Fudoshin – The Immovable Mind

By Conradie, Johan
This article first appeared in the "SMAA Journal" Volume 24, Issue 3.
Fudoshin – The Immovable Mind

Do you want to be a relentless martial artist? 

Let’s explore the intricate mysteries of fudoshin, the mysteries of the very elusive “immovable mind.” Fudo in fudoshin correlates to Fudo Myo-o, who is one of the often referred to “deities” in Japanese Buddhism. Fudo Myo-o symbolically embodies the immovable mind. His sword is righteous, his faith unwavering. 

What does all of this mean in martial arts and in the application of everyday life?

An immovable mind is the same as an ordinary mind. What does this mean in real terms? What does it mean to possess an ordinary mind? 

The mind can easily fall victim to one of the four sicknesses of the warrior. The sicknesses of the mind are fear, doubt, captivation, and surprise.


When your mind is taken by fear, it displaces everything else in your mind and spirit. It distorts your thoughts or expectations and ultimately hampers realizing your true intent. It should be clear that a fearful mind is an ineffective mind. Applying discipline to the mind and always staying in the moment, not letting the mind wander to the past or anticipate the future eliminates fear. Fear is generated through the wandering mind. 


When the mind is presented with too many options and is uncertain about which path to pick, the mind remains in the moment too long, creating openings in our “armor.” An indecisive mind is held prisoner by indecision, resulting in no choice being made. Making no choice can be worse than making the wrong choice. To make a choice, and then stick to it, eliminates doubt. 

This is decisiveness, 100 percent commitment to a path with full dedication. When doubt is present in our mind, there can be no decisiveness. Practice making decisive choices and following through on them. 


Budoka should never be surprised. A surprised mind is not prepared. In exploring the samurai ethos, it is a well-known fact that the warrior needs to be prepared to face each and every situation. 

The surprised mind leads to doubt and fear. Thus, we see that all four sicknesses are interrelated and one leads to the other—a situation to be avoided at all costs. 

A concept that is closely related to surprise is zanshin (literally “remaining mind”). The warrior always needs to be aware of his or her surroundings, potential threats, undercurrents, and evolving situations. The warrior that understands zanshin, which suggests a continuing vigilance, will never be surprised. To understand zanshin, the mind must live in the now and never wander to the past or the future. This can only be achieved through strict discipline and training. 


Whenever we linger on any thought, the mind is captivated. The mind needs to let go of thoughts as quickly as they are formed. Nothing in the past or the future should remain in the mind for longer than a millisecond, unless there is a reason to continue to contemplate. The mind should be totally reflective like a clear pool on a moonlit night, reflecting the perfect image of the moon without any distortion on its surface.

In martial arts we refer to a mind that is totally in the moment as mushin, or “no mind.” It is, in other words, an ordinary mind. 

Hopefully you realize why these sicknesses are so dangerous to the budoka. Any one of these sicknesses leads us astray, takes our mind, and destroys fudoshin. A taken mind will falter. 

How does thought become deed? Thought becomes deed through intent. Intent carries the desire of the mind into the motion of the body, through the execution of the spirit, or ki. Some say ki energy resides in our hara (“abdomen”), and therefore it is said that swordsmanship starts and ends in the hara. 

Contemplate this well. The execution of intent can only be effective if the intent was formed within clarity in the first place. Cloudy intent leads to sketchy action and leads to poor execution of technique. If our technique is so dependent on clear intent, it means that the mind, where the intent is formed, should be pure and not be affected by any one of the four sicknesses. All these concepts may seem very complicated, but in essence they are not. 

Imagine yourself relaxing, totally at ease with yourself and your surroundings, residing in total harmony with the universe. How do you feel in that moment? 

That feeling of clarity is called the ordinary mind. It is that state, that elusive state, that we seek through our endless pursuit of the Way. It is the ability to possess utmost calm, the ordinary mind, during times of stress and pressure, that brings mastery of self. The mind that is not affected by anything, but affects and influences that which is around us, is the embodiment of the Way. In this state, there is no self, there are no others, there is only now. 

When the mind is calm, intent is pure, ki is strong, and the resulting technique flawless. Seeking this very elusive state of mind is what studying budo is all about. Following this is worthwhile, for it leads to self-healing and enlightenment. It ultimately leads to a good life filled with beauty and a good death without regrets. Persevere in your study of budo, be true to this path, be dedicated, and always do your best. 

Fudoshin waits patiently. Let it entice you in the moments of clarity and feed you in the moments of despair.

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