American expat Brent Hire has successfully founded a school in Amsterdam to teach traditional Japanese martial arts. We ask him about his driving passion for the martial arts and why training in the martial arts is beneficial for business.
Could you tell us about your background and what brought you to The Netherlands?
I grew up in Colorado and went to school in California. While studying at UC Berkeley, I took advantage of the study abroad program to attend universities in Germany. At graduation, I was recruited to work at a high tech start-up in Amsterdam that specialised in interactive television.
I have always had a passion for the Japanese martial arts. I have been training and teaching Jujutsu, Aikido and Shinkendo (Japanese swordsmanship) since 1988. I was eager to come to Europe because my martial arts Sensei (instructor) wanted me to help found and develop his organisation in Europe. I saw this as a great opportunity to found a European Federation of schools committed to leadership, collaboration and self-development.
How did you come to teach martial arts as a full time job?
After the dotcom bust one after another of the companies I was working for went bankrupt. I was faced with the challenging decision to either return home to the US or try my hand at making an enduring new life for myself here in Europe.
There were still job opportunities in the IT industry in Holland, but I was excited by the prospects of going into business for myself and put my full weight behind the vision to create a European Foundation of Martial Arts Schools. I had already opened a martial arts school in Amsterdam, which served as our headquarters.
My school in Amsterdam, the Shinbukan Dojo (school of true martial valor), will celebrate its 10 year anniversary next month. The strength of our community is due to the constructive, encouraging and motivating energy that the students bring to the process. A core group of members have been with me for several years now and many have become instructors in their own right. All of them share a feeling of responsibility and dedication to the community and the learning centre that we have created together.
I speak English, German, Dutch and some Japanese, but most of the classes are taught in English. Due to the many international professional colleagues I have and the multicultural make-up of Amsterdam, a significant portion of our students are expats or exchange students.
In my opinion this means that our dojo (training hall) provides an excellent environment for people to explore the positive values of traditional martial arts within the framework of a diverse and supportive social community. I have seen people’s lives transformed through their training in martial arts and through their involvement with a passionate like-minded community. I am proud to be a part of this change and enjoy knowing that I have made a difference in people’s lives.
How have martial arts come to be so important for you?
It is important to take note that martial arts have something to offer that is far more important than just learning to fight, the oft sighted aspects of self-defense, or even mere physical exercise. These aspects of training are naturally very important, however, many people are not initially aware of the further reaching and essentially more profound significance that this kind of training can have in one’s life.
We define the martial arts as an art form precisely because they encapsulate essential and fundamental principles that allow for the development, transformation and transcendence of the individual and the community in which they live. In short the martial arts provide a path to maximise your individual potential and your potential within society. The traditional martial arts have a very long history as an art form and as a way of life. These days we are not busy using our skills to make war but the archetype of the warrior is still very important and the knowledge and training that is imparted more useful than ever.
The archetype of the warrior is ‘integrity, loyalty, sincerity, service, honor and justice’. Being a warrior means staying true to your path even when that path becomes difficult or in the face of seemingly overwhelming odds. The martial arts teach one what it means to be a warrior in modern life.
Conflict and the act of engagement are common to life and how we approach and choose to deal with conflict defines our character. In today’s society conflict comes in all forms whether physical, verbal, mental or emotional, and in all places whether at home, school, in the workplace, local community or globally. Too often we respond to conflict in ineffective and reactionary manners because we aren’t able to take advantage of all of the options available to us. We might have a hard time staying centered because we are overwhelmed by our own emotional reaction to an attack. Even worse, we may misconstrue a passionate or animated communication as an attack, because we project too much of our own intention into the message of our potentially innocent opponent.
Training in the martial arts teaches us how to stay centered, balanced and unattached to the fear of loss or the thirst of winning. This great ability allows us to focus on the matter at hand more clearly and use our strengths at full capacity. Martial arts teach us how to nurture and develop our own innate talents and skills beyond our perceived limits.
What is the connection between martial arts and the world of business?
The application of ethics, problem solving, conflict resolution and negotiation are all things that are directly related to conflict. Conflict is the sphere and the forte of the warrior. Sometimes working in a peaceful manner, other times in an assertive or even aggressive manner, the business person is the epitome of the modern warrior. The arts of war and the world of strategy and conflict relate directly to the skills required of the modern business person.
KPMG business seminars
I feel very lucky to have the opportunity to provide seminars for businesses and corporations relating to ethical business, corporate governance, strategy, conflict resolution and negotiation. I am most passionate about teaching business people techniques that can enhance and often greatly improve their individual and team performance levels.
Please feel free to come by our school for a cup of tea if you would like to watch one of our trainings or learn more about the martial arts. Everyone is welcome.