One of the twelve keys already discussed was about gathering as much knowledge as possible. In this concept we are looking at how and where we can gather that needed information in a conflict so that we can make the right decisions. Learning new ways to take in information, and being able to direct our focus on the correct area, or more precisely, on the big picture, can often mean success or failure when dealing with a problem.
Think about how easy it is to make a mistake if you don’t have all the information, or how easy it is to become distracted so you don’t see what you need. Directing focus toward something not important is what makes sleight of hand tricks seem like such wonderful magic. Less entertaining than a magic show, is letting our focus be directed somewhere we don’t want it to go by someone who does not have our best interests in mind, by someone who wants us distracted so their own goals and not ours can be met. Or we may find ourselves betrayed from the inside, with our own mind aiming us toward something that distracts us from the bigger goal we need to accomplish.
The fifth of our twelve keys is:
SHU-CHU 集中 FOCUS
“Use your eyes and mind and sensitivity to connect to the whole picture so you can judge the problem and make the right decisions under pressure”
-An-shu Stephen K. Hayes, To-Shin Do Official Curriculum
This key is about how we take in information. Keeping your mind in the moment and paying attention is the beginning, of course. But where to keep focus, or how wide or specific to keep focus, are crucial ideas. Focusing on something too narrow (such as the knife in the attacker’s hand) can lead to tunnel vision and create a lack of awareness somewhere else. Too wide of focus and you run the danger of missing a detail (such as the handle of the knife protruding from the belt).
Moving forward into the training, we also need to learn to focus with more than just our eyes or mind. Our hands, our legs, all of us can connect with the attacker and be aware of what is going on around us. The more information we have, the better we will be able to make that right decision.
Try these exercises to develop more tools for taking in information:
As you practice a technique, where are your eyes as you are doing through the entire process? What are you looking at? Try keeping your gaze around their upper chest as an experiment. See if you can take in the whole body, and still be able to tell when their attack starts from the movement of their chest.
Have your training partner tuck a training knife into their belt while performing unarmed techniques. Once or twice during your training session (not every time or the drill loses its purpose!) your partner will reach down in the middle of the technique and touch the knife handle (but not draw it). Your goal is to notice when this happens.
Any time a part of your body is touching your training partner, what does that touch tell you about your partner? Do you feel tension? Do you feel balance? Go very, very slow through a technique and pay attention to touch and you’ll be amazed at how much information you can take in this way.