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  • Implementing No Mind

    There have been many threads about how one can practice/implement the concept of No Mind or Mindlessness during kendo..

    However, from what i have read in both The Book of 5 Rings and in Takuan Soho they say that you can only excercise No Mind when you know everything aabout kendo.. in the case of the 5 rings the only way you can master the void is if you know all the other 4, and Soho says that only the total beginer and the master can have no mind (because the begginers mind never stops to think about stance , tenouchi etc.. because he doesnt know it, and the master doesnt think about it because he knows it all ). So is it not true that one can only begin to think of no mind when they have a complete mastery of kendo (which is something you could probably on attribute to 7 or 8 dan kendoka)

  • #2
    I've always been fascinated with this concept. I believe it's something you cannot force to happen or even exclusively teach. Its a bit like when I was first learning to drive. I remember there was so much stuff I had to remember about road rules and driving. The thought of it made me get headaches when I was training with the driving instructor. Now after four years its all becomes instinctive. Your body/mind reacts intuitively to any given situation. Fear and doubt disappears then all is left is simple harmonisation. Well maybe not all the time. ;-) But it helps to have a clear and focused mind to start with.

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    • #3
      Originally posted by [Kensei 剣の聖者]
      There have been many threads about how one can practice/implement the concept of No Mind or Mindlessness during kendo..

      However, from what i have read in both The Book of 5 Rings and in Takuan Soho they say that you can only excercise No Mind when you know everything aabout kendo.. in the case of the 5 rings the only way you can master the void is if you know all the other 4, and Soho says that only the total beginer and the master can have no mind (because the begginers mind never stops to think about stance , tenouchi etc.. because he doesnt know it, and the master doesnt think about it because he knows it all ). So is it not true that one can only begin to think of no mind when they have a complete mastery of kendo (which is something you could probably on attribute to 7 or 8 dan kendoka)
      Implementation IMHO will be gradual, for instance when you start learning ,the no mind state is at lets say 0% ,you're strugling with the basics in general, as you continue your training journey that percentage starts to go up little by little, you have to keep up the training knowing that there's no 100% or in your words, complete mastery of kendo, it's all relative.What i'm trying to say is that you don't jump from a stagnating mind to a no mind state directly it's a long process of spirit and body training, the Hachi dan(s) themselves went through it and still are.
      Don't worry in due time your mind will flow as water meanders on earth and errrr! uhoh i'm getting carried out

      It's good that you started this thread ,it's an important subject in martial arts and life in general as Reubino's example shows.

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      • #4
        The whole point is not to really think of 'No Mind.' Zen has nothing to do with kendo really, anyway, so I wouldn't get too carried away with Takuan and so on.

        Just concentrate on doing kendo and it will come naturally, call it 'no mind', 'the zone' or whatever.

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        • #5
          im not sure, i still think No Mind is fundementaly linked with kendo.. a large part of kendo is to do with reaction times, and through making your actions instinctive and cutting out excessive thought you can speed up your reaction time immensely.. plus in this show i watched they were going through the Hachidan examination, and in the written paper you have to write about some Zen/Bushido saying they give you , i think the one in the show was something like "mind is sword" or something like that...

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          • #6
            I think it closely related to what we call 'our instinct'.

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            • #7
              Cutting out excessive thought is just a result of training until you don't need to think about it. Nothing mystical there. A lot of top athletes draw connections between their athletic activity and Christianity, but it doesn't make it so just because they say so.

              The same for Zen and kendo. A lot of Zen terminology is used in kenjutsu/kendo texts because of its influence on Japanese society at the time, not because of some fundamental link between the two.

              The point being, don't stress it, as has been said above, keep training and the rest will come with time. Thinking about the Zen/'bushido' mystical stuff doesn't help your kendo, hard training and time in the men does.

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Hamish
                Thinking about the Zen/'bushido' mystical stuff doesn't help your kendo, hard training and time in the men does.
                Oh, I dunno, Hamish, I sometimes find it helpful myself. I mean, one of the reasons - well, THE reason I like reading or thinking about Zen is, on one level it's just very practical advice on athletics (and maybe on life in general; I'm really only interested in the martial arts part). I mean, Zen says in sometimes mystical, sometimes succint ways some of the same things sports psychologists are trying to say, some of the things you have said. You're right in that there's no substitute for simply training hard but for some reading Zen or sitting might make for good mental work, especially for those that still want to be doing kendo while on the train/behind the desk/whatever.

                *shrugs* I think Zen says basically what was said above: that through mastery of a skill it becomes natural and thoughtless. Where I part ways with Zen is thinking this same logic applies to the emotional, spiritual or intellectual life.

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                • #9
                  Wether you call it Zen or you call it "the zone" , it doesnt actualy make a difference, but dont forget that sports physchology and the terminology we use all came after the actual term "no mind"... so we might as well respect the original term and use it correctly

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                  • #10
                    From my pov, I see a lot of beginners who read Go Rin No Sho and think it makes them experts, when they don't have the background or experience to understand even a fraction of it. Even for experienced kendo players, a lot of it isn't applicable - it's really a lot of guidance for members of Niten Ichi Ryu.

                    My advice is the same as Hamish's - apply sweat, it'll come eventually.

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                    • #11
                      In my experience I do the best kendo when I try to do the best I can. I know that sounds redundant and self-explanatory, but let me give an example.

