Monday, September 22, 2014


The Misuse of The Samurai Game®
In An Industry That Wasn’t Intended To Be An Industry

This posting addresses things from my back yard, the world of experiential seminars, particularly The Samurai Game® (TSG), a simulation created and scripted by George Leonard in 1977, and holding US copyright #TXu1-626-797.

The mid-1960’s ushered in an enticing renaissance of thought and transformation. The term that describes the period was actually coined by George Leonard as The Human Potential Movement (HPM).  As editor for Look Magazine he swept across the US interviewing psychiatrists and philosophers to research human potential.  The research showed consensus: human beings use less than 10% of their mental capacities.

By the early 1970’s four seminar organizations - EST, PSI, LifeSpring and Actualizations – sprung up and began spreading HPM ideals: present mindedness, self-awareness, self-reflection, deep listening, relaxation, focused concentration, the power of the imagination, monism, techniques for tapping altered states of consciousness, win-win philosophies, the intuition, the need for making and keeping agreements, renewal … all in the name of successful living.  All would be spun off by seminar leaders or students to form scores of like organizations around the world. Some were obvious copycats; others appeared to be different.  Many became larger and more affluent than their parent companies.  The “spinning off” continues. 

George Leonard first called his simulation of 1977 “The Samurai War Game”.  Later he dropped “war” from the title.  My guess: the word “war” would more dissuade than persuade participant involvement.  Factually TSG doesn’t promote war.  It awakens people to the cost and waste of habitual conflict, with war being the supreme example.  It encourages and promotes peaceful resolution to conflict.  George understood conflict and its ramifications: he fought in WWII and the Korean War; he practiced and taught Aikido and wrote extensively about it; as a journalist he went undercover to reveal the discontent, bigotry and hatred alive in America as the US Civil Rights Movement unfolded; he trekked the Iron Curtain to chronicle its impact as a divided Europe formed.  I believe that even his genes held an understanding.  He was a direct descendent of Aaron Burr, Revolutionary War figure and 3rd Vice President of the United States, made most famous by a pistol duel with Alexander Hamilton that left Burr alive and Hamilton dead.

EST, PSI, and LifeSpring found value in TSG and used it.  (As for Actualizations, I don’t know.)  EST signed production agreements in 1980 and included it in their “6 Day Course”.  PSI started using authorized TSG facilitators in 1991, including George himself, within the “Men’s Leadership Seminar” (MLS).  LifeSpring’s founder engaged George to deliver TSG at an internal corporate retreat arranged for seminar leaders (termed “trainers”) and company execs to foster personal growth.

Everyone knew TSG belonged to George.  He was a renowned author, journalist and editor.  He scripted the simulation – complete with preparations, guidelines, participant roles, etc.  His works are protected by copyright.  His background as a musician and with theater (Mountain Play Theater, Marin County) further grounded him in protections afforded to performances.  Moreover, all certified facilitators had/have to sign production agreements and pay royalties.

So far, so good? 
Well, for the most part, except that some seminar leaders and participants have taken TSG and with it have wandered afoul.  It didn’t happen overnight.  Shenanigans rarely do.  Like the Boiling Frog anecdote, unethical behaviors take root slowly: a wink here, a nod there, a “borrowing” without much thought about doing the right thing.  As the founder of PSI used to say, “The human mind can justify anything.”  After awhile errant behavior can become the norm, all with the appearance of permissibility and acceptability.  Integrity is pushed aside.  No one is the wiser, that is, until the shenanigans are revealed. 

What TSG’s authorized facilitators have been doing is great and well spoken to all over the world – far surpassing George Leonard’s original imaginings.  TSG is centered on the ancient Japanese code, Bushido, which extols virtues of service, honor, truthfulness, vigilance, valor, compassion, responsibility, accountability and courage.  Literally translated Bushido means “The Way of The Warrior”.  Consistent with the growing drumbeat of HPM, TSG was (and is) a great educational simulation.

