Thursday, December 10, 2009


Zanshin, Fudoshin, Heijoshin, Mushin are words used to describe several states of mind significant in Martial Arts because of their value in developing actual combat effectiveness.

The common denominator to these words is SHIN. In Chinese Medicine, the Heart is the location of the Mind. I suppose this is the reason why the two most common translations for Shin are Mind and Heart.

Mushin is a state of mind also described in Zen. It is in fact often described as the goal (or the mean) of Zen. As I indicated in an earlier post, I intend in this blog for to spend time studying Mushin in the contexts of Budo and Zen.

In this first post, I would like to describe my own experience or understanding of these states in relation to Martial Arts. This is only my own experience, and as such it is questionable and should be questioned.

ZANSHIN : the remaining or continuous mind - an all-encompassing awareness, in which the practitioner is ready for anything, at any time. Zanshin is the easier part. A great practitioner always displays it – Awareness. The more you train, the more you learn how to focus and detect potential threats. At the end of a Iai waza, you return to the place you started from in a Zanshin state of mind. All your senses are alert, nothing is focused, you thrive to be aware of everything around you. Zanshin does not mean tunnel vision focus.
I was once competing in a tournament demonstrating Sho no Koun Bo (Long Staff) kata. The kata included a long and powerful jab before a 180 degrees turn. As I was going to jab, a, child from the crowd of spectators ran across the ring. I saw the child without having to look in his direction and stopped my Bo a few inches from him.This is Zanshin.

There is nothing special about Zanshin, anyone may train his Zanshin, the more you train, the better you become, unless maybe you've got ADD, (which I believe is only a sorry excuse)

FUDOSHIN : immovable mind - a state of equanimity or imperturbability. I believe this is also what Shimabukuro Sensei calls HEIJOSHIN in his book Flashing Steel : Heijoshin (or peace of mind) is the by-product of a person’s complete inner being. It can only be achieved by refining the whole inner essence and this can only be accomplished if one’s intellect, emotions, and character are developed in balance. Heijoshin literally translated means constant stable spirit. Such a translation hardly does it justice...

To achieve heijoshin as a martial artist requires a lifestyle of discipline, effort, sacrifice and commitment. Such a commitment to developing excellence of character is what sets the martial artist apart from most people in a confused and unhappy society. As we discover, the true nature of martial arts training leads us to a fuller understanding of the nature of life itself. With this understanding comes peace of mind and true and lasting happiness.

Only circumstances will let us know how good our Fudoshin is, once again it depends on training, but Fudoshin requires a higher level of training than Zanshin, I believe it requires, on top of intellectual and emotional concentration, developing one's acceptance of others and of circumstances.

It could also be that a key is to become aware of a deeper level of connection between oneself and others .

MUSHIN :literally "no mind" – sometimes defined as the spontaneity which allows immediate action without conscious thought.
I only experienced Mushin very few times. I actually used my martial abilities very few times in my life. Once I was walking in Paris with my younger sister. A group of obnoxious teenagers surrounded us. One of them was more vocal and threatening than the others. As he tried to reach for my sister's head, I kicked him. He was not hurt, but realized we might not be such easy targets as he had expected. But the kick happened without even thinking about it. It was almost as if I did not kick him, but as if the kick just came through me. This is Mushin.

I also experienced Mushin practicing a Ju Jitsu Kata with a partner I had been practicing for a long time with. We performed the kata, without trying harder than usual, and when it was over we thought "WOW, that was cool "; we could not believe how well it had been.Somehow, it was perfect (at least that's what we felt like)

Mushin is something you are not aware of at the time. You cannot speak about it when it happens, only after the fact do you realize that something close to perfect and bigger than you happened through you. When you realize how great it was, it's over, you are not in Mushin anymore.

One can experience Mushin in other areas such as playing music, painting, or dancing. It is a sort of trance-like situation: while you practice, you are not aware of yourself. "IT" just flows through you. Once you become aware of it, it is gone.

In order to experience Mushin in a way or an other, is is probably much better to be very fluent in that way. If one is gifted (but where does the gift come from ? ...), it might be possible to experience Mushin with little training, unfortunately, this is not my case.

The danger with Mushin is to let everything and anything happen as it flows through you. Terrible things can be committed by individuals who later explain and believe that they were not really responsible as they were in a trance like sort of state of mind when they acted...

This has to be considered...

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