View Full Version : Thoughts? (can zanshin and ki be too strong?)

23rd July 2003, 01:08
I have been practicing Kendo and Naginata for nearly 15 years, and during this introductory phase of my training I have ardently trained, meditated and studied in an effort to improve myself not only physically, but mentally and spiritually as well. In particular I have trained hard to develop my Zanshin and Ki (and therefore Kiai). The result I have observed over the years is that both attributes appeared to increase, sometimes allowing me to defeat opponents whom were better than myself physically (stronger, faster, etc.). I have tried very hard to practice with a resolute mindset that what I was doing was life and death and that I was prepared to die if necessary…..
OK, OK enough banter, my issue at hand.
At a recent seminar I was told by a Sensei (Kyoshi) that I respect very deeply that while my kata was “technically” correct (Kihon and Ma’ai) that it lacked logic because I was “too strong”. I.E. My Zanshin and Ki were so overpowering that it made no sense for my partner to attack me. I was told that I needed to now learn how to “control” my Zanshin and Ki. I am VERY confused by this but am trying hard to better understand and practice the advice offered. I am interested to hear any thoughts or observations you respected gentlemen might have to offer. I am eager to learn as I am still quite new in walking this path I have chosen.


Kevin Saxton

Shitoryu Dude
23rd July 2003, 01:22
How to win a fight without having to fight.

You are so intimidating that nobody will actually fight with you. In the future try to come across like a wuss and they'll charge right in.


23rd July 2003, 04:52
This reminds me of a story about Musashi Miyamoto. He was apparently meditating with Takuan when a snake came along. The snake noticed Musashi and recoiled in fear, immediately slithering off. It came to Takuan and crawled slowly over him without paying much attention. Musashi was very upset. Takuan said "Why be upset? Your spirit is so strong that the snake backed away from you, and thus neither you nor the animal were hurt!" Musashi was not placated, saying something to the effect that the snake saw Takuan as so unthreatening that he considered the monk part of the natural landscape, and thus there was no fear or conflict. Musashi said that he wanted to be this way, instead of inspiring nothing but fear in people, or drawing challengers like moths to a flame.

Perhaps it is something like this?

I'm recalling the story from my crappy memory, and I'm about half in the bag, so perhaps Hyakutake-san will correct me, but I think that's how it went.

You must be a helluva man, to have such overpowering qualities.

23rd July 2003, 15:25
Originally posted by Soulend
You must be a helluva man, to have such overpowering qualities.

Indeed, he must. I'm most interested in how he developed those qualities, and if it gets overpowering as your sensei says, how can it be controlled.


23rd July 2003, 16:06
Hi all...
I get told each and every time that I train that I am "too strong", or that I am using "too much strength"....However, I don't honestly believe that it is because I have honed my Ki or Zanshin to such a degree that it intimidates either him (My Sensei) or my Uke.....In fact, I am pretty certain that when he says that I am "too strong" what he 'really' means is that I am "too strong"....
Perhaps this is what your Sensei meant?......I notice that you drew your own conclusions after you were told this.....From my own experience that is not a good way to take things like that in...It could lead to all kinds of problems....Not least, an overblown sense of ones own 'power'...Maybe you are simply using too much strength.
Try to relax in training....It aint easy but then thats life!

23rd July 2003, 17:35
Thank you for all your insights. I frist would like to apologize for the double post. this is my first forum and I was unaware of the issue.
I think I should clarify some of my earlier statements,... I think what the Sensei meant by "too strong" was a comparison relative to my partner at the time (during kata), not an overall quantitative value. I still believe I have many years of training ahead of me before I might achieve a degree of "true" strength. But as I have been reflecting I remember something I read by Teshimaru sensei.
"..now, most people are only half alive, they are always trying to save some of their energy for something else. You have to expend ALL of your energy so you can take in fresh energy." I have always tried hard be 100% in the "moment", without holding back. This often leaves me spent, especially after a shiai or seminar, but I have usually come away feeling better overall.
I am very fortunate to have a few people at the dojo's where I train whose Zanshin is also very strrong, and it does make a difference during training.


23rd July 2003, 18:26
Training is not the actual use of what you train in or train for.

Although we must use both physical and mental visualization and projection to overpower an opponent, the use of these techniques must have varying degrees of intensity for practice because not all your partners will have the same degree of knowledge or intensity for training.

I came from the practice of kempo karate and expected the people in Aikido to use the same strength and intensity in aikido, but there was an entirely different rythym and intensity to this practice. My classmates were getting mad because I was taught to induce pain to make my partner submit, but not to injure my partner, the people in Aikido were taught to induce movement, with very little pain, so it took a long time for me learn to be more sensitive to the actions, reactions, and body movements of a variety of different people at different levels of experience.

As practiced or as experienced as you are, if someone used the same intensity of practice against you, you would be seriously injured ... practice is not about injury, but borrowing another persons body to practice. Give it back to them in the same condition, or better, when practice is over.

The only reason to have a martial practice is to preserve your life, your health, and allow you to live a long life. The ultimate goal of practice will make you a better person, and being a better person will allow you to contribute to making a better society. Problem is .... most people don't get a whole of their instinctual emotions, subconscious turmoil, or get a grip on life until they are in their fortys or fiftys? Go figure.