Principles, like anything, take practice to embody and habitualize. Bushido isn’t rocket science.  Theft is not good Bushido.  Leaving open the door of your house does not make legal the actions of a passerby who walks inside to steal whatever he or she can find.  But the argument goes that leaving your door open can trigger the temptations.  Laziness, greed, and crafty ways of cutting corners are motivators and lucrative paths for some to do business.  People will say, “Oh that’s just the way business is.”  Really?  NO!  Some businessmen and businesswomen act without regard for ethic, but it’s NOT just the way business is.  There is NOTHING inherent in business that gives permission to unethical behavior.  Permissions like this are learned. They stem from tendencies and motivators.  Individuals are responsible for their actions.  We weaken the fiber of good business when we excuse bad behavior with that’s just the way business is. The formula called take, use, deny and profit becomes normal when people allow it to go un-checked.

Cutting to the chase. 
Some seminar leaders have been and are using, producing and facilitating TSG without permission.  And they are trying to get away with it.  When caught, most of them have denied what they’ve been doing, OR they’ve said, “Well, I’m not doing TSG.  I’m doing something else”.  But under examination we’ve found to the contrary. They changed some character names and added a few minor activities, and slapped on a different product name … and then claim it be “theirs”. [NOTE: copyright law protects all derivatives of an author’s work].  How does that modern interpretation from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet (Act II, Scene II) go - A rose by any other name is still a rose???  Hmmm.

Some regions in the world are prone to copyright knockoffs.  Word is that regions in Asia and south of the US border are “the wild west” when it comes to pirating intellectual property.  OK?  Nope … not OK.   Consider seminar leaders who once worked for the aforementioned organizations and knew that their parent companies, the public, corporate and university clients would not stand for plagiarism.  Why?  Because such activity undercuts and destroys the foundations of trust.  What’s the point of having a big sign plastered above your seminar stage so as to promote honest self-reflection by students regarding responsibilities in life – a sign that touts “What Am I Pretending Not To Know?” – if the seminar leader is not going to apply the sign and its standard to himself? 

In all fairness there are a lot of seminar leaders living abroad who hold firm to integrity and who engage rightly with TSG.  Many live in Poland, China, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Egypt, Russia, the UK, the Netherlands, Mexico and elsewhere.  They should be applauded.  So it’s not a regional thing.  Shenanigans happen here in the USA too.

A sad example.  James Arthur Ray - 2009. 
News outlets across America rushed to report Mr. Ray’s ill-fated program at Angel Valley Ranch near in Sedona, Arizona.  (See The Wall Street Journal) On October 8, 2009, three people died during a sweat lodge activity being led by Mr. Ray at his “Spiritual Warrior” retreat.  In prior years he starred on The Larry King Show (2006) and on The Oprah Windfrey Show (2007).  He was touted to be a kind of “spiritual guru”.   Did the “news industry” do their diligence, their homework?  Or was Mr. Ray good for the shows that really don’t address the news.  Did those attending his seminars do their diligence, their homework prior to attending?  Who stopped to think, “What am I getting into?”, or “What are this guy’s credentials?”   OR do people rush to partake of whatever is on the menu of the next “best” fad?   At “Spiritual Warrior” a sweat lodge experience was a major part of the program. Where was the training?  Where was the consideration given to cultural boundaries and sensitivities of Native American traditions?  Ray was never trained or authorized to use Dr. Stanislav Graf’s “Holotropic Breathwork”; but at “Spiritual Warrior” Ray used Graf’s work.  Where was the training?  Where were the permissions from Graf?  At “Spritual Warrior” Ray had been leading “the samurai game” for years, in fact a direct rip from TSG.  We didn’t know.  He never applied for training and was never certified to lead it.  We found out because a former “Spiritual Warrior” attendee boldly contacted us following the death of her friend that resulted from the October 8, 2009 sweat lodge activity.  She wanted to inform us that Ray’s activities included “the samurai game” and wondered if we knew. 

