Becoming a thief

August 10, 2016

In budo practice, one must learn to become a thief.

Not a beginner, but experienced student. The beginner is still purely absorbing methods and learning various goals. Through experience, the beginner (hopefully) develops the ability to judge those various methods and results. Learning to be a thief means that student also develops the ability to regulate his own critical judgment and non-judgmental acceptance. That is, the student can discern whether something that others claim to be valuable may not, in fact, be so; the individual person judges whether the proclaimed or acknowledged value of something is truly as high or low (or ignored) as is they are told.

The thief must be deliberate. He observes his target and its owner. He considers how much time and effort it will take to steal the thing. He considers whether he will use the thing in the same way as the owner, and accordingly, whether it will have the same value to him as it does to the owner. If possible, he observes other similar targets – are they of higher quality? and will he have the opportunity to steal from a higher quality target? If not, he needs to be clever and extrapolate what a higher quality target is like, compared to the one he is able to actually steal.

The above is largely about judgment. There is a second component:

There is a potential distraction. The owner may be telling you how to take the thing from him i.e., the teacher may be teaching. But it’s possible that that method that they are putting forth is not the most suitable way to get it into your body and mind. You yourself have to figure that out  – probably first and foremost. That ability is your ability to steal other things from other teachers. It’s like the straw with which you suck in the good nectar. When the teachers teach you, “Their instructions are based on their own paths, their own lifetimes of building understandings”. To understand their teachings, you unavoidably have to do some translation. What they mean. Where they’re coming from. Like learning language, if you are forever translating in order to understand what someone says, you are stuck at a stage of not making that language your own. There needs to be a flipping back and forth between translating and saying to yourself, “This is the gist of the message”, with less and less translating and more and more “This”.

When a student goes back to his home dojo, he experiments on how to achieve the same results as the original owner. He uses that which the owner gave him, as well as what which he himself has accumulated thus far. Again, back to the crucial component of judgment: some people do not exercise that judgment and are instead simply greedy and ignorant. They try to steal that which doesn’t suit them at that point in time. Because it doesn’t suit them, they cannot achieve the same results as the original owner. If they are properly clever, they will put that original target away in the back of their mind to steal later. In the meantime, they will steal other “nuggets” to throw into their pile. As that pile grows bigger, each theft becomes easier and easier.

Stealing is essential. You almost have to want to steal something. Otherwise you need to do the whole process by yourself, of finding some need that must be fulfilled, figuring out what skill you need to fulfill it, and then figuring out how to get that skill. (This may be the way of stark survival. Even then, you’d have to just hope to be lucky enough that another potential opponent has not figured out some skill before you have.) Keeping an open mind toward others means you will learn of needs before encountering them yourself, and you will encounter skills that will not only fulfill needs but open your eyes to other areas of study and other ways of looking at things.

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Be scientific

August 10, 2016

In the pursuit of aikido, one must be very scientific.

First and foremost, a student must be observing and noticing. They should always be thinking, did I really see what I thought I saw just now? There can always be more detail and other perspectives. There should be a sense of curiosity and wonderment, particularly when presented with something one cannot do oneself. Observing may be as straightforward as observing what the teacher is putting on the “main stage”. It is more interesting when one also observes all the subtler things, such as how the main stage is being set up and what’s happening on the lesser stages. Observation should of course be with the eyes and the body, but also viscerally. When one is watching other students take uke for the teacher, one should strive to imagine how one would feel in the other students’ place. Thus, even in the observation stage, imagination has an important function.

The second piece is intellectual smarts and imagination/creativity. The observations open the way to action. In order to make any change toward progress, the student must formulate hypotheses and carry out experiments around those hypotheses. If a student is unthinking, then they are just going through the motions with no purpose i.e., they are performing the experiment as the teacher shows, but noticing or monitoring nothing, nor answering any questions. Formulating hypotheses and thinking of experiments both require imagination and creativity. Discipline is also important as a student must continue performing the experiments and not simply give up or neglect them because they are not as interesting as they were in the first few minutes. The initial interest should be connected with a drive to actually find out – being  committed to finding out.

