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.




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.


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

Dojo Files ~ Sword Form

“New eras don’t come about because of swords, they’re created by the people who wield them. ” ~ Nobuhiro Watsuki

The study of sword forms enhances both the understanding of physical principles of movement, distance and dynamic and mental focus.

Aikido has many forms of practice with a bokken (wooden training sword) but as a rule these forms are taught with the intent of increasing understanding of Aikido principles and improving posture, movement and coordination.

In aikido the movements in all of the techniques are sword movements, just without the sword. O Sensei often referred to the arm as ‘tegatana’ – arm like a sword. The more you train with a bokken the better your techniques will become. It is your ‘at home’ training partner and I always took it when going away camping so that I could keep my form honed.

Also bokken training gives the martial artist a deeper understanding of martial arts concepts and principles which include movement relative to an opponent, distances from which to operate, and the coordination of feet and hands when holding and moving with an object. I have found that not all aspects of aikido come from O sensei, but there is much to be found in the writings of Musashi, Takuan Soho and the Shogun’s sword master Munenori Yagyu. Yagyu’s concept of No-Sword could seriously been taken as an aikido philosophy.

More modern writers would be Mitsugi Satotome Shihan (Aikikai) and Dave Lowry (Yagyu Shinkage) for both aikiken and shinkendo practice methods

Also part of practice is the reigei or etiquette. The sword, often referred to as the soul of the samurai is a serious weapon, deserving of serious consideration of the consequences of its use and careful handling and needing serious mental focus. The reigei is designed to imbue the practitioner with the correct frame of mind that builds respect for the weapon and the philosophy behind its use.

The bokken, although made of wood, is also a serious weapon in it’s own right. Although used extensively for training a bokken in skilled hands can be deadly. Not just that, but also less blood on the dance floor, so to speak!

It is said that Miyamoto Musashi, the legendary ronin samurai, by age 28 had fought over 60 duels to the death, but only two were with a live blade (shinken), the rest were all with his bokken, and often against a shinken. Also many samurai in battle conditions preferred to fight with a bokken rather than risk chipping the blade of their precious katana. So, never think of the bokken as a toy or just a training weapon!

Remember also that training with a bokken represents training with a sword and a bokken should always be considered as one and treated with the due respect that a shinken deserves. Training with a sword is in all it’s essence a Bushido practice.

Bushido is the Warrior Code, the Samurai “way”. The philosophies are deeply seated in the Jidai (traditional) Samurai methods, etiquette and respect (rei ho). The whole ethos has developed from the warrior class over many centuries and commands a quiet presence of place and worth.

The main thing to remember is to do everything with full attention to every detail and commitment to the essential values of the form.

~ Denton

Photo – Bokken with saya. Also great for the practice of Aikibatto – See developments by Stefan Stenudd, 6th DanAikikai, Sweden –



Making it Matter

Do everything in life with meaningful intent.

If you are not happy with you life then you need to change it. But what if you cannot change it?

There are always tasks in life that we do not want to do, but have to. There are always situations that we find ourselves in that we cannot get out of or away from.

“Do every little thing in the spirit of the ‘thing’ itself” – Samurai maxim.

What this means is to do whatever task is required of you, regardless of how much you may abhor it, with complete attention to every little detail and giving it the best possible effort that you can muster. Totally embrace it and make it your own.

With this philosophy on board you can make any chore into a challenge and obtain enjoyment from the experience of a successful completion.

If you then apply the same principles to all of life then you will find fulfillment. The art of Zen finds immense beauty in the simplest things. There is no need for arduous pursuit of all manner of entertainments, possessions and experienced to obtain a fulfilling life. Fulfillment can be in the completion of the smallest task, or assisting a friend or family member, or even a stranger, just for the sheer enjoyment of a thing accomplished with caring and pride.

Knowledge of the world is only to be acquired in the world and not in a closet.Lord Chesterfield

Do not hide yourself away from life. get out there and do everything that you can imagine, but make it worthwhile.

If you must do it, do it well. If you have to do it for duty’s sake, do it with pride. 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 life and experience fulfillment.

so, don’t be a fool. Be fulfilled!

~ Dent

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.


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