Mushin is a state of mental clarity, awareness and enhanced perception (both sensory and intuitive). This is known as pure mind, produced by the absence of conscious thought, ideas, judgments, emotion. Free of fear and anxiety and of self-consciousness.

It is a mind that is totally calm — a mind not influenced or caught up in events or others emotion, thus a mind more able to freely perceive and respond.

Today’s sport martial art events are often stressful, but not the same as be confronted with a person holding a gun or a knife with the intent to kill or harm.

Fear and anxiety causes your body to release adrenaline.  Adrenaline is a stress hormone produced within the adrenal gland that quickens the heart beat, strengthens the force of the heart’s contraction, and opens up the bronchioles in the lungs, among other effects. The secretion of adrenaline is part of the human ‘fight or flight’ response to fear, panic, or perceived threat.

Once the heart beat reaches above 115 beats per minute, a person starts to lose fine motor skills.

Will your training payoff in a life or death battle? Should you also train your mind?

Here’s the breakdown: **

60 -85 bpm: Normal

115 bpm: Fine motor control degrades: fumble fingers (threading a needle, writing, screwing a small bolt on a nut, putting a widget in a tight little hole) Vasoconstriction of peripheral blood vessels (for example, those in  your hands) Cold clammy hands

115-135 bpm: Complex motor skills are optimal and visual perception is acute. Peak performance relating to complex motor skills – “in the zone”: basketball player making the free throw

145 bpm: Complex motor skills degrade; slow blocking, air kicks? dialing 911 Vasoconstriction of larger blood vessels. Ever heard of the term “buck fever”? Buck fever is a condition hunters get. its symptoms include: jumpy-ness, seeing a buck deer when there is a doe, or no deer at all;  Or can’t get the safety off on a gun or rifle.

175 bpm: Irrational fight or flight, Gross motor responses are at highest level (eg, charging, running), Strength at highest level (lifting, pushing), voiding of bladder & bowels, Freezing, Submissive behavior; Extreme vasoconstriction- and return blood flow is plugged; body reserves blood for critical organs needed for survival, Loss of peripheral vision (tunnel vision), Loss of depth perception, Loss of near vision, Auditory exclusion, Reduced bleeding from wounds; Very reduced cognitive processing, Training takes over

above 175 bpm: Autopilot, Scared speechless, Behavior contagion (one cop shoots, they all shoot), Preservation (repeated behavior even if it doesn’t work, hauling those tools, hose; may stem from survival, for example, continuing to hit the lion with a rock); Fore-brain shuts down, Confusion, Loss of memory, False memory (seeing something that’s not there)

** The numbers above are ballpark heart rate numbers related to the Sympathetic Nervous System stress response. There are potentially large individual differences in heart rate relating to physiological arousal and other cognitive, physical, performance and behavioral responses to the stress hormone.

The MILITARY ended up being where the rubber hit the road for this kind of research, because they had lots of [willing??] subjects and could see some real benefits to studying the psychology of combat [like staying alive]. That’s where some of the cutoff numbers coalesced: with Dr. Dave Grossman‘s and Bruce Siddle‘s research with the military in the mid-90s. Siddle wrote Sharpening the Warrior’s Edge. Some really good books by Lt Col Grossman are On Killing and On Combat, the Psychology and Physiology of Deadly Conflict in War and in Peace (this last book with Loren Christensen).