Having intellectual intelligence is important also because one must discern the variables at work. They are often extremely difficult to see in real time and rarely completely duplicated. Creativity is crucial here, too, to extrapolate what happened was because this or that variable was different, same, etc. All of this needs to be on an intuitive, not intellectual, level – it is just too much to know with one’s head. Knowing with one’s head comes after knowing intuitively/with the body. Even if the same two people replicated every interaction perfectly, there is such a variety of people in aikido that the learning curve is steep. However, learning from and making use of observation is very important.

Discipline was mentioned earlier. Discipline is also important because one cannot perform endless experiments and gather mountains of data. Discipline is necessary to do some minimum amount of experimentation, but it also controls you from doing too much. In many cases, you will have to go forward without 100% reassuring evidence. In fact, you’ll need discipline to always keep your eyes peeled for further data on a previously started study – the data keeps popping up everywhere, unexpectedly.

The noticing/attentiveness is important later in the game, too. Even when you think you have a grasp of something, you should always be on the lookout for any contradictory or inexplicable evidence. If you can notice that and reconcile it with your existing grasp, then your existing grasp will only deepen.


Intensity and Sincerity

July 1, 2016

Aikido practice is very cooperative. We have both partners who know what end result is trying to be realized. They know what the starting conditions are (e.g., a grab, a strike). Even then, what exactly is supposed to happen is fuzzy, especially during the technique. Mostly people tend to find some “safe” area to agree to work within. However, the myriad understandings of what is supposed to happen means that there are just as many ways that one might think to take it out of the “safe” zone and be more sincere or intense.

There is the ‘uke’ doing the initial attack strongly or fast in a way that eliminates the possibility for responsiveness. There is also the ‘uke’ breaking contact and/or decreasing engagement during the technique. The ‘uke’ person does various things to thwart the end result(s) and ‘tori’ is expected to a) continue to try to execute a technique or b) execute various evasive actions and maintain some control of self and situation. Supposedly this way of doing ‘uke’ makes the practice more intense because ‘tori’ must deal with various unpredictable actions by ‘uke’ and is under more pressure to be in complete control of ‘uke’.

In very small amounts, I believe this kind of practice may be eye-opening. It may show ‘tori’ how little control he has and how much he normally depends on uke’s cooperation. The downside is, the interaction between the partners is inherently decreased. This makes for a shallower practice. Furthermore, establishing some form of connection and consequently more interaction is something that the stronger and more aggressive person can do. That is, that person can grab on to the ‘uke’ or counterattack more. This makes the practice better suited to certain physiques and temperaments. Another piece that makes this “intense” is often speed. Unfortunately, speed is not truly a big problem and more meaningless still when the action is more-or-less predecided. In all of the above cases, the ‘uke’ is mostly taking away any need for ‘tori’ to do anything. It only looks “intense” when ‘tori’ tries and continues to try to do anything, as it isn’t appropriate to the situation anymore. And from what I’ve seen, ‘uke”s priority seems to be more about self-preservation than hitting ‘tori’.

Personally, I would consider two kinds of practice to be “intense”.

First is a variation on the breaking contact/decreasing engagement scenario above. The crucial caveat would be for ‘uke’ to be very discriminating about when it is opportune to do so. Oftentimes, there are many instances in which a) ‘uke’ is just running away or b) ‘uke’ is oblivious to their own openings, in part thanks to ‘tori’ being busy trying to execute a technique and not hitting ‘uke’. I think that including the possibility of ‘uke’ not cooperating at any point during the technique increases the intensity and necessary concentration of both partners.

