Combat>Mental aspects-Fudoshin

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Fudoshin is a Japanese term often translated as having an “immovable mind, a "warrior’s heart," or an "indomitable spirit." Cops, nurses, soldiers, etc. are supposed to have it, athletes want it, and one in three children seems to be born with it.

What is Fudoshin

Fudoshin has been defined as:
A spirit of unshakable calm and determination, courage without recklessness, rooted stability in both mental and physical realms. Like a willow tree, powerful roots deep in the ground and a soft, yielding resistance against the winds that blow through it.
The person who has a warrior's heart cannot be beaten. While most martial artists spend many hours working on strength, stamina, technique, and speed, few spend time training their thinking processes so they will have a mental edge over their opponents. Yet, it is the will to win that most often separates competitors both on the playing field as well as the battlefield.

Studies of high achievers done at Harvard University by Dr. David McClelland indicated that the best predictor of personal success was how the achievers thought about themselves, not any advantages of home and education they may have had. Recent studies by Dr. Emmy Werner of resilience in the Hawaiian children of sugar cane workers show similar results. Victim theory, where heavy emphasis is placed upon the effect of the environment, would predict that the poverty, alcoholism, anger, and abuse would push these children into crime and unemployment. Yet one-third of the children found opportunities to lead normal lives once out of their houses and away from their parents. They did well in school, began promising careers, and probably most important, they defined themselves as capable and competent adults.

Ann S. Masten studied Khmer-American children in Minnesota. These teenagers grew up in Pol Pot’s killing fields and the unspeakable horrors of torture, death, starvation, and forced labor directed toward their families and friends. They have nightmares, periods when they are jumpy and nervous, or depressed and anxious; yet, they are till they are getting on with their lives. They are absolute proof of the human capacity for survival and resilience.

Key characteristics

Research indicates one’s mental edge is honed by strongly focusing on and supporting the following concepts:
  • Own effort will make a difference. High achievers, great athletes, and survivors of disaster developed coping skills at an early age. Experiences such as camping, scouts, athletic and cultural achievements help train the young mind to achieve excellence. Although the skills of success are best learned while young, they may be achieved at any age. 
  • Success is gained through personal effort. Steven Hawking, an English theoretical physicist, cosmologist, and author who was diagnosed with ALS in 1963 lived for another 55 years and was challenging the greatest minds in the world until the end. Rick Hansen is a Canadian that took his wheelchair around the world and became a leader on the International Olympics Committee. Others have not only used their efforts to become great but have also inspired those around them to greatness.
  • Acknowledge fears and recognize weaknesses. A person cannot grow if they are unable to recognize their weaknesses and build upon them. A person will not always be at the top of his or her game; there is always sickness, injuries, or age. Therefore, people must believe in themselves enough to take or create an opportunity. When you do not believe, the tendency is to wait, which passes the opportunity to the opponents. By not overcoming the fear of failure, one fails.

    Tony Dorsett of Dallas Cowboys fame won the Heisman trophy. At the beginning of his senior year, Sportscaster Howard Cossell stuck a mike in his face and asked him, "What are you doing to win the Heisman, Tony?" Dorsett’s response was something like, "Last year I got hit a lot and I don’t like that. I have been lifting weights and doing wind sprints all summer. This year I am twenty pounds of muscle heavier and a lot faster. This year I intend to be the one doing the hitting." 
  • Fudoshin is not always about physical strength, it also relates to mental fortitude. The survival of the fittest in humans most often relates more to intelligence and grace, than to physical strength and athleticism. Reading allows the reader to build a mental experience of fortitude without experiencing physical pain. 
  • Focus on strengths. The old joke about not taking a knife to a gunfight applies here. If you are a good boxer, avoid grappling, and vice versa. Fight your fight, not the other person’s fight. In the 1991 Desert Storm war with Iraqi, the Iraqi military had set up and dug in, ready to fight it out on the ground. Instead of fighting the Iraqi on their terms, the collation used a scorched-earth strategy that aimed to destroy anything that might be useful to the enemy. Any assets that could be used by the enemy were targeted such as weapons, transport vehicles, communication sites, and industrial resources.
  • Recognize that bad times are only temporary. As bