Tomoya Nakamura in aikido gear close up
©Katsuo Sugano

SECI Model

The SECI model illustrates how knowledge is created and shared. Learn how to put it to use for best practices, and how the Japanese concept of “ba” fits in to broaden your perspective.

Johari Window Model

The Johari Window Model is a self-awareness framework that helps you better understand . . . you. Learn how its four quadrants can help you identify gaps between how you see yourself, and how others see you.

Sunk Costs

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CAGE Distance Framework

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Groupthink

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Deductive and Inductive Reasoning

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Critical Thinking: Hypothesis-Driven Thinking

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Critical Thinking: Structured Reasoning

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Critical Thinking: Problem-Solving

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How to Dream

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Logical Thinking

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Investing & Diversity: The Changing Faces of Venture Capitalists

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Servant Leadership

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Organizational Behavior and Leadership

Ever wonder what makes a great leader? Whether your role requires leadership or not, understanding organizational behavior is useful for your career. This course from GLOBIS Unlimited can set you on your way.

Leadership vs. Management

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Strategy: Creating Value Inside Your Company

Have you ever wondered why certain companies are more successful than others? The answer is strategy: internal processes that control costs, allocate resources, and create value. This course from GLOBIS Unlimited can give you the tools you need for that strategic edge.

Strategy: Understanding the External Environment

To plan strategy on any level, you need to understand your company's external environment. In fact, your level of understanding can impact hiring, budgeting, marketing, or nearly any other part of the business world. Want to learn how to do all that? This course from GLOBIS Unlimited is the perfect first step!

Using Japanese Values to Thrive in Global Business

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Turnaround Leadership: The Differences Between Japan and the West

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Conflict Management

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Evernote Founder: How Tech Startups Can Break through in Japan

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Women Empowerment: Lessons from Cartier

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Marketing: Reaching Your Target

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Marketing Mix

Seeing good products into the hands of customers is no easy task. The marketing mix can help. It's a collection of strategies and tactics companies utilize to get customers to purchase their products or services, and is an essential part of the overall marketing process.

The Principles of Negotiation

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Negotiation: Creating Value

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Finding Your Life Purpose with Ikigai

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Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Want to leverage Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs as a leader? Try this short course to see how the theory can be applied in practical work scenarios.

Confirmation Bias

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An Investor's Lesson to Entrepreneurs

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Managerial Accounting

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Finance Basics: 1

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Basic Accounting: Financial Analysis

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Career Anchors

What drives you to be good at your job?

Career anchors are based on your values, desires, motivations, and abilities. They are the immovable parts of your professional self-image that guide you throughout your career journey.

Try this short GLOBIS Unlimited course to identify which of the eight career anchors is yours!

Digital Marketing Psychology to Transform Your Business

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Pyramid Structure

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Leadership with Passion through Kokorozashi

The key ingredient to success? Passion.

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AI First Companies – Implementation and Impact

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Technovate in the Era of Industry 4.0

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Technovate Thinking

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Product Life Cycle

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Logic Tree

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MECE Principle

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Japan has recently experienced a “yukata boom,” where one can often see couples wearing yukata at events such as summer fireworks shows. Yukata is a traditional form of clothing in Japan. Also, near the Tokyo (Kojimachi) Campus of GLOBIS University, one also has many opportunities to see people wearing kimonos, due to the proximity of the tea room of the Tokyo Omotesenke. So, then, when you think of young people dressed in kimonos and yukata, what kind of images come to mind?

The Sense of physical intuition in Japan

Recently, yukata have become fashionable, with brilliant print designs and more accessories and goods. However, I get the sense that something is out of place. If you observe closely, you can see that the way people physically stand while wearing yukata is not as beautiful as it could be.

People’s lifestyles have changed greatly since the days when Japanese wore kimonos and yukata. Now, most daily customs–clothing, diet, and living quarters–have become quite Westernized. With these changes, Japanese people’s own physical intuition—their sensory perception of bodily feelings–has begun to fade away.

Professor Takashi Saito of Meiji University, in his book “Taking Back Physical Intuition—the Revival of Koshi and Hara Culture” (original title “Shintai Kankaku wo Torimodosu—Koshi and Hara Bunka no Sairai”) published by NHK books, writes the following (translated by GLOBIS):

(Note: Koshi and hara are two Japanese terms roughly translating as the areas around the lower back and stomach, respectively. In addition, these words carry significant physical, spiritual, and, therefore, cultural meaning. Koshi and hara act as the physical and spiritual foundation for the body and mind, the platform on which the upper body rests upon. Finally, when Prof. Saito writes the hara character, he uses the“ground” and “body”radicals to emphasize the meaning that “one’s body is firmly rooted to the ground.”)

