Muscle Memory versus Martial Arts Training


Martial Arts Reaction Time…

I find that there is vast misunderstanding in the martial arts as to what mushin no shin is…people usually and incorrectly compare it to reaction time.

Now, to be precise, when people talk about mushin no shin they mix it in with not just reaction time, but especially muscle memory. The idea they are coming from is that if you do something long enough then it becomes intuitive, and even ‘on automatic.’

martial arts muscle memory

Mushin no shin…free from the restraints of the physics of the universe

Mushin no shin means mind of no mind. Another way of saying this would be time of no time.

Which is to say that there is no mind, or memory in this case, involved.

When you train in reaction time, when you build ‘muscle memory,’ then you are building memory, and memory is based on time.

But mushin no shin refers to no time…to perceiving things as they are, and not through the artifices, or demanding the reaction time, of muscle memory.

Now, the real world difference is this.

You feel a tap on the shoulder, you spin, you chop, your grandmother, who was offering you a plate of cookies, goes down for the count.

That is reaction time. It is not intuitive, it is knee jerk reaction.

Or, you feel a presence behind you, or, better yet, without feeling the presence behind you, you turn in concert with the tap of the finger to your shoulder.

There is no contact because you have merged with the action. There is no reaction; there is no moving after the fact, or moving violently because of something.

That is mushin no shin.

The first time I ever experienced mushin no shin I was 16. I was at a bowling alley, and one of the bowlers put a pencil on the slanted desk, and it started rolling.

I watched it, and watched it, and time started to stretch out and become inconsequential…I was ‘in the moment,’ free from reaction time.

The world glowed, and I felt this delicious sense of freedom. I realized that I had total control over the flight of the pencil. I could move any way I wanted to, and there were no boundaries or limits.

The pencil fell, and I reached out and plucked it out of the air.

A fellow there said he had never seen such fast reaction time in his life.

But it wasn’t reaction time…I was moving in between moments of time. I wasn’t using muscles to make motion, I was making motion directly, as an Awareness, as an ‘I am.’ And this was without any martial arts training; years before I ever started training in the martial arts.

Now, a quirk of the moment, was that experience, and the real problem came when I tried to make it happen at will. Couldn’t do it. I needed the training.

And, even with the martial arts training, it took me nearly 20 years before I started experiencing these things as a matter of course.

The point here, however, is that it is not muscle memory, or reaction time. Muscle memory trains the body, but not the awareness, and that is knee jerk out of control. Reaction time means something has to happen before you act. Neither of these are mushin no shin.

Mushin no shin is when you are aware of life as it happens, without the interference of muscle memory, or reaction time, or training, or anything.

People who are asleep use the term muscle memory, or reaction time, to describe phenomena they don’t understand.

What makes it really confusing is when you get some fellow who trains for years, then tries to explain what he is experiencing. in the western world we fall back on the inadequate descriptions provided by science, a science which, I might add, has never adequately explained such concepts as are manifested when a person is showing mushin no shin.

Terms such as ‘reaction time,’ and ‘muscle memory,’ are offered by western science for concepts they do not understand.

The term mushin no shin is used to describe a person who is free from muscle memory, has no reaction time, and is in a realm beyond the simple physics of the universe. He is in a second set of physics, the physics of sixth senses and intuition and dreams and all sorts of things.

Mushin no shin is used when a person is not confined by his memories, and other such limitations to the human spirit.

Here are some articles which touch upon the procedure for waking the person mired in Martial Arts reaction time, and endowing him with muslin no shin.

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