Aikido state of mind

By on February 15, 2017

People in 67 countries around the world take Aikido lessons according to Aikikai Foundation, the official organization promoting one of the most respected Japanese Martial Arts.

It is no surprise that like me, many people are drawn to Aikido because of its universally applicable principles.

With just a few weeks of practice, it became obvious to me that the power these principles can do to transform a person’s ability to face a situation of opposing wills is truly limitless.

The word Aikido means “the way of spiritual harmony.” Aikido was founded by Morihei Ueshiba, from Wakayama Prefecture in 1883. Ueshiba studied many different martial arts, including various forms of jujitsu (unarmed combat), kenjitsu (sword fighting), and sojitsu (spear fighting), before developing Aikido. While he was known for his skill and physical strength, Ueshiba’s legacy of nonviolence earned him fame. Aikido teaches self-defense, based on twisting and throwing techniques with the aim of turning an attacker’s strength and momentum against him/herself.

I like to think of Aikido as a mindset. In budo (Martial arts), there are 5 fundamental ‘spirits’: shoshin, zanshin, mushin, fudoshin and senshin. These are very old and almost forgotten concepts in the modern Aikido dojo.

In ancient Japan, ‘budoka’ or a peasant-class warrior was known for being skilled in unarmed combat. A ‘budoka’ takes the time to understand and remember by heart, the lessons of these 5 spirits in order to become a strong and competent person as well as a well-versed martial artist. Here’s what it means.

Shoshin (Novice mind) 初心

The state of shoshin is the state of being
always completely aware, attentive and prepared to see everything as if it were the first time. In learning constantly, a shoshin attitude is essential.

Zanshin (Sustained state of awareness) 残心

Zanshin is the sustained and elevated state of mental awareness and consistency. In Aikido, zanshin can be defined as the previous state of concentration, during and after the execution of a technique, where a link or connection between ‘uke’ tori is established. Zanshin allows us to remain spiritually connected, not only to a single attacker, but even to multiple attackers at all times.

Mushin (Mind without ego) 無心

The school manual of Ueshiba Aikido defines Mushin as a state of “no mind, mind without ego. A mind like a mirror that reflects and does not judge. It is a state of mind without fear, anger or anxiety. Mushin is described as “mizu no kokoro” which means “heart as clear as water”, a metaphor used to describe the clarity of the lake when calm as opposed to distorted reflections seen when a stone is thrown into the water.

Fudoshin (Immovable spirit)

Being mentally and physically fit makes one courageous and stable. Rather than indicating rigidity and inflexibility, fudoshin is preventing internal thoughts or external forces that easily distract us. It allows us to maintain our balance and composure even when one’s being attacked.

Senshin (Enlightened spirit) 洗心

Senshin is a spirit that transcends all the four states of mind, the spirit that protects and harmonizes the whole universe. Senshin embraces compassion that serves all

humanity by reconciling disharmony. It maintains the sanctity of life.

Fully embracing the state of senshin is essentially the equivalent of reaching a state of enlightenment in Buddhism and can perfectly surpass the scope of daily training in Aikido.
Reaching these mental states can reward the student of Aikido in many ways.


17-18 Wakamatsu-cho,
Shinjuku-ku, Tokyo
Tel. 03-3203-9236

Higashi 4-13-25, Hiroo

Pacific Azabu 102, 1-5-10 Moto Azabu,
Minato-ku, Tokyo 106-0046

Tel. 03-3350-5434

About Ted Tanaka

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