NO MIND

Over my years of coaching, I have had a multitude of conversations with both students and trainers about the most effective way to improve counter-punching and defense. Many fighters will often tell you that they saw the opening in their opponent’s defense but just could not capitalize fast enough on the opening. My goal has always been to find a way to shorten that reactive gap. There are various drills and pieces of equipment that are available which claim to do just this. In my experience, developing this attribute has more to do with training the mind rather than training the body. Natural reflex will always be quicker that cognitive thought, especially in high stress situations where the body is placed in an adrenal state.  I will begin by saying that my method of training is not the only way to effectively train, nor will I say that it is the best. With that said, my method of training does focus on a couple major things: attribute development and developing an understanding of the way offense and defense fit together. One of these is attributes that I have been working on with my athletes is a concept known in traditional martial arts as the  “Mushin”  mind state.  Mushin or the English translation  "no mind”  is a mental state into which trained martial artists are said to enter during combat. The term is shortened from “ Mushin No Shin,”  a Zen expression meaning  the mind without mind  and is also referred to as the state of "no-mindness". That is, a mind not fixed or occupied by thought thus open to everything and able to react to stimulus without the need for cognitive reasoning.  Striving for this skill aids in the elimination of discursive thought and judgment, making the person free to act and react towards an opponent without hesitation and disturbance from analytical thought. At this point, a person relies not on what they  think  should be the next move, but instead on their instinctive response. It could be said that the mind is working at a very high speed, but with no intention, plan or direction.    Some believe that Mushin is the state where a person finally understands the uselessness of techniques and becomes truly free to move. In fact, those people will no longer even consider themselves as "fighters" but merely living beings moving through space.   Within our team, we work to achieve this mind state by performing drills that develop reflexive attributes that directly respond to the high percentage scenarios that we are likely to encounter while sparring or competing. These exercises are known by many names, but we call them “perpetual motion” drills. These drills are based on “catching,” or defending an oncoming punch and responding with a set counter. By limiting the countering punches to a known and set combination, we eliminate the need to use creativity to respond to stimulus, thus allowing the fighter to react solely out of instinct. The closest analogy would be the way you would respond to touching a hot object. You do not have a lag between the pain and reaction; your body does the most appropriate action in the moment and drops the hot object.  This type of training is most evident in the method of pad work we use. It should be kept in mind that this type of training is a drill and like all types drills, has its benefits and its drawbacks. Issues such as not fully extending on the punch and dropping the hands from the proper defensive position, this can be rectified by training in conscientious manner focusing on proper technique. This type of training does not negate the need for training the basics, it is merely another tool used to develop combat attributes. In comparison to traditional pad drills where the pad holder and the puncher have a pre-determined set of punches and defenses that are performed in a stop and go fashion, all techniques performed in this type of pad work are continues and done in a completely random manner. It also places focuses more on eliciting a correct defensive response from the boxer than punching power and combinational creativity. Performing drills in this manner create an instinctual reaction in the fighter through repetitive motion where the defense and counter become a single reflexive action.  When training all techniques, tactics, and theories must pass the litmus test of “Can I perform this naturally in a stress situation?” If that is not possible then the technique will not serve you when you need it. Oftentimes in the hunt for creativity and variety in training, we can create a situation where we over complicate techniques and tactics that should be exceptionally simple and natural. By removing the need for cognitive response as well as limiting the punches, the reactive distance from defense to counter gets much shorter and allows for much quicker response times from the fighter.  Keep it simple and keep on punching.

Over my years of coaching, I have had a multitude of conversations with both students and trainers about the most effective way to improve counter-punching and defense. Many fighters will often tell you that they saw the opening in their opponent’s defense but just could not capitalize fast enough on the opening. My goal has always been to find a way to shorten that reactive gap. There are various drills and pieces of equipment that are available which claim to do just this. In my experience, developing this attribute has more to do with training the mind rather than training the body. Natural reflex will always be quicker that cognitive thought, especially in high stress situations where the body is placed in an adrenal state.

I will begin by saying that my method of training is not the only way to effectively train, nor will I say that it is the best. With that said, my method of training does focus on a couple major things: attribute development and developing an understanding of the way offense and defense fit together. One of these is attributes that I have been working on with my athletes is a concept known in traditional martial arts as the “Mushin” mind state.

Mushin or the English translation "no mind” is a mental state into which trained martial artists are said to enter during combat. The term is shortened from “Mushin No Shin,” a Zen expression meaning the mind without mind and is also referred to as the state of "no-mindness". That is, a mind not fixed or occupied by thought thus open to everything and able to react to stimulus without the need for cognitive reasoning.

Striving for this skill aids in the elimination of discursive thought and judgment, making the person free to act and react towards an opponent without hesitation and disturbance from analytical thought. At this point, a person relies not on what they think should be the next move, but instead on their instinctive response. It could be said that the mind is working at a very high speed, but with no intention, plan or direction.

 Some believe that Mushin is the state where a person finally understands the uselessness of techniques and becomes truly free to move. In fact, those people will no longer even consider themselves as "fighters" but merely living beings moving through space.

Within our team, we work to achieve this mind state by performing drills that develop reflexive attributes that directly respond to the high percentage scenarios that we are likely to encounter while sparring or competing. These exercises are known by many names, but we call them “perpetual motion” drills. These drills are based on “catching,” or defending an oncoming punch and responding with a set counter. By limiting the countering punches to a known and set combination, we eliminate the need to use creativity to respond to stimulus, thus allowing the fighter to react solely out of instinct. The closest analogy would be the way you would respond to touching a hot object. You do not have a lag between the pain and reaction; your body does the most appropriate action in the moment and drops the hot object.

This type of training is most evident in the method of pad work we use. It should be kept in mind that this type of training is a drill and like all types drills, has its benefits and its drawbacks. Issues such as not fully extending on the punch and dropping the hands from the proper defensive position, this can be rectified by training in conscientious manner focusing on proper technique. This type of training does not negate the need for training the basics, it is merely another tool used to develop combat attributes. In comparison to traditional pad drills where the pad holder and the puncher have a pre-determined set of punches and defenses that are performed in a stop and go fashion, all techniques performed in this type of pad work are continues and done in a completely random manner. It also places focuses more on eliciting a correct defensive response from the boxer than punching power and combinational creativity. Performing drills in this manner create an instinctual reaction in the fighter through repetitive motion where the defense and counter become a single reflexive action.

When training all techniques, tactics, and theories must pass the litmus test of “Can I perform this naturally in a stress situation?” If that is not possible then the technique will not serve you when you need it. Oftentimes in the hunt for creativity and variety in training, we can create a situation where we over complicate techniques and tactics that should be exceptionally simple and natural. By removing the need for cognitive response as well as limiting the punches, the reactive distance from defense to counter gets much shorter and allows for much quicker response times from the fighter.

Keep it simple and keep on punching.