Zanshin is Your Friend

It’s better to be strong than to be weak.  If you can help a friend or family member who needs you it is good to be able to do it. To be strong is an advantage.

Our environment tolerates a lot of weakness. That is good for the aged and infirm but not so good for kids or anyone else that would like to grow strong, be healthy, be independent and take on life’s challenges.

We modern people are accustomed to delegating responsibility to others. Food, shelter, health care, cars and computers, phones and finance are mostly relegated to the care of experts. So we never learn to take care of these things for ourselves or, if we once knew, we gradually we become unable to do them for ourselves. The same is true for self defense.

It’s not just physical strength or life skills that are affected. We can be so well-amused that we cannot sustain focus on anything for very long. Under stress, or when a difficult task requires our attention, we cannot focus on it for as long we need to to get it done.


It is better to be strong than to be weak. To focus our minds and channel our emotions when we need to.

We can build these skills in our martial arts.

Our work, school, sports, family life and relationships with others all benefit from our karate training. This is true in every case. There are no exceptions. If you do the work you will get the results.


In karate we sometimes use the word ‘zanshin.’ It is a Japanese word used in many martial arts. Sometimes people think zanshin is mystical, obscure and hard to understand. It is not. It means ‘continuing mind’ – a state of mind that does not jump around from object to object like a dog chasing squirrels; a state of mind that does not come to rest on one thing, oblivious to everything else.

It is a state of continuing awareness, present without being stuck, open without being vague, aware of what is present and at the same time sensing the emerging possibilities in each changing moment.

If you do anything that is difficult and demanding – in work or sports in music or anything skillful – you are developing zanshin.

We all have some strength and balance, some speed and skills when we start training in karate. We can deepen them in every class, as we gradually increase the level of challenge, in a way that is right for each student.

That is why training makes us strong.  That is how we use our training to make our lives better. In self-defense ability, yes, but not only in self-defense.

We choose to take on a healthy challenge and do what we need to do to meet it. Unlearning the bad habits of looking restlessly for the next amusement, pleasure, or distraction, and instead seeking out the next opportunity to go deeper, get stronger and to prepare.

That takes continuing spirit. We learn to cultivate ‘continuing spirit’ or ‘continuing mind’ as we practice combatives in our classes.

There in class, if our zanshin fails – if we get distracted by what we see or hear or by our own thoughts or feelings – the consequences can make a deep impression. Sometimes, as in sparring, it immediately gets our attention. We learn from it. And we don’t let it happen again.

As we build presence of mind, continuing spirit becomes natural, easier and deeper. By experiencing first hand the advantages it gives us we persist in training, deepening our skills, for a lifetime.

Our abilities change over the course of a lifetime, and so do our goals. But throughout a life of training, our spirit continues.

JB Elbow CU

Post by Jeff Brooks


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