037) Zanshin in Aikido: Week of June 1, 2009

The literal translation of “Zanshin” is “remaining mind.”  Many people use the term “Zanshin” in a limited sense that refers to the continued awareness on the attacker after you have executed a technique.  Other people use this term to refer to remaining aware of all that is occurring around you.  I frankly prefer the “wider” use of this term.

Many students first become aware of Zanshin when I point out to them that a particular limb(s) is not attacking him/her,  but the body attached to that limb(s)!  This might seem obvious, but when a person is responding to an attack, the person frequently reduces the awareness down to the particular movement of a limb involved in an attack.  This creates a HUGE opening for the inevitable next attack.  The mind that is aware of the person who is closing in to attack must be the “remaining mind” that maintains the focus on the attacker in the environment.  We can then experience how Zanshin becomes an indispensable component in the execution of a technique.  If there is more than one attacker, improper Zanshin lead the person to only be aware of attacker one, while creating ample opportunities for the other attackers to execute effective attacks.  Maintaining awareness of all of the attackers in time & space enables a person to execute a technique that does not allow for the other attackers to execute their attacks with ease.  This is  a high level of Zanshin that takes many years to develop as a result of long hours of proper training.

The more narrow focus that many people use in defining Zanshin, the remaining mind on the attacker after the execution of a technique, is an important component of what was discussed above.  Maintaining a connection with the person who has been thrown, restrained, locked (joint locks) is critical in seeing to it that the attacker cannot attack anew.  This remaining mind is not simply focused on the attacker, but must keep the attacker as one part of the environment around you so that you can properly attend to whatever is required to remain safe and aware.  The higher level of Zanshin that can be developed is one in which the person is not able to rise while you simply maintain soft contact with the person without mindful intent.  This level was frequently demonstrated by Ushiro Sensei.  I hope that we all can develop to this high level in our martial arts training.

We will focus in on aspects of Zanshin during this short training week.  Short only in the sense of my classes.  This week will be a deep week of great training under Ledyard Sensei this coming weekend.  I hope all of you can attend some or all of this AWESOME event!

Marc Abrams Sensei

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