Mushin ~ A State of No Mind

My take on Mushin is creating a state of relaxed calm leaving the mind open and clear of thought, not stopping or resting at any point.

Mushin

 

 

In his book “The Unfettered Mind” Takuan Soho talks about not allowing the mind to stop. “Stop stopping!” he tells us. The open mind is always flowing, all directions at once yet finely focused and fully committed with total resolve.

 

 

From The Unfettered Mind ~ “If ten men come at you with swords slashing, if you parry each sword without stopping the mind at each action, and go from one to the next, you will not be lacking in a proper action for every one of the ten.” ~ Takuan Soho

One way of coming to experience this state in aikido was to engage in around two hours of solid training then be subjected to Jiyu waza, continuous multiple attacks, with four or six attackers. One became so tired that the conscious mind just switched off and you went on auto-pilot. The object was to then recreate this state of mind at a later time during general training and eventually be able to enter this state at will. Relaxation and breathing were important factors in this.

The mind-body relationship that we see in Budo is often best described in paradoxical terms. As is true for most principles in Budo. I used to tell my students quite often that “the body teaches the mind”. This was mainly in response to questions of why we needed to practice repeated suburi, aikido undo and tai sabaki exercise routines. But also to get across the importance of conditioning and readiness for the experience of Mushin.

All movements need to become totally ingrained into the psyche so that when we need to respond instantly to a surprise attack, or other happening, the body will be moving in the right way before we even form a conscious response to the situation.

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All Shinryukan dojos have a banner on the front wall (Shomen) facing the training area with the kanji script for Take, Musu, Ai and Ki.

Takemusu Aiki is a term used by O Sensei to describe the correct attitude and mind set for training in Aikido. The literal translation is – Takemusu = spontaneous and continuous technique, and Aiki = blending with movement, or harmony.

The meaning however is “Life-generating force capable of unlimited transformations” ~ O Sensei.

Takemusu Aiki is seen as both advice in correct training and also a goal that can be applied to one’s own lifestyle. When you look at how this sits in with the advice of Takuan Soho’s concept of Not Stopping then it becomes evident that training hard in the spirit of Takemusu Aiki sets one up for reaching the state of Mushin.

The one thing that needs to be remembered is that the attainment of Mushin can never be forced and no amount of training will ever suffice if the spiritual attitude is not in place. Mushin just happens. Often with surprise and when you least expect it, but once the body has experienced the state it will always remember it and will return to it as needed without any conscious invocation.

~ Dent
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Dojo Files ~ Kuzushi

“Do not chase after secret techniques for everything is right before your eyes.” ~ Morehei Ueshiba

This is a classic comment from O’Sensei. One of the things that is “right before your eyes” is kuzushi.

Kuzushi is a Japanese term for unbalancing an opponent in martial arts.

The noun comes from the intransitive verb, kuzusu, meaning to level, pull down, or demolish. As such, it is refers to not just an unbalancing, but the process of getting an opponent into a position where his stability, and thus ability to regain balance, is destroyed.

In aikido, it is an essential principle and the first of three stages to a successful throwing technique: entering, off-balance, throw [sabaki, kuzushi, waza].

At its simplest level, kuzushi means off balance and involves the use of the other person’s motion. While most people understand this they do not incorporate that understanding into every part of their Aikido practice. Every technique requires kuzushi, taking your uke’s balance. Without kuzushi the technique becomes difficult and laboured or maybe impossible.

However, if you take someone’s balance their ability to press the attack or resist your technique is removed. Using kuzushi you can then achieve a level of harmony, “aiki”, with your uke.

To achieve kuzushi you need to move your body as one from your hara (your centre) not from your extremities. The movement of your arms and legs should be a result of moving your centre in concert with your assailant.

Secondly – become one with the other person. Physically you move when they move, at the speed they move and blend your movement with their attack. You keep blending with them until they hit the ground. Only by fully accepting his attack and allowing your assailant to move in the direction he wants, can you use your technique to the fullest without allowing him an opportunity to counter.

Thirdly – although I believe this only develops with training, there is a psychological element to kuzushi. That is off balancing your uke at the moment they attack. There is not room to deal with it here but it can easily be seen in the fabled story of the duel between Miyamoto Musashi and Sasaki Kojiro.

If you want to improve your aikido then one way is to improve kuzushi. When you train be aware and look for kuzushi in every technique. Practice it. And of course the most important thing is practice often!!

~ Dent

 

Dojo Files ~ The Other Dynamic

I see discussions on-line regarding comparisons between Aikido, Karate, BJJ, Taekwando and MMA — but one of these things is not the same, and that is Aikido.

