Balance in Space, Time and Mind

Perfect balance is dynamic – changing as conditions change.

Balance in Space

During training you may notice that you are over extended toward your target. Arm outstretched in a punch, you notice too much weight on your front foot, your spine axis projecting over your front foot, too close to the balance point. You notice the vulnerability in this and correct it, bringing the balance back to the centerline, so you are both stable and mobile, reducing the chance that your opponent will be able to take you off balance. Or you may notice during training that you are leaning back, or leaning to the side as you move. You detect the flaw and fix it, making a new habit of centered balance in space.

Balance in Time

During training you may notice that you are anticipating or hesitating. These are signs that you are off balance in time. If your opponent sets up an expectation and then changes his rhythm – causing you to launch an attack milliseconds too early – or let’s say you move before the count during group practice, anticipating the next count instead of responding to it, or if your opponent fakes or weaves and attacks unexpectedly, if you fail to respond instantly, your hesitation will put you at a disadvantage. During training we recognize what happened and fix it. We learn to remain centered in time.

Balance in Mind

During training you may think of what happened before. You may regret an error, or think of something you should have done. This is leaning back in time. This habit of mind pulls you out of the present, and results in distraction that puts you off balance. Thoughts about what you need to do in the future, about plans, about tomorrow’s demands or your aspirations or desires, or the next technique you will do, may intrude into your mind during practice. This leaning forward in time also leaves you off balance – not centered in the here and now, where your stability and mobility are most advantageous, where you have the freedom to chose what to do. This leaning of the mind, forward or backward, can be disasterous – whether it is milliseconds away from the present in a fighting or kumite situation, or extending far into time, to memories or hopes that are years away. But short time frame or long, these are examples of the mind’s leaning, off balance, forward or backward. These function to take you off the balance point in the present, and lead to flaws in performance and dangers in battle which appear as imbalance in space and time.

During training our physical and mental habits inform each other. We can analyze them as if they were separate but they are not separate in function. By learning to maintain centered balance in space, time and mind, as we notice imbalance and fix it in any dimension – our skills improve in all three dimensions.

Balance Under Threat and at Peace

Presence of mind is useful in everything we do. It is not esoteric. But it needs to be cultivated.

In the famous Zen Budo writing of Takuan Soho, warriors are advised to have their minds unfettered, not stuck to intention, target, distraction, or plans – free of the proliferations of thought, free from manufactured expectations formed by habit patterns – to have the will unbound, free to act and respond to the rapidly shifting dynamics of confrontation, of life, even of death. 

This takes training. It is fundamental to the training that we do every day.

Post by Jeffrey Brooks, Mountain Karate, Saluda, NC, Yamabayashi Ryu Karate Dojo, author of The Good Fight – The Virtues and Value of the Martial Arts and The Rhinoceros Tale – Martial Arts and the Path to Freedom. Post copyright © 2022 Jeffrey Brooks and Mountain Karate Dojo, LLC.

Detail from photo by Thao Le Hoan via Pexels

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