by Junelie Anthony Velonta | Feature Writer
I’ve only glimpsed upon mushin twice in my life – when I first performed a submission lock against a resisting opponent, and when I got my first clean hit in weapons sparring. It was a fleeting feeling. During those brief windows, I didn’t feel the mundanity of my body, nor did I experience a sense of heightened mental alertness. I felt peace. Mushin is a kind of peace that everyone should pursue.
I was introduced to the concept of mushin (無心), early in my journey through the martial arts. Translated, mushin means “no-mind,” or, according to D.T. Suzuki, being free from mind-attachment. It was, at the time, not apparent to me that the study of the physical is closely related to understanding the philosophical. To me, the physical was what mattered most.
This was so until I met a humble watch repairman named Ruel Tubang. People used to know him as “El Tigre.” For a man with a very violent past, he seemed to be – oddly – at peace.
I came to know Ruel Tubang as “Maestro” – teacher. Under his guidance, I learned both the martial and philosophical aspects of Filipino Martial Arts (FMA). It was confusing at first. Quotes like “your mind learns what the body does” were thrown about during our early morning trainings.
Little did I know that his lessons allude to the concept of mushin. Through physical mastery, mental peace could be achieved. Mushin, as I know it, is not a blissful peace. It is peace that is unattached to emotion and the body. During the two times that I glimpsed mushin, I felt no fear, nor did I hear my heavy breathing and my blood pumping in my head. There was only me and my opponent.
Mushin, however, is not exclusive to the martial arts. I learned this from Maestro. Being an old-school practitioner of FMA, his techniques are tied into how he lived his life. Though we haven’t met for a long time, I still remember him emphasizing that whatever technique I learn is a reflection of life. It dawned on me that I have glimpsed upon mushin many times in my life.
When I wrote letters to the woman I first loved, I realized I have glimpsed on mushin. Looking back, I was not really trying to impress her with poetry or prose. My letters were extensions of myself. There was only my hand and the pen. My emotions were excluded – nothing in the world disturbed the flow of ink on the paper. In writing them, I found peace.
Having glimpsed on mushin, it is my opinion that everyone should find their own path to achieve it. It is through these various glimpses that one could have a brief understanding of oneself. This inner yet emotion-less peace offers a reflection that is not blinded by the mundane.
To achieve mushin, however, one must first find what they excel in – a thing one could be passionate about. This journey of finding one’s passion is also a step in knowing the self. Through constant drilling and practice, one could learn about his or her craft more. Learning this passion improves how one understands one’s self. Through understanding one’s self, one could achieve mushin.