About THE SAMURAI GAME®
The most unique and powerful experiential simulation available for personal growth, leadership and team-building.
Who invented THE SAMURAI GAME®?
The Samurai Game® was invented in 1977 by author George Leonard (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 served as a combat pilot in World War II and afterwards became senior editor for Look Magazine, eventually becoming one of the most published writers for both Look and Esquire magazines.
The Samurai Game® is considered by many to be one of the most intense, engaging and powerful simulations available anywhere in the world. It is particularly valued as a way to cultivate awareness, resourcefulness and decisiveness in situations marked by uncertainty, chaos and unforeseeable difficulties.
The Game was inspired by George’s experience flying combat missions in the Asia Pacific theater during World War II, and his discovery and immersion in Aikido, meditation and related mind-body disciplines. He first got the idea for The Samurai Game® while walking from his home to the Aikido dojo to teach class one evening. Arriving at the dojo, he led the students in the first iteration of the Game. The next week, his Aikido students reported how impactful their experience of the Game had been the previous week, and asked to play it again. George began refining the Game and soon was leading it for other groups and personal development centers, such as Esalen Institute.
Since 1977, tens of thousands of people have played The Samurai Game® around the world.
Why do people participate in The Samurai Game®?
People participate for many reasons. Most commonly, individuals and teams participate in The Samurai Game® to deepen their personal awareness and leadership effectiveness, team cohesion and organizational alignment. 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. It invites participants to honestly observe themselves and reflect on fundamental questions, such as…
- To what degree am I willing to act decisively and with integrity to get the results I seek?
- Upon what principles and core values do I stake my life and success?
- How well do I function in the face of uncertainty and pressure?
- How can I become more effective in dealing with conflict, chaos and change?
For these reasons individuals and organizations often repeatedly participate in The Samurai Game® experience.
What is the purpose of THE SAMURAI GAME®?
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 choice in their lives. The Samurai Game® is designed to:
- Place participants in an unfamiliar realm of relationship and governance. From this perspective they can gain clear understandings about their own habitual life patterns.
- Establish an experience of intense competition in an atmosphere that demands honor, dignity, and integrity.
- Provide circumstances in which individuals and teams may choose to display integrity when no one is watching, support when the going gets tough and rules don’t easily apply, and commitment when there is no certainty of success.
- Create a situation in which participants become keenly aware of the vividness and value of life.
- Promote the opportunity for participants to deal with loss and recovery.
- Promote a deeper awareness of those places inside each participant where they want to stop or are unwilling to be uncomfortable.
- Deepen the participants awareness of the total interplay of emotions with beliefs and physical responses.
- Push “the envelope” of personal and team integrity and commitment by learning when it cracks and when it strengthens.
What happens in THE SAMURAI GAME®?
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 productions of the simulation are ever quite 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. Participants are encouraged to summon forth their “warrior” spirit with courage and determination.
How many people can participate in The Samurai Game®?
The Samurai Game® can be played with as few as 16 people, and as many as 80 at a time. For corporate groups larger than 80, we advise clients to break the group into two or more smaller groups (with a certified Samurai Game® Facilitator leading each group).
How long is The Samurai Game®?
The Samurai Game® is generally facilitated in a 1.5 to 2.5 day format. This enables participants to be introduced to the context, rules and roles in the Game, learn some basic practices to enhance their focus and performance, to form teams and engage in the symbolic “battles”, to have a meal break and to debrief about their experience.
The debrief session is a critically important part of The Samurai Game® as this is where participants explore and integrate their experiences, learnings, observations and questions. Participants routinely report that the real “effects” of the Samurai Game® and the lessons learned really begin during and following the debrief period. For this reason, and because the simulation is experiential in nature and intense, a period of reflection (often overnight) is highly recommended between the end of the simulation and the full debrief session—hence the 1.5 or 2.5 day format. Most learning institutions, including colleges & universities, integrate extended debrief periods for reflection after the simulation ends, including reflective writing.
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.
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.
Is there much physical contact in The Samurai Game®?
There is very little physical contact between participants in The Samurai Game®. The physical contact that you may experience would not be strenuous in any way and would not involve the use of force (it would be pretty similar to a handshake).
Who is qualified to lead THE SAMURAI GAME®?
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® (not matter by what other names they may be calling the Game).
Becoming a Certified Facilitator of THE SAMURAI GAME®
This outlines the process for individuals to become trained and certified to facilitate the The Samurai Game®. If you are interested in becoming trained and certified as a Facilitator of The Samurai Game®, please read through this page carefully, and participate in at least one Samurai Game® led by a certified Samurai Game® facilitator prior to submitting your application for training and certification.It is important to understand The Samurai Game®’s history, standards and requirements associated with certification before completing the Facilitator Training and Certification (FTC) Application. Please read the “About The Samurai Game” page on this website to learn more.
While individuals who have not participated in at least one Samurai Game® may submit an application to participate in The Samurai Game® Training & Certification Course (FTC), applicants must have actually participated in at least one Samurai Game® prior to the start of the FTC program. Experiencing The Samurai Game® as a participant is a requirement for attendance in the FTC program.
