Senshin: The Enlightened Mind

Martial Arts Blog

normrobitza On March - 2 - 2014

BlackBeltBrain

Your toughest opponent will always be yourself. For many of us, our bodies just don’t let us do things like high kicks or incredible leaps. Thankfully, that is not a crucial part of training. Karate is designed for all ages and all body types. Our goal is to reach a physical state where we do not have to think but the body reacts to any situation. This can be a difficult thing to achieve especially when our own brain is constantly trying to foil us.

Your brain is your greatest treasure. Without this highly developed cognitive device, we would have never gotten out of the caves. The human races has accomplished so much in a short time that it is hard to believe that only 80,000 years ago we coexisted with neanderthals. Our ability to reason and adapt is what made us survive as the neanderthals and other human like species died out.

Today we don’t think about that much. We are too busy with the hustle and bustle of our everyday lives. That hustle and bustle has become our downfall. We don’t think about things as much. Our brain has become lazy. This causes problems in our lives on a daily basis. It leads to relationship problems, personal and professional problems and training problems.

Where this is not a relationship blog, I will stay away from trying to help with that topic but we will look at how your mind can effect your training.

There is the issue that I have discussed before, over-thinking! If you over-think something, you are bound to make a mistake. Recently, I was in the 2014 Maritime IKD tournament. I do not consider myself a tournament competitor but I do enter local events to support our local organization. Last year, I was the Kata and Kumite Champion. Because of this I received byes through the elimination round of kata. I was the last man to perform. Watching the other athletes compete was fun but as my turn grew nearer, I realized I didn’t know which kata to perform. I went to my “old faithful” Chinte and low and behold my brain started to over analyze the kata. Rapidly, my mind started to race through the kata. I tried to tell myself to stop thinking about it but my mind kept racing through the moves. Each time, my mind got hung up on one part of the kata. When I got in the ring, it was smooth sailing until I got close to the spot where my mind was getting stuck. Again, I told myself not to think about it, just do it. But my mind took over and forces my body to make mistakes. We train so that our brain is out of the equation but at times our thoughts can be our worse enemy.

Over-thinking your training can be a painful experience but the mind also effects us in other ways that many people do not even realize. It is a common problem among humans to not see with our eyes when it comes to our own training. What do I mean by this? Let’s say you are working on a particular kata. You have been working on this for weeks and you think that you have finally got it. The difficult stance was an issue at the beginning by now you are doing it right. However, what you don’t see is that you are not actually in the correct stance. Now it is ingrained in you mind that you are doing the kata correctly but you are not. Your instructors and peers are telling you that you are not doing it correctly. They suggest performing in front of a mirror. So you perform the kata facing a mirror so you can observe yourself and to you, it looks great. The mind is not allowing you to see your own flaws. As a martial artist, you are told to empty your cup. I have said this on many occasions. The problem is we have a hard time to push our ego out of the way. We may think that our form is correct or our techniques are strong when they are not. Try video taping yourself next to someone that can perform the same kata at a high level. You may not be able to mimic her performance exactly but you need to attempt to reach a higher level than you are doing now. The video will also allow you to see yourself outside of the training environment. This is crucial. When we train we have a tendency to overlook certain things. Take the video outside of the dojo and watch it. Look at it over and over. Have your instructors watch it with you as well. But here is the key, you need to be able to take the criticism that comes with training. You will be told that you are doing things in correctly and that will be a hard pill to swallow. I know, I have been there. Just like everyone of us have at one point or another.

Without our mind we would not have advanced as far as we have in such a short time. It is our greatest friend. It helps us remember a grocery list or ponder questions like, “Why are we here?” But your mind can also be your worst enemy. When you are under pressure it will rear its ugly head. When you are in a tournament, grading or real life situation it can over analyse the situation which could lead to mistakes or even serious injury. This is why we train so hard to make our mind not part of the equation.

Our ultimate goal as martial artists is not to learn to fight, win championships or become the next Bruce Lee. Our goal is to not think. Mushin no shin, is a Zen expression meaning the mind without mind. That is, a mind not fixed or occupied by thought or emotion and thus open to everything. This is hard to accomplish because of our ego. The ego is the organized part of the personality structure that includes defensive, perceptual, intellectual-cognitive, and executive functions. Our ego is constantly watching our every move and will make you think that you are great. It is protecting us from guilt, anxiety and inferiority. Only when we learn to suppress our emotions and our ego can we truly reach a state of Mushin. We need to learn our to defeat our own mind before we can know to cherish it for the for the great gift that it is.

Here is an interesting video that I found after writing this.


Categories: Teaching/Training

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