U?G.P! Second Printing is Now Available

June 20th, 2012

I am happy to report that Understand? Good. Play! — Words of Consequence is now available in a special tenth anniversary edition.

In addition to the complete content of the original printing, the tenth anniversary edition gives a “behind-the-scenes” look at the original U?G.P! project, including reflections by key individuals. The bonus material includes copies of Hatsumi-sensei‘s hand-edits to the original manuscript, a look at the design mock-ups used to guide the project, explanations of key photos in the book, and 10 new photographs.

Cover

What You Get:

• The original 283 pages of wisdom from the first edition
• An additional 24 pages of material to provide a “behind-the-scenes” look at the original project
• The original 50 photographs of the first edition, plus 10 new photos and other artwork
• Beautiful, stitched, hard cover book with full-color sleeve (for years of reading pleasure)

Price per book: US$39.95 + S/H (approximate equivalent to one training session with Sōke at Hombu Dōjō)

Price per carton (28 books): US$1,050.00 + S/H

I am happy to say that the anniversary edition came together quite nicely. With the extra material, the book feels really good in the hand and is noticeably thicker than the original. I think people will like this version better than the original version, which as you know has reached absurd price levels in the used book market.

Information regarding the book is available here.

I apologize for the wait, but the entire project has been self-funded and ran into numerous glitches in life, finance and production over the years. I will do my best to keep the book in print now that I have the resources and time to do so.

I hope you enjoy the book!

-ben

Gut vs. Socialization

December 29th, 2011

So I finally got around to watching the movie “Fight Club,” starring Edward Norton and Brad Pitt. For years, various friends in the Bujinkan had asked if I had seen it, but for some reason, I never had. Perhaps it was because the way the film was advertised made the movie (falsely, I might add) seem as if it was about a group of guys who got together and beat each other up for fun. I just wasn’t that interested in the film that was sold in the commercials.

I did find myself with some extra time the other day and so I decided to watch “Fight Club” so I could see what everyone was raving about. Having now seen the film, I must say that I enjoyed it. I understand why the film is considered an important film in the history of film and why there is so much interesting trivia floating around the internet about the film. Brad Pitt really was awesome as Tyler Durden and Edward Norton did an admirable job as the Narrator.

But my gut instinct that initially drew me away from the movie over the years was never really put to rest. Sure, the movie was not as advertised and was much more complex than the advertisements let on. But what I learned about the film in watching it did not change my broad apathy toward it.

At its heart, “Fight Club” is about people living life without regret—acting as they want to act, doing as they want to do. It is a movie about “manning up” and doing what should be done. It is about truly living. Or so it purports.

This issue recently became a point of conversation in the dojo. A friend of mine had done something that his gut told him was the right thing to do at a given moment in time, but he was worried what his friends would think about the action. “That’s so unlike him,” onlookers said.

When I shared the story in the dojo—both the action and the context of the decision—my students understood why my friend did what he did. To onlookers unfamiliar with the context in which the decision to act was made, the action certainly did throw them off. And their reaction of consternation was understandable; most likely the reaction of a jury would be similar. But for those who see the world through Budo eyes, a reaction of understanding probably would be more likely….

As we talked through the incident, I mentioned that Budo sometimes forces us to choose between “gut” and “socialization” (i.e., stuff that people say you shouldn’t do). It is amazing how much socialization affects our actions. Recent work on the causes of the Great Recession attributes the market environment that led to the crash to a lack of actioned ethics. People unwilling to speak up when they saw something wrong—often due to socialization in their organization that painted the activity as acceptable—made ethical action anathema. People who knew deep down that what they were seeing in their firms or in their industry was wrong did nothing and dismissed the situation as “not my problem.” The problem with such dismissive attitude is that when everything eventually does go to hell, it becomes everyone’s problem and real people get hurt.

The world has suffered calamitous damage that will affect an entire generation of human beings as a result of people not being willing to act on their gut instinct in the face of wrongdoing. In country after country, there are mass demonstrations, physical confrontations with police and often violence borne out of frustration or the state’s attempt to suppress that frustration. Large portions of national populations have been thrown into poverty, erosion of personal identity, and delayed retirements. Sadly, those who failed to act but were aware of the problem and had the capacity to act to mitigate the problem can easily wipe away any responsibility for not acting by appealing to socialization (e.g., “No one else thought it was wrong.”)