Second is practice in which you give and receive from each other all your power. As ‘uke’, you place yourself where ‘tori’ can throw your center as optimally hard as he can while absorbing his power with your center as much as you can. When attacking/during the technique, ‘uke’ maintains some muscular tension all throughout while always moving in accordance with ‘tori’, not in some other direction nor too late or early. This practice is not restricted to both partners being of similar physical build and mutually interested in youthfully vigorous practice.) That is, there are adjustments made to be appropriate for each partner’s limitations of power and endurance.

At this time, I’m mostly inclined to view “serious” practice as more appealing than “intense” or extraordinarily “sincere” practice. I try to make this the norm as best as I can. While working to keep the engagement continuous, respecting and accepting the natural ebbs and flows, not forgiving ‘uke’ opportunity to break connection with any advantage, and being fully “available” to any kind of adaptation in the moment.


How Hard You Work

June 30, 2016

Aricle: Nobody Cares How Hard You Work

Admittedly I have a stereotype of a small town, machi dojo-type of mindset by which one is no longer seeking, no longer amazed, no longer noticing much anymore. This person sees things in very plain, bare terms. Their reaction to good technique is, “Oh, that was very strong/fast”, even when they directly experience it. That is, although the technique is good and not reliant on strength or speed, the person receiving it only perceives and makes sense of it as such. In my experience, this interpretation is backed up by their comments about my physicality or age – basically attributing the technique to youthful vigor or roughness – and responding by starting to do muscular, forced things. (I even recall one person who reacted very violently, apparently thinking it was some unfair trickery that he fell down so unexpectedly. I thought it was unfortunate that he felt no amazement or wonder that it happened so effortlessly.)

So there’s this correlation that many people make between exertion and results that they can recognize. If you achieve the results without exertion, they don’t acknowledge that the results are very good (or they presume you’ve made the kind of effort they recognize). If they see you exert effort, they may acknowledge that whatever you’ve achieved is good.

Psychologists have long noticed what’s sometimes been called the “labor illusion:” when it comes to judging other people’s work, we might say we’re focused only on whether they did the job quickly and well—but really we want to feel they wore themselves out for us.

The behavioral economist Dan Ariely tells the story of a locksmith, who, as he got better at his work, started getting fewer tips, and more complaints about his prices. Each job took him so little time or effort that customers felt cheated—even though, pretty obviously, being super-fast is an asset in a locksmith, not a fault.

This would be no more than an intriguing quirk of consumer behavior—if it weren’t for the fact that we apply the same twisted standards to ourselves. Call it the “Effort Trap:” it’s dangerously easy to feel as though a 10-hour day spent plowing through your inbox, or catching up on calls, was much more worthwhile than two hours spent in deep concentration on hard thinking, followed by a leisurely afternoon off.

Of course, this is easy to see in people who correlate a “good” aikido practice session with breaking a good sweat. They seem to acknowledge themselves and other people as doing “good” practice if their effort is sweaty and visible.

I also notice there is a super-cerebral, intellectual equivalent. In this case, the people stand around hyper-analyzing and striving to study some kind of ideal principle. Paradoxically, they never strive to do it easily or casually. This is, when left to their own devices in a general class, they do not incorporate this ideal principle study. It’s as if they only try to do it when they’re trying hard to study it.

Then there’s the peculiar aikido phenomenon around the partner who is difficult to throw. Some of us can make the distinction between a partner who is difficult because they are “solid”, or “aiki-heavy” or because they are behaving in a way that is thwarting you. Many people, however, cannot make this distinction. Consequently, what they experience is someone who is initially throwing them around easily but to whom they cannot do the same; perceiving a discrepancy, they try to equalize it by making it difficult for the other person. Whether this is an effort to make the other person require effort or to distress or otherwise emotionally challenge the other person (I suspect it’s the latter), it is not clear and ultimately unconstructive and wasteful.

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“Yoyuu (余裕)” is a Japanese word that is difficult to translate into English. It means, ease, freedom, having a wide margin, plenty of time, space, energy, etc. – the opposite of needing to work hard, be pressed for time, have no time to breathe, etc.

