Martial Arts Unfettered Mind

I consider the Unfettered Mind by Takuan Soho to be one of the ten books that every marital artist should have on their shelf regardless of style or disciple. The Unfettered Mind: Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master (The Way of the Warrior Series)
This timeless transmission of the mindset in combat is quite profound. Without getting into the depth of it, the premise is that thinking will get you killed in combat. If you are “thinking” then you are not moving, you are stuck at a point in time, and that means you can and will be killed.
Written during the time of swords and samurai, Soho had no way of knowing how the world would evolve, that some westerner, a concept ever foreign at the time, would by reading and applying his book in a time of guns, bombs, and invisible warfare.
There is a big lesson here in our own day to day training. About eight years ago I found out the hard way that thinking could get you killed, and by the grace of the gods (kami) I was spared. Looking back that is what it took to get the lesson across- would I have understood if it was “told” to me? A post for another time…
We can hash things out here on the blog, talk shop, and compare notes, but don’t dare confuse martial arts for what is written here- martial arts is that moment where it is just you and an opponent(s) and all that hangs in the moment is life and death. Suspended away from that moment are things like ideology, reason, and perhaps even humanity- profound stuff. There is only movement.
Can we train for something like this in a safe and controlled environment like the dojo?
How do we train for this in the dojo?
Pay attention to your own training, and as always I can only offer my trails and errors as an example...
For many of us I’m willing to bet martial arts is a mental activity- we watch out teacher demonstrate a kata, waza or training drill depending on your terminology and tradition, and then we pair up with a partner to practice.
At some point the teacher may come over and correct us or add a movement, and other times not.
During that moment of practice- what are you thinking of?
Or rather not thinking of?
Don’t think when you practice! Don’t concern your mind with right or wrong, how you look, just DO the movements! Ok, first or second try you should think about what you are doing in terms of distance, footwork, and all the parts that make up the movement, but then let them go, and just give it over to your body to do and adjust to what is correct.
Teacher corrects you, make the adjustments and then let them go from your mind. Don’t make martial arts an intellectual exercise in the dojo where you are analyzing and breaking apart everything like in an academic classroom.
Get to that unfettered mind…

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Located in Westchester New York, the Bujinkan Shinmyoken Dojo is a martial arts training group founded in 2005 with the aim of coming together as martial arts friends to study the Japanese martial art of Masaaki Hatsumi through the lessons of the Bujinkan dojo.

As friends (buyu) we come together to grow, learn, and share our individual potential in this wonderful martial art.

Questions, comments, feedback, and inquiries may be emailed to the group here: BujinkanShinmyoken@gmail.com.