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  • rebeccatherebel23

Zanshin, the art of relaxed awareness.


In our modern world, it’s a word that is taken for granted… At least, a lot more than it was for our ancestors. They naturally maintained a state of Zanshin, the state of “remaining mind”. In their world, dangers were around every corner. A simple cut could result in a life threatening infection, there were no street lights nor cell phones to call for help should someone be stranded.

Survival meant, what my Sensei always referred to, as always being “switched on”. Ready for jump into action in an instant. Doesn’t that sound exhausting?

But, in present times where many old-world threats have been eradicated, do we really need to be looking over shoulders all the time?

The modern martial artist would say “yes”….. and “no”. While dangers may not be everywhere anymore it does not mean they don’t exist. Hazards are still there just not as blatant as they used to be. Let’s face it, in developed societies, being ready for anything is a skill that has slowly degenerated.

Zanshin is a relaxed awareness that martial artists naturally develop after years of training. The forced focus, attention to detail, control of oneself, and the ability to stay cool under pressure while being yelled at, in one night of training, is more than what the average person goes through in a month. Especially for those of us that grew up training in a dojo where the upmost discipline, in all areas of life, was required in order to advance in rank.

What does relaxed awareness mean? It’s a higher state of awareness, or mindfulness, in knowing that even though you may “feel safe”, that safety is not taken for granted. You can enjoy the present moment while your subconscious has been trained to continually prosses the world around you for dangers. As soon as a threat is detected, the brain in a trained individual, can “switch on” in an instant to take action.

This can even translate into common tasks like driving. While the average driver looks forward and occasionally the rear view mirror. The martial artist is consistently checking all surroundings and drives like everyone else on the road is incompetent. Never just blindly trusting stop lights and realizing that other drivers can make rash decisions that will put everyone else on the road in danger. Even a cute squill on the road can cause a massive pileup.

Zanshin does not develop naturally. It must be developed through training to develop a sharp and focused mind. So keep training to develop and maintain your Zanshin, after all, a muscle that is never used fades away.

The art of war teaches us to rely not on the likelihood of the enemy's not coming, but on our own readiness to receive that enemy.” Sun Tzu

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