In an altercation, you must take away the bad guy’s desire to hurt you and those with you. Occasionally, that means acting in advance of his attack, which socialization tells us is a no-no. Taking someone’s balance (kuzushi) is both physical and psychological; that is why “turning on” in a fight situation can be so powerful. When you escalate a situation and “turn on,” the other guy will trust his own gut in discerning whether or not to press his luck with you. Intriguingly, the situation often will de-escalate itself merely because you escalated it by “turning on,” indicating that you were present in the moment, both physically and psychologically. Bad guys are generally lazy and are looking for an easy target, not one that is going to fight back with the intensity and skills of a honey badger.

It is a strange phenomenon, to be sure, but one that requires you to trust what you know and be cognizant of what you do not. Combining that knowledge with psychological and physical kuzushi-taking ability can make you a powerful force in the world.

Taking an action based on gut is not an easy one, however. In addition to the possibility of physical damage, action based on gut often comes with social damage, as the action-taker violates the expectations of those around him or her. But as budoka, we must be willing to do so. We must be willing to set aside socialization for gut sometimes, or bad things happen to good people.

And this brings me back to “Fight Club.” Given that the film revolves around individuals stepping away from socialization and following their gut, someone in the dojo mentioned it as a potential source of insight on the “gut vs. socialization” debate. Having seen the film, now, I must respectfully disagree.

If people are really looking for potential insight on the issue in film, there is no better source out there than “Gran Torino,” directed by and starring Clint Eastwood. Now that is a real movie with complex human characters struggling with life and death, and what it means to follow one’s gut.

The movie revolves around a grisly veteran of the Korean War who harbors deep resentment toward Asian people. At one point, the veteran comes to the assistance of his neighbor, a young Hmong man, and is slowly drawn into contact with people in the Hmong community. At the same time as the veteran is referring to the Hmong in the most vile, racist terms, he is growing fond of his neighbors and the offerings of the community. It is a wonderful film that shows how socialization fights with gut in the pursuit of truth. And it is a beautiful story of Budo—the small and large acts of “gut” that make the world a better place.

Please watch both “Fight Club” and “Gran Torino” and consider their similarities and differences. Both contain important lessons about Budo, one definitely more than the other, in my opinion.

-ben

Messages from Japan — Bufu Ikkan!

March 17th, 2011

I was just sent a block of Japanese messages submitted by people throughout the country. I needed to share these, as they brought tears to my eyes, so here is my best translation. It is sad to say but you would never see this type of behavior in so much of America these days. I want Americans to see what America could be (and perhaps used to be)!

Bufu Ikkan!

-ben

【@smzasm】
暗すぎて今までに見たことないくらい星が綺麗だよ。仙台のみんな、上を向くんだ。

It’s so dark that I can see stars that I’ve never seen and it’s so beautiful. People of Sendai, look up!

【@unosuke】
ディズニーランドでは、ショップのお菓子なども配給された。ちょっと派手目な女子高生たちが必要以上にたくさんもらってて「何だ?」って一瞬思ったけど、その後その子たちが、避難所の子供たちにお菓子を配っていたところを見て感動。子供連れは動けない状況だったから、本当にありがたい心配りだった。

At Disneyland, the sweets in the gift shop had just been replenished, when I saw a group of gaudily dressed high school girls start hoarding all the boxes. For a second, I thought, “What’s up with that?” Then I saw the girls go over and make arrangements for all the boxes to be delivered to the children in the evacuation centers. And that moved me. It was a beautiful example of kindness towards others, especially for those with children who literally can go no where.

【@kiritansu】
物が散乱しているスーパーで、落ちているものを律儀に拾い、そして列に黙って並んでお金を払って買い物をする。運転再開した電車で混んでるのに妊婦に席を譲るお年寄り。この光景を見て外国人は絶句したようだ。本当だろう、この話。すごいよ日本。

People are picking up scattered things at stores and putting them back on shelves, then standing in line silently to wait to pay. When the trains started running, despite the crowded conditions, elderly people were giving up their seats to pregnant women. Foreigners seeing this behavior are getting all choked up. It’s all true, all of those stories! Japan truly is an amazing place.

