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Senshin: "Washing" the Mind

In Japan, February 3 is the day of "Setsubun," an event to drive out "bad things" with a wish to "stay healthy for a year. Setsubun events were held at many shrines and temples in Kyoto. In the old days, it was believed that all disasters and bad things were the work of demons, so the custom of throwing beans, which are believed to be effective in driving out demons, became widespread. The ogres of Setsubun represent bad thoughts. In other words, by driving away bad thoughts, evil spirits are driven away.


In Buddhist teachings, there is a word " Senshin" which literally means "washing the mind”. It means to wash away prejudice and stereotypes.


We tend to believe what we want to believe. Even if these things are not true. And sometimes actual facts are harsh and painful. This is where the psychological effect of confirmation bias comes into play, in which we only gather information that supports our preconceptions and opinions and ignore or eliminate information that disproves them.


In the martial arts as well, we tend to get "caught up" in the stereotype that a technique must be this way or must be done this way. This is especially true for those who have practiced the same way for a long time. As I teach various people, I am keenly aware that there are a hundred different ways to apply the same technique to a hundred different people. For example, if a person lacks muscle strength, has a stiff body, or is unable to move body parts properly, I have to change the way I apply the technique as if I were the person in question. For example, when thinking of techniques for children, it is necessary to be creative because the same techniques used on adults may not cause the adult to fall at all but may instead endanger the child.


Kinefuchi Sensei has always said to me, "Techniques must progress”. Minoru Mochizuki Sensei said the same thing. Unless we recognize our own "captivity," wash it away, and always face reality with a fresh mind, it will be difficult for our techniques to progress.


With this refreshing idea of "washing the mind" always in mind, this year I participated in the bean-throwing ceremony to face my own bad thoughts. The homework that I’ve given to our Chiseikan Dojo students for this month is to "properly face these bad thoughts and to wash their minds”.

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