In aikido, I think that we strive to achieve ‘yoyuu’ in our technique and interaction with our partners. This is deceptively difficult regarding ‘uke’. When one is ‘tori’, the objective at the beginning, middle, and end of the interaction is relatively concrete and clear. However, when one is ‘uke’, the objective at the beginning is somewhat clear (e.g., someone can strike but vary how hard), and the end is prescribed but often disagreed upon (i.e., the prescribed end is to fall down, but it’s acceptable to make it hard for ‘tori’ to achieve this and at times make ‘tori’ fail).

When ‘tori’ is executing technique with ease (‘yoyuu’), an egotistical uke changes what they are doing – they react and no longer straightforwardly accept what the ‘tori’ gives, no longer give ‘tori’ the continued energy of the attack and subsequent response. At best, without being egotistical, the reaction of ‘uke’ should be inquisitive (“Was I being complacent? Is that why the other person is having such an easy time?”) and increase the intensity of the attack and response during the technique/interaction while taking care not to interfere with what ‘tori’ is giving in the interaction. This is most difficult, even contradictory, for a person who believes that being a good, challenging partner to ‘tori’ is by being interfering and thwarting.

When one is striving to achieve more ‘yoyuu’ as ‘uke’, there are many factors to consider, and consider continually in the moment to moment interaction with partner as well as in the context of one’s very conception of what ‘uke’ should be doing. There are many ways in which one can make the interaction easy for oneself.

One can “loosen” one’s attack, or energy extending to ‘tori’. One can do this by staying loose from start to end. One can also do this in the midst of the interaction/technique.

One can “loosen” one’s energy striving to maintain equilibrium. Instead of like a tightly wound spring returning to standing, one may return to standing at a different pace or, possibly more confoundingly, by further loosening the energy extending to the partner.

Which brings me to the next point, the conception of what ‘uke’ should be doing. Regarding the point above about returning to equilibrium, the “normal” thing for uke to do would be to return to standing in a way that continues the initial attack, or extension into ‘tori’. This means that ‘uke’ does not change to another attack, nor back away, re-group, then attack again. ‘Uke’ should be continually trying to return to the initial state of attacking, or extending into ‘tori’. In this sense, ‘uke’ is a bit mindless or single-minded. (The caveat is that this is “normal” practice, and something that a person can, of course, deviate from if one has ‘yoyuu’.)

How to achieve more ‘yoyuu’ relative to the initial attack, or state? I think one has to deepen one’s grasp of “intensity”. In the beginning, “intense” means “harder, faster, stronger, more ferocious, etc.” Accordingly, if the person is not attacking ferociously, a person with shallow understanding may perceive that as an un-intense attack. (Occasionally one may be fortunate enough to encounter a person of such a high level that they attack in a way that is very overwhelming but lacking in the “harder, faster, etc.” qualities.) An attack with more ‘yoyuu’ is one in which the attacker has little tension to achieve a proportionally significant result. The result of a grab may be that the ‘uke”s entire body is involved in the grab, but with little tension. This involvement, or “extending into ‘tori'” mentioned above, is very difficult to describe in words.

How to achieve more ‘yoyuu’ in the midst and end of the interaction? The physical intensity of the impact of a strike, or any initial contact, has very little to do with this – in fact, that intensity should largely disappear, rather than continuing to press. (Any lingering should not be in excess – it’s acceptable if it’s mindfully for the purpose of being consistent in one’s role.) Engaging with the whole body, yet without tension, the ‘uke’ can a) know what the ‘tori’ is doing to him, b) be able to absorb any discrepancy (e.g., ‘tori’ moves too fast and away but ‘uke’ can keep up, ‘tori’ moves toward ‘uke’ but ‘uke’ can absorb that movement), and c) be able to respond by repositioning, using the feet. The contact with ‘tori’ reveals so much of ‘tori’ – ‘uke”s ‘yoyuu’ comes from sensing. Together with a lack of tension and responsiveness, ‘uke’ could be said to truly practicing martial arts.

