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.