By Phillip Starr

I used to ask my students, “Have you lost your mind?” They’d look at me quizzically and I’d continue with my query, “Where did you put it?” And they’d continue to stare at me…

When someone grabs you or punches at you, where does your mind go? Where does it fix itself? For most people, the mind instantly becomes attached to the spot where they are being seized or on the opponent’s fist…and this is a serious error. Remember, where your mind goes, so does your attention, your body, and your energy.

As an experiment, have a partner firmly grasp your wrist. If you place your mind and your attention on where he has clutched you, you will be unable to free yourself or move much at all. However, if you focus on your One-Point (my term for the dantien or “tanden” in Japanese) you will find that your body can move in any direction. Your elbow and your shoulder have not been immobilized either, and you can move them quite easily. Thus, you have many options for dealing with this form of attack…unless you fix your mind on the spot where you have been attacked.

If your partner intends to punch you, you mustn’t focus your attention on his fist. In swordsmanship, you are told not to focus your mind on your opponent’s sword. If you do, you will very likely lose the battle.

So, where should you fix your mind, you ask? The best example I can think of has to do with swordsmanship. You are holding your sword and are poised in front of your opponent who also wields a sword. What is your objective? If you answer that your primary intention is to stay alive, then you will probably fail. The correct is, of course, to cut your enemy! Your mind and intention should be fixed on him rather than on yourself, his weapon, or where he intends to cut you.

The opponent is, of course, at a disadvantage; he must attach his intention to a particular part of you. He must know if he’s going to direct his cut at your head or shoulder, if he’s going to punch you in the nose, or seize your left wrist or right lapel. This means that HIS MIND IS FIXED and not free to move about. His mind is focused on a particular form of attack, which is directed at a specific target. Consequently, it cannot immediately respond to any kind of counter-measure. It can only direct its single attack; it cannot react defensively. This is the great flaw of attack.

So next time you practice, especially with a partner, make sure you don’t lose your mind…

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