Zan-Shin (残心)

Zan-shin is a term used in Japanese budo (martial arts) and geido (accomplishments). Zan-shin can be written as either 残身 or 残芯 in Japanese. Literally interpreted, it means "without interruption of mind." It refers to consciousness, especially the state of being alert after a performance while the performer is loosening up and relaxing. This also suggests that one should not forget about the performance which has been done, and should linger depth to the performance; this is a concept related to Japanese aesthetics and Zen.


It refers to being careful, attentive, and fair; in other words, it is continuation of "beautiful shosa" (beautiful behavior and poise).

When there is an opponent, one should be fair, modest and calm, and should be thankful to have the opponent to compete against. It is also tension of mind for always remembering to acknowledge mutual aid, so as to improve his or her own techniques, understand oneslf, or reset oneself, owing to the presence of the opponent of any kind. It is also respecting and thinking of the other party.

In everyday life, the term is used for teaching manners as in the expression "there is no zan-shin" or "zan-shin is not performed well", when one forgets to close or roughly handles fusuma (Japanese sliding door) or shoji (partitions that can divide the interior of a building into separate rooms), or when an apprentice of craftsmanship neglects cleanup. It also means putting an orderly end to a thing or action. The character for teaching manners "躾" is waseikanji (Japan-made Chinese characters) which represents acquring 'beautiful' (美) shosa to implant in the 'body' (身).

Zan-shin in budo

Zan-shin in budo refers to not lowering one's guard, both in mind and body, even after making a successful move against the opponent. Even if the opponent seems to have lost fighting power completely, it can be camouflage, and the opponent may return the attack by taking advantage of one's being off guard. Zan-shin avoids this and leads to a complete victory.

The following is an example of doka (Japanese poems about moral teaching) which sings about the spirit of zan-shin.

"Orietemo kokoro yurusuna yamazakura sasou arashino hukimokososure"

(Stay alert even after you gain the cherry tree.
You can never tell when a storm may break.)

In budo such as karate, kyudo (Japanese art of archery), and iaido (art of drawing the Japanese sword), "zan-shin" refers to a movement after attacking the opponent, such as bracing oneself in a certain form ("kata", or a position of the body), selecting a manner of counterattack by considering the distance from the opponent, and sheathing a sword after a pause. It suggests the attitude and mind accompanied by the preparedness to instantly respond to the opponent's attack and to make further attacks on the opponent. This embodies a state of mind in which the zan-shin is sublimated into a higher level to be maintained consistently before, during and after the attack. As in the zan-shin in geido, the movement does not end the moment the attack ends, but maintains continuousness ("yoin" (a lingering sound) in geido).

For example, zan-shin used in kyudo refers to retaining the posture, both in mind and body, even after sending an arrow, with the eyes focused on the place struck by the arrow. In kendo (Japanese art of fencing), zan-shin refers to bracing oneself to be able to instantly respond to the opponent's attack or counterattack by maintaining the state of alertness; without zan-shin, the attack is not counted as yuko-datotsu (a point) even if it is accurately made against the opponent. Although the rules for zan-shin in naginata (long-handled sword) are different from those of kendo, an accurate attack without zan-shin is not awarded a point as in kendo. In a kendo match, if an air of enjoying the victory (such as pumping one's fists into the air) is observed, it may be regarded as an act of arrogance and having no zan-shin, and the winner may be judged as the loser.

Zan-shin in karatedo (the way of karate) refers to the state of complete alertness, in which one is aware of his or her surroundings and the opponent, and is ready to make a counterattack. Zan-shin in jujitsu (classical Japanese martial art, usually referring to fighting without a weapon) means the preparedness to make the next attack, such as pulling back the fist at the speed faster than that of landing a bow, and not losing balance even after throwing the opponent. Also in aikido (art of weaponless self-defense), zan-shin means being aware of the uke (the opponent) whom one has thrown, and positioning oneself to be ready for a possible counterattack.

Zan-shin in geido

Zan-shin in sado (tea ceremony) is expressed in SEN no Rikyu's doka.

"Naninitemo okitsukekaheru tebanarewa koishikihitoni wakarurutoshire"

(When withdrawing hands from tea utensils, give its movement the yoin as when parting from someone you love.)

Also, Naosuke II teaches that one should not talk loudly, slam doors, or hurry into the house and quickly clear up, as soon as the visitor leaves. The host should see off the guest until the leaving guest is no longer visible, even if the host cannot actually see the guest. Later, the host should silently return to the tea room alone and make tea, and ponder the thought that the same meeting as today will never occur again (called "Ichigo Ichie" (treasuring every meeting, which will never recur)). This manner is the expression of the host's lingering farewell, or "yojo-zan-shin", as taught by II.

Zan-shin in Japanese dancing is mostly applied to the end of a section in a dance, and is referred to in expressions such as "'shimai' (end) is not performed well." It suggests not losing concentration until the end as in kyudo, and performing the dance until the "oshimai", or the end of a section in the dance, by straining every nerve up to fingers and toes.