The above has to do with ‘uke’ dealing with what ‘tori’ throws at him. However it’s relatively easy to preserve oneself and one’s balance, equilibrium, etc. if one is not attacking. The other key aspect is what ‘uke’ throws at ‘tori’ – that is, the attack, or more accurately, always attacking, encroaching on ‘tori’, and filling the openings. It is eliminating the gaps between self and ‘tori’ and sensing when ‘tori’ is weak / oneself is strong. As long as there is no/little gap, ‘uke’ can explore lighter and lighter physical contact. When ‘uke’ is not attacking and only preserving himself, there is definitely a gap; there is no danger to ‘tori’ of being upset or controlled by ‘uke’. The less physical contact needed, the less tension there is while the engagement of ‘uke’ is with more and more of his body. This key aspect is not directly about ‘uke’ creating ‘yoyuu’ for himself, but indirectly, by keeping ‘tori’ on his toes, ‘uke’ may have an easier time.

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The way that I know of to work on the first piece is to take lots of ‘uke’ for high-level people who are throwing you hard / unleashing everything they have on you. High-level means they are skilled and are not simply overpowering you like a freight train – they are working together with your power. If they are overpowering you and there is a disconnect between what you each are giving and receiving, then you are not learning the interaction. High-level means that they are working with you, not against you, so you can also experience trust and safety/reassurance. This allows you to decrease your mental/emotional tension at the same time as your physical tension. Taking lots of ‘uke’ and figuring out how to receive more and more of the power of the ‘tori”s technique will increase your ‘yoyuu’ for what you can handle.


Center Power

June 30, 2016

Center. Hara. Aiki-heaviness. These days, I’m thinking they are all the same thing. How do you develop it? I don’t think it’s by doing aikido technique as ‘tori’, regardless of imagining that you’re doing it from your center. I think, as related to ‘normal’ aikido practice anyway, it has a lot to do with dealing with a lot of full-body, from-the-center power, and this means it is done as ‘uke’, specifically receiving it from partners who are skilled at sending power to your center.

Part of the reason one does not develop this in the ‘tori’ role is because it is rare to receive so much power from ‘uke’ that you might be overwhelmed and need to receive/connect that power with your center. ‘Uke’ would have to be quite skilled and be attacking and responding during the technique in a way that is on the brink of overwhelming ‘tori’ while still allowing ‘tori’ to perform the technique, which means to be overcome. This is inherently difficult.

Closely related to the above, ‘tori’ only is subject to not being able to execute the technique. There is usually no risk of the ‘tori’ being overwhelmed or toppled. That is, there is not so much for ‘tori’ to need to receive. For ‘uke to access ‘tori”s center while in the various, contorted positions is difficult. Basically, it would be “doing aiki” while physically appearing to go through the motions of ‘uke’.

I think that the “aikido way” of developing center is by receiving a lot of center power from a skilled ‘tori’. First, the type of power is not simply “arm power” or athletic power. Second, it is the skilled ‘tori’ who can access ‘uke”s center. Lastly, as ‘uke’, the objective is about receiving power, not necessarily overcoming the other person. Receiving and reconciling power.

There is one more component, which I believe comes after the stage when a person can properly and safely take a lot of high-level ‘uke’. Without this component, a person may appear to be a very good ‘uke’, but at this stage 1) it’s still only about receiving and giving power at a bare minimum and 2) ‘uke’ does not generate, or give out’ much power i.e., they only give out enough power for ‘tori’ to manipulate; ‘tori’ is never at any kind of risk. The component in question is to continually attack and fill the space of ‘tori’ while having less and less tension. The difficulty is that this must be done while still being manipulated by ‘tori’ and allowing the ebbs and flows, and changes in direction in a regular technique to flow. When a person can attack and threaten ‘tori’ but ‘tori’ can still manage, then that ‘uke’ is developing center that is both giving and receiving, is soft yet centrally solid, and mobile and responsive and not wedded to a narrow range of manifestations/actions/patterns.