【@akitosk】
国連からのコメント
「日本は今まで世界中に援助をしてきた援助大国だ。今回は国連が全力で日本を援助する。」

A Message from the United Nations, “Japan has always been there to assist other nations in their time of need. This time, the United Nations will do everything it can to help Japan.”

【@micakom】
一回の青信号で1台しか前に進めないなんてザラだったけど、誰もが譲り合い穏やかに運転している姿に感動した。複雑な交差点で交通が 5分以上完全にマヒするシーンもあったけど、10時間の間お礼以外のクラクションの音を耳にしなかった。恐怖と同時に心温まる時間で、日本がますます好きになった。

Though it is common to see green traffic lights where only one car could get through, it is heartening to see this warm give-and-take among the drivers. There are scenes in congested intersections where nothing moves for five full minutes, but in ten hours, I never heard any honking and nothing beyond words of appreciation. I am loving Japan more and more as I spend time that is simultaneously frightening yet deeply warming.

【@ayakishimoto】
昨日の夜中、大学から徒歩で帰宅する道すがら、とっくに閉店したパン屋のおばちゃんが無料でパン配給していた。こんな喧噪のなかでも自分にできることを見つけて実践している人に感動。心温まった。東京も捨てたもんじゃないな

Last night, as I made my way home from the university on foot, I saw an elderly woman out in front of a closed bread shop, giving away free bread to people. It is moving to see people who have found what little they can do to help in the middle of this clamorous situation. It warms my heart. Tokyo is not lost!

【@copedy】
韓国人の友達からさっききたメール。「世界唯一の核被爆国。大戦にも負けた。毎年台風がくる。地震だってくる。津波もくる・・・小さい島国だけど、それでも立ち上がってきたのが日本なんじゃないの。頑張れ。超頑張れ。」ちなみに僕いま泣いている。

This came in from a Korean friend. “The sole victim of the atomic bomb. The loser to the Great War. Typhoons come every year. So do earthquakes. So do tsunami. It’s a small country, but Japan stands tall. Keep going! Please keep going!” For what it’s worth, I’m in tears now….

【@aquarius_rabbit】
ホームで待ちくたびれていたら、ホームレスの人達が寒いから敷けって段ボールをくれた。いつも私達は横目で流してるのに。あたたかいです。

I was worn out, waiting on the platform for the train, when some homeless people came by distributing boxes because it was cold. And this is despite the fact that we always glance at them out of the corner of our eyes. I’m all warm now.

【@dita_69】
サントリーの自販機無料化、softbankWi-Fiスポット解放、色んな人達が全力で頑張っててそれに海外が感動・協力してる。海外からの援助受け入れに躊躇したり自衛隊派遣を遅らせたりしてた阪神淡路大震災の頃より日本は確実に強い国になってるんだ。

Suntory made all its vending machines work for free and Softbank unlocked all of its Wi-Fi spots. Lots of people are putting their all into their efforts and the world is moved by those efforts and looking to help as well. Compared to a country that Japan was during the great Hanshin earthquake, which hesitated to accept foreign assistance and was late in dispatching its Self Defense Forces, Japan truly has become a strong nation.

【@tadakatz】
終夜運転のメトロの駅員に、大変ですねって声かけたら、笑顔で、こんな時ですから! だって。捨てたもんじゃないね、感動した。

I quipped to the train conductor “Things sure are tough” regarding the decision to run the trains all night. He smiled and said, “The times call for it.” Nothing lost here! How moving is that…

【@rasuku】
都心から4時間かけて歩いて思った。歩道は溢れんばかりの人だったが、皆整然と黙々と歩いていた。コンビニはじめ各店舗も淡々と仕事していた。ネットのインフラは 揺れに耐え抜き、各地では帰宅困難者受け入れ施設が開設され、鉄道も復 旧して終夜運転するという。凄い国だよ。GDP何位とか関係ない。

I had a four hour walk home from the city today where I lots of time to think. The streets are overflowing with walkers, but everyone is orderly and remains silent during their walk. The convenience stores and various other shops are doing their business without fanfare. The net infrastructure withstood the trembles, various facilities to take in those who cannot return home have opened up in several regions, the trains are back and running, and they say they will be running all night now. This is an incredible country, and it has nothing to do with what rank we are in GDP.

