Posted by: mrpeatie | February 20, 2008

Zanshin

One of the many reasons I have found karate to be so beneficial is that the lessons we learn in the dojo can often be applied to the real world. A lot of these lessons and concepts are not just physical moves or techniques, but your mental approach and attitude toward a situation.

One such concept is zanshin which is the Japanese word for state of awareness or relaxed alertness. Inside the dojo it means remaining relaxed and constantly being aware of your opponent when sparring. Being relaxed is important because it allows you to think more clearly. It’s also much harder to throw a kick, punch, or block when you are rigid and tense. The awareness part means being prepared for anything an opponent might do and looking for patterns and tells. Sparring is much like a poker game in that regard. If you know your opponent has some sort of tick or subtle motion before they make an attack, you’ll be ready for it every time and can beat them to the punch.

This concept also has many applications outside the dojo.

Stress is everywhere in our daily lives so it is important to remain relaxed and not let stress negatively affect you. This can be challenging as it’s all mental and about your approach to situations.

Awareness comes into play in regards to your environment. You should always be aware of your surroundings and who is around you. An example of being aware of your environment is knowing where exits are when entering a building or room. We should have all learned this lesson from that horrible fire in that bar in Rhode Island a few years back. Virtually everyone ran towards the main entrance when the fire started because they didn’t know or see the many other exits in the building. So many people needlessly died because of this. If they took a minute to notice where the other exits where when they entered the bar, things may have turned out differently.

You should also be aware of anyone who is around you, especially if you don’t know them or their intentions. One of the things we teach about self defense is that if you have to physically do something to protect yourself from an attacker, you’ve already failed in zanshin. You shouldn’t have let them get that close to you in the first place.

One last application I use is at work. There are so many different people at work that I interact with daily and everyone has their own agendas. It helps to take a minute and be aware of where folks are coming from. Put yourself in their shoes and take a look at their perspective. It can give you tremendous insight and help with your approach to communication and problem solving.

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