Subconscious and conscious movements

Mushin and Shi Ki Chikara

無心, mushin (no intention, no thinking) is one of the many concepts we encounter when training martial arts.
Having no intention is a paradox because it is said “Shi Ki Chikara”. The intention moves the ki and creates chikara or body power needed for body movements. But when you are caught on your intention during actual fighting it becomes logical not to use intention. The time to think is not available. Your subconscious reactions or patterns are only what remains and are created from training your basics for many years. Patterns in the subconscious are the cornerstone (the intention) of real Budo. You can know many techniques intellectually. But nothing prepares you better than studying your basics thoroughly until they are patterns in your subconscious. No thinking is the secret of intention and cannot be intercepted by the opponent.

The mind by Takuan Sōhō

The legendary Zen master Takuan Sōhō (1573-1645) said: “The mind must always be in the state of ‘flowing,’ for when it stops anywhere the flow is interrupted and it is this interruption that is injurious to the well-being of the mind. In the case of the swordsman, it means death. When the swordsman stands against his opponent, he cannot think of the opponent, nor of himself, nor of his enemy’s sword movements. He just stands there with his sword which, forgetting all techniques, and is ready only to follow the dictates of the subconscious. The man has effaced himself as the wielder of the sword. When he strikes, it is not the man but the sword in the hand of the man’s subconscious that strikes.

Movement of Budo (martial arts) by : Yosuke YANASE ( a simplified version)

Budo movement can be understood as communication between two persons mediated by the body. That is usually considered two separate and independent bodies but rather should be considered integrated as one body communication system.

autopietic system

The point where two bodies (in Budo) become one body communication system depends upon the condition of the interface between the two bodies or persons. As long as the interface is free of surface resistance, two bodies or persons that are usually regarded 
as separate and independent become one communication system, which cannot be fully accountable by the sum of the two entities.

There is a common interface.

Budo movements are felt differently in quality and are not depending on muscle power but are an autopoietic movement* of the whole body, with or without your reflective awareness. Although a Budo movement is achieved, at least partially, by your body that is integrated as one body communication system with the body of the antagonist through the interface, a Budo movement is not your action in the usual sense that you have used your free will to consciously move the parts of your body. A Budo movement is not produced by your planned action, but by the internal logic of the whole integrated body. The body (of two persons) moves in integration on its own with or without your clear awareness (the antagonist can only have confused awareness of being moved against his will).

*The term autopoiesis (from Greek αὐτo- (auto-), meaning ‘self’, and ποίησις (poiesis), meaning ‘creation, production’) refers to a system capable of reproducing and maintaining itself. The term was introduced in 1972 by Chilean biologists Humberto Maturana and Francisco Varela to define the self-maintaining chemistry of living cells. Since then, the concept has been also applied to the fields of cognition, systems theory and sociology. 

Budo movement is never achieved if you use consciousness in a conventionally way, keeping the interface is a very important indicator of a Budo movement. You may use your (core) consciousness** to feel, but never use it to think or plan.

**Core consciousness (or primary consciousness) is conscious awareness of the change of the body state. Extended consciousness (or higher-order consciousness) is extended from core consciousness in that it goes beyond ‘here and now’ of core consciousness and recalls backwards or plan heads, and it is higher than primary consciousness of simple awareness in that it describes its status by symbols (usually language).

In ordinary expressions, ‘feeling the sensation of the body’ is probably for core consciousness (primary consciousness) and ‘thinking with words on the basis of the sensation of the body’ is for extended consciousness (or higher-order consciousness). Thinking about what to do with words is too slow and limited in information (words can only capture an extremely tiny part of the phenomenon). If you feel and are true to the changes of the body, your movement is immediate and you respond to all sorts of changes your body (not your extended/higher-order consciousness) detects.

 No intentional power

Do not try to use your intentional power. “Keep the interface as it is” is important for as soon as you try to use your intentional power, the state of the interface changes and the antagonist will notice it immediately.

As you learn to do a Budo movement yourself, you may wonder: Who’s the agent of this Budo movement? In a Budo movement, you don’t use your consciousness or free will to move your body. Rather, your body moves. But it’s not that your body moves alone; your body moves only in relation to the body of the antagonist, and you have to keep (not disconnect) the relation by observing the interface. So, it’s not that your body moves against the body of the antagonist, either. Rather your body moves with the body of the antagonist.


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Eddy Wolput

A passion for Martial Arts since 1964

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