Shot-in-the-dark Mentality

June 29, 2016

There’s a particular phenomenon I’ve experienced in a tori/uke interaction. Figuratively speaking, the other person is talking to me and they seem to be on the hunt for something (e.g., something I know, something I am keeping secret, etc.) and so in the conversation, the other person is so intent on making me give up that something that they are no longer really listening to me. At times, I’ve even tried to give up that something to them, but it seems that they are looking for it in a very particular way, like a kind of “aha!” discovery.

From having done this myself as ‘tori’, what is happening is I see the situation/partner, take a kind of mental snapshot, and “launch” a particular action. Part of the problem is that during the “launch”, I’ve stopped ‘seeing’ the situation, which is changing moment to moment. Almost certainly and I was never ‘seeing’ sufficiently well to begin with. The inherent characteristic of a human to human interaction is reconciling the moment to moment differences.

There is a more fundamental aspect underlying this problem, this ‘launching’ or ‘shooting’ approach – that I thought this approach would work well at all. That is, the situation is most definitely more complex and continually evolving, certainly more than any teaching from the instructor could ever capture. The execution of whatever is being done is also sure to be complex. However, it’s as if the person assesses the terrain and the target, they set up their gun on some kind of stand, they point their gun at that target, they step back, and then they pull some remote trigger. They remove themselves from the equation, ignoring the fact that it’s a relationship. So this approach ignores the relationship and oversimplifies the technique being taught.

The implication of oversimplifying the technique/teaching is, not only is the understanding of the technique too shallow, it neglects the responsibility for figuring out the actual complexities of the teaching. The person may be trusting what their teacher has taught (or their grasp of it, anyway) and simply doing that. It’s like they never even aim the gun themselves – they just aim the gun where their instructor said to aim it. Or they trust some incomplete understanding they have of the technique/teaching, and execute it with little in-the-moment concentration or awareness. Either way, they cannot make corrections because they are not paying attention to the result as it occurs.

The consequence of ignoring your part in the relationship overlaps with the above, in that you don’t notice your in-the-moment changes and the effects on the partner. You may be taking aim up to a certain point, but after that, you stop aiming (i.e., dissociate) and “just” pull the trigger.

This approach also puts yourself in a maladaptive trap of time. The instant you actually fire the gun may feel very brief and instantaneous. The common antidote to this for shooting is to exhale long and slow, and “squeeze” rather than “pull” or “yank” the trigger. This antidote makes you slow down something that you, as a beginner, misapprehend as quick.

In aikido technique there is a wide variety of timing, tempo, rhythm, texture, etc. One action may not go exactly the same with another person or even with the same person another time. As a person who must do action in a situation I can’t possibly know ahead of time, how to be? The simple answer is to be continually sensing and able to adapt and adjust. The practice, then, must include noticing when you stop sensing and to develop an integrated, singular mind and body that can adapt to the moment-by-moment situation (as contrasted from developing quick reflexes to adapt or developing some particular “menu” of adaptation strategies to handle all situations). To be, not do.


Grasp of meaning and value

June 21, 2016

Recently, yet again, I came across an internet thread of reactions to aikido. I would say it was extremely American in that there seemed to be so much energy around the point of whether aikido was valid / worthwhile or not. This article came to mind: How Different Cultures Understand Time

For Americans, time is valuable and something that one does not want to waste. One wants time spent to be clearly meaningful and producing known results. This presents a very unappetizing view of aikido then, with all its ritualistic and symbolic meaning, and inevident results.

Why bow in at the start of class? Why begin class slowly? Why bother with all the etiquette? The American student who accepts all of this early on might say to himself, “Ah, this is meditation. This is practicing mindfulness. This is all to make me a better person.” They may even think, “This is the tradition and I should respect it.”