【@hirata_hironobu】
2歳の息子が独りでシューズを履いて外に出ようとしていた。「地震を逮捕しに行く!」 とのこと。小さな体に宿る勇気と正義感に力をもらう。みなさん、気持 ちを強く持って 頑張りましょう。

My two year old son put on his shoes by himself and started to head out the door. “I’m going to go arrest the earthquake!” he told me. Let’s all take strength from the courage and sense of justice coming out of such a small body. Everyone, let’s all pluck up and get through this!

【@fujifumi】
4時間の道のりを歩いて帰るときに、トイレのご利用どうぞ!と書いたスケッチブックを 持って、自宅のお手洗いを開放していた女性がいた。日本って、やはり 世界一あたたかい 国だよね。あれみた時は感動して泣けてきた。

During my four hour walk home today, I saw a young lady holding a sketch pad with the words “Restroom Available!” scrawled on it; here she was opening the restroom to her own home! Japan truly is the warmest country in the world. I was moved to tears seeing that.

【@yoh22222】
停電すると、それを直す人がいて、断水すると、それを直す人がいて、原発で事故が 起きると、それを直しに行く人がいる。勝手に復旧しているわけじゃない。 俺らが室内で マダカナーとか言ってる間クソ寒い中死ぬ気で頑張ってくれてる人がいる。

When the power goes out, there is someone to fix that. When the water goes out, there is someone to fix that. And when there is a nuclear accident, there is someone who goes to fix that as well. Things don’t just restore themselves by themselves. When we are sitting in our homes, complaining about when things will be fixed, there are people working as if their lives depended on it in the frigid cold trying to do just that.

【@bitboi】
NHKの男性アナウンサーが被災状況や現況を淡々と読み上げる中、「ストレスで母乳が 出なくなった母親が夜通しスーパーの開店待ちの列に並んでミルクが手に 入った」と 紹介後、絶句。沈黙が流れ、放送事故のようになった。すぐに立ち直ったけ ど泣いている のがわかった。目頭が熱くなった。

One of the male announcers on NHK started to describe the situation with the calamity and how things were going presently, “New mothers who have stopped lactating due to the stress were finally able to get a hold of some milk after lining up all night at a roadside supermarket,” he said. Then silence…. As if there were some technical difficulties. He straightened himself out and continued the broadcast, but it was clear that he had been crying. Tears welled up in my eyes as well.

【@nekoshima83】
千葉の友達から。避難所でおじいさんが「これからどうなるんだろう」と漏らした時、横に居た 高校生ぐらいの男の子が「大丈夫、大人になったら僕らが絶対元 に戻します」って背中さすって 言ってたらしい。大丈夫、未来あるよ

This anecdote comes from a friend in Chiba (outside Tokyo). At one of the evacuation centers, an old man sat crying, “What’s going to happen in the future?” Beside him, a high school boy rubbed the man’s shoulder, saying, “Everything will be fine. After we become adults, we’ll put back everything the way it was.” It looks like the future will be all right.

【@mameo65】
家屋に取り残され、42時間ぶりに救出された高齢の男性の映像。「チリ津波も経験してきたから 、だいじょぶです。また、再建しましょう」と笑顔で答えてい た。私たちが、これから何をするかが 大事。

After 42 hours of being trapped, an elderly man is captured on video. Smiling for the camera, he says, “I experienced the tsunami in Chile as well. Everything’s going to be fine. We’ll just rebuild.” It is really important what we do moving forward.

【@oka_0829】
駅員さんに「昨日一生懸命電車を走らせてくれてありがとう」って言ってる小さい子達を見た。 駅員さん泣いてた。俺は号泣してた。

I saw some small children speaking to the train conductor. They said, “Thank you for working so hard yesterday to keep the trains running.” The conductor started to cry. I did, too.