The Samurai Number (Scholar’s Compass)


When you look up this number online, you’ll find it associated with a business model and manager structures. But I first heard this ratio from a dancer.

Jerome Subey had learned from his Karate Master in the years before he had changed tracks and become a dancer. We were lingering over a late breakfast and I was asking the table how dance had changed their lives.

“The Samurai used these proportions to arrange their lives,” Jerome said. 70% of their life was the main task, fighting. 20% was some different kind of movement. And 10% was studying art. “This is why the Samurai have a history of making art and were not just fighters, but the best fighters.” (I have been unable to verify this anecdote but it’s so wonderful I had to use it.)

His point was that we have to allow movement and art in our lives or nothing good will come to our primary work. We won’t be able to make the meaning we long for without allowing for movement and art to grow alongside our work.

“And dance can be both the movement and the art! This is why I started dance and it changed everything,” Jerome concluded. And it had for him, changing his career direction from handy man and karate enthusiast in France to a full time instructor and competitor in the USA.

That won’t be most of our stories. But there is something in the willingness to invest beyond our jobs or our primary tasks that is telling about the quality of our lives. It reminds me of Ecclesiastes when the writer says that he “hated all the things he toiled for”…

. . . I must leave them to the one who comes after me. 19 And who knows whether that person will be wise or foolish? Yet they will have control over all the fruit of my toil into which I have poured my effort and skill under the sun. This too is meaningless. . . . A person can do nothing better than to eat and drink and find satisfaction in their own toil. (Ecclesiastes 2:18-19,24)

The writer exhorts us to enjoy our lives and our work because we have no idea what will succeed in our lives. We don’t know what will last after we are done.

I’ve found that graduate life can become one long stretch of sameness. Our whole lives become enveloped in the task at hand. We drown in the work we are called to do. And the Grad School Blues are sung over our lives at each waking moment.

But what if God has provided another way to live through this season? What if the work we have to do needs supplementing with other activities?

We are made in His Image. We are not a one trick pony heading towards “thesis defense”. We are multifaceted creatures and as we explore a diversity of activities, physical and creative and intellectual, we discover more of Him and more of our Humanity.

The next three posts will explore three pieces of being faithful to the other 30% of life, the creative and the movement we need to stay sane, enrich our work, and find our unique selves in the Image of God.

  1. MOVEMENT. How dance and movement changes the grad school blues.
  2. FEASTING. Food Making and Sharing for the good of our Work.
  3. REST. Who sleeps in Grad School? Why even bother?

Scholars-Compass-image-40x40Note: Part of both the Scholar’s Compass series and Dana Ray’s The Samurai Number series at the Emerging Scholars Network Blog. Part 1 of 4.

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Dana Ray

Dana Ray: Writer. Dancer. Tea Drinker. Moonlights on the side as a graduate student in English and Creative Writing at Bucknell University. She also blogs at

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One Comment

    Mary Ann Eagleson commented on July 8, 2015 Reply

    Dana, I love to read whatever you write. As Hannah says, “She is such a good writer!” In my old age, I still face these challenges in my “graduate” school of life. Thanks for the refreshing ideas on how to navigate the waters of “grad” school, formal or informal as the case may be.

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