Zanshin is a form of awareness in the martial arts, a mindset of being ready for everything and anything about to happen, while being calm and single minded at the same time.
This mindset is important for the martial arts since it leads to fudoshin and mushin- the immovable mind, and the no mind.
From a self defense perspective we can see the immediate value of zanshin- being ready for something to go down, even when everything appears “safe”.
So how do we cultivate such a mindset?
Like many other skills in the martial arts, it comes with the application of the formula: time X practice = success.
Zanshin isn’t something you “learn”, it is something you experience and cultivate day in and out till one day it is just always there and “on” without you having to even think about it.
It becomes just like breathing.
What are some signs of zanshin to look out for an cultivate?
I can give two examples in my own training so you can apply it to yours and look for the key.
The first comes from one of our basic forms- kihon happo ichimonji no kamae…
I throw a punch at my training partner, they receive it, and then strike me in the neck. As I get hit in the neck and recoil back from the blow, what should I be doing?
As I move back, I am trying to recover back into kamae as quickly and smoothly as possible, and then stand there at the conclusion of the strike recovered and ready for the next even though it is not coming.
Second one comes from kenjutsu…
Draw the sword out, cut across DO, and then return the sword. As the sword is being returned, I am most vulnerable, so I am aware with good distance and form, ready to draw it out again even though for the training exercise it never happens.
Zanshin is found in both of those examples…