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Sho-Shin 正心 Heart

You may have seen written in your dojo’s curriculum the list of the twelve keys for earning your next To-shin Do belt rank. If you haven’t seen them yet, not to worry; you will as you continue your training. If you have seen them, the richness of these concepts is difficult to convey in the few words we have space for in a written curriculum. So I thought we could delve into them a little deeper over a series of articles.

Each of these Twelve Keys are qualities found in every technique within To-Shin Do. They are guideposts for finding and measuring growth, and for finding some direction when exploring the vast material within our martial art. They are ways to break down complicated skills into manageable pieces. Through the exploration of each one you’ll gain skills and expertise that may seem daunting at first.

Of course, they are also more than their individual parts. While you can (and should) focus on each key separately by breaking it down within every technique and skill, in application you cannot separate them completely. You cannot control balance separate from maintaining posture. You cannot have precision without knowledge. These twelve keys blend together to create To-Shin Do mastery.

Here’s our first key:


“Know and live the To-Shin Do code of mindful action as a warrior protector; you embody the dignity, grace, and refinement of demeanor of one recognized as a martial arts master, and demonstrate advanced warrior heijo-shin “level-headedness” imperturbable mind in and out of the dojo – you are in control.”
-An-shu Stephen K. Hayes, To-Shin Do Official Curriculum

The student creed and mindful action code keep us from getting out of balance in life, prevent us from unknowingly making things more difficult for ourselves, and are reminders of why we are training. It’s so easy to let ourselves get derailed or find ourselves doing things for the wrong reasons. It’s easy to let normal, day-to-day challenges blossom into something more dangerous by failing to pay attention to these codes.

These are constant battles, which is why we start our training sessions with the codes. But while these codes are important for growth in our lives outside the dojo, they serve a vital training importance as well. Have you ever seen a training partner get frustrated that they aren’t performing a technique correctly? Often that frustration just makes their next attempt even less successful, and there is a downward spiral of quality, and an upward spiral of anger and frustration. This focus on sho-shin, or heart, keeps us from falling into traps of our own making.

Later, as we begin to recognize things we are doing that are getting in our own way, we also gain skills to overcome those inner obstacles. That, too, is a part of our To-Shin Do journey. The more we do this, the more we find our way toward that heijo-shin spirit; an imperturbable warrior.

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