 

Aikido is not a martial art.
(Excuse me while I remove the arrows from my back.)

 

Aikido is Budo and shares the Bushido ethos. The related martial art is aikijutsu, often also referred to as akibujutsu and these are fighting styles.

 

O Sensei developed his Aikibudo out of Aikijutsu and Jujutsu as a spiritual method of training the mind and developing a focused centre. His intention was that Aikido should be a method of spiritual development with the personal self defence component as a side benefit. Aikido was never intended as a fighting, or combat, form but more as a means to develop personal confidence and the ability to avoid confrontation, yet also have the skills to fend off an aggressive attacker. The attacker envisioned here being some random street thug and not a trained specialist fighter.

 

The key is ‘do’ meaning way or path in contrast to ‘jutsu’ (jitsu) meaning art, or mystical skills. Hence you have judo as the sport variation of jujutsu and kendo as the sport variation of kenjutsu. The development of the ‘do’ styles was for the purpose of zen practice and not as fighting styles or bujutsu.

 

To my way of thinking, Budo is the way of warfare, tactics and strategy and is the domain of the warrior monks and samurai, whereas bujutsu is the art of war, fighting and soldier craft.

 

So, although there is a definite bujutsu component in the taijutsu routines in aikido training it is only half the story. The development of ki and attitude form a large part of the skill development through the practice of ‘breath throws’ (kokyu-nage and zagi kokyu-ho) plus the sweeping dance-like movement of the basic throwing techniques.
These are meant for the development of poise, balance, control and follow through, and those are the main components that make the bujutsu versions of the techniques actually work.

 

During the later years at my dojo in Greerton as membership grew and senior students became more advanced I introduced back to back classes two evenings each week. The first was a general and beginner’s class where the slower flowing forms were practiced, then this was followed by a senior class of faster, harder and more dynamic technique execution. Jo-dori, tanto-dori, jiyu waza, etc.

 

There was no warm up at the second class: the first class was the warm up. For a senior to attend the second class they had to also attend the first.
So, in consideration of this I offer that aikido is in fact a warm up for aikijutsu.

 

This is really putting it in a nutshell and you really need to think harder about this to gain the complete picture. These are personal observations and the reader really needs to explore these concepts and relate them to their own experiences and ethos.

 

~ Denton

 

A Place in Time – A Music Composition

An impression of the sound of habitation: celebrating the industrial soundtrack to modern life.

The acknowledgement of frustration at the human condition and the realisation that if you do not accept it, it will drive you insane.

Just another odyssey of triumph and pain!

(This is a composition that I put together in 2011 and features on the Cantus Machina album Extreme Navigation.)

 

The Tokyo Vibe

The people in Tokyo don’t raise their voices, talk loudly or shout. It’s the buildings that do that!

What a fabulous jumble of sight and sound is this vibrant haven of visual stimulus of lighting and music. Everything talks at you accompanied by wild flashing and pulsing light. The people meanwhile just go about their daily routine, nod and smile, and sweep the dust off whatever that thing is with the dust on it.

I can see where the electricity comes from though and just how it gets there too.

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Creative utilities much! Wires, wires and more wires.

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The taxis! Where did they find all those 1975 Toyota Crown sedans? Do they have a secret stash somewhere? They all seem brand new.

Urban Playlists – At most of the cafes and bars you will be listening to 60s jazz and lounge music. Perry Como, Peggy Lee and the Rat Pack crew abound. While in the stores it seems that 70s Haight/Ashbury and the Summer of Love have never left.

Street fashion is ‘edgy’ and Lolita Girls seem to have vanished into the dark corners of Takeshita Street. It’s all very dark, plain colours with some odd vinyl and mesh cut to rather eclectic and quirky lines. All very low key Zen monk with cybergoth undertones. Unfortunately I didn’t get any photos as it is frowned upon to use a camera without permission and most people were on a mission and somewhat unstoppable. But … here is a photo from my Italian fashion designer friend that shows the general impression of what I was seeing. Thank you Grendel.

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And now some random vibe-worthy photos ….

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Faceted glass from on New building on Meiji Dori at Harajuku.
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Pond at Shinjuku Gyoen Nation Gardens.
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Very tall and thin in Shinjuku-Chome.
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New building in a lane at Meiji-jingumae.
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South east entrance to Yoyogi Park and the Meiji Shrine.

Harajuku Jingumae

Tokyo is a great city to partake of on foot. The small streets and lanes one or two blocks back from the main roads are a treasure trove of eclectic shopping and wonderful experiences.

