By Dave Kovar
I have the extreme pleasure of working with martial arts instructors and school owners from all over the world. On any given week, I might speak over the phone to as many as 25 different school owners about their successes and their challenges.
During these calls, I believe that I’m usually able to help them out a bit. Typically, it will have something to do with their business procedures, staff-training strategies or classroom formats. I know beyond a doubt that I learn equally as much from them as they ever will from me. Most of the time, I learn from the good ideas they have implemented in their schools and, occasionally, I learn from the things they are doing wrong.
This month, I’d like to discuss with you what I am calling “The Four Minds,” and how I see them being effectively utilized (or not) by the school owners that I work with.
To my understanding, the Four Minds were practiced widely by the samurai. Although they used them in their training and lifestyle, I think they apply directly to running a business as well. One of the commonalities that I see in successful school owners is the application of all four of these minds.
The first mind is shoshin. It means “beginner’s mind.” It has been my experience that people who constantly work on maintaining a beginner’s mind don’t stagnate but continuously improve.
I believe the reason why many of the school operators in the country stay on top is because they have beginner’s minds. They never think they have all the answers. They’re always trying to learn and grow. They understand at the core that once you stop trying to become better, you quit being good.
My father is a great example of having a beginner’s mind. Even at 96, he is still trying to get better at things. His balance isn’t very good anymore, so our training sessions have changed in the last few years. Instead of doing light sparring or bag work, now we sit facing each other and practice gun disarms and trapping-range skills. He still wants to improve.
The second mind is fudoshin. Roughly translated, it means ‘immovable mind.’ This refers to the ability to be calm under pressure, whether that is during a fight, rescuing someone from a burning building or sitting under a cold waterfall meditating.
In our business, it might mean being able to maintain your composure while dealing with a bunch of unruly kids. In our training, it could be demonstrated by our ability to appear to be unfazed by pain or fatigue.
I think it’s important to remember that physical pain and mental toughness are linked. As we get comfortable with being uncomfortable, we can really start to develop fudoshin. It shouldn’t just be a concept; it should be something that we experience and cultivate on a regular basis.
The third mind is mushin. Mushin translates to “no mind.” In Western sports, this would be similar to “being in the zone.” If you look back at the best classes that you have ever taught, or the best staff meetings that you have ever led, chances are you were experiencing mushin.
We can maximize our mushin by consciously ridding ourselves of distractions and giving our full attention to the present moment. This will become easier with practice and will allow us be more effective in all that we do.
The final mind is zanshin. This final concept means “remaining mind.” It refers to the ability to maintain awareness, and the ability to follow through and see things to their completion.
As a martial artist, you might practice zanshin when you are pumping gas at a gas station and you notice someone suspicious checking you out. At home, you practice zanshin when you sense a family member that is emotionally low.
As an instructor, you practice zanshin when you know not to pair off a couple of people for sparring, or when you use your peripheral vision while teaching a large class.
I challenge you to do a self-analysis of how you rate on applying “The Four Minds” to your business. Once you’ve identified where you are weak, make a conscious effort to become stronger while, at the same time, not letting up on your strengths. Good luck!
You can contact Master Dave Kovar at [email protected]
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