12 December 2014

Realistic Awareness

There is nothing quite like watching a young policeman, fresh out of the academy, interact with people.  They believe that everyone is out to kill them instead of the fact that anyone could be out to kill them.  They have no experience or intuition to draw on.  Trying to stay 100% mentally aware to the point where you are thinking about trying to be 100% mentally aware is both mentally and physically draining.  This is the reason why it is unattainable but also not the best long term habit. 

The Japansese term mushin is short for the Zen term of ‘mushin no shin” which translates to mind without mind.  Understanding this is key to survival.  It is the exact opposite as our jumpy, nervous, police officer.  When I was a combat skills instructor for the DOD we were training Air Force personnel form plumbers to pilots.  It is no secret that the Air Force, with the exception of security forces and spec ops types does not handle small arms on a daily basis.  When people are unfamiliar with something they are either reckless or so timid they are just as dangerous.  Instructors call these people “Shaky Jakes”.  They are so aware of specific things that they cannot focus on overall safety.

In my 20+ years of security, police work and bouncing I would estimate the amount of time I have actually been involved in interpersonal combat, including a shooting, and dozens of fights and hands on situations, my actual time “in combat” is less than 45 minutes.  The rest of the time was spent being aware, trying to avoid, and regrouping to do better the next time.  This fact is lost on most people.  The average person who does not have a job which puts them in a position to be involved in such things, and goes out of their way to mind their own business will likely never experience a minute of actual combat, but that is what the most time seems to be spend on.

The key however is learning to be able to free your mind of emotion, outside influences, and things that have no impact on your well-being and making a habit out of doing so.  It is during this level of consciousness that the voice of your intuition will scream at you to save your life.  This is Mushin no shin.  Practicing it is free, but difficult, especially in unfamiliar environments.

I have written before about how when I started bouncing the sound of a pool cue falling on a tile floor would make me jump out of my skin.  Before long my mind was able to file it away under noises that in and of themselves are harmless.
The problem, for most of us these days, is that our world is so full of noises and movements that either don’t require us to react, or even prohibit us from reacting, that our conscious mind is dulled to the point of inattention.  This is why now, more than ever the pursuit of mastery of mushin no shin is so important.  It is the level of awareness that may one day allow you to respond with physical force to a life threatening, or more likely allow you to subconsciously avoid dangerous situations hundreds or thousands of times during a single day.

The best example I have for teaching not only the OODA Loop but also Mushin no shin is driving.  A good driver is aware and able to anticipate the actions of other drivers, and pedestrians without conscious thought.  Another level of this is riding a motorcycle because you cannot just get away with hitting the brakes like in a car.  In a split second you need to identify a threat and the of a combination of your front and rear brakes, amount of pressure on the brakes, leaning the bike, all in relation to the distance you have as well as the road conditions.  All this is done with the anticipation of possibly having to lay the bike down.  In essence there are so many things you need to be aware of that concentrating on one of them can be fatal.  This is also not taking into consideration subsequent threats.  Task fixation kills.

The key to survival is movement, and what precipitates movement is subconscious awareness not concentration.  Concentration inhibits movements and often requires things to make sense to your logical mind before reacting. 

Learn to just be in the moment without conscious thought.  Remember this is a lifelong pursuit so don’t rush it.

apologize in advance for my bastardization of the Japanese language.  English just does not do these concepts justice.

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