‘Shimshin‘ is the Korean concept of ‘mind-body’ duality. ‘Shim’ means ‘heart,’ ‘nature’ ‘moral’ and ‘core’ or ‘center’ and in hanja is written as, 心. ‘Shin’ in this instance refers to ‘the body,’ ‘oneself,’ ‘I’ or ‘me.’ To give a complete etymology:
Shim: 心 is 마음 – 심
Shin: 身 is 몸 – 신
Shimshin is the desired state of mind in which the mind and body, represented by the sword or weapon, are one. It is a state of emptiness and awareness from which reactions emerge without conscious thought. Many martial arts strive for this state of mind and in many, more so traditional martial arts, it is the ultimate goal. In karate it is known as ‘mushin’ or sometimes ‘moving zen’ and in other Korean sword arts it is known as Shimgeom (心劍, 심검). It is the importance of mind/body duality that separate ‘sport’ from ‘art’ and which in many martial artists is embodied in the concept of ‘do’ (‘the way’ - 道 – 길-도). The attainment of shimshin, from my own experience usually fleeting and so I am quoting only that which I have read, is not dependent on technical perfection and indeed it is possible for an inferior technician to experience its ‘radiance.’
In the concept of ‘shimshin,’ ‘shin’ (身 – 몸 – 신) should not be confused with ‘shin (神 – 귀신 – 신) which refers to: ‘spirit,’ ‘soul,’ ‘mind’ or ‘energy.’ Gwi-shin-shin (귀신-신) that is 神, is the required translation for my dojang’s motto and is used in various ‘chants.’
Most of my dojang classes begin with meditation and this is especially important as most students, predominantly children, warm-up by running around the dojang playing games and soccer before classes begin. Meditation calms them and induces the correct mental condition for training. In Korean, meditation is: myeong sang (명상). It is performed seated and usually with very quiet, soothing music in the background. Many students are Buddhist and quite familiar with meditating.
After meditating for 10 minutes, the class then progresses to perform ‘dan jeon ho heup’ (단전호흡), the ‘front, downward cut meditation. This exercise takes the calmness of motionless meditation and combines it with gentle movement, in this case a form of the front, downward cut (정면내려 베기).
Meditation and ‘dan jeon ho heup’ (단전호흡) appear at every level of belt testing in my dojang’s curriculim
Here are some clips of meditation and Dan Jeon Ho Heup
from my dojang
Korean Sword by Nick Elwood is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.