“Too many mind” is a favorite quote I often share with students. It’s from “The Last Samurai”, a 2003 movie directed and co-produced by Edward Zwick. The quote is about mental control, maintaining a mental state free of distraction, it’s about performance, focus, being in the moment. Being truly and utterly IN the moment.
The storyline takes place in 19th century Japan during the Meiji Restoration, details on the movie here. Captain Nathan Algren (played by Tom Cruise) is taken captive by Samurai and held in their village. They treat him very well and he is free to walk around the village – always with a Samurai following him – and observe their customs and lifestyle. He is even allowed to join them while they practice martial arts fighting techniques. Specialized wooden swords (bokken) are used in these practices.
In one particular scene, Algren is mock fighting with one of the Samurai and is getting seriously schooled. It is not going well for him. After watching Algren struggle and face defeat in several punishing matches, a young Samurai named Nobutada (played by Shin Koyumada), rushes up to him:
Nobutada: “Please forgive…too many mind.”
Algren: “Too many mind?”
Nobutada: “Hai (yes). Mind the sword, mind the people watch (watching), mind the enemy, too many mind. No mind.”
Algren: “No mind?”
Nobutada: “No mind.”
Algren takes a moment to contemplate Nobutada’s words and their meaning. Then he and his opponent resume mock fighting. This time, instead of getting completely schooled, Algren is able to hold his own against his opponent and the match ends in a draw. A significant achievement and major confidence builder for Algren.
I observe my students as they learn and practice with their dogs. Playing the role of Nobutada, I often tell them “too many mind.” Mind the people watch (me and/or classmates), mind the comparison, mind the self-doubt, mind the undesired behavior, too many mind. No mind.
This quote has helped many of my students. Most recent success comes from a student new to Rally and working toward a Level 1 Title in Cyber Rally O. On two separate occasions when we were filming runs for submission to CRO for judging, this student (like many other students, athletes, and performers) was overtaken by stress and performance nerves resulting in several non-qualifying performances. End result, they were unable to perform at the level they were capable of.
Being an excellent learner, this student was open to clear and direct communication, to Coaching input and suggested modifications, open to hearing what they needed to change so they and their dog could grow and succeed. In addition to sharing specific changes they could make in body movements, cues, voice, timing, reinforcement, energy, mental focus, etc., I shared “too many mind”.
At our next session, this student ROCKED! Focus and confidence were through the roof, handling was gorgeous, connection between human & canine palpable. Dog’s performance was awesome. And, yes! The following session when we filmed, they Rocked, Qualified and earned their very first leg toward their very first Title!
In dog training and all other aspects of life, learn to control your thoughts, control your mind. Focus. You can do it. Exhale. Let go of distracting thoughts.
Let go of “too many mind”. Be Present in the moment. Immerse yourself.
Amazing what we can accomplish with “no mind” (mushin no shin).