View Full Version : Nen

Paul Taylor
12th March 2003, 03:39
I guess this is one of the things I have really wanted to discuss in the forum for a while. Nen is almost never really discussed outside of Aikido and some kenjutsu schools. But I think it is such an important issue. To discuss Ki but ignore Nen seems remiss. Is anyone interrested in a brisk discussion on this subject?

BTW: For those of you who have never heard of it; Nen is a word that does not translate straight into english. The best discriptions I have are:

Nen - Single mindedness, thought moment, will power, spirit mind.

Lets take a hard look at this concept and where do you think we should begin?

19th March 2003, 22:12
I've never heard the term before, Paul. How is it different than zanshin or kokoro? What is the context that it's usually used it?

Paul Taylor
20th March 2003, 13:45
Nen is really the mind's sword or concentration.

It is complete awareness will keeping the mind relaxed.

A good example of Nen was in Seven Samurai when the Samurai were being tested. The first walked in but easily dodged the attack. He had pretty good Nen. The second Samurai stopped before the door. This one had great Nen.

Have you ever been "in the zone". This is Nen. When your mind is being allowed to be all powerful, single minded, and relaxed.

Nen has not got a straight translation to english, but it is almost related to a second sense or sight in some ways.

I was waiting to meet a Goju instructor for the first time some years ago and went out to get something I had left in the car. On the way out the door I passed a man who I knew instantly was the instructor with out a word being exchanged. I think we all have had that time of intense clairity I am talking about.

But Nen also relates to projecting as well as receiving. We can intimidate or hide our intentions with it. It kind of falls under a natural awareness of body language, etc.

In my opinion, it is one of the most powerful tools we get, but it has fallen to the way side in the last 20 years.

We all remember, I hope, the famous story about the two Samurai who meet to fight and after a few minutes, without a word or sword drawn, they bow and go their seperate ways as equals. Nen.

You might consider Nen the mind if Ki were the body of a fighter's spirit.

20th March 2003, 19:45
Ok, I'm with and don't doubt what you're saying, because I've never heard the term.

However, it still seems like zanshin to me. Contextually, I guess zanshin is used to describe the concentration after an particular action, but I've heard to properly master zanshin, it must be cultivated at all times. Maybe that's where it "becomes" nen, or maybe they're just two different ways of syaing the same thing.

Hmmm... will have to investigate this.

Paul Taylor
20th March 2003, 23:48
Zanshin from my studies is more along the remaining spirit. It is the keeping the spirit ready for the combat. When a kata is finished then Zanshin continues. Or when the match is held the two combatants use zanshin to hold the readiness to continue.

Nen is the mental awareness and zanshin is the emotional readiness.

That is simply my understanding tho.


21st March 2003, 02:03
If the kanji for "nen" is the one that I believe it is, than you will notice that the lower character is "shin" (mind, spirit) which we also find in "zanshin" (lingering awareness). Hence, the reason one may seem "nen" and "zanshin" in the same light. However, the upper character of "nen" means now.

Thus one might surmise that nen is "in the moment" and zanshin follows the moment.

Somewhat akin to "nen" is "kan" which we have in jujutsu and (loosely) means perception. Its kanji , too, uses "shin" as its lower element.

Simply food for thought.

Frederick D. Smith

Paul Taylor
21st March 2003, 03:08
I can see that. Nen is a tricky idea due to its touching on several western ideas and terms but not really being equal to one.

I accually have learned a nice retake on the idea, seperate from one sensei. The Kanji break down is interesting, but when shin is used under like that it can refer to heart, core or spirit. Look at Aku, the kanji for evil or bad. More on the corrupted heart side. BUT, I am absolutely no expert on Japanese and even less so on Kanji. I would like to get Cleary or Wilson in on that one :D .

Ok, do we agree on the basic Nen. The extentend 'awareness of now' (great interp there) and I agree that it is strongly related to zanshin, 'lingering awareness or spirit'. So, how do we cultivate this into our training.

Sword teachers used to do early morning iaido, waiting for the leaf to drop, routines to build their awareness. Karateka do kata forms to pursue zanshin.

How should we attempt to form Mushin, Zanshin and Nen with the flow of Ki into our training to prefect ourselves. To build the In-Yo of our waza (The yin-yang of our techniques).

My favorite have been some of the 'old' training ideas. The focused punch vs. the candle. Seiza training. Kiri waza (cutting techniques) and harmonizing movements of red wrist (kind of a special Aikido thing mixed with a touch of Wing Chun sticky hands).

And my favorite lately, watching Kenshin on cartoon network with my son ;)

This is what I call the dan path. Past the kyu techniques or the shoden. In my very humble opinion.

Paul Taylor
21st March 2003, 03:10
BTW: I need to go research this kan. Rings a good bell.

21st March 2003, 21:39
Kan is emotion, feeling or sensation. With respect to jujutsu, we define it as perception but at a higher emotional or mental level. It is more accurately "honing" one's intuitive peception. I use the term "hone" as kan comprises "shin" (heart, mind etc.) and a radical that has the brushstrokes for "sharp" as in a sharp tool used for cutting.

Without getting into "kan" to deeply, it is a common denominator in Japanese culture / language. To illustrate, in a previous example in this thread (Seven Samurai) one appeared to have a sixth sense. Below is the kanji for sixth sense. You will notice "kan" at the bottom. It is the kanji that provides intuitive perception aspect to the phrase.

Best Regards

Frederick D. Smith

21st March 2003, 22:01
What a great thread!

I understand the difference now... interesting how nen and zanshin are related. I was wondering if there was a sixth sense attached to nen, but my question got answered.

In all, I think these seem to be aspects of the same mental state, and are only broken out to show how one should think/act (or lack thereof) at certain stages within kata. Like the Buddha said in the Diamond Cutting Sutra, all the aspects of mind are mind and are only called such.;)

Paul Taylor
22nd March 2003, 01:57
I think we are all learning some great ideas here.

I know I am. kan is the extention of the zanshin and nen ideas. The result it seems.

Mr. Smith should teach on these ideas. Sounds like he has got a pretty good handle on it :)

Funny too, Nen was a big thing with Aikido, kan with Jujutsu, zanshin with karate and kenjutsu.

Budoka 34
23rd March 2003, 18:27
Great thread,

I wish I would have found it sooner. I have a question about CHIKUGAN(sp?).

What relationship, if any, would it have to "nen"?
One of our instructors is very found of this term and translates it as "total concentration or awareness".

I've found very little in my studies on chikugan.



24th March 2003, 17:16
Mr. Kite,

This particular expression is one that is not familiar to me; however, “gyounen” means concentration of thought. You will note that the term also uses the “nen”, which has been discussed briefly in this thread.

With respect to the beginning of your term “chi”, this can have many different meanings many also centred around “thought.”. There is one kanji for “chi” that translates as “cause, engage, incur or exert”. Be advised I am not a language expert and my Japanese is very poor. Your teacher may be using the term for “exerting a concentration of thought.” This is in many ways much like “nen” (hence the reason, “nen” is contained within the expression.). Perhaps a correct romaji spelling may assist or being able to view the actual kanji that comprise the expression (even better).

As always, simply an opinion.

Frederick D. Smith

11th April 2003, 16:13
Mr. Taylor

Although I have, to my recolection, never come accross the term nen it seems to me through this thread and what I have learned in my studies that the term nen and mushin are very closely related. Interesting.

Daniel san
12th April 2003, 17:21
Interesting discussion. Techniques for cultivating zanshin and mushin are fairly available but maybe ya'll have some for nen. Are they the same? Do all three grow together?