One of the main psychological concepts used in Martial Arts is “Mushin” or “No-Mind”
The concept of Mushin is very interesting to me. From a basic neurological perspective, when we perceive that we are threatened, and particularly if we focus on or are vigilant to this threat, this triggers the fight or flight response. One of the things that happens when this is triggered is the behavioural inhibition system in the brain. Without labouring details essentially the focus on threat leads to our reaction being controlled. This might explain why when new to martial arts the perception if threat, whether physically or threat of competition or social embarrassment, or all of these, could lead to overthinking/hyperfocus on these threats/vigilance, and this would result in a limited repertoire of responses… usually, i imagine, a person might fall back to their best known patterns and defences at the expense of newly learned skills or creative or more flowing (in the moment) responding. In psychology this is automation. As a person becomes more automatic with a skill they have better access to in during times of competition. You’ve probably heard of the example of the newbie tennis player under-performing when under the pressure of competition.
In the 1600s a famous Samurai named Miyamoto Musashi wrote one of the most famous books on swordsmanship. The book emphasized mental preparation and discipline for fighting. The methods he introduced included meditation before and during battle.
These psychological methods/concepts were called Mushin.
In Martial Arts Mushin (no-mind) is a feeling that is referred as a flow state or in the zone.
There are four states:
A state of action-awareness merging
A state of total concentration
A state of sense of exercising control
A state of time feeling slower or faster
When you can feel the four states of Mushin, you are surrendering yourself to the moment so that the moves become effortless, as effortful control will always be a disaster.
When there is “no-mind” the techniques effortlessly flow from one to another since the mind is clear and uninterrupted by over thinking.
If you did not have this flow state the mind becomes halted and the practitioner reflects on what they were going to do and what they already had done.