There is a lineage of study, practice and application that links the Samurai Game® to Japan’s warrior class which existed for over 700 years. Because each Samurai Game® is based upon Bushido, the ancient code of the Japanese samurai, it is important that facilitators study, practice, and reflect the tenants of that ancient code in their personal and professional lives. Upon certification, the Samurai Game Facilitator enters an exclusive group of practitioners. His or her actions with the Samurai Game® will impact not only participants of the Samurai Game® and the other Facilitators, but also the continuing evolution of the greater human potential movement worldwide.
TRADEMARK, COPYRIGHT, OWNERSHIP AND ROYALTIES
The term The Samurai Game® is a legal trademark (#2,630,801) registered with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. In China the Game sometimes goes by the name, The Warrior Game™. It is expected that all individuals and organizations respect both names as trademarks. The Samurai Game® itself as a simulation performance (including its design and any variations or modifications) is copyrighted and registered as such with the US Government (#TXu 1-626-797). These trademarks and copyrights are owned by, and are the sole property of, the Leonard Family Trust. Only those persons who have undergone a training and certification process can facilitate and direct the performance of this simulation.
CERTIFICATION IS NOT GUARANTEED
Joining the Facilitator Training Program process does not guarantee that you’ll become certified to facilitate The Samurai Game®. Because The Samurai Game® requires good facilitation and group process skills, as well as strong situational awareness and speaking skills, if you are new group process facilitation or public speaking, aspects of the FTP program may be challenging for you. Although this may not prevent us from accepting your enrollment into the program, it may take longer for you to demonstrate competence in these areas and achieve certification. Of course, everybody is different and your experience and learning journey will be unique.
ONLY INDIVIDUALS ARE CERTIFIED AS SAMURAI GAME® FACILITATORS (NOT COMPANIES)
It is the individual facilitator, not the organization or employer of the facilitator, who becomes certified and authorized to produce and facilitate The Samurai Game®. While it is permissible for a certified facilitator to use an assistant(s) during the production, it is not permissible for a certified facilitator to have an uncertified individual “stand in” for him/her in his/her absence. Additionally, certified facilitators cannot act as training/certification agents of The Samurai Game® nor promise to do so. If they do, they risk termination of their own certification. No individual or organization can claim the right to solely market or produce the Game in any particular town/city, state/province, country or other geographic region unless authorized by Samurai Game Associates and the Leonard Family Trust.
Once an individual has successfully completed the FTC process, certification will become active upon payment of a certification fee (currently US $500 and separate from the FTC fee) paid by the candidate at the completion of the training/certification process. Certification remains in force for a period of five (5) years provided the facilitator adheres to policies. After five (5) years, the facilitator must renew his/her certification by demonstrating that s/he has met all renewal requirements which are specified in the Facilitator Agreement and discussed during the training and certification program.
Each time a Facilitator delivers The Samurai Game® s/he is responsible to ensure that the applicable 15% royalty fee is paid to the Leonard Family Trust. The formula for computing the royalty is outlined in the Facilitator Agreement that the facilitator signs prior to certification. Copies of the Agreement are provided to Candidates upon acceptance of their FTC Application by Samurai Game Associates, and prior to the start of the FTC program. The formula for calculating royalties is reviewed and discussed during the FTC program. Royalties can be paid either by the facilitator or the hosting organization, but ultimately it is the responsibility of the facilitator to ensure that royalties are paid.
TRAINING AND CERTIFICATION INSTRUCTORS
All training and certification of Samurai Game® Facilitators is handled by Samurai Game Associates, managed by Principal Grayson James. Mr. James is the sole Training and Certification Representatives of the Leonard Family Trust (owner of The Samurai Game® and all associated rights) and represents the interests, policies and values of The Samurai Game® for the Leonard Family worldwide. Mr. James was a long-time student and friend of George Leonard (creator of The Samurai Game®) and his wife Annie Styron-Leonard, is an instructor of the martial art of Aikido holding a 6th Degree black belt. He incorporates aikido principles and practices into his leadership coaching and consulting work, and his 2023 book, Full Contact Performance: The Internal Art of Organizational Collaboration.
NOTE. Being a martial artist is not a prerequisite for facilitator certification. However, having an understanding of embodied practices is helpful. We strongly recommended that candidates and facilitators establish and maintain a daily mind/body practice that supports “grounding and centering” and that promotes peaceful resolution to conflict, and a dignified presence under pressure. This greatly enhances a Facilitator’s ability to move participants “into character” as they prepare for “battles” and to deliver the game safely and effectively.
THE TRAINING AND CERTIFICATION PROCESS
All candidates must complete the ten-day long Facilitator Training & Certification program (FTC), which involves intensive training, practice, feedback and more practice, towards demonstrating competence for certification. At the completion of the ten-day program, and assuming the candidate has demonstrated proficiency and met all of the standards for certification, he/she will be granted certification upon payment of the Certification Fee.