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Nov 042014

Embusen is a Japanese term meaning “beginner’s mind.” Also, during the practice of forms, embusen is the starting point to which the fighter returns (in some forms) if all stances are executed properly. The importance of this mindset is a willingness to learn, change, and improve.

Since forms are handed down from instructor to student, much like the game of telephone, some changes can creep in and (over time) distort the form. When corrected, the most common reply given to the corrector is “but that’s how I learned it.”

Our chief instructor further studies the traditional forms and sometimes he finds a more original interpretation or even name of the form. We can choose to either adapt and correct how we perform and teach the form, or we can stubbornly ignore it,  citing: “but this is how I was first taught.”


Without the “beginner’s mind” that is open to correction and new learning, the practitioner will continue to knowingly perform and teach the form incorrectly…bad idea. It is difficult to change “muscle memory”, but not impossible. The process of correction, and exercise of mental plasticity that comes with it, serve as reminders of the importance of self correction, the value of adaptation, and the responsibility we each carry to pass along what we know as CORRECTLY as possible.

Tax codes change each year, football rules change every season, new laws are passed all the time, and new scientific discoveries are made daily. In our professional and personal relationships, we learn what works and what doesn’t and can choose to change to improve and grow — or remain stagnant because “that’s how I’ve always done it.”

Vance Havner said “…a rut is nothing but a grave – with both ends kicked out.”

It is beneficial to approach challenges with a beginner’s mind.

“When we know better, we do better.” – Maya Angelou

beginner's mind


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