                      When I fight a 6-dan or 7-dan sensei during keiko, I don't care about winning or losing and I go balls out and attack, seme, and do the best I can. If I fight someone in a tournament or I fight someone that I feel I should not lose to, my mind seems to interfere and I cannot perform my best kendo. I start thinking, "I can't let him hit me," or "I should use this waza," and it never works.

                      Top kenshi often talk about saying their mind was blank during a shiai, or do not remember performing a certain waza.

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                      • #12
                        Basically all "no mind" is is when you can completely shut out the mind and think of nothing, only acting, living in the now and not the near past or future. It can be used in all aspects of life to improve, but it can really be experienced in martial arts, which is why I think there is such a close relation, plus the influence zen had on the samurai at the time as was mentioned before.

                        In kendo though, I think it is important to keep the mind working at first. Decide which waza to perform, and how the match will go. Plan it in your mind, but as soon as you or your opponent move, forget the plan and just react. Action is 100% more powerful than mind, because action manipulates in the now and promotes change. Thus the mind is only a necessary illusion which gets in the way most of the time.

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                        • #13
                          A favorite quote on Zen

                          Originally posted by Charlie
                          *shrugs* I think Zen says basically what was said above: that through mastery of a skill it becomes natural and thoughtless. Where I part ways with Zen is thinking this same logic applies to the emotional, spiritual or intellectual life.
                          "If I am asked what Zen teaches, I would answer, Zen teaches nothing. Whatever teachings there are in Zen, they come out of one's own mind. We teach ourselves; Zen merely points the way."
                          - D.T. Suzuki, An Introduction to Zen Buddhism

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                          • #14
                            This is an interesting thread because the concept is something that is far easier to intellectually grasp, than to experience. Non budo activities sometimes refer to the process as "being in the zone". After more than a decade of fencing, taking private lessons twice a week, there were many actions that I practised so often, that everyonce in a while, I found myself doing them without any conscious thought. For instance, a thrust to my chest would always be met with a parry riposte; which, if parried would always be met by my stepping back and doing another parry, even if there was no blade to deflect.

                            But, I have found a difference between things I do "defensively" verses those things that I do "offensively". For instance, when I face certain people in a kendo bout, that I know well, I have a mental book on them. I know what actions they like and who is just waiting for a men attack, so he can counter. Almost always, I have a plan in mind that I try and execute. This is completely different from facing a stranger, where my thinking almost always involves trying to sense an opening and read my opponents reactions to my movements. Sometimes, it is more like physical chess, than letting my unconscious mind take over the actions.

                            I have concluded that I am far too new to kendo, to have any meaningful opinion on this subject. Maybe in a decade I will have something worthwhile to add.

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                            • #15
                              mushin

                              Mushin, no-mind, flow and the zone, are different terms for the same fundamental phenomenon, i.e. action with full awareness but without conscious thought. As such, there is nothing mystical about it. It is just one, albeit rare, mode of human experience, which can be cultivated through training.

                              Mushin can be conceptualized rationally, but it can only be understood through experience, precisely because it is non-rational. "Just train hard, and it will come," is true, but just leaving it there tends to mystify the phenomenon even more.

                              Mushin is not absent-mindedness, as the latter is characterized by a lack of awareness of one's immediate surroundings, and, if anything, by too much thinking.

                              Mushin is not the same as instinct. Instinctive actions tend to be purely reactive, cognitively proceeding from the limbic regions of the brain and triggered when in need or danger, e.g. a fear/fight/flight situation.

                              No-minded actions, however, proceed from an utterly calm and highly concentrated state of mind, and are proactive as well as reactive. Higher brain regions are being employed, but redundant processing in the frontal lobes is by-passed. Basically, the cognitive processing time between perceptions, thought, and action is drastically shortened by eliminating rational, discriminating, thought -- in a sense, by eliminating the thinking, judging "self." There is still thinking and judging going on, but no one is doing the thinking and judging. Perhaps we can say it is "intuitive action."

                              There are different levels of mushin: from losing yourself in a game or task, to completely dissolving the subject-object distinction. Mushin can be, and most likely has been, experienced by everyone to differing degrees. But it can also be cultivated through concentrative practices, which are also forms of brain-training e.g. awareness training, meditation, martial arts, or the various Ways.

                              Hence a beginner might experience a chance glimpse of mushin, because s/he lacks a knowledge of technique, but a master will be capable of simply switching into that mode and going beyond his/her accumulated technique.

                              Ch'an/Zen Buddhism coined the term mushin, but it holds no monopoly on the phenomenon itself. Hence "no-mind" or "flow" can be applied to a practice such as kendo or a field such as "sports psychology" with no apparent philosophical consequences, which is fine.

                              Zen goes beyond this stance by pursuing through meditation an investigation of experiential mushin, leading to a realization (satori) of the essential emptiness not only of the self, but of all phenomena. The consequences of this realization extend to all aspects of life. This is also fine, but not everyone's cup of tea. Kendo certainly doesn't go that far.

                              Takuan Soho was a Zen monk who, besides many other things, applied Zen insights to swordsmanship in a few letters to Yagy Muneori, commonly known to readers through Wilson's translation The Unfettered Mind. These writings represent neither the whole of Zen, nor the whole of swordsmenship, only Zen
                              applied to swordsmanship. As for Musashi's work, it is primarily a manual of his own particular school and not a universal treatise.

                              It is easy to form a concept of what the Fudchi Shinmy Roku or Go Rin No Sho are about, but they are not easy to put into practice. As the sempai here have said, this comes only with consistent practice. A conceptual understanding can be helpful, but only blood, sweat and tears (i.e. shugyo) will get you more in tune with mushin.

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