Safe Is Risky. Risky Is Safe.

So I’ve just arrived from Dutch Open, a big international Karate tournament held yearly in Rotterdam, Holland.

To briefly sum up my overall impression: High standard in kumite, lower standard than usual in kata (as indicated by the three videos I’ve uploaded) and exceptionally good organization of the event.

Here’s a pic:

Anyway, two remarkable things happened during this trip.

It had actually nothing to do with Karate (or the tournament itself) but interesting nevertheless. Let’s see if I can remember them:

The first thing happened on the airplane.

You know how they always have a quick safety lesson when the plane starts? The old “fasten your seatbelts, no smoking, cell phones off” thing? Well, this time it was a little bit different.

When it was time for the demonstration of the yellow oxygen masks (that come out in case of emergency), the steward said this in the microphone:

“In case of emergency, an oxygen mask will be deployed. You are advised to strap it securely around your own face before attending to infants, children or people acting like children.”


Are you allowed to joke like that? Aren’t there some regulations you need to follow when giving safety instructions?

Probably. But this guy didn’t care.

And people actually laughed. Even the stewardesses laughed, while standing there trying to demonstrate the oxygen mask.

It was quite refreshing, and I sensed we were going to have a good flight with this flight attendant!

Two hours passed, and guess what?

I was right.

Because, when we had just landed, the following could be heard from the microphone:

“Please remain seated with your seat belt fastened, until the “fasten seat belt” sign has been switched off. Be careful when opening the overhead compartments, as luggage might fall out and shit can happen.

People laughed again.

I even heard somebody yell “Hey, did you hear that? This guy is funny!” to his friend.

But the humor didn’t end there. Oh no…

Finally, before you could get off the plane, this was heard:

“On behalf of the whole cabin crew we would like to thank you for flying with KLM today. We hope you’ve had a comfortable journey, and it must have been a pleasure having us on board.

This flight attendant was a genious.

Even more people laughed than last time! We were actually having fun, when we were supposed to be bored/tired/stressed.

This steward didn’t want that.

However, I can imagine that some people probably felt a little offended.

But does that really matter?

I mean, out of 180 people on the aircraft… maybe 100 catched these jokes and found them amusing? Maybe 20 heard them and didn’t like them. And the rest (60 people) probably didn’t even hear, or simply didn’t care.

This is what I’d like to call BM…

Brilliant marketing.

Think about it: How big is the chance that a majority of these 100 people (that liked the jokes) are going to tell about this flight to a friend? Pretty big, I think.

Co-workers, friends, family… Many people will have heard about “The fun flight attendant at the plane this morning”.

And even if only half of those 100 people tell one person, that’s 50 people who hear about this company, and might consider flying with them in the future. That’s nothing but good and clever marketing, whether intentional or not.

Sure, the flight attendant might lose his job, depending on what kind of boss he has. But on the other hand, he might have recruited 50 customers.

I mean, it obviously worked since it got me writing this post! I’ve just marketed this company for free!

He might get fired, or he might get a raise.

The point I want to make is this:

Safe is risky.

Safe is boring.

And most importantly, safe doesn’t stand out.

The only way to build a great business is to be on the edges. And that’s where this steward was.

Imagine, just for a second, a whole airline company that makes this approach their trademark:

  • Their microphone announcements are fun.
  • Their food is different (and delicious).
  • You get a secret special dessert after the meal.
  • You can choose between 20 different kinds of tea.
  • Their safety brochures are interesting.
  • The word “puke” is printed in 50 different languages on the puke bag.
  • That magazine you always get (filled with expensive “offers”) is actually fun to read. And has a crossword puzzle at the end.
  • They always have a lottery where one passanger wins a t-shirt saying: “I LOVE [insert company name here] AIRLINES”

And so on.

You get the idea.

I mean, who wouldn’t want to fly with this company?!

Now, imagine a Karate school.

No, better yet, a Karate organization.

Then apply this concept to that. To their website. Their brochures. Their seminars, camps, grading system, printed material, instructional videos, tournaments…

Who wouldn’t want to be a part of that organization?! And why wouldn’t every member tell every one of their friends about it?

Safe is risky.

Risky is safe.

Now over to the second thing that caught my attention during this trip.

I don’t even have to explain this one, since I actually took a picture of it.


This was a magazine I saw when waiting at the airport.

It’s about ice hockey.

That’s an Olympic sport.

A glorious sport made up of well-trained, self-confident athletes with a sound mind and body, dedicated to a healthy lifestyle involving teamwork, respect and sportsmanship.


Looking at this magazine, you begin to wonder.

If I had a magazine dedicated to ice hockey, I would put a role model on the front page. Or an up-and-coming young talent, with glowing eyes and a passion for his sport.

Instead, we see two grown-ups drilling Naihanchin bunkai. Or the last two movements of Jion, if you’d rather like that.

That magazine disgusted me.

So what does that make me?

It makes me one of those 20 people on the plane who didn’t like the microphone announcements. Except, here we’re talking about a magazine cover.

You see, it works both ways:

Be on the edge, but make sure it’s the right edge.

Upset people, but make sure it’s in the right way.

Safe is risky. Risky is safe.

Just make sure you understand the difference between risky and foolish.

1 Comment

  • duske
    I love the connection you drew between Naihanchi Kata and Hockey Fighting. Did you know Prince George, BC, in Western Canada almost started the sport of Hockey Boxing. There was to be no real Hockey just the fighting part. You may find this interesting Keep up the good work

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