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Fortitude is another way of expressing the Japanese concept of gaman (to bear the unbearable). Of course, fortitude is not a trait that it exclusive to Japanese. At times of great crisis, such as wars and natural disasters, people of all nations and walks of life, rise to the occasion and demonstrate the best characteristics of human beings.

What makes the Japanese stand out to many of us in the West, is not just their ability to bear incredible suffering, but their lack of complaint and the way that they remain so composed and orderly. It seems to me that Japanese are raised this way -- with an emphasis on these specific traits.

I remember once that a pair of sai were stolen from my home. They were very nice stainless steel Shureido sai. I thought to myself, "How could this happen?"

I did not mean, "How could someone steal my sai?" Instead, I meant, "How could anyone steal?" It was hard for me to believe that anyone could allow himself to do such a thing.

I know that this is very naive, and that theft is a reality in many places, but I was raised by a mother who was born and raised on Japan before the war. Theft is just something that his not done. I heard many stories about my grandmother. My mother always said that if she saw someone in need, she would invite them in to eat. If they needed something, she would give it to them. Perhaps if more people were like her, there would be less need for anyone to steal.

I was at a supermarket once and found a $100 bill on the floor. Of course, I turned it in to a cashier, because it was not my money. It must have been dropped by someone, who would be looking for it. The thought of keeping it did not cross my mind. It simply was not mine.

Sai and a $100 bill are very small things. The devastation faced by so many people in Japan is indescribably great. However, I wanted to explain why it is that we do not see looting in Japan. Looting is not something Japanese are raised to do. I'm sure that many Japanese could not even think about it. How could they take something that does not belong to them? Instead, I think that they would share what little they had. And if they did find cans of food or other items in the wreckage, and they did take it, they would try to find out who the items belonged to so that they could compensate them.

I am not saying that everyone in Japan, or any country, is perfect. However, we can clearly see that the Japanese reaction to the earthquake and tsunami reveals concepts such as gaman, fortitude, honesty, and cooperation -- values that are taught to Japanese children, and, by the way, to martial arts students. In Karate, we also learn such values -- not to become Japanese, but to develop our character.

I was sent a link to a Youtube video you might want to watch. It addresses these concepts much better than I possibly can. Please see:


Charles C. Goodin