The Samurai Game® was invented in 1977 by author, WWII combat pilot, and human potential pioneer, George Leonard (author of Mastery, The Silent Pulse, The Ultimate Athlete, The Life We Are Given, Walking on the Edge of the World, The Way of Aikido: Life Lessons from an American Sensei, and six other books).
George was senior editor for Look Magazine, eventually becoming one of the most published writers for both Look and Esquire magazines.
Time magazine referred to George as “the Grandfather of the Human Potential Movement.” He created Leonard Energy Training (LET), co-founded Integral Transformative Practice International (ITPI) and was President Emeritus of Esalen Institute. Most human potential training organizations around the world find their roots in the work and writings of George Leonard.
In the 1970s, George began his study and practice of Aikido, a Japanese martial art, at that time relatively new to the United States. Aikido was founded by Morihei Ueshiba who was considered one of Japan’s greatest martial artists, and in 1968 he was proclaimed a Sacred National Treasure by the Japanese government. George co-founded the Aikido of Tamalpais dojo www.tam-aikido.org in Mill Valley, California, and after years of study and practice, attained the rank of 5th-degree black belt.
As a social philosopher, educator, and aikido instructor, George traveled extensively, teaching and lecturing on human potential, educational reform and promoting the art of Aikido as a means of personal and professional development and creating alternative responses to conflict.
Since 1977, tens of thousands of people have played The Samurai Game® around the world. It is considered by many to be one of the most intense, engaging, and powerful simulations available anywhere in the world.
The Samurai Game® is particularly valued as a way to cultivate awareness, resourcefulness, and decisiveness in situations marked by uncertainty, chaos, and unforeseeable difficulties.
In 2000, George retained Lance Giroux to serve him and the Leonard Family Trust worldwide as the Game’s sole facilitator training and certification representative. Lance codified facilitator training and began introducing the Game to schools universities, companies, and organizations. In this capacity, he extensively traveled to the USA, Mexico, Europe, Eastern Europe, SE Asia, Egypt, China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Australia to lead the Game and develop facilitators.
In 2010, George passed away. His wife, Annie died in 2011. With Annie’s passing Grayson James joined Giroux to become the only other official facilitator training and certification representative. Both Giroux and James are Aikido instructors and were trained by George to lead the Game.
Since 2011 James’ efforts have greatly enhanced facilitator training methodology and expanded facilitator growth even more around the globe. James is now the Trust’s sole training and certification representative for Samurai Game facilitators worldwide, Giroux having retired in 2020.
The purpose of The Samurai Game® is essentially to enable participants to experience themselves and their habitual reactions to circumstances more clearly so that they have greater choices in their lives.
The Samurai Game® is designed to:
Participants in The Samurai Game® cross a psychological line and step into the unfamiliar simulated world of the medieval Japanese Samurai.
They form two competing samurai armies and engage with their teammates and opponents in symbolic battles that eventually determine the simulation’s finale. These battles call upon participants to exercise resourcefulness, decisiveness, dignity, integrity, respect, and personal commitment.
The pace is fast and unpredictable, and the outcomes are highly uncertain. No two instances of the Game are ever the same, making each learning experience unique!
While involving no significant physical contact, The Samurai Game® demands much in the way of centeredness and teamwork as participants are encouraged to summon forth their “warrior” spirit with courage and determination.
The Samurai Game® can be played with as few as 16 people and as many as 80 at a time. For groups larger than 80, we break the group into two or more smaller groups at certain parts of the program, with a certified Samurai Game® Facilitator leading each group.
This allows each participant to experience the Game fully and safely.
The Samurai Game® is typically facilitated in a two-day format, although it may also be offered in shorter or longer formats.
After the "battles" portion of the Game comes the debrief session, which is a critical part of The Samurai Game® experience. This is where participants integrate their experiences and learnings.
Participants routinely report that the greatest impact of the Samurai Game® begins during and following the debriefing period.
Most corporate groups and learning institutions (including colleges & universities) integrate extended debrief periods after the simulation ends for reflection and integration. This lets folks get the most out of the Samurai Game® experience.
The Samurai Game® may at times be offered in a one-day format (generally 9 to 10 hours), however, this does not allow for as much learning, practice, and integration of the full experience. It may also be offered in a 3-day format in some cases.
Some training organizations include the simulation as part of a larger seminar experience, while many corporate teams integrate The Samurai Game® into their off-site leadership or management development programs and retreats.
There is very little physical contact between participants in The Samurai Game®.
The physical contact you may experience would not be strenuous or harmful in any way and would not involve the use of force (it would be similar to a handshake).
The Samurai Game® can ONLY be led by authorized individuals who have been trained and certified by the Game’s founder, George Leonard, or Samurai Game Associates (the Leonard Family Trust’s Training and Certification Representatives).
Please make sure that anybody who offers to lead The Samurai Game® for you or your group is on this list of certified Samurai Game® facilitators.
Anybody who is not on this list is NOT authorized to lead the Game and would be doing so illegally and in violation of international law. Equally importantly, they would not have been trained and approved to safely and effectively lead The Samurai Game® (no matter by what other names they may be calling the Game).
People participate for many reasons.
Most commonly, individuals and teams participate to deepen their awareness, personal effectiveness, and leadership performance.
The Samurai Game® presents a series of unpredictable and fascinating scenarios that reflect the pressures and challenges of the fast-paced business climate, complex organizational dynamics and politics, competition, and everyday family and personal life.
These scenarios create dilemmas that enable participants to observe themselves and their habitual reactions, inviting them to reflect on fundamental questions, such as…
People often repeatedly participate in The Samurai Game® experience. And each time, the experience is unique and profound.
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