Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Pay attention to your situation

Zanshin is basically awareness, right? Awareness of what? Awareness of special constraints that might be placed upon your actions - situational factors under which you are operating. So how do you get better at zanshin? Start paying attention to special situational constraints.
One great way to work on zanshin is to set some extra rules for practicing your techniques. For instance, choose a place in the dojo and define it as shomen (where the VIP's sit). A videocamera makes a good shomen when you don't have a VIP. Then practice your techniques making sure that...
  • You never throw uke toward shomen.
  • You never stand with your back to shomen, and minimize the times when your back is to shomen
  • Between techniques, tori is always a little closer to shomen than uke is
  • Tori always ends each technique closer to uke's head than to his feet.
Another great way to practice zanshin is to do randori while carrying a cup of water. Better not spill the water on the mat! Alternately, if you have small children, you might try doing randori while carrying the child or while letting them ride on your shoulders. This tends to slow the randori down and smoothe your motion out, but it also forces you to put part of your attention on the safety of whatever you are carrying.
By setting additional rules and constraints like this, you are forced to begin dividing your attention between the technical aspects of your performance and the situational factors that constrain you. At least part of your mind is forced to remain on the constraints - by definition, zanshin (remaining mind).
Patrick Parker, is a Christian, husband, father, judo and aikido teacher, Program Director for a Cardiac Rehab, and a Ph.D. Contact: or phone 601.248.7282
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