Intelligence is nothing more than discussing things with others. Limitless wisdom comes from this. Humanity is something done for the sake of others; simply comparing oneself with them and putting them in the fore. – The Hagakure
Ahakoa he iti taku whare, i ahu mai au i te kōpua känapanapa –Although my house is small, I emanate from a deep pool – Maori proverb
One of the things we discovered that we loved most about jiu jitsu is the range of people from varying backgrounds that you often find in any academy. This is just such an underrated benefit to the study of the art, as it brings together many under a common practice. So in light of Dove soaps recent fiasco of an ad campaign (which necessitated some serious PR spin, as well as social media apologies to staunch the blood from the PC frenzy that followed), we figured this was a great time to discuss the topic of diversity and why we choose to make it one of the pillars of what we are about.
Those shenanigans were wild, for a number of reasons. First, we wondered how a company with probably tens of thousands to blow in their marketing budget could get it so wrong. I mean we’re all going to miss the mark sometimes, but that was like, way off the mark. Second we thought ‘Yo….someone actually got paid to be that incompetent or unaware.’ Third we were blown away by the realization that no one stepped up to actually say ‘Have you really thought this through? Because in business terms, it’s gonna be a shitstorm.’ But most of all, what this story confirmed for us is the following: A lot of corporations and companies pay lip service to the idea of embracing diversity but have little to zero idea of what it actually means to do so. Whether this stems from ignorance, laziness, greed, a sheer and gargantuan level of hubris, or stale gentrification of the corporate hierarchy, we don’t really know.
We take the position that embracing and supporting diversity in your company culture isn’t an issue of sales and marketing. You know: putting together a progressive appearance to the world in order to broaden your spectrum of consumers, just so you can sell them more products to maximize your profit margins. Embracing diversity is a held belief that the stories, dreams and adventures of people from different backgrounds (cultural, ethnic, religious or otherwise) all have the same relevance. That they carry the same weight and importance. And moreover, it’s important for those to whom society already caters to know that those stories exist. Why? Because when we expand our eyes and minds to the trials, tribulations and accomplishments to those who differ greatly from us we learn and grow. As a result we all benefit.
People are skeptical. We get it. They say: ‘You make products. How can a company that makes jiu jitsu and adventure apparel, be about diversity?’ But the answer is simple: It starts at the top and filters down through every facet of our company whether it’s employing artists and/or manufacturers in different countries, striving to use a culturally diverse group of models for our marketing needs, to contributing to organizations that assist those in the community who may live along different socio-economic lines. Ultimately SOHEI is a company (it would be disingenuous for us to sit here and say we don’t want to make a profit -even we have dreams!), but at the same time we are much, much more. We are a movement that uses the exceptional things we produce to empower and support a culturally vast array of people in their personal pursuits, while using our financial leverage to help humanity where we can on a larger social scale.