. If you have the right products, the right channels, the right markets, but you are just a tad slower than your competition; you are dead in the water. After all, there is little differentiation between products and services by different companies, and the last frontier may be speed.

3) Sound and calm mind. A calm martial artist will ALWAYS defeat the strongest raging person. No rage, aggression, or brute strength, will help a person, or a business, succeed. When you are angry, your mind is clouded and cannot make sound judgments. When you are calm and sane, however, your clarity of thought will allow you to defend or progress in dimensions and speed like never before. If you face a critical business decision and you feel flustered, compose yourself before attempting to make a decision. You will thank yourself later.

4) Be nimble. Large businesses are facing tremendous competition from more nimble and smaller players today. Small businesses can transform and change their decisions and movements quickly, thereby averting potential disasters. Conversely, large businesses often have heavy bureaucratic structures with many layers of management to burden the speed of decision-making. For large businesses to succeed, hierarchies must be reduced, with flat management structures and employee empowerment. In effect, large businesses must behave like small businesses in creating nimble and effective work groups.

5) Be smart. Karate can be taught in katas (dance), or through face-to-face sparring. If you are attracted only to the dance without the sparring, your movements will be graceful but lack field-tested ability. Likewise, in a business, it is important not to stick to past glories, past methods of working, or past processes, just because they have worked before. Always be prepared to find new perspectives to tackle new and old problems, and be open to learning from others, including people you perceive to be less experienced or learned. There is ALWAYS something to learn from everybody.

Much of the martial arts started with a philosophical and meditative background, rather than for mindless aggression. Rather than dwell on the likes of “The Art of War” and other war cries for your business practices, why not take a step back and take the meditative perspective, even through principles of Karate? You will then notice not only the beauty of the dance of your business, but converge in a calmness that will only take your business further and healthier. And yes, you will live longer and happier too.

These are some writings we did in 2003 (published as “DotZen”, a paperback book that was widely publicized), and we extracted some which are still relevant today, in the areas of branding, marketing, sales, publicity, and business improvement. If we find some time outside that of helping our clients grow and taking a rest, we will try to write some more.

Copyright©2003 Seamus Phan & Ter Hui Peng. All rights reserved.