Torakan Karate-Do

Karate Essence

Fudoshin – The Unshakable Heart

by T.D.McKinnon


photograph by Zoё Lake


Fudoshin (不動心): Indomitable, incorruptible… it is the achievement of a clear and determined mind, and having a spirit that is centred. Fudoshin can be translated as the ‘immovable mind’ or ‘unshakable heart’.


Table of Contents

· Internal tranquillity in the midst of external conflict.

· Fudo Myōō the guardian deity.

· Shikai: the four sicknesses of the mind.

· Fudoshin: the peaceful state of total determination.

· Tsukahara Bokuden, the renowned Japanese swordsman.

· The peaceful Warrior.

· Benjamin Franklin, quote.

· Fudoshin: the most difficult and most important concept of the Spiritual Warrior.


It is composure under pressure. It is a state of having an unwavering will; a spirit undeterred by obstacles in the chosen path. It is a state of commitment coupled with fearless determination. With Fudoshin, one can maintain a state of mind unmoved by distractions: internal tranquillity in the midst of external conflict, if you will. Fudoshin is the manifestation of fortitude, and has its origins in the guardian deity, Fudo Myōō.


Fudo Myōō is a guardian deity in Shingon (True Word) Buddhism (真言宗 Shingon-shū). Shingon Buddhism is one of the major schools of Buddhism in Japan and one of the few surviving Vajrayana lineages in East Asia, originally spread from India to China through travelling monks such as Vadjrabohi and Amoghavajra. Fudo Myōō, a patron of martial arts, is portrayed carrying a sword in his right hand (symbolically, to cut through delusions and ignorance) and a rope in his left hand (again symbolically, to bind evil forces and violent or uncontrolled passions and or emotions).


Fudoshin serves as a shield of the heart. In Japan, there is a concept of Shikai: the four sicknesses of the mind that a Budoka has to avoid at all costs:

1. Kyo: surprise

2. Ku: fear

3. Gi: doubt

4. Waku: confusion

Kyo

If you are surprised, time stops for you. You may actually stop moving, hold your breath even, while your mind catches up with what is happening around you. With Kyo, one’s concentration is broken. In that split-second of broken concentration, defeat is upon you.


Ku

With fear comes a distorted sense of reality: the attacker may seem bigger, stronger and more fearsome than he really is. Fear may have one mentally defeated before the conflict begins; and there is no chance of victory when one’s mind is already defeated.


Gi

Doubting your expertise is fatal in a martial situation. The way to safeguard against doubt is through incessant training. Doubt is the backstabber of belief. One cannot respond to an assault properly when there is a lack of conviction stemming from a mind that doubts. Indecision will cause your defeat.


Waku

Mental confusion stems from a lack of focus, the mind wonders and tries to consider too many things; movements become unrefined, timing suffers, and reactions are stifled. A lack of focus allows one to be surprised. Surprise may cause fear, and fear sows the seeds of doubt; confusion soon follows, and to be confused is to be overwhelmed.


Fudoshin is the 'immovable mind': the mind that has met all challenges of life, and has attained a state of complete composure and fearlessness. This state of equanimity is essential to the Budoka or accomplished karateka.


Fudoshin represents a peaceful state of total determination and unshakable will. It is the state of a spirit that is filled with courage and endurance and is determined to win. Fudoshin is associated with a feeling of invincibility, of a mind that cannot be disturbed by surprise, fear, doubt or confusion.


In Feudal Japan, Fudoshin was manifest in the Samurai: in his unquestionable courage and determination, without fear in the face of danger, pain and even death. As the great Japanese swordsman, Tsukahara Bokuden said, "Mental calmness, not skill, is the sign of a mature samurai.”


From a Western point of view, the idea of violence coupled with a peaceful and calm mind is difficult to comprehend. The concept of a Warrior (Samurai, Bushi) without anger or rage, a peaceful warrior, if you will, would seem to be an oxymoron. However, it was this state of mind that was the essence of the Samurai. Fudoshin is an imperturbable state of equanimity, and an essential philosophical dimension to most martial arts, but especially Karate-Do.


Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) wrote, “Mankind is divided into three classes: those who move, those who are movable, and those who are immovable.”

On a personal level, if I set my mind on something, I do not allow anything to shake my belief in myself and my ability to reach the goal I have set. ‘Nothing will stand in my way.’ This unshakable resolve is Fudoshin.


Depending on the Budoka or karateka’s end-game (what they hope to achieve, their goals, their purpose in life et cetera); of all the esoteric terms adopted by the martial arts fraternity, the acquisition of Fudoshin is probably the most difficult, and perhaps the most important concept to master. It is definitely the most pivotal philosophical or mental dimension, at least to the Japanese martial arts, and which contributes, immeasurably, to the effectiveness of the advanced practitioner.


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