Used centuries ago by Buddhists monks as a way to find enlightenment, Zen today is a useful tool for martial artists. One reason why Zen is widely used in the field of a martial art lies in the fact that Zen trains the mind. Training the mind and to be fully aware of it is important for any martial artist to deliver peak performance. Indeed, Zen is important for understanding the philosophy of martial arts practice. Without Zen, this practice is meaningless.
Origin And Martial Arts
Originally Buddhists used Zen as a way to achieve liberation from delusion and to eventually find enlightenment. According to sources, Zen originated in 6th century India when Siddhartha Gautama, a young prince gave up his materialistic pleasures to embark on a spiritual journey then eventually became Buddha or the enlightened one. Bodhidharma, one ne of his successors, went to China and spread his teachings. As well, he founded martial arts and began to provide physical and mental training to Shaolin monks.
Bodhidharma’s teachings on Zen went on to spread to the samurai warriors of Japan and subsequently became their official religion. They used Zen meditation to train their minds in such a way that it enabled them to fight their battles without hesitation. The warriors eventually achieved excellence in all their martial art forms including jujitsu and kenjutsu.
Zen also taught the warriors to detach themselves from various possessions and to be aware that death can come anytime.
Zen & Its Four States Of Mind
There are four Zen states of mind that one can achieve in martial arts to benefit from the practice.
Shoshin, also known as the beginner’s mind, is generally characterized by openness and eagerness to do something new. Its application in the field of martial arts can be observed when a martial artist first joins a class or executes his first move even if he is nervous or frightened.
Fudoushin, which means immovable mind, is characterized by total control over one’s self. Indeed, achieving this state doesn’t mean the practitioner becomes stubborn. Instead, he becomes determined that nothing or no one can sway him. The state of fudoushin is extremely beneficial for martial artists who are under stress particularly because of a dangerous or challenging opponent. It can help them stay calm and face the opponent with a relaxed mind.
Mushin, which means no-mind,is a state of mind where the mind is entirely devoid of all thoughts and is merely acting on the present moment. In this state, the mind is free from all emotions so that one can perform without distractions. One way to achieve this state is by practicing the moves to the point that they become effortless or automatic.
Zanshin, which means remaining mind, has two aspects. One aspect is a state of peaceful awareness that keeps you aware of your surroundings even if you are not keenly watching what’s happening around you. The other aspect is based on follow through. It defines your mental state or actions after you implement a move or defeat your enemy.
Zanshin helps martial artists to focus enough on their opponent but not so much that they become unaware that an opponent can attack from another direction.