I guess what people are saying is that you need to get mature in the use of your skills, and mature in the goals you have set for yourself. Your present path of practice is not harmonious for either yourself or society.

I know what you are going through. I am built like a tree. If I was to use 100% of what I have now, even in my weakened condition, I would be injuring my practice partners, throwing them 10-20 feet during practice, and going way, way beyond the boundarys of safe practice. Might be great for me, but what about my partners? They would learn nothing, and I would be banned from class participation, right?

Oh well .... learn to vary the degree of your intent, your use of forces available. There is not just a physical concern, but a concern that a mental imbalance will occur. The human body show signs of stress, and distress ... maybe some of those signs are present.

Think about it in terms of someone overwhelming you in practice to the point your are in danger of being seriously injured, and they don't know when to back off.

These are just my thoughts from being the little guy, and being the big guy. Nobody can tell you how practice, but then nobody has to practice with you, also.

I think you should practice with someone on your own level or practice a 100% on your own, but that too is my own opinion.

Nathan Scott
26th July 2003, 02:08
Hi all,

FWIW, Kevin Saxton is the senior student (and now assistant instructor) in one of the dojo I train in, and is in fact VERY skilled and very intense in both Naginata and Kendo. Kevin and I have briefly touched on the subject of this thread recently, so I'd like to offer some further perspective...

Donn Draeger translated zanshin as: "literally 'alertness remaining-form': this term signifies physical form united with mental acuity and concentration, resulting in uninterrupted dominance over the adversary. There could be no effective fighting skill without it. Zanshin was the undeniable mark of the expert technician; it could not be faked. It was the result of countless hours of experience in combative training and was expressed through physical posture. Through zanshin the bushi achieved the proper mental and physical attitude with which to dominate his adversary." (Classical Bujutsu, page 62).

How to win a fight without having to fight.

You are so intimidating that nobody will actually fight with you. In the future try to come across like a wuss and they'll charge right in.

That seems to be pretty much what the instructor told him. I believe the comment was in regards to both paired kata (engi) as well as competition (shiai). I believe what the instructor was saying in regards to shiai is that it is limiting to only use one tactic when fighting (full power all the time). Though some of the older koryu (like Jigen ryu - the typical example) prefer a very aggressive, direct approach to fighting, most other extant koryu seem to encourage 'deception' as well.

From my point of view, practicing full extension of ki and zanshin (with appropriate technique) while trying to crush your opponent physically, mentally and spiritually is what it is all about. In kendo, the term "noru" refers to the tactic of suppressing your opponent's movements by utilizing superior spirit to them. This is what I see Kevin often doing in competition, and it works very well for him.

However, I can see where once you've learned this, it would be useful to develop other tactics, such as what kendo calls "iro wo miseru". This is the tactic of presenting an apparent opening to the opponent in order to lure them to attack a predicted area. If there is no perceived opening, then it becomes more difficult to control the opponent's attack. There will always by someone stronger than you, and that is where tactics such as these come in handy.

Kevin also mentioned observing this instructor perform what in kendo is called "katsugi waza" (if I understood correctly), which is leaving a blatant opening for attack, inviting your opponent to move against you, and then immediately attacking the opponent when they break their posture to attack. Another useful tactic when facing an opponent who is overly confident or full of energy.

My suspician is that the instructor recognized that Kevin had sort of specialized in one tactical area, and had not yet explored some of the less overt tactics of deception.

In regards to kata (engi), I can see why the instructor would be advising Kevin of the importantance of interacting in a "logical" manner with the ai-te (appropriate riai). To overpower the opponent confuses the context and intent of a given kata scenario. Without the proper setup, the opponent would not attack in such a way as to warrant the given reaction. Thus, this negligence in the fine points of the "setup" are what demonstrates a lack of logic when performed.

I think most of us think about the physical logic of a kata, but often neglect the mental/spiritual setup. To a trained eye, all three aspects of the kata would be required to demonstrate a full understanding of the kaho riai.

So my guess is not that this is a matter of right or wrong, but rather, work on something else now - this tactic is pretty well developed. In a real conflict, use whatever seems most appropriate at the time.


falang gwai
20th November 2003, 09:20
Is it possible that when your sensei says "too strong" he means "too yang"? (As in yin-yang.)

Perhaps you should meditate on yin energy and see what new directions it might take you in, either in fighting or self-development?

A few suggestions as meditation objects:
-beyond fear, compassion for the opponent
-beyond destroying the enemy, redirection and submission
-having ki so strong you have enough to share with others (healing)

Learning some other meditation traditions might be useful, too.

Best of luck.

20th November 2003, 23:52
Thank for your insight. In fact I have already started altering the kind of Zazen I practice. I initially Practiced Zazen to develop my Ki, but with a feeling that I was infusing myself with energy to destroy my opponents. This has been very effective thus far, But I have come to realize that I was limiting my Ki for only combative (destructive) purposes. This is not a good way to develop spiritually (or martially) long term. It is easy to destroy, but much morre difficult to create. I am now trying to do Zazen with a feeling of taking in "positive" energy and expelling "negative" energy. I'll keep you posted as to the results.

Kevin Saxton :)