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.

takemusu

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 ~ 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.)

 

Ownership

Take ownership for all of your actions and that will moderate what you undertake. Only in full truth to yourself will you ever realise the full potential of your own life and experience fulfilment.

No Remote

The way to enlightenment is not necessarily by the direct path. The crooked path can be far more interesting and the point is not to arrive as soon as possible, but to actually arrive.

It’s not where you walk. It’s how you walk! This is what I always told my dojo students.

“See first with your mind, then with your eyes, and finally with your body” – Yagyu Munenori

Some people go through life totally oblivious to the havoc they wreck due to their indifference and lack of consideration for others. Like a bull in a china shop they have no comprehension of the finer points of life nor any inkling that their own lives could even be made richer if they actually opened their eyes and made an effort to understand the true depths of human interaction, expectations and social empathy .

“Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself” – Chinese Proverb

A lot of the current social situations in the “civilised” world today seem to be the product of inept thinking and limited understanding. Too many people are happy to be ill informed and gaining real understanding of any situation, process or viewpoint is just too hard.

Similarly, I hear many people grumble and whine about the sorry state of the country, society and their own lot in life, yet when it comes to doing something about it – “It’s not my job!

So, if life is not what you expected get out there and change it — Jump in at the deep end.

When it comes to martial arts, there are those who want to learn and other who want to be taught. No amount of teaching will help those in the later group fully grasp the intricacies of true Budo technique. They expect to be given the secrets to “the hidden arts” but without expending effort to truely understand the underlying ethos that drives the final mastering of the skills.

Instructors can show you the path to the top of the mountain, but you must walk it yourself.

~ Dent

Footnote – Yagyu Munenori (1571 – 1646) was a swordmaster, teacher of sword to the first Shogun and head of the Palace Guard of the Tokugawa Shogunate at Nijo Castle. Also a contemporary of both Miyamoto Musashi and Takuan Soho the zenmaster.

Photo – When it rains, go shopping!

 

 

The Origins of Confusion

“Sometimes, for instance, he would be mesmerised by the sight and sound of rain on the water; the rain on the sea; the rain on a lake; the rain on a stream. He would look up and see the clouds untroubled by the deluge they had let loose and his mind and spirit would be numbed into a trance of understanding. Understanding what, he could not hope to explain. But there was a sense of rightness about the way of the water, a sense which he never drew from Christianity.” ~ From the novel ‘Credo’ by Melvin Bragg.

This passage is relating the thoughts of a Celt warrior of the time of Wilfred, Cuthbert and King Oswald in Northumbria. A Christian convert, but still in touch with his Celtic spiritual side.

This passage has suddenly given me insight into a question that has bugged me for many years.

So many people give lip-service to the Christian faith yet still secretly, somewhere deep down, believe in pagan concepts, not realising that these have become absorbed into traditional Christian methodology and form part of the procedure of the current established church.

Total belief in a single deity has given rise to an attitude of contempt for the spiritual nature of all living things on this earth. It has also given license to ‘fobbing off’ a regard for ‘minor’ elements in life as ‘not being worthy’ of concern or effort, because GOD is looking after that, so why should we worry.

It appears that multi spiritual beliefs achieve a hell of a lot more when it comes to respect for things outside our selves. I have observed much deep understanding and tolerance within the multi-spirit beliefs of the First People and also the Shinto. Their assignment of individual spirits to all things seems a much fairer concept and instils an immediate and intimate relationship between oneself and all elements of nature, each other and also one’s self.

I love the concept of the ‘spirit’ of the horse. Each individual horse has one, then each group of horses has one and then there is one for all horses collectively. This means that each horse is watched over by at least three spirits, But you can keep adding: the spirit of all animals; the spirit of the prairie, the plain, the sierra, sky, mountains, etc., etc.

Horses

It makes me feel great to know that horses are so well looked after.

I look then in horror at the bitter, small minded, hatred mongering coming out of the so-called civilized religions and cringe inside. Does not feel good at all. My heart wants to cry when I see the killing and the injustice that can be acted out in the name of their “God”.

We need to get in touch with ourselves on a better level! Become responsible for who and what we are. Stand up and be seen as caring and sensitive citizens of this planet.

~ Dent

 

Keeping the Faith

I have never lost my belief in God, just changed my terms of reference.

I can remember when I was about 8 or 9 walking home from Sunday school pondering how any grown person could believe in some big dude in a white gown living in the clouds.

I do however subscribe to the belief in a higher, greater power, or  Universal Life Force (Ki in Japanese or Ch’i in Chinese).

Although I was raised in a Christian community and actively involved with church groups during my youth, I have never been able to embrace the ‘God’ concept in that way.

