a MMB! Kendo Blog: Feeding the Zanshin Monster

MMB! Kendo Blog

Friday, October 31, 2008


忍耐 + 掌握人生
Feeding the Zanshin Monster

With the end-of-year exams approaching, it has, at times, been quite tiring to attend kendo night training sessions and then do further study late into the night. Then waking up early in the morning for my regular gym session at the university before attending the morning classes. I have, however, kept up my discipline, the promise to myself to push myself harder because I want to be fit for kendo training, and to perform well at the World Championships next year. I want to do well. And I know that to achieve my goals, I must discipline myself physically and mentally.

After the Australian National Squad training earlier this month, I realised that there was something important that I have been neglecting and lacking. It's Zanshin. I have been too focused on landing a nice solid cut. Once a cut was made, I was too complacent that my mind and body seemed to have switched off.

Mind you, I was doing the follow-through motion. But it was kind of like follow-the-motion type of movements. If I were to judge myself, I'd say, 'Vivian, you could do better than that'. Yes, I know. I know I could do better than that . I have done a perfect zanshin before, and I know how a perfect zanshin that follows a cut feels like... it is like a tsunami-wave overpowering and sweeping everything on its path. The unquestionable feeling, the exuberant display of confidence and determination from the start to the finish of the cut. That itself, generates an overwhelmingly positive feeling in me, which makes me feel even more confident for the next cut. And so the positive reinforcement goes on.

And I want to feel that again!

So, in the past few weeks, I was concentrating on just that - Zanshin. Whether or not the cut connected, I would make myself power through, with total conviction. I tell myself I will practice like this until that day when this becomes completely natural and automatic.

I will also show zanshin even if my cut misses. Even though I may not be able to achieve that ippon physically, I can still try to achieve the mental ippon. That way, my opponent would feel more threatened, knowing that if I did connect that cut, it would be an unquestionable ippon. Making my opponent more nervous, and thus, building myself a more powerful position.

So this is where I am at now - Feeding my hungry zanshin monster.

Btw, I just fed 50 eager and cute little ghosts at my front door this evening with lollies. Happy Halloween!

11 Comments:

  • Indeed I always find it difficult to do Zanshin if the cut wasn't splendid. It's as though my mind just gave up completely. This is a very bad mind set.. I'd also like to be able to have the footwork like Suzuki Aki sensei's for Zanshin. But my leg muscles don't have such stamina yet... sigh... long way to go.

    By Blogger Ivan, at Saturday, November 01, 2008 3:03:00 AM  

  • by the way, good luck for the exams. My big one (phd viva) is on monday. phew.. fingers very crossed

    By Blogger Ivan, at Saturday, November 01, 2008 3:04:00 AM  

  • OH, good luck in your Viva exam next week. Is this your final PhD year? Wishing you all the best.

    By Blogger Vivian Yung, at Saturday, November 01, 2008 8:54:00 AM  

  • Thanks! Yes, it'll be my final battle as a student.

    By Blogger Ivan, at Saturday, November 01, 2008 11:53:00 PM  

  • Hi Vivian. I love this post.

    I have increased my yoga practice a lot now, to an hour at 6am every morning, and 1.5 hours every evening.

    To truly experience a yoga pose, it's this odd feeling of multiple-awarenesses: of bandhas and breathing, of neutral spine, of pressing down through the heels, relaxing every last little muscle except those needed for the pose. Each muscle between each rib-bone changes with the in-breath and the out-breath.

    The reaction of a beginner to yoga practice is fear and stress, but over the years, we begin to notice moments (timeless moments) when this multiple full-body awareness brings equanimity, not fear. That is my real practice now -- to find equanimity in each pose. Not easy when it feels as though your hamstrings really are going to explode out the backs of your knees! Or that your spine is just going to SNAP :)

    It begins with awareness of my headspace. Like you say "I could do better than this". Being aware when the mind is escaping the discipline.

    In yoga, we don't get bruises. When our mind escapes the discipline and we nullify our awareness, what happens is that we begin to struggle with the breath and our practice becomes agitated and unpleasant.

    A long way to go, but I'm feeling some real progress in my mindset.

    Anyway, I haven't left the I.T. industry yet, but I'm getting there. My wife has quit her job now and will start teacher training for yoga soon! After that, it will be my turn :)

    I should check your blog more often :)

    Oh! Thanks for the link to my blog by the way. Can you change the link to read "Wildlings" please? That's the name of my blog now :)

    By Anonymous Cameron Wilding, at Monday, November 03, 2008 9:13:00 AM  

  • Oh. I see you changed it already to read "Cameron Wilding". Either one is perfect. Thanku Vivian!

    Now I'd better go update it sometime ... :)

    Good luck with your studies!!!

    By Anonymous Cameron Wilding, at Monday, November 03, 2008 9:14:00 AM  

  • Mh, this Zanshin monster is not an easy one to feed. He usually demands a lot in quality...but he's not specific about what you're missing if you're not right.

    Training zanshin, in my opinion, it's very hard because I believe the issue can't be adressed directly. It's like forcing yourself to be happy when you're low: you can try, but it's not natural and hence, it's almost "not real".

    For me, to mantain an overwhelming pose or attitude if the cut didn't land is to become "overconfident". If the cut didn't land as intended there should be an inmediate 2nd cut, or 3rd cut, etc. If not possible, retaking good kamae and keep the mind calm watching for a new opening.

    Sometimes there's nothing one can do, but to keep going forward onto taiatari, but that's fine I guess. But zanshin for me feels like being alert, alert but in control. So I feel that if I try to keep myself aware...I am not :P I'm so worried about being alert that I'm not relly alert, hehe.

    Maybe my comment is too confusing, but zanshing is confusing to me. It's too dificult to explain things that one feels, and even harder knowing that the experiencie may vary between different people.

    As usual, I enjoyed your post very much, and I find it impressive that you can have that strong spirit.That determination.

    I wish you success on your exams, and good luck for Ivan too!

    Regards

    By Blogger Leon, at Tuesday, November 04, 2008 6:55:00 AM  

  • Hello Wildings,

    Great to hear from you again. And thank you for the message here and on Facebook.

    It is interesting to hear from the perspective of a yoga enthusiast, which also aims to control the mind through overcoming physical and psychological barriers.

    Please keep in touch, and looking forward to hear your progress too.

    By Blogger Vivian Yung, at Tuesday, November 04, 2008 11:12:00 PM  

  • Hey Leon,

    Thank you for your message.

    I understand what you mean when you mentioned about "If the cut didn't land as intended there should be an inmediate 2nd cut, or 3rd cut, etc."

    For me personally, I found that I would execute a cut with good zanshin if I have prepared my mind on the zanshin portion. If I did not, I found it difficult to connect the cut with zanshin. Like what you said, the zanshin would then looked like a forceful act.

    I guess maybe the point of contention is how far off the target are we talking about.

    Unless the cut is really off the target, I am endeavouring to demonstrate full zanshin for all other cuts.

    By Blogger Vivian Yung, at Tuesday, November 04, 2008 11:27:00 PM  

  • Btw, thank you all for the well wishes for the exams.

    I think Ivan has finished his PhD viva exam by now. Hope that his exam went well.

    By Blogger Vivian Yung, at Tuesday, November 04, 2008 11:28:00 PM  

  • It's over! The viva went well but the exams were a disaster. However, I managed to pass it somehow. Now it's holiday time for me - absolutely necessary - which will be for sure kendo-filled.

    By Blogger Ivan, at Sunday, November 09, 2008 2:03:00 AM  

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