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Mushin - what is it?

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  • Mushin - what is it?

    Hi,

    I was thinking about the concept of mushin in iaido and kendo and I started wondering if it was something to strive toward or something that just happens. I was also wondering what it is.

    For example - I play full Hammond organ - two keyboards, bass pedals and volume pedal. When I play, each hand and foot is doing something different, so it's pretty complex. When I improvise for a long period, there are times when I get into a groove and my mind isn't thinking about anything - it's like I play on automatic, but it turns into some of the best jams I've ever done. It's like being ultra-focused, but not thinking about it (or anything). It's a good feeling, but it's nothing I can initiate, and I think the complexity of what I'm doing at the time contributes to being able to slip into this state (ie it's so complex you can't think about it? Hard to explain). Is this mushin?

    If it is, I'm looking forward to it and I envy anyone who can do kata or jikeiko like this.

    Thanks,
    Hank.

  • #2
    Damn.. this is really hard to explain. The best English translation (though it might not be entirely correct) is "being in the zone". It is when you just start hitting everything at the right time and in the right place without even a thought. Everything falls into place and you reach the "pinnacle" for just a moment.

    I remember in either a Kendo Nippon or a Kendo Jidai mag where they interviewed Chris Yang after the Y2K WKC and he said something to the effect of "everything was white" when asked what he was thinking of after defeating one of the Japanese/Korean competitors...

    Hope this was somewhat helpful..

    Tim

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    • #3
      I think that it just sort of naturally happens on its own. You train yourself to react and do kendo without thinking. You try and act on instinct and let your experience help you to do an attack, rather than think and then do. Lots of us have had instances where we hit that perfect men when everything feels just right. It doesn't happen everyday, but occassionally out of no where, everything is just right, and you just do it (ps, i am not a Nike advertiser). I just think that the more we train and attempt to attain this goal, then the more frequently these moments will happen for us. Maybe after 60 years of kendo, people feel this way all the time... who knows, I will post again on this in 60 years...

      I remember (sort of) my first real instance of a mushin kind of feeling. It was at my last shiai. All I remember is that the call for hajime went, and the next thing I remember is instantly being in taiatari with my opponent and the flags were up for me. It took me a second or two to realize that I was awarded a point. I remember nothing else about that point. So on the one hand I feel really good about it, but on the other hand, I don't actually know what I did, except that I went for men, nothing else, so it is confusing at the same time.

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      • #4
        Hank...I think I know what it is you're talking about. When I used to exclusively play blues guitar, I got into that state of improvisation that you speak of. (Although I'm not sure if guitar is as hard as the organ you play...). I have yet to really feel it in Kendo as I don't think I've practiced hard enough, yet. But like nodachi, I'll post in 60 years to record my progress.

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        • #5
          it is something that we probably will only be able to dream about :P

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          • #6
            Where your actions become a gesture in your mind instead of a thought with words - my old drums teacher.

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            • #7
              Sorry to annoy people, but I think it's a religious thing. You need to ask a buddhist priest, if you really want to know... and you'll get a religious answer, not the "logical" one most of us want. Even if you do the religious traiing and manage to get somewhere, I can't see how it would help your Kendo. Personally I don't worry about "Mushin." There's a lot of hot air spoken about it (that's not aimed at anyone posting here) and you need to keep your B.S. detector handy I think.

              I'm not trying to disparage Buddhism here - far from it. I just don't see the connection to Kendo for anyone with less than a lifetime's Kendo experience/training.

              (Now, who have I annoyed...?)

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              • #8
                I think there is also a more conscious level of mushin -- an overall attitude with which you approach kendo that informs whether one's kendo remains primarily a sport or is elevated to a level of budo. To paraphrase my sensei: "In kendo, you either hit or you get hit. There is no middle."

                What does this have to do with mushin? Let me explain. I've noticed that when I do jigeiko with some of my kohai, one of the things that seem to get in the way of proper form is that they implicitly worry about getting hit. Not that they're afraid it's going to hurt. But they just don't want to give away a point. Basically, trying not to get hit cramps their style, so to speak. But after I tell them, "Don't worry about getting hit. Just hit or get hit. There is no middle," they seem to improve immediately and quite markedly. Not paying any mind to the secondary, tertiary consequences of a strike (blocking, weaving, dodging etc.) seems to focus their energy on what's important -- the first strike. This is mushin in a sense, IMHO.

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                • #9
                  Do a search, it's already been discussed on an older thread.

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                  • #10
                    Hi,

                    I don't think it's a religious thing, don_don - we must be talking about different phenomenon. I think it just happens when you're so focused on something that your mind has no more room for conscious thought, if that makes sense. I'm not a sports person, but I do think being "in the zone", as Tim said, probably describes it pretty well. It has also happened to me while driving - not the typical zone out while driving the same route every day, but when doing some complicated high-speed passing on a crowded highway (not that I do that anymore).

                    The main reason I was wondering about it was because after an iaido practice a while ago a person told me to approach the kata with "mind of no mind" and I was curious if you could consciously attain that state (because I had my doubts). I think it probably is something that just happens on its own when you have enough knowledge and experience with something. That's going to be a long time for me.

                    Hank.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Hank
                      Hi,

                      ... I think it probably is something that just happens on its own when you have enough knowledge and experience with something....
                      Hank.
                      A bit like when you play your Hammond?


                      Originally posted by Hank
                      ...there are times when I get into a groove and my mind isn't thinking about anything - it's like I play on automatic, but it turns into some of the best jams I've ever done. It's like being ultra-focused, but not thinking about it.

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                      • #12
                        I dont know if its something to strive for because...I belive that to improve you need to think..
                        but surely is something to appreciate when it happens!

                        ah man..
                        I can remember the final where miyazaki won his 2nd tittle. It was against Eiga's older brother.
                        At the beginning of the match miyazaki tried to go for men but Eiga's shinai kept still and went into miyazaki. I don't think he was injured but right after the shiai started again Miyazaki scored some crazy men uchi. Then for the second point just a few seconds after he again scores an other crazy men uchi. At that time you can see he is in the zone! He was so nuts that he didnt even remember where he was supose to go for doing the sonkyo !!! He mixed up sided!!

                        crazy stuff

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Paikea
                          Where your actions become a gesture in your mind instead of a thought with words - my old drums teacher.
                          When i do best in kendo, thats how i think,
                          I act, i dont think of what the action im doing is called or why, I just use it because I know it will work...instinctively, or from the heart.. whatever you want to call it.. sweet

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