I do also believe in Jesus, the man, a.k.a. Joshua, and all that he stands for, both then and now. I have a high regard for the Church and Christians in general, along with Muslims, Buddhists and other believers who have faith in what they believe.

The reason for this is the questioning undertaken during my teens. When I was 16 I went to church on Sundays and afterward attended Bible Class with other teens. Finding that I couldn’t get the interaction I desired and also finding the discussions very ‘bland’ I started to search elsewhere for the answers I felt were out there, yet hidden.

Since I couldn’t believe in God the same way that others seemed to I wanted to find out why we needed religion at all. Psychology books from my school library lead me on to the work of Karl Jung, Zen and the Asian philosophies.

That is how I came to follow the path, or ‘way’, of Bushido. That is ‘the warrior code’ and is based on the philosophies of Zen and Shinto in general and the teachings of the great Samurai philosophers and warrior monks in particular.

I find it fits with my life very well and have followed this path for the past 40 years. The last 20 years through the practice and teaching of Aikido. Prior to that through the practice of Shotokan Karate and before that, Judo.

The main thing that I discovered from my studies is that we are all different and perceive and accept things differently, moderated and moulded by our unique personalities, upbringing and personal circumstances.

What is truly important is not so much what we believe but how we believe. It is the degree of faith that we exhibit and direct into our belief, whatever it may be, that makes us whole and fulfilled.

I always tell my students “it’s not where you walk, it’s how you walk”.

I also believe and teach respect, tolerance, courage and understanding.

The fear of death diminishes with age and knowledge. Having faced death several times I know that it is the fear of what you leave behind that is the key element. So, be sure to conduct your life in such a way as to leave only good things behind.

This is what will be remembered and this is where, I think, the concepts of Heaven and Hell reside.

~ Dent

 

 

Being Gaijin

The art of being there.

 

I follow the path of Bushido which is the Samurai Code and is basically Shinto based. I pursue this path by the practice of Budo, or the Way of War. This is a martial art in the loose sense of that description, but more specifically it is the study of tactics and strategy through the practice of sword form and following the warrior code in lifestyle and attitude. … Ex Aikido instructor.

From an early age I was always the ‘outsider’, never quite fitting in and I am not quite sure how I arrived at this place.

From the age of 3 years I was raised by grandparents and they being of the older generation, it was then the 50s, I was subjected to the values not far removed from Victorian England. But I still can’t quite get to grips with how my ‘eastern’ turn of mind evolved from all that.

Being raised by non-spiritual people with general Christian values somehow managed to plant me squarely at the doorstep of Zen. When starting to question the values and lessons offered at Bible Classes when I was 17, I soon found myself searching for answers in psychology texts where I discovered Carl Jung and his collective unconscious mind.

Jung talked about Zen, the asian mindset and the practice of ‘do’ arts as ‘ways’ of pursuing and studying the state of ‘oneness’. Judo was the only game in town at that time so that’s where I started when 19 years old. With that and an armload of books on Zen and asian philosophies I slowly surged ahead. I never became totally involved with judo as my musical skills came forward and I began a seventeen year stint performing with rock bands. But the books prevailed!

In 1984 I quit performing, sold off all my gear, bought a gi and joined Shotokan karate where my Sensei introduced me to Miyamoto Musashi and his Book of Five Rings. The fire was lit and I soon discovered his contemporaries, Takuan Soho the Zen monk and Muninori Yagyu who was chief advisor and swordmaster to the first Shogun, both of whom also wrote very significant Budo texts. I still read their works and also books about their lives today. This is how my lifestyle choice of Bushido came about. Karate soon gave way to Aikido in 1989 and a regime of serious training began. By 1996 I had ‘inherited’ my first dojo and was teaching five classes each week.

This was certainly an exciting segment of my life and I will discuss this another time as there were some significant events and experiences that will interest a few readers.

“I am not what happened to me, I am what I choose to become” – Carl Jung. This is one of my favourite quotes and really puts into a nutshell the evolution of my existence. Life really is all about choices and I did make a concerted effort at a young age to shape my development, although I think a lot of it did actually happen subconsciously.

Basically, his is my Journal – Mainly thoughts, observations and advice taken from my journey through the practice and teaching of Aikido from 1990 to 2014, plus observations on life in general. Although I am no longer physically active in the dojo my head thinks I am!

Denton Perry – Aikikai Sandan (2004)

Dojo Cho Greerton Dojo 1996 to 2005 – Kawhia Dojo 2006 to 2009.
Bushin Aikibudo – Tauranga 2010 to 2014

 

(A work in progress – I will add to this as time allows)