Awareness, Zanshin, or just plain Paying Attention
Awareness makes budo work. Without it, it doesn’t matter how good your maegeri or your uchimata is. You’re going to get clocked before you can use is. Being aware tells us what’s going on and what to be prepared for so we can deal with it when it arrives. It’s so important I considered including it as one of the fundamental principles of Budo. I didn’t because it is a skill built on and with the principles I discussed in earlier posts (Structure, Spacing and Timing). Without an understanding of those, awareness can’t happen. WIthout awareness though, you’ll never get to use the skills you’ve spent so much time developing.
Awareness is a combination of the knowledge of structure, spacing and timing combined with being cognizant of the world you are moving in. If you don’t understand structure, spacing and timing, it really won’t matter how much you pay attention to the people and things around you, because you won’t be able to interpret what you see. If you understand these things, but don’t pay any attention to what you are seeing and don’t apply your understanding to the world, it won’t matter what you’ve learned because you aren’t using it.
A lot of people talk about being aware of the world around us, but what are we looking at and why are we looking at it? Just being aware of what’s going on around you is useless if you don’t have a framework with which to evaluate what you are seeing. Understanding your own structure lets you see what’s going on in others' structures. Understanding spacing tells you not just what is good spacing for you, but what is good for someone else. Knowing when the timing is right and wrong for you to act enables you to understand those moments when you are vulnerable to someone else.