The term MUSHIN is referenced in zen meditation as well as martial arts texts, and translates to “empty mind”. Working to develop a Mushin state of mind means that one’s thoughts pass like clouds in the sky, where the mind observes them but does not follow them. This allows the mind to to be unbound and free to act and react at any time.
Through meditation, we can experience more of the Mushin state of mind. A mindset that is key to effective application of martial arts. This type of training will provide day to day health benefits and also prepare the practitioner to maintain their center even in highly stressful situations.
A mind that is fixed on an object or determined to execute a specific technique becomes a prisoner locked into a specific scenario that may or may not happen. Initially, students will have to work through a more fixed mindset as they work to integrate their mind and body and learn their techniques. However, this approach to martial arts restricts ki from flowing and limits your ability to read your partner’s energy. Eventually, one must train to relax the mind and allow their technique to become more spontaneous and free flowing. A mind that is undisturbed by noise is calm like the surface of a lake and becomes a mirror that accurately reflects the reality of things as they are, without the distortions of opinion and ego. Supplemental training with meditation can help with this process.
Mushin is not strictly a martial arts concept. Mindfulness meditation works to develop this same mind state for parallel ends. Meditation practice where the breath is simply observed is the development of Mushin. As the practitioner makes note of when the mind wanders from the focus on breathing and gently brings the mind back to the breath is strengthening the mind’s sensitivity to emptiness. From a mindfulness perspective, this type of training is seen to help in many aspects of human development such as mental health, relationships, and conflict resolution. In her podcast on “the Sacred Pause” Dr. Tara Brach says it perfectly : “In the space we have more choices”. This is a wonderful podcast for anyone who is interested 🙂
So whether its martial arts or personal well being, taking time for ourselves to clear our minds is a powerful and beneficial practice.
Sensei Jason Moore
Chief Instructor, Aikido Durham
Aikido Yoshinkai Canada