Hei Jo Shin 平常心
(Ordinary, Common, Everyday Mind or Presence of mind)
Heijoshin is a term that is not commonly used in Karate but is an important part of Iaijutsu. Despite its rarity in karate-do it is a term and concept that applies and is of value to understand.
Heijoshin (or peace of mind) is the by-product of a person’s complete inner being. It can only be achieved by refining the whole inner essence and this can only be accomplished if one’s intellect, emotions, and character are developed in balance. Heijoshin literally translated means “constant stable spirit”. Such a translation hardly does it justice. To understand the full nature of heijoshin one has to look to the nuances of the Japanese language. Heijoshin is comprised of three kanji (ideograms):
Hei (平) – peaceful, calm, steady
Jo (常) – always, constant, continually
Shin (心) – translates as ‘heart’ or the whole inner essence of the individual
Combining the kanji heijoshin suggests “the whole inner being of a person being continually at peace”. One has peace of mind. Heijoshin is best understood not as a single attribute but as a culmination of several character traits. As mentioned above, to achieve heijoshin requires a high degree of mental development in three key areas: intellect, emotions, and integrity (or character).
Heijoshin refers to the complete balance and harmony that is attained in one’s life through mental and emotional discipline. Musashi Miyamoto, the great swordsman, alluded to these mental states briefly in his Book of Five Rings (Go Rin no Sho), and his conversations with Jotaro were often repeated in Japanese folklore as lessons to be learned for the practice of one’s life.
Why is heijoshin important to us as martial artists? Although our bodies may give way to time and age, we can continue to practice and develop our character and mental faculties. Heijoshin is an unlimited quality. As martial artists, and in life, there is always room for more knowledge, greater compassion, stronger love, and a higher level of character development.
To achieve heijoshin as a martial artist requires a lifestyle of discipline, effort, sacrifice and commitment. Such a commitment to developing excellence of character is what sets the martial artist apart from most people in a confused and unhappy society. As we discover the true nature of martial arts our training leads us to a fuller understanding of the nature of life itself. With this understanding comes peace of mind and true and lasting happiness.
Heijoshin leads us to understand that despite the transient nature of life we maintain our center. Our core values never leave us. Presence and constancy of mind are maintained through changes in environment and circumstance. When we have mastered this than peace of mind, contentment and happiness are truly ours. We are not dependent on external sources such as money or material possessions to create our peace of mind.
This also relates to combat or kumite. When we allow ourselves to be sucked into matching technique with someone we lose our heijoshin. We don’t attempt to kick with a kicker or grapple with a grappler but stay secure and content in using the techniques and strategies that are ours. We must rely on what we know and what we do best. Constancy of mind and spirit are of utmost importance.
The true warrior works to refine his spirit, intellect and integrity. His ethics are not situational but based on solid core values. The understanding and refinement of heijoshin is a mark of true martial arts mastery.