In Japanese, mushin means “empty mind”; “no mind”. If you’re a fan of “The Last Samurai” like me, it’s the lesson Tom Cruise’s Algren learned when he achieves his tie, “aiuchi” or mutual kill, in the match with his Sensei Ujio, played by Hiroyuki Sanada, in training with the bokken, the wooden sword.
In Aikido, Sensei Dan taught me, “Mushin. Mushin.” The phrase translates as: If you think about having an ‘empty mind’, you really don’t have the ‘empty mind’. Again, “Just train.”
Mushin is one of the primary principles in the mastery of martial arts like Aikido. Mushin might be one of the keys in mastery itself in whatever discipline you pursue. I can only truly create or recreate me from nothing. Otherwise, that ‘recreation’ is a different flavor of some past version of me.
Personal reinvention has nothing to do with what I know; nothing to do with the past. Werner Erhard said that we choose who we are going to be in any given moment. The challenge is recreating me in the moment, in the present from nothing.
I experience that recreation in intense Aikido training when multiple people come to punch or grab me in “jyuwaza”, and I must do SOMETHING. There’s no time to think, “Hmm, now what should I do here?”
I feel the force of the attack; match up; lead the attacker’s mind and body. I can either throw the attacker with iriminage (‘clothesline’ to the head) or take them down with a joint lock. Mushin. Empty mind. Create from nothing. At best I can do this for a couple of minutes. Yet, I get training in the distinction is invaluable.
I get that others can be stronger than I am. I get that I can be overwhelmed. I also get that I can only do my best. For the most part, that’s enough—win or lose. Knowing that I can do my best that I’m enough regardless of the outcome is peace for me. I can generate peace from nothing.
O-Sensei said that overcoming oneself is “true victory”; that creates peace from nothing. We all must eventually discover our own way of creating our peace. The Way of the Warrior is to create peace and “to give life to all things”.
In Aikido training I practice mushin and create the peace within. Sensei told me once before, “It’s more important to me, who you are outside the Dojo.” Yeah, we practice and train to create peace within ourselves so that we can take it outside the Dojo. The world also becomes my Dojo.
In one sense: For the most part not many people are coming to punch or grab me in the “real” world. That’s my sincere hope as well. However, I’m with people who haven’t trained in Aikido to have honor, respect, and discipline – at least for the most part. We don’t even bow to each other after we ‘beat each other up’. I’m kidding. Practice awase with others: “matching up” with people in conversation, at work, with family, basically with everyone.
Yeah, we can create our peace from nothing. That’s fine. To make a difference in the world I continue to practice in the Dojo and my World “Dojo” for that peace within.
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