Mushin and Shikake Waza!

by Lucas

Hello Imafuji-sensei, my question regards the concept of shikake waza contrasted with that of the Mushin.

After putting some thoughts in the concept of Mushin, as described in one or your articles and reading other peoples comments on Kendo-Guide, and on the Kendo World Forum, I brought myself thinking of the shikake waza.

In shikake waza, we are often (or the way I understand it) putting pressure in our opponent through seme and the waza of osae, harai, nidan etc. So, we are showing our intention that we want to hit then and try to strike from there.

The problem that seems to arise in my (superficial) understanding of Mushin is:
If, we need to clean our mind, letting it in nowhere so we can place it anywhere when we need it to, having a proactive intention of hitting some specific target isn’t putting your mind in a specific goal contradicting the concept of Mushin? Or am I just misunderstanding something?

Answer: Thank you for your question. Mushin is very hard concept and it is hard to explain. And more importantly, I cannot say for sure that I have experienced the state of mushin in my life. There may be a few times but I am not too sure. The thing is that I cannot reproduce that state of the mind intentionally.

Having read many articles and books, my understanding of mushin for now (as of November 2016) is that

You are focusing on something without any other thoughts

When you are in shiai for example, you want
to win. You focus on winning and you don’t think about anything other than winning. You’re purely focusing on winning. You don’t think about losing and you don’t think about some sneaky ways to win. You purely want to win and do your best for that.

When you are in that state, we call that you are in the state of zanmai. You devote yourself in that moment when you are in the state of zanmai.

You have intention to strike your opponent and also test yourself when you do kendo. You must fully focus on your opponent and his/her movements. You are in the state of zanmai. Then your mind must be free from kyo, ku, gi, wake (four sicknesses).

But of course, you need to think and perform until you get to that state; otherwise you cannot move as your mind tells you to do.

Finally, I need to tell you that if you think about mushin, you will never reach to that state of mind. But without thinking about it, you cannot even know which way you should go to get there. After struggling for a long time, you let it go. You will get there.

This is what a monk would tell you, I think. As a kendoist, we think about it over and over and deeper and deeper. When you do kendo, don’t think about it.

Well, after all, I don’t even know how to get there so please consider what I wrote is something you’ve heard while you are moving from one place to another.


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