“Recently, the weakening sense of one’s existence has become a frequent problem. In order to feel that one truly exists here and now, the assistance of physical intuition, not just the psychological aspect, is necessary. In present-day Japan, how many people can say that their koshi is truly supporting their body on its axis?”

“If the traditional sense of Japanese ‘physical culture’ could be put into just one phrase, I would call it ‘Koshi -Hara culture.’ If you talk with people in their 80s and 90s, you will hear many phrases using ’koshi’ or ‘hara.’”

“‘Fix your koshi (Sit tight and settle down)’ and ‘Decide with your hara(gut)’ are basic vocabulary. I once heard a man in his 90s say, ‘In the past, those who were given responsibilities were the ones who had hara (guts) that were prepared (meaning one who is prepared for anything).’ These phrases using koshi and hara include a spiritual aspect, but, fundamentally, they are rooted in fact that there is physical intuition in the koshi and hara.”

The physical intuition to which Prof. Saito is alluding has continuously been passed down to today’s martial arts and performing arts, and has a very deep relation with Ki.

Cultivating Ki through physical intuition

At the first master’s training session I attended for the Aikido Club at my college alma mater, my instructor Sadateru Arikawa taught us how to stand and how to sit.

“Now, stand!” “Now, sit!” “Now, stand!” “Now, sit!”

Through this repetition, you can gradually develop physical intuition. Once you start to feel the gravitational of the earth, if you concentrate, you may be able to sense physical intuition in the area below your navel, called seikatanden in Japanese. If you begin to master this, you will be able to physically feel the Ki energy in your body.

Next is the shikko training. Shikko means to move back and forth with your knees in sitting form. (In ancient times of war, shikko was used in castles in front of the lord, where it was regarded impolite to stand before being permitted to do so.) If your seikatanden is not constantly at your center of gravity, you will lose your balance. If you have been able to achieve this central feeling, now you can train with a stick or wooden sword that gives a greater centrifugal force. Thus, physical intuition is one of the physical techniques that can be achieved through daily practice.

You may have heard of what is called the “natural position” or shizentai in Japanese. The natural position is a condition where your lower body is planted firmly on the ground in order to feel the earth’s gravity in your seikatanden, and your upper body gently rests on top of that. It is beautiful to see the posture of a person wearing a kimono who has established this natural position. Sakamoto Ryoma, whom I described in Volume 3 of this series, “Great Men at the End of the Edo Period and We who Live in This Era,” also has this beautiful posture.

It is said that traditional Japanese were able to strengthen their physical intuition (physical techniques) through their daily activities. Through okonai (deeds) such as cooking and housework, they were able to cultivate this kind of physical intuition.

I also believe that communities shared this sense of physical intuition, and because they did so, members were able to make reasonable ethical decisions and act collectively in the face of crisis.

Leveraging Ki in daily life

When you cultivate Ki through physical intuition, you can also learn to apply it in your daily business life. Here I want to introduce three examples of how I personally use Ki in business.

For about 5 years, I have been in charge of starting new businesses. Starting a new business involves a high degree of difficulty and uncertainty. In some cases, the businesses may not be blessed with much management attention and may not be given adequate resources compared with the core businesses of the company. Therefore, in order to expand the business in the midst of this difficulty, I, as a leader, must display a strong attitude and put forth a lot of energy. For this purpose, I must recognize my Ki (energy). If I notice that my Ki (energy) is low, in order to fill my energy, I re-connect with nature, spend time with my family or close friends, or enjoy art or a good book.

As a graduate school faculty member, I try to sense the movement of each student’s Ki in the classroom. I try to sense the Ki when students are thinking. For example, I think, “Although Mr. A hesitated to speak out, he really wanted to say something there. Therefore, next time when the class covers the same topic, I will encourage Mr. A to speak up.” Or, “because this is a discussion about strategy, many students have raised their hand. However, I will call on Ms. B, whose aura says she definitely has her unique comment to make on the topic.”

And, finally, I ask my body (koshi and hara) about things that I don’t understand logically. Does Ki accumulate more toward strategic direction Z or toward strategic direction X? Why is this? If so, for how much time will Ki continue to accumulate? Through Ki, I am often able to see these directions and make my decision. (For more information about this, please read Volume 2 of this column, “Perspectives of the Universe and of Humanity.”)

The third example contains a hint for Japanese management. For answers that do not arrive through deductive reasoning, we can believe in the power which arises through the important connection between employees (humans) and this kind of deep intuition. Furthermore, by uniting with management logic (such as strategy and PDCA), I believe that the Japanese management can perhaps outperform a management style that is rooted on pure economic logic.

By incorporating Ki into our daily activities, I hope that everyone’s business lives and activities become more fulfilling. Traditional Japanese cultivated Ki and brought Ki into their activities through physical intuition. Through our awareness of Ki, I believe that we can live happier and healthier.

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