Hansei 反省 – taking stock of oneself

Mental preparation allows the martial athlete to ‘quiet the mind’ from worldly distractions. It also allows the individual to be fully present without the impediments of falsely projected needs, desires and fears.

Most followers of the traditional path of Budo and Bugei are familiar with the concept of Mokuso. It’s made up of two Kanji characters: 黙 “moku” means ‘to be quiet/close one’s mouth’ and the second kanji 想 “sou” means ‘to think’. The most common explanation is to ‘empty your mind’.

But if the initial ‘meditative’ engagement of Mokuso sets the stage then it’s the closing act or Hansei that brings necessary change.

But what is Hansei? Hansei is an essential element of Japanese culture and Budo traditions. An act of subtle contemplation undertaken to ‘look’ at past mistakes, obstacles remaining, celebrating achievements, restating goals, and reaffirming the pledge to self-improvement.

Understanding begins at the root of the Kanji characters. 反 “han” means ‘to return or reverse’ and 省 “sei” means ‘to focus or reflect’. Personally, I favour a slightly different writing of the concept, 反思. Same meaning, less ambiguity.

Eastern philosophies strongly believe that strengthening of your mind will lead to your best effort regardless of the circumstances, hindrances, perceived limitations or obstacles.

This mental practice through which individuals reflect on accomplishments and experiences is now wholeheartedly embraced by top western athletic coaches. Reflective practice pioneer Donald Schon defined the reflective learner as “someone who explores their own experiences of learning through a questioning approach, to better understand how they learn and therefore improve how they learn in the future.”

So whether you are a recreational martial artist or a professional athlete, you can improve your physical performance when you calm your mind and still the world around you which will allow you to reflect on becoming your best self.