CNN streamed live online the courtroom drama of Mr. Ray’s wrongful homicide trial.  For weeks testimony was heard real-time around the globe.  As the trial started the jury never knew that Mr. Ray misused a Lakota tradition, but they knew he had used a sweat lodge experience.  The jury didn’t know he wasn’t trained in or approved to use Stan Graf’s material, but they knew he did strange breathing exercises.  The jury weren’t told the facts about facilitator training and copyright and certification involved with TSG, nor about the sound body of research and years of martial art training that form its foundations, but they knew Mr. Ray was doing “the samurai game”.  Testimony was given about its details (as morphed by him) and went on for days.

Lakota Native Americans were offended and appalled at the shadow cast on their traditions and religious practices by "The Spiritual Warrior" retreat.  They took Ray’s sweat lodge activities to be disrespectful of sacred rituals and customs.  According to some it broke laws and treaties between their Nation and the USA, and represented a bastardization of their religion.  They filed suite in federal court. 

Recent examples. 
In the mid-west USA a seminar company owner/facilitator (formerly a seminar leader for one of the three seminar organizations mentioned at the beginning of this article) has been conducting a thinly disguised modification of TSG.  We received notice about this in November 2011.  In 2013 he received a Cease & Desist letter when confirming reports from two prior attendees of his knockoffs that he led in Russia told us face-to-face (after attending a real TSG program) that he was doing “the exactly the same thing as TSG except using Native American theme and Native America participant names”.   Reports came from Spain that he had been doing it there as well.  The fellow blew off our C & D.  Then he was caught soliciting someone online after she had inquired where to find someone who could lead "The Samurai Game" in his neck of the woods; he said he could and he would.  Once confronted with his blatant claim he seemed to change his tune.  But to date his feet continue to drag when it comes to making good on promises to change his knockoff.

Now reports from numerous folks in Asia show that a colleague of his (again a former seminar leader from one of the three seminar organizations mentioned above) is also delivering an unauthorized TSG derivative veiled in a Native American theme - in Hong Kong and the China region.  Wow!

What’s with these guys?  What happened to their integrity and their understanding of respect?  Those two words are major topics in their seminars, aren’t they?  And what’s the deal with their regard for cultures different from theirs (i.e. the Lakota and other Native American Tribes) who hold rich traditions?  Do they think someone can just take stuff and do whatever they want with it?  Do they think integrity matters little to the audiences who attend their courses, and the volunteer staffs and the interns (future leaders) in training?  Do they think people will remain silent? Do they think people only involve themselves in this kind of work solely for money?  If so, they had better think again. 

At what point and for what price does one sell out on his or her integrity? 
Sometimes the courts of informed public opinion can more strongly influence outcomes than courts occupied by lawyers and juries.  The time is fast approaching for naming names.  Beyond reputation, we own very little in this life.

Watch out for shenanigans as The Human Potential Movement continues its slide into being just a Seminar Industry - an industry never intended to be.  Watch out for knock offs of The Samurai Game®.  If you find any TSG knockoffs let us know, and if you're brave enough, let the fakes know that you have done so.  We can be located along with the certified TSG facilitators here.  These are the only people authorized to facilitate and if necessary modify TSG – for valid reasons (safety and cultural/political sensitivity).

The power of any concept - including notions of doing the right thing – isn’t realized until action is taken. Action is required to transform a concept into a practice.  Then, and only then, can any concept make a difference.

Stay Alert!  Pay Attention!  Take Action!

© Lance Giroux, September 2014


Lance Giroux said...

"It is regrettable that those who steal TSG apparently did not gain anything from their own experience of it. I’m sorry to hear that these shenanigans continue. Still “there’s nothing like the real thing.” I hear and appreciate your core values and integrity!" - Jean Lewis Jacques, Esq.

Unknown said...

There is an estimate that disengaged employees cost the US between $450 and $550 billion dollars per year. With all this information about the impact of the disengaged employees you really don’t see or hear much about the Disengaged Leader (DL) or manager.
Coaching for Leadership