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MUSHIN: The "Mind Without Mind" of Martial Arts


Mushin is a term that you may have come across if you practice martial arts, Zen Buddhism or are interested in meditation. It is abbreviated from “Mushin no Shin” and means “mind without mind”. While the term may sound paradoxical, it is a state of mind that is important to achieve, particularly in martial arts.

To understand Mushin, we must first clarify what it means. Mushin is not about emptying your mind or creating a void, but instead about achieving a state without conscious thought. It is a state of being fully aware and awake, where your mind is not burdened by emotion or forced conscious interference.

Mushin is about being completely unbiased, aware of your environment and situation, and reacting instinctively. It is a crucial element in the ability to defend yourself in martial arts or any other field.

Achieving Mushin is not something that can be learned intellectually, but must be experienced. To help you achieve Mushin, you must be more present and aware in any given context. It is essential to let go of any distracting thoughts that may be cluttering your mind, and focus on the task at hand.

The nature of being in the spotlight can make it difficult to achieve Mushin. Thoughts such as Aam I doing this correctly?” or “What if I look stupid?” can hinder your ability to be fully present in the moment. The key is to see through these distractions and focus on what is in front of you.

In the early days of my training we had a big picture window in the front of the school. I could be working on a technique or kata or whatever, and suddenly a passerby stops by that window and peers inside. Suddenly I found myself applying my energy differently. Louder kiai, or repeating motions I knew I was good at, or taking dramatic stances after each repetition. My mind would get flooded with a variety of thoughts. “Are they looking for a new school? I have to represent!” or “Are they judging me? I have to work harder!” or any variety of these thoughts.

It’s immature, and completely novice I know, and thankfully I grew out of that but as a young teen just beginning in the martial arts, it was easy to get distracted by these types of thoughts.

Mushin can be achieved through repetition and resistance training, which is essential in martial arts. It is only when you spend time practicing that you can develop a natural reaction to any given situation.

In conclusion, Mushin is a state of mind that may be challenging to achieve, but it is crucial to develop. It is about being present, aware, and letting go of any distracting thoughts that may be cluttering your mind. Through repetition and resistance training, you can develop a natural reaction to any given situation, which is essential in martial arts or any other field.

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