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Five Minds in the Middle of Conflict

Traditional martial arts training, back when martial arts prepared the practitioner for living accurately and safely, offers us a series of five states of mind to explore while training and moving about in the world.

初 心 Sho-shin, the “beginners mind”,a state of awareness that remains fully prepared to enjoy things for the first time. Think of your excitement at starting lesson one of a new skill. Exciting and full of potential, ready for anything.

残 心 Zan-shin, the spirit of continuing on after the deed, a sustained awareness and observation. Zanshin allows us to stay connected, not only to a single downed attacker, but to possible next attackers. “After the battle, tighten your helmet straps.”

無 心 Mu-shin, “no mechanical thinking or figuring out”, a state of mind without judgement or planning or worrying. You are in a state of pure responding, seeing what is there from moment to moment without interpretation.

不 動 心 Fudo-shin, “unshakable mind”, an unperturbed spirit, not upset by inner thoughts or outer forces. You remain calm and observant receiving a verbal or physical attack while staying in a state of cool composure and balance. This is also captured in the phrase heijo-shin, or an “even keeled” observing mind.

洗 心 Sen-shin, a spirit that protects, purifies, and harmonizes all in the universe. You “see beyond” the conflict to serve all of humanity, reconciling distress and discord in the world in a spirit of compassion that holds all life to be sacred.

Acknowledging these states of mind elevates your training. Shoshin reminds you to enjoy learning, freeing you from the need to always be right. Zanshin reminds you to stay aware, rescuing you from the temptation of retreating in relief after an encounter. Mushin reminds you to be in the moment, eliminating the temptation to anticipate. Fudoshin reminds you to stand your ground calmly in the face of attacks. Senshin reminds you to see the bigger picture of why fighting happens in the first place.

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