Harajuku Jingumae became our ‘hood’ for the two weeks we were there and much exploring was undertaken.
Walking south from our base in Sendagaya, along Meiji-dori, we would be at Takeshita Street in 5 minutes. A short stop at Starbucks for a ham roll and latte then onward to Meiji Jimgumae and a cross road and Metro station. A short stroll east from here and we were into Omote-Sando which is a high-end shopping area, but also the starting point of Cat Street which then runs south to Shibuya and meets up with Meiji-dori again.

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Takeshita Street, home of Kawaii and Lolita Girl fashion on a rainy day.
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Main cross roads at Meiji-jingumae looking north up Meiji-dori
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Cat Street at night

It was such a joy being amongst these happy and vibrant people, but we soon learned that you do not venture out on the roads before 10am. Nothing opens until 11am, including most cafes and local restaurants, so breakfast was Starbucks or whatever we had scored at the 7-11 the night before. But, more than that – one morning after leaving Starbucks we ventured through Takeshita Street, with closed shops, and waited at the road crossing at the end. Across the road was the exit from the Harajuku subway station. As the light indicated “cross now” we were subjected to a stampede of morose and grumpy faces bursting across the road. Obviously the happy workers had rushed out of bed and not had their morning allocation of coffee before hitting the Metro and the day ahead. Luckily we avoided being crushed and trampled and lived to shop on.

The first rule of Tokyo – Don’t talk about the morning!

One of our best ‘finds’ in Harajuku Jingumae was on the last day we were there. After another day of tramping around the back streets in 34C we found …

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And we found it here …

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Only about a three minute walk from the apartment was this … Deus Ex Machina where we had lunch with a motorcycle.

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How could you not love this city with the serenity and calm within the chaos of sound and light that is Tokyo. The sound of crows shouting at the rain as flocks of umbrellas glide above the sidewalks.

Feels like home and a validation of personal values.

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Our Stay in Tokyo

We decided to have a stay in Tokyo for a few weeks and my wife found us a small AirBnB apartment in Sendagaya at the north end of Harajuku. This looked to us like a choice spot only a 5 minute walk from Harajuku Station. Also it’s proximity to Yoyogi Park which is just behind the station and runs through to Shinjuku.

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From Meiji-jingumae looking across Yoyogi Park to Shinjuku

I was familiar with Yoyogi Park having stayed there in the old Olympic village accommodation in September 2000 while attending the 8th International Aikido Congress. Although my days were occupied with training sessions I did manage to get a day off to spend in Shinjuku so I did basically know my way around.

What a blast! There was still a large amount of pleasant surprises as we mooched out way around the back streets of Harajuku Jingumae, the main road and shopping outlets. The Japanese are so polite and accommodating. Even though there is not a lot of English spoken our rudimentary Japanese soon gave way to hand gestures and smiling to seal a sale or find what we wanted. I did remember some of the hand gestures that I had been shown in 2000, but you can just about ad lib and make them up on the spot.

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The two main things that had an impact with us regarding the people were cellphone use and rubbish.
Nobody talks on cellphones in public, in cafes, on trains and on the street. Everything is by text or other chat services. We only heard a phone ring twice the whole time we were there.
There are no rubbish tins or trash cans on the streets and there is also no litter.
We soon figured out that on nearly every second block there is a 7-11 or equivalent and they all have a rack of bins just inside the door. One each for paper, plastic, glass, and food waste. It became almost a ritual to stop off at a 7-11 on the way home to collect some sandwiches, tiramisu, cold drinks and other food items, then drop off the refuse back at the store next morning on the way out.

7-11 have the most awesome club sandwiches and tiramisu. These are absolutely essential when you have bee trudging all around the streets in 34C most of the day. By late afternoon the thought of having to get cleaned up and go out again to a restaurant was not a welcome thought. We had many meals of club sandwiches, tiramisu and Asahi Zero beer. The Japanese make egg sandwiches to die for!

Food – Well traditional Japanese fare did not get much of a look in and the Japanese take on Western food is a totally new animal. Awesome much. Everything is much less sweet and thereby much more enjoyable with the real food flavours coming to the fore. We ate a lot of things that we normally wouldn’t at home, like club sammies and tiramisu for example.

Safety – We already knew about this but it was a joy to behold. There is no petty crime or opportunity theft. People walk into a cafe and drop their bag onto the nearest seat then go off to order food or use the toilet with never a worry. If you walk off an leave your wallet on a seat someone will chase you down the road to return it.

Personal safety is always assured. The general culture is one of respect and caring.