In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” Zen teacher Shunryu Suzuki.


Shoshin- Beginners mind. Sho – first or beginner. Shin – mind or spirit. An attitude of openness and lack to preconceptions enabling one to better study a art. Seeing things each time as if the first, keeping training both fresh and alive. To maintain such a state of awareness requires putting aside the ego while training, allowing body and mind to be conditioned suitably. While simple at first as a student gains proficiency this important state of mind is often lost and with it the opportunity it contains.  Internal dialogue and {over} self criticism make it next to impossible to effectively study. Rushing to learn will only slow us down.

This concept came to my mind recently. Whilst training with a yudansha student from a different system of Aikido on a course which was different to both of us. This person was having problems understanding the technique as the instructor was showing it. His frustration got the better of him and he just started to do things his own way. He lost his beginners mind, only doing things the way he was comfortable with and in doing so ceasing to learn.

This is a common problem among advanced students/instructors of marital arts in general. People get so comfortable in what they do that they forget that there is another way.
I train in a few arts, having the opportunity to train in many systems and I consider myself lucky to be able to do so. If I go to a seminar of Jujutsu or Iaido I leave behind my Nidan in Aikido. I go to learn from a particular instructor. My previous experience is likely to be more of a hindrance than an advantage. I believe this mentality is especially important for studying more than one art.

I have found that students of traditional Karate are especially good at retaining this attitude . I have two students who have previously studied Karate, quite in depth. I think through intense Kata practice they have conditioned their minds to retain this  shoshin, enabling them to better learn Aikido and Katori Shinto Ryu.

Shoshin is only one aspect of training in Budo, but I find that the instructors I am drawn too, retain at least some aspect of this in their training. To effectively study Kata it is necessary to see each move as both the first and the last, otherwise its just going through familiar steps. Likewise in Aikido or Jujutsu there are many ways to do a technique. You may have one which you prefer but if studying with a instructor perhaps from a different system it is helpful to take a fresh look.

The 5 Spirits of Budo – – Shoshin (beginners Mind)
                                                – Zanshin (Lingering Mind)
                                                – Mushin (No Mind)
                                                – Fudoshin (Immovable Mind)
                                                – Senshin (Purified spirit; enlightened attitude)


Filed under Budo Concepts

5 responses to “shoshin

  1. “He lost his beginners mind, only doing things the way he was comfortable with and in doing so ceasing to learn.” I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. Pingback: Beginner’s Mind | Irish Budoka

  3. Pingback: Sangen | Irish Budoka

  4. Pingback: Lost in Detail | Irish Budoka

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s