top of page

The Five Spirits of Budo

There are certain things a student of the martial arts must learn if they are to fully understand what is happening in class and what they need to strive for. It is difficult to pass on everything a good martial artist must know during regular class time and so, it is wise for each student to commit additional time outside the dojo to reading recommended books and articles that Hanshi Scott feels would benefit his students. This is one of those articles.

Budo means: "warrior way", or way of the warrior; the warrior must understand each mindset reviewed below if he or she wants to move forward in his or her journey. Read it, absorb it, and then see if you can identify it in others during class. This brief description of the five spirits of budo are from Dr. Bohdi Sanders.

1) Shoshin – Beginner’s Mind

This refers to the kind of attitude that you probably had when you first started martial arts. You were excited and eager to learn. You had an attitude of openness, eagerness, and had no preconceptions of how to do your techniques. You just wanted to learn. This is the mind that you should have, even when you get to the point of learning advanced martial arts.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you already know everything that you need to know. Maintain a beginner’s mind, even when you get to the higher levels of your martial art. The person who thinks that he or she already knows everything, is not open to learning anything. Maintain Shoshin when you are training with others and continue to learn from everyone you meet.

2) Zanshin – Lingering Mind

Zanshin is a state of mind where you are totally in the Now – the present moment. It is a state where you are completely aware of your environment and your surroundings. You are relaxed, but aware and alert.

Zanshin has also been translated as 8-directional awareness. If you take a piece of paper and draw a straight vertical line and a straight horizontal line, and then draw two more straight lines going through the center point, so that you basically have an 8-pointed star, this would illustrate the 8-directional awareness of Zanshin.

If you could see this in a 3-D drawing, you would see that Zanshin covers every direction. It is a state of being totally aware of your environment – front, back, up, down, and both sides. It is total awareness.

It is a state of total awareness where your mind is always alert and prepared for action. This can only be achieved by practice, serious practice, not playing around. Zanshin is only achieved by taking your training deadly serious, as Master Funakoshi described.

3) Mushin – No Mind

Mushin literally means mind-no-mind or empty mind. It is a state where you are acting but not having to think about your actions. Achieving the state of Mushin is at the core of Japanese martial arts and can only be achieved by years of practice.

The moon’s reflection in a lake is only clear when the water is perfectly still. If there are waves or ripples, the moon’s reflection is distorted. You could think of Mushin as being a state of mind where there is no distortion or thoughts, yet you are still acting.

Think of it like this, when you first learn to drive a car, you have to mentally think about everything you do. You consciously think about turning on turn signal, checking both ways, where your hands are, your speed, etc. But once you have mastered driving your car, you do all of those things without having to think about doing them. That is Mushin. You act without having to think about what you are doing because you have mastered that specific action.

The Japanese say that Mushin cannot be understood with the intellect, but rather, it must be experienced. And that is true. When you go into Mushin, your mind is quiet, but your body is acting. To achieve this state, your mind must be free from any conscious thought, including anger, hesitation, doubt, fear, or thinking about how to do what you are doing. You simply act. You allow your spirit to guide your body.

4) Fudoshin – Immovable Mind

Fudoshin represents a mind that is totally at peace, in every situation. It is a mind that filled with courage and determination. There is no fear in the immovable mind; it is in a state of complete composure and peace.

When you have achieved the immovable mind, you will feel that you can achieve anything, that you are invincible. Your mind cannot be disturbed, no matter what. In this state, you are able to face fear, danger, and even death with a calm spirit.

When you develop your mind to the point of having Fudoshin, or an immovable mind, you will be free from anger, fear, and doubt. You will approach every situation with a calm mind that can’t be moved.

5) Senshin – Enlightened Mind

The enlightened mind is the highest level of the 5 Spirits of Budo. At this level, you will hold all life as sacred. You will be able to perceive how everything fits together to make the whole. You will understand how each part of the Universe is connected and how something that effects one part of the Universe will ultimately affect us all.

Once you reach this level you will see the world in a totally different way. Your thoughts and intentions will be pure and sincere. You will wish harm to none. Your mind and spirit will become one.

Reaching Senshin is truly rare. It is not something that you can force, but something which will come after a lifetime of practice in controlling your thoughts and purifying your spirit.

This is a very basic overview of the 5 Spirits of Budo. Each of these can be delved into much deeper. It was my intention to give you a basic overview of each part, a basic understanding if you will. You must be sincere in your training. Put your spirit, mind and body into your training each and every session. Kaizen!  Bohdi Sanders ~


Recent Posts

See All


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page