Hansei 反省 Self-reflection

Seated quietly, you pause and think about the time you should have done something but didn’t or remember a situation where the outcome fell short of expectation.

At the other end of the spectrum, you stop and contemplate the steps that led to success.

Assessing your shortcomings or appreciating your achievements are acts of personal reflection that illustrate the concept of hansei.

Hansei features prominently in Japanese culture and is essential to the practice of budo. “Insight into oneself is the first step to improvement” is a truism in martial arts and life in general. It begins by acknowledging gains, or recognizing errors and embracing course correction. This demands honesty, clarity, objectivity, self-awareness, fortitude, a refusal to accept less than personal best, and most notably, humility, if you are a student, teacher, or martial arts professional.

Students – at the end of class, assess your performance, learning process and progress, and take ownership of your practice. As absolute objectivity is rare, this appraisal should be undertaken with input from your sensei or senpai.

Sensei – after each lesson, evaluate your performance, instructional process and progress. Consider your feelings and approach, as well as the technical material covered and results, and solicit feedback from trusted colleagues. If you share my belief that every teacher-student interaction takes a practitioner one step closer to realizing martial excellence or quitting, ask yourself “how will I make the next session better.”

Martial arts professionals – whether you are directing a small dojo or large organization, regularly review your performance, business process and progress. Consulting respected associates and experts from other fields can play an important role in attaining and sustaining success. Win or learn. Celebrate your accomplishments. Confront and correct your mistakes. Your dojo is an organic entity that continues to grow and evolve.

Hansei is a never-ending series of reality checks that can help us maximize our potential, devoid of a sense of superiority and with the desire for continual improvement.

Note: Remaining resilient in the face of the current crisis or any major challenge requires us to tap- into our warrior spirit through deliberate and honest introspection, and hansei may be applicable for both budoka and non-martial artists.