Mushin – learning to forget

As a martial artist, we train to face a combat situation that will require us to engage on both a conscious and subconscious level, and so we should focus our practice with this in mind.

The conscious mind is a great tool, providing us with our sensory input, the capacity to evaluate, the intelligence to plan and the wisdom to change. These qualities are inherent in everyone, and their skilful use is essential to the martial artist. We have the ability to perceive a situation as it develops, weigh it up, devise a strategy and take action. However, when action turns to combat there will be little or no time for us to think. This is when we need to rely on the subconscious.

The subconscious is a storehouse of imprinted information. The mind creates long-term memory by strengthening the synaptic pathways through the repetition of an act. This allows us to train through experience and increase our physical and mental abilities. Subconscious action is very efficient. It does not stop the conscious mind or get delayed by thought. However, subconscious responses are pre-programmed patterns that have not been adapted to meet the needs of our present situation. To adapt, we need to utilise our natural awareness and the creative freedom of the moment.

We practice taijutsu forms and principles so that we can deliver what works and understand why – then we need to know how to give our taijutsu life. This ‘what, why and how’ is the foundation – the body, mind and spirit of our training method.

Considering this, we should take time to study strategy, we should practice our taijutsu carefully with the correct movement and we should apply taijutsu principles mindfully. Forms and principles should be trained so that they become subconscious skills – then we will have the capacity to be without conscious form and respond freely.