Why practice so many technical things that are not evidently relevant? Why grab wrists? Why practice receiving techniques and falling down? The American student who accepts these might say, “This is the tradition and I should respect it.” “This is teaching me a different aspect of relevance i.e., martial application.” They may even think, “These seemingly irrelevant technical details actually contain hidden, relevant details. E.g., a shomen-uchi is a straight punch, a grab is someone trying to control your arm, etc.” The student who accepts all these things that evoke doubt in others is likely framing or rationalizing them, changing his own bias about them. The one who remains doubtful and dismissive simply does not take the same leap of faith.

Regarding grading examinations, the Japanese student may view it as a milestone that simply comes along at a certain time. One’s ability doesn’t have much to do with it. One does not make it earlier or delay it because it’s not about one’s level at that point in time.

Regarding technical effectiveness, the Japanese student may be more concerned with, is the partner alright with what I’m doing? Am I doing what the teacher and the rest of the group are doing? Am I giving the partner what they expect? The properness and following the procedure of an aikido practice session is more important than whether you, the individual, are benefitting from it.

Many experienced American aikido practitioners will be able to speak positively about the concerns so often expressed in internet threads.

Why spend time and energy doing the falling down role of uke? “Because receiving technique is how you learn how the technique can / should / shouldn’t be given”, “Because it’s a good way to learn how to reconcile and accept power”, “Because it’s a good way to stop thinking and just accept while still interacting with the other person”, and “Because falling down safely is a valuable skill”.

Why spend time and energy practicing all these technically irrelevant, useless things? “Because you discover how they actually are relevant”, “Because practicing them makes you better able to move and use your body”, “Because they’re safer and easy on your body”.

The dilemma of how to market aikido to various peoples…

How Different Cultures Understand Time

Linear Time
Let us begin with the American concept of time, for theirs is the most expensive, as anyone who has had to deal with American doctors, dentists or lawyers will tell you.

For an American, time is truly money. In a profit-oriented society, time is a precious, even scarce, commodity. It flows fast, like a mountain river in the spring, and if you want to benefit from its passing, you have to move fast with it. Americans are people of action; they cannot bear to be idle. The past is over, but the present you can seize, parcel and package and make it work for you in the immediate future.

… prefer to do only one thing at a time, to concentrate on it and do it within a fixed schedule. They think that in this way they get more things done — and more efficiently. Furthermore, being imbued with the Protestant work ethic, they equate working time with success: the harder you work — the more hours, that is — the more successful you will be and the more money you will make.

In some Eastern cultures … time is viewed neither as linear nor event–relationship related, but as cyclic. Each day the sun rises and sets, the seasons follow one another, the heavenly bodies revolve around us, people grow old and die, but their children reconstitute the process. We know this cycle has gone on for 100,000 years and more. Cyclical time is not a scarce commodity. There seems always to be an unlimited supply of it just around the next bend.

It’s not surprising, then, that business decisions are arrived at in a different way from in the West. Westerners often expect an Asian to make a quick decision or to treat a current deal on its present merits, irrespective of what has happened in the past.

Americans see time passing without decisions being made or actions performed as having been “wasted.” Asians do not see time as racing away unutilized in a linear future, but coming around again in a circle, where the same opportunities, risks and dangers will re- present themselves when people are so many days, weeks or months wiser.

[There is] a meticulous, resolute manner in which the Japanese segment time. This segmentation does not follow the American or German pattern, where tasks are assigned in a logical sequence aimed at maximum efficiency and speed in implementation. The Japanese are more concerned not with how long something takes to happen, but with how time is divided up in the interests of properness, courtesy and tradition.

The American or Northern European has a natural tendency to make a quick approach to the heart of things. The Japanese, in direct contrast, must experience an unfolding or unwrapping of the significant phases of the event. It has to do with Asian indirectness, but in Japan it also involves love of compartmentalization of procedure, of tradition, of the beauty of ritual.

To summarize, when dealing with the Japanese, you can assume that they will be generous in their allocation of time to you or your particular transaction.