Mind like water

In one of my recent posts, I wrote about how I thought that having a plan in mind for competition might have actually worked against me, because I was unable to see other options when my plan didn’t work out. An anonymous Sensei commented on that post, and told me to read The Unfettered Mind by Takuan. I can already see why they thought it would be helpful.

“When facing a single tree, if you look at a single one of its red leaves, you will not see all the others. When the eye is not set on any one leaf, and you face the tree with nothing at all in mind, any number of leaves are visible to the eye without limit. But if a single leaf holds the eye, it will be as if the remaining leaves were not there.”

This was my problem at the competition. All I could see was one submission, and I was blind to the rest of them. Because I told my mind where to go, it was not free to wander and see all of the other possibilities. I limited myself by fixating on one thing. I should have let my mind roam wherever it needed to.

“No matter where you put it, if you put the mind in one place, the rest of your body will lack its functioning.”

I should not have thought about what I was doing at all. It seems like kind of a weird concept, to do something without actively thinking about it, but that is the true goal of training, to have your skills become so ingrained that you do not need to tell your body what to do, because it already knows. Although I know that I am capable of doing jiu-jitsu without having to think about it, I still haven’t reached the skill level where I feel comfortable letting go of conscious thought when I grapple.

“Completely forget about the mind and you will do all things well.”

I am going to try to start doing that when I roll. I’m going to try to stop thinking about everything so much, and just let things happen. I already do it in karate. Whenever I spar, I don’t think about what I’m going to do, or what my opponent might do, I just go on instinct and feeling. I find that when I start planning or anticipating things, I do much worse in kumite than when I just let myself go.

“If you should decide on one place and put the mind there, it will be taken by that place and lose its function. If one thinks, he will be taken by his thoughts.”

This all goes back to the concept of No Mind (mushin), which in my limited understanding is closely tied into Zanchin, a high state of awareness. To me this doesn’t mean you don’t think at all, but that you don’t think about anything in particular, so that you can think about everything. Kris Wilder recently wrote a post “Be Aware!” Pffft…Useless. about how law enforcement officers, and others in similiar positions, can’t concentrate on every detail around them in order to spot trouble, so they get used to scanning for irregularities. To me this is an application of Zanchin and No Mind. In order to be able to see everything, they focus on nothing, and therefore their minds are able to see breaks in patterns that the rest of us might not see.Mind like water

“To think, ‘I will not think’–This, too, is something in one’s thoughts. Simply do not think about not thinking at all.”

So, not only should your body flow, but your mind as well. As soon as it becomes fixed on any one thought, you have limited yourself. You should have an awareness of everything going on around you, but focus on nothing, so that you will be able to see the things you otherwise might miss. Mizu no kokoro.

“Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow, creep, drip or it can crash. Be water my friend.” – Bruce Lee


4 comments on “Mind like water

  1. I agree with your thoughts here. My instructor has always told me that he thinks having a game plan, beyond what kind of takedown or guard jump you're going to do, is a waste of time. The thing is you have no way of knowing how the other person will respond to the things you do. I used to think that all of the higher belts were these great planners, thinking four or five steps ahead. Sometimes they do, I guess, but another of one my instructors once told me that it's not that he is planning so many moves ahead, he just knows what my options are and has a several options in his mind of what he can do depending on what I do. So many options!! It's mind boggling!! lol

  2. I know! I think part of my problem is that I can't yet see all of the possibilities, but I suppose that is something that just comes with time and experience.

  3. Gina – Thanks so much for citing my blog. It is great to know you are a reader and more importantly you found value that sparked you onward to more than just my fevered rambling. What a compliment! Thank you. Be well, train smart. Kris Wilderwww.martial-secrets.com

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