Don't be a gardener

One who knows is not distracted.
One who is brave does not fear.

Facing a hostile person or dangerous situation may cause you to feel helplessy swirling in a torrent of events that seem to sweep you into every direction before you have a chance to think of what to do. Like this pool of water on the left, there is a patch of calm within you. You only have to know where it is for you to go to it. When someone is attempting to bring you harm the attack may feel exactly like this, regardless of whether there is only one or several attackers.

"Flow with whatever may happen and let your mind be free; stay centered by accepting whatever you are doing. This is the ultimate." Chuang-Tzu

"To Let Fate Choose Your Situation Invites Defeat"
Sun Tzu, The Art of War

This Sun Tzu quote is one that fits a wide spectrum of situations on the job, in sports or in a self-defense situation. There is a vital difference, however, between work, sport and self defense: if you don't land a job, you can apply for another; if you don't win in a competition you can always go back and train to win in the next one; but in self defense - you may not get another chance. The street is a battlefield so, like all warriors you have to prepare for a battle that may never happen. You may ask, "Why prepare then if I may never have to defend myself?"

Sure, it's possible to go through a lifetime without ever being mugged, robbed or swarmed; or be a victim of a home invasion, an abduction, or a sexual assault. Millions of people around the world can certainly make that claim. Are you really prepared to gamble your life or the life of your loved ones on that chance? If you survive that one attack you will become angry with yourself and say "should've" and "could've" statements like, "I should've learned self-defense," "I could've done something to help myself instead of cowering and begging not to be hurt."

Training in Hapkido is not just about punching or kicking and breaking bones. Hapkido training is about learning how to harness your energy and to harmonize your mind and body with the environment. In the case of a mugging or swarming the attackers are in or part of your environment and you have to learn to be one with them. Harmony, the Hap in Hapkido, is achieved when you attain a peacefulness in the moment and you can bring Hapkido Principles together.

Mushin: a State of "No-Mind"

Simply put, when you are attacked you can't control what the other person does and you must not even try to understand why they are doing it. You can't afford to tie up your mind with these thoughts as they will slow down your reaction to the attack and you could be seriously harmed. You must understand and accept that your actions are simply a natural response to the attacker's actions and that you are doing what you're doing without conscious awareness - you just act. This is a state of mind the Japanese refer to as Mushin, which means "no-mind."

Zen masters have tried to explain this state as when the actor finds himself or herself disconnected from the act and no thoughts interfere with the action because the unconscious act is the most free and uninhibited1. To try to put the idea of just acting into perspective, imagine you're on the shore of a lake fishing and there are black flies flying around your head. What do you find yourself doing without thinking? You wave your hand around your face and eyes trying to shoo them away. And when any of them land on you, you automatically slap them without looking for them. This is acting without conscious awareness.

Once you have achieved Mushin you will move through each moment of an attack, flowing like water, one of the Principles of Hapkido, into every space


Another aspect of Mushin is the state of Emptiness. Emptiness is achieved when you can rid your mind of all clutter - conflicting messages and misconceptions of what you can or cannot achieve or do. If you can't empty your mind of these things you can't achieve Mushin. How do you get to Emptiness? This is done through meditation. Meditation helps clear the mind and brings your Ki, mind and body into harmony.

In your moment of stress or situation of danger you know you have achieved Emptiness and Mushin when you feel a sense of peacefulness wash over you. The clarity of mind will be noticeable and you will feel in total control. This is the point where, if you have to defend yourself, you will move with what some masters refer to as "Instinctive Action." In other words, you will sense when and how you must act and do so efficiently and effectively.