What follows is an essay related to my presentation "SLA and Budo (Martial Arts): Extended, embodied cognition and practical implications for ELT" on July 8, 2012 at JALT Matsuyama. The presentation is a revised version of my JALT Hiroshima Talk "Comparing Foreign Language Communication to Budo (Martial Arts)"; Arguments of "Movement of Budo (martial arts) and Luhmann's systems theory" are added). The slides and handout for JALT Matsuyama talk is available below:
Zen master Takuan left a verse on mind:
A literal translation would be as follows:
Mind is the mind that confuses mind
Do not let mind mind mind
Apparently, this is meant to be deliberately bewildering to read (Advise that implanted deconstruction in itself, as is often the case with Zen master's writings).
To clarify, I introduce the distinction between conscious mind and nonconscious mind. (For consciousness and nonconsciousness, please see my post on Damasio).
Conscious mind is the mind that confuses nonconscious mind
Do not let conscious mind mind nonconscious mind
This advice is quite valid from neuroscientific understanding that most of what we do is the result of nonconscious mind and that consciousness is what emerges out of nonconsciousness when nonconsciousness find a situation difficult to deal with.
However, consciousness can be divided into two types: core consciousness and extended consciousness. Takuan's verse is particularly true with extended consciousness, which is beyond 'here and now' that the subject is experiencing. Core consciousness, on the other hand, is the awareness that the subject is feeling emotions, and it may be a good interface between the world and the body.
Many Budo writings say negative functions of extended consciousness in performance. But some also say that even core consciousness works negatively when it is fixated on a particular object.
Here are some examples. (To see the sources, please see the slides above)
"An arrow shooter shoots precisely when he is not conscious of shooting and shoots with an everyday mind."
" The man of the Way is like a mirror, and he contains nothing in his body-mind and is clear; his mind is empty but lacks nothing. "
"If your mind loses its balance by thinking, you hear but not listen, and look but not see. It is because you have an object in your mind. The object is an object to think about. If the object leaves, then your mind becomes the empty mind and fulfills its purpose when necessary."
"If your mind loses its balance by thinking, you hear but not listen, and look but not see. It is because you have an object in your mind. The object is an object to think about. If the object leaves, then your mind becomes the empty mind and fulfills its purpose when necessary. However, if your learned problems go away from you mind, you unlearn everything you have learned, and when you do the skill, your performance will be fluent. Your performance is not against what you have learned, and it accords with what you have learned without you being consciousness of it."
From these arguments, we may argue as follows:
(1) You don't need extended consciousness to perform well.
(2) You may not even need too much core consciousness, for it is just an alert system for irregular patterns.
(3) Nonconsciousness creates core consciousness to help itself to perform in a difficult situation.
(4) Core consciousness invites (from autobiographical memory) extended consciousness to help itself in a very difficult situation.
To describe what is being taught to us (the content of instruction), I further introduce the concept of imported extended consciousness. Imported extended consciousness is different from ordinary consciousness because it does not emerge from the mind/body of the subject; it is given from outside in the form of instruction by a teacher, for example.
Then we may argue as follows:
(5) Consciousness, either core or extended, does NOT create nonconsciousness, particularly imported extended consciousness!
(6) Put your imported extended consciousness aside when you perform.
(7) Imported extended consciousness is only helpful for reflective deliberation.
In a Japanese book on pedagogical grammar to which I contributed one chapter, I made a distinction between embodied grammar (grammar that constitutes language in the mind/body of a language user) and articulated grammar (linguistically expressed meta-description of embodied grammar). I argued that pedagogical grammar is to be designed as a device to help the nonconcious mind/body of language learners to develop embodied grammar of the target language in it. It seems that this argument of mine is quite congruent with the Budo sayings above.
My general belief is that the wisdom of Budo meets science and post-modernism. I hope I can further explore the old tradition of my country from new perspectives.