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.

 

It is good to be skillful. The best way to feel confident is to be competent. In daily life, in a stressful situation or in whatever your arena of activity, you are better able to meet difficulty, discourage challengers, and lead the way when the pressure is on.

 

Our physical environment and our culture tolerate weakness and inattention. People can get very comfortable. We can feel completely safe. We have so many pleasures to choose from, and so many stimulating and diverting things to attract our attention.

 

That can be nice.

 

But it can also be destructive because as we get used to comfort we become weak.

 

We also get used to delegating responsibility to other people. Food, shelter, health care, cars and computers, phones and finance may all be relegated to the care of experts. So we never learn to take of these things for ourselves or, if we once knew, we gradually we become unable to do them for ourselves.

 

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 or demanding task requires our attention, we cannot focus on it for as long we need to do get it done.

 

This weakness and inattention is a disaster waiting to happen. It is also a disaster right now. The loss of the ability to focus is degrading our culture and the quality of our lives and the lives of the people around us.

 

One of the key skills in self-defense (essential in leadership in particular) is the ability to take the initiative and drive on through difficulties. Excessive comfort, ease and reliance on others, makes people passive and dissolves our conative ability – we lose our will.

 

 

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

 

We build these skills in our classes.

 

Little by little we increase the level of strength, flexibility, focus and determination we need to meet the demands of training. It works. We are able to export the increased ability we get from karate training out into every aspect and every moment of our lives.

 

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.

 

Zanshin

In karate we sometimes use the word ‘zanshin.’ It is a Japanese word that is used in 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 puppy chasing squirrels; a state of mind that does not  come to rest on one thing, oblivious about 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.

 

We already have a lot of ability. If you do anything that is difficult and demanding – in work or sports in music or anything skillful – you are already developing it.

 

We all have some strength and some balance, some speed and some skills when we start training in karate – and we develop all those in every class, as we gradually increase the level of challenge 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 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 are noticeable. Sometimes they are quite surprising.

 

But as we build presence of mind, continuing spirit becomes natural, easier, and deeper. By experiencing first hand the advantages it gives us we persist, 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.

 

Post by Jeff Brooks

 

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