Saturday, August 11, 2012

Mu-Shin and Mu-Kamae


Mu-Shin or Empty Mind is concerned with a mental element of one’s ability to respond in a given challenging situation.For better and simpler understanding of this concept, one could refer to the Japanese way of explaining ideas: ‘“no” can mean “nothing” and, at the same time also means “everything”’.

Someone might compare Mu-Shin to the blue part of the ancient Scroll of Heaven that represents power of water. Water represents softness: getting around, through, under or above any obstacle it finds in its way; and yet, simultaneously maintaining focus and not deviating from its natural course. To translate this analogy into the world of combat, one’s mind should have a “floating” character that is not attached to anything concrete and yet it must remain focused. Any preconceived techniques or strategies in one’s mind will constrain the ability to react; thus exposing one to a greater likelihood of potential defeat.

As such, one’s mind should be devoid of any firm fixation to expected techniques from one’s opponent. Instead, one should allow uke to decide what attack or technique to use. In other words, the concept of a “floating” mind will greatly assist in understanding of the old phrase “always expect the unexpected”.  


The concept of Mu-Kamae or Empty Stance is built upon the same philosophical foundation as Mu Shin. However, this concept deals with the physical element of one’s ability to respond in a given challenging situation. Involvement in a combat situation requires one not to reveal one’s intent to his or her opponent. The less signals one sends, the more difficult it will be for the opponent to read him. Shizentai (standing with no intent with the feet shoulder-width apart and weight evenly distributed on both feet), or neutral stance, will prepare one for quick movement when attacking or defending. Even a slight deviation from Shizentai will potentially put one into either, the hidari or migi gamae stance, consequently enabling an opponent to read one’s planned move; in addition, this will place one into disadvantage by slower ability to respond. This ultimately means that one should not be in any kamae when starting.

Mu-Kamae is claimed to be “the best all-around posture, as from here it is easy to change stance very quickly to adapt to any attack”.