Emissary Blog

How I use Yoshinkan Aikido in Business - Part I

Posted on 2017.06.09 by Michael Stuempel

Many people know that I came to Japan in 1993 to participate in the 3rd International Yoshinkan Aikido Instructors Course. This intensive martial arts course is taught in conjunction with the Tokyo Riot Police and was later portrayed by Robert Twigger in his book, "Angry White Pyjamas". 

Soon after Robert's book came out, many of my meetings started out with the query, "Are you that guy in that book?" and we would spend a few minutes discussing what Yoshinkan Aikido is and why I do it. It's always fun to talk about what you are passionate about and having a discussion about Yoshinkan that naturally progresses into a discussion about IT support allowed me to share two passions in a single meeting.

The deeper question that people always ask is, "How do you apply Aikido in business?"

Here are a few thoughts on that:

One of the most important principles in Yoshinkan Aikido is the idea that in order to properly apply a technique you need to put all of your focus and all of your energy at a single point at a single time. Aikido practitioners who have experienced Yonkajo (or Yonkyo) will understand this. I believe that the parallel to growing a business is obvious. It is important to understand your goals and that every decision you make is focused on reaching those goals. 

Of course, in life and in Yoshinkan, you are not always performing "a technique" on someone else. Sometimes you are reflecting upon and practicing a specific subset of your skills in order to improve them. Sometimes your focus is listening to and learning from others and other times you are the one sharing your knowledge and experience. Growth comes from a combination of all of these components.

In Japanese, the words Renshu and Keiko both can refer to training, but they are significantly different. In Aikido training, renshu refers to the repetition of motion in order to instil what you have learned into your movement. Keiko is training where you learn new concepts and techniques from your teachers. Obviously, keiko comes before renshu in that you need to learn something before you can (properly) repeat it until it becomes a part of you and your set of intrinsic skills. You are always honing what you know and, at the same time, learning new things.

Business works the same way. We learn new skills, new processes, how to provide better services and then apply theses skills again and again and again until we can do them effectively and efficiently in a variety of situations. And, at the same time, we are also learning something new. This desire to become better at what we do and to learn more is a key component to success in business.

One of the great things about training in Yoshinkan is that everyone is your teacher. Your teachers teach you techniques and share the skills they have learned over a lifetime. You immediately and enthusiastically share whatever new tips you get with your fellow Aikidoka by trying to make the techniques work on each other. And, as a teacher, you learn from your students because they have the uncanny ability to expose where your technique is flawed and where you also need to improve. The environment of learning, sharing, laughing and improving that most dojos foster is really important in everyday life and this includes the workplace. 

A work environment should be a place where you can, without fear, learn new skills and share those skills with others. You should be able to feel confident that when you ask how to do something, that someone will happily teach you how to do it and not just do it for you or blame you for not knowing already. Colleagues should be able to offer and discuss different ideas and enjoy the experience and improvement that comes from sharing multiple viewpoints. Your staff should know that when they offer different opinions that they will be listened to and that better solutions will be found together with everyone gaining from the experience. Customers should trust that when they ask for clarification that they will treated respectfully and walked through the process and not just have "the solution" delivered from a pedestal of "expertise". 

We should all remember that we need to stay focused on our goals, to keep learning and to keep practicing. We should also remember that we can and should learn from anyone and that we have something valuable within us that we can share with others. 

And so ends Part I of my thoughts on how I use Yoshinkan Aikido in Business.

I look forward to your comments and thoughts and to your joining me for Part II.

Michael Stuempel, President, Emissary Computer Solutions, Tokyo, Japan

Part II of this series | Part III of this series

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About Michael Stuempel

Michael Stuempel is a misplaced Canadian following his hopes, dreams and aspirations in Tokyo.

Michael arrived in Tokyo in 1993 to participate in the 3rd Yoshinkan Aikido Hombu Dojo International Instructor's Course and soon after co-founded Emissary Computer Solutions. His primary, professional focus has been to assist International companies with their Japan based IT endeavours. Emissary often acts as the liaison between a company's IT headquarters and their Japan branch. Michael's IT experience in Japan includes running local operations for International global support partners, overseeing Data Centre support engineers in their duties, assisting startups with their initial IT footprint, providing smart hands support in offices, factories and data centres throughout Japan as well as the design, implementation and maintenance of IT infrastructure and systems for a variety of companies in several industries. More

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