Quotes on Mushin, Flow and Open-Focus – Part 3 & References

Quotes from Swordsmen

  • Yagyu Munenori (Swordsman, 1571-1646) [Yagyu_SwordMind]
    • From the section “The Mind in a Natural State” on p. 75:
      • In whatever art you pursue the Way, if you are singleminded and determined to accomplish what you set out to, you are no longer pusruing the Way. 
      • Someone with nothing in his mind is a man of the Way.
      • If you have nothing in your mind, you can easily do whatever you do.
    • On Training on p. 75
      • … (A)s your training continues, the mindset to do well what is being done will recede into the distance, and whatever you do, you will do without thinking, without intending, regardless of yourself, just like a wooden puppet (dokonobo, a beginning puppeteer).
      • That is, when you are not aware of yourself, and your arms and legs do whatever they are supposed to without your mind contriving things – that is when you do right whatever you do ten out of ten times.
      • Even then, if you allow your mind to interfere if only slightly, you will miss it.
      • If you are “mindless,” you hit it every time.
      • “Mindlessness” does not mean having no mind whatsoever; it simply means the mind in a natural state.
    • From the section “The Be-Mind and the No-Mind” on p. 117
      • If the no-mind becomes a good part of you, you will not stay with one thing or neglect a single thing.  It will be in your body like brimming water, coming out and serving whenever needed …
      • If you have something to think about in your mind, you are not hearing someone speaking to you.  This is because your mind stays with that something you are thinking about.  Your mind tilts to one side with that something, and as it does, you don’t hear while hearing, you don’t see while seeing … 
      • If you try to rid your mind of that something, that attempt, in turn, becomes something in your mind.  If you don’t try, that something will go away on its own, leaving you with the no-mind.
  • Yamaoka Tesshu (1836-1888)
    • From Chapter 27 “Asari’s Shadow” from [Fuliot]:*
      • Outside the mind, there is no sword.  This is the no-sword.
      • No-sword means no-mind.  No-mind means a mind that dwells nowhere.  If the mind stops, the enemy appears.  If the mind remains fluid, no enemy exists.
    • From [Stevens_NoSword, p. 28]:
      • If your mind is empty, it reflects the ‘distortions’ and ‘shadows’ present in others’ minds.  In swordsmanship no-mind allows us to see the perfect place to strike; in daily life it enables us to see into another’s heart. 

Quotes from Kendo Sensei’s

  • Morishima Tateo (Hanshi, 8 dan)
    • Practising seiza will free you from “idle thoughts and delusion” and allow you to “strike naturally from a state of nothingness. [Kenshi247_Morishima3]
    • If you are thinking about some sort of ideal or worldly thoughts then you can’t move freely.  If your spirit is like a mirror you will be able to respond to your opponents movements and execute techniques freely.  [Kenshi247_Morishima4]
    • ... at the end of the day you should be facing your opponent in kamae and have “arrived at a situation where your hear(t) and mind are like a clear mirror” – this is the essence of kendo. [Kenshi247_Morishima5]
    • Striking when your opponents attacking feeling starts – having the ability to perceive this and to strike first – is the meaning of aiuchi. …  Technical skill goes without saying, but you must also having an unperturbed spirit when in kamae.  This is mushin.  If you do this, then your opponents striking feeling will be reflected in your heart. [Kenshi247_Morishima5]
  • The essential point is the removal of the attachments that routinely spring forth from within us, with the mind/heart neither stopping nor stagnating; in other words, by the cultivation of mushin (free from obstructive thoughts) and muga (selflessness, removal of the ego), and by being free of possessions (permeable or otherwise), you can arrive at a situation where your heart and mind are like a clear mirror. – Ishida Kazuto sensei as quoted by Morishima Tateo sensei in [Kenshi247_Morishima5]
  • At the risk of sounding grandiose, I’d say the ultimate goal in kendo is to master a strike in which the mind (ki), sword (ken) and body (tai) are united as one.  … When the three become one, you can strike as freely as you wish.   That’s the state which every Kendoist is endeavouring to attain. It’s not something you try to do.  It just happens.  That’s what’s difficult about it.  The more you’re self-conscious of it, the less possible it is to deliver. – Kenichi Ishida (8 dan) [NHK_8DanChallenge]
  • If you think about striking you will become confused.  If you think about not striking you will become confused.  It is when you are calm and not thinking about striking or being struck that real victory lies.  Striking while confused is useless.Nakayama Hakudo (Hanshi 10 Dan in Kendo, Iaido, and Jodo) [Kenshi247_27Teachings]
  • When I became 80 years old, I achieved the state of the immovable spirit. However, there are times when a random thought will enter my mind. I am striving to eliminate these random thoughts at this state (perhaps “stage”) in my life.  – Mochida Moriji (Hanshi, 10th dan) from [Kendoinfo_Mochida]
  • Chiba Masashi sensei used to practice a continuous set of 3000 suburi every day. . . .  but if we do aspire to reach a state of no-mind (mushin) in our keiko, the answer lies in constant repetition of the basics – Geoff Salmon (7th Dan) [KendoInfo_Moment].
  • Nishimura Hidehisa, in an interview after winning the 66th All Japan Kendo Tournament in 2018, his third win  [LetsKendo_Nishimura]:
    • Though I was thinking that I wanted to win, performing with mushin was the number one thing that I could do for my kendo.  Today, I think I was able to move the body in mushin, without thinking of anything.
    • …勝ちたいとは思っていましたが「無心」でやることが、私の剣道ができる一番のことだと思っていますので、今日は無心でなにも考えずに体が動く通りにやれたと思います。

Quotes from Naoki Eiga sensei (on Mushin-no-Waza)

Quotes from Iaido sensei‘s

  • From long ago it has been said that “the innermost secret of Iaido is always being in the moment, wherever you are, so that you can respond to anything swiftly”.  In other words, I think Iaido is about developing a mind in which you never become flustered and retain a calm presence of mind no matter what happens, dealing with things without becoming alarmed. – Shizufumi Ishido (Kendo Kyoshi 7 dan, Iaido Hanshi 8 dan, Jodo Kyoshi 8 dan) [Ishido]

* A “Thank you” to Alex for point me to these words by and story of Yamaoka Tesshu.


[Csikszentmihalyi] Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, 1990.

[Christianson_EyesStill] John Christianson, “On Keeping the Eyes Still,” Seeing Anew: Exploring Perception.

[Dienstmann] Giovanni Dienstmann, “Types of Meditation – An Overview of 23 Meditation Techniques,” LiveAndDare.com,*

[Fuliot] Pascal Fauliot, Samurai Wisdom Stories – Tales from the Golden Age of Bushido, Shambhala, 2017.

[Fehmi] Les Fehmi, Jim Robbins, The Open-Focus Brain – Harnessing the Power of Attention to Heal Mind and Body, Trumpeter Books, 2007.

[Harding_PointingHere] Douglas Harding, “Pointing Here,” The Headless Way – A Method of Self-Enquiry Pioneered by Douglas Harding.”

[Hisashi] Noma Hisashi (1910-1939), The Kendo Reader (PDF, 55 pages)

[Ishido] Shizufumi Ishido “Can you perform “Ni-ku, San-ke”? Devote yourself to acquiring Shu,” Article taken from the book The Eyes of the Iaido Grading Panelist (Iaido Shinsa-in no Me).

[Kendoinfo_Mochida] Geoff Salmon, “Kendo – More a marathon than a sprint!” Kendoinfo.net, May 24, 2011.

[KendoInfo_Moment] Geoff Salmon, “Getting lost in the moment,” KendoInfo.net, May 12, 2014.

[KendoNotes_EigaQuotes] “Some Quotes from a Documentary on Eiga Sensei and Mushin-no-Waza (無心の技),” KendoNotes.com, Oct 15, 2018.

[Kenshi247_27Teachings] George McCall, “27 teachings from past masters,” Kenshi247.net, Oct 2, 2018.

[Kenshi247_Morishima3] George Mcall, “From “Pursuing the spirit and modern kendo (part 3),” Kenshi247.net, March 30, 2011.

[Kenshi247_Morishima4] George Mcall, “From “Pursuing the spirit and modern kendo (part 4),” Kenshi247.net, March 30, 2011.

[Kenshi247_Morishima5] George Mcall, “From “Pursuing the spirit and modern kendo (part 5),” Kenshi247.net, March 30, 2011.

[LetsKendo_Nishimura]【大会結果】11/3 第66回全日本剣道選手権大会 -西村英久(熊本・29歳)、2年連続三度目の大会制覇!試合後のインタビュー「プレッシャーから逃げていた, Let’s Kendo, Nov 9, 2018.

[Lippelt] Dominique P. Lippelt, Bernhard Hommel and Lorenza S. Colzato, “Focused attention, open monitoring and loving kindness meditation: effects on attention, conflict monitoring, and creativity – A review,” Frontiers in Psychology, Sept 23, 2014 (PDF, 5 pages).

[Mastery_Greene]  “Robert Greene:  Mastery & Research,” FindingMastery.net, Jan 25, 2017.

[Mazuy] Kip Mazuy, “You Can Experience Enlightenment Using this “No Mind” Meditation Technique, SelfGrowth,com.

[More_Gap] Chetan More, “Mindfulness: Awareness in (the) Gap Between Thoughts or Gap Between Breaths,”  TheChoicelessAwareness.com, November 19, 2017.

[More_HowToMeditate] Chetan More, “How to Meditate?”  TheChoicelessAwareness.com, Nov. 3, 2017.

[Muller] Charles Muller, “Innate Enlightenment and No-thought:  A Response to the Critical Buddhist Position on Zen,” Int’l Conf. on Sôn at Paekyang-sa, Kwangju, Korea, August 22, 1998.

[Musashi] Miyamoto Musashi, The Book of Five Rings (五輪書 Go-Rin-no-Sho), Translation by HolyBooks.com, 1644.

[NHK_8DanChallenge] “Kendo’s Gruelling Challenge – The 120 second Test of Spirit,” (Video) (心で闘う120秒 剣道・日本最難関試験に挑む)

[Senna_Mind] James Barraclough, “Aytron Senna – Inside the Mind of a Champion,” BelievePerform.com.

[Stevens_NoSword] John Stevens, The Sword of No-Sword:  Life of the Master Warrior Tesshu, Shambhala, 1989.

[Suzuki] Shunryu Suzuki, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind: Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice.

[Takuan]  Takuan Soho, “The Unfettered Mind:  Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword Master,” (Translated by William Scott Wilson).

[Takuan_Wiki]  According to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mushin_(mental_state):  Takuan Soho, The Unfettered Mind:  Writings from a Zen Master to a Master Swordsman, Translated by William Scott Wilson, Shambhala, 2012.

[Tolle_YouNotYourMind] Eckhart Tolle, “You are Not Your Mind”, SoulfulLiving.com. An on-line reprint of Chapter 1 “You are Not Your Mind” of Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now – A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment, Namaste Publishing, 1999.

[Thompson] Bryan Thompson, “What is the nature of awareness”, ZenThinking.net, July 15, 2015

[Yagyu_SwordMind] Yagyu Munenori, The Sword and the Mind, Translated by Hiroaki Sato, Fall River Press, 1985.

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