Karate and Marketing
by Dr. Seamus Phan

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

I was trained in Goju-Ryu Karate when I was a teenager. As a kid, I didn't quite understand the philosophy behind the martial art. However, I came across the principles recently when I revisited the subject.

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."

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

In the world today, if you are not fast and efficient, 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

The strongest raging person will ALWAYS be defeated by a calm martial artist. 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.


Dr. Seamus Phan is a leading author, keynote speaker, trainer and technologist in the areas of total quality, service quality, Internet, biotech, holistic health, and business processes. Based in Singapore, Seamus consults for international companies, government agencies and emerging enterprises around the world. He is also a professor of media studies and sustainable development. His latest sell-out business leaderhip book is Dot ZEN (http://dotzen.com). Find out more about Seamus at http://keynotepresenter.com .

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Copyright 2004 by Seamus Phan. All rights reserved.

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