|Martial Application in Today’s World
(Sun Tzu and Wall Street)
Nothing makes me roll my eyes as abruptly as hearing some pompous, corporate fat-cat explain to me what The Art of War
“really means”. I think things really got out of hand after the movie Wall Street came out, in which the mighty Gordon Gecko
used Sun Tzu’s text to educate Bud Fox on the cut-throat business of insider trading in the world of commerce. Michael
Douglas’ fictional character is not alone… stroll into any large book store and you can find several translations of this
ancient text, and at least half of them will contain sidebars to translate these battle strategies into how you can be a better
corporate tactician. Want to read something funny? Look at some of those translator’s credentials. Many of them have
impressive business degrees and a philosophy class or two… but have never stepped onto a mat much less into street or
“A-hem… clearly what Son Zoo was saying about an enemy of superior number can be associated with this business’s
negative yield variant, shown here in this pie chart. We will increase our profits by using Kai-zen practices, which comes
from the Latin word: ‘jalapeño’…”
Sun Tzu was a military genius. And while I’m sure that if he were alive today, he would be able to effectively negotiate the
price of a new Ford… but that wasn’t what he was addressing when he wrote his timeless strategic text. I think he’d be
more than a little pissed off to see his writings translated by Mr. Ima Dodo, Attorney at Law.
But enough of my scoffing at the rich and stupid. If properly studied, the martial arts can in fact provide one with a multitude
of useful tools in 21st century America. There’s a trick though, you have to stick with it. The best things the arts teach us are
not the superficial ones. When one learns to be skilled and dangerous, yet conducts himself with humility and execute with
moderation… one understands these things on levels that transpire combat. When one senses when to use Yin energy as
opposed to Yang energy, or rather to use tact rather than force… one will do so not only in training but also in negotiating
with employees or mediating an argument between ones own children. Ponder these instances and usually you’ll find
situations that have combat principles that parallel them. I find that as I contemplate these things, one word seems to be an
inescapable truth: one must have balance. It’s my favorite word in the whole, wide world.
Similarly, evaluate those around you that you might consider less-than-capable leaders and there, too you’ll find martial
metaphors. The overbearing boss that bellows out orders without thinking of consequence equals the fighter who ducks his
head and charges in each and every time. Apply what you know will defeat the fighter to your strategies in defending your
position against Boss Hogg, and 9 times out of 10 you’ll come out ahead of him. For the coworker that is weak and
compromises the future of those around him, think like a general. Place this person’s responsibilities in such a manner that
they can be cultivated, or at least in a position that the risk is nominal. If that person is an obvious liability, cut your loss.
Path of least resistance, economy of motion, kill shot… they are all the same on some level. For those of us who are
destined to lead in one form or another, eventually the reality of true combat may in fact become the reality of a Thursday
morning meeting that decides the fate of an underachiever. Go “cold”, be “reptilian”, make the hard decisions because you
are now out of options.
A martial artist can apply the lessons and philosophy of combat to business. A soldier would do the same with his training.
Making decisions in how a person runs his business probably are in sync with how that person manages their life at home.
A factory employee will apply his work ethic to his martial training. If that worker is committed to his task, and puts out a
quality product, he’ll probably be a decent marital artist simply because he has the right values. Balance begets success
and happiness; misdirection and improper attitude are ingredients to failure. I’m sure it’s no coincidence that some of the
worst martial artists I know are also some of the most bitter and unhappy people I know as well. Having skills does not
make a person a good martial artist. Suddenly, connections start making sense:
“Life” = “Balance” = “Training” = “Martial Heart” =”Happiness”
Or maybe this one:
Sun Tzu + Tony Soprano + Cliff Claven + Foghorn Leghorn = Vincent
(Substitute any of the above ingredients with Andrew Dice Clay or Homer Simpson)
Both equations make me smile. So does the thought of Sun Tzu in an Armani suit, driving a Lexus, and playing golf. (No
offense to you Armani suit-wearing, Lexus-driving, golf-playing folks who read the Cliff notes to The Art of War…)
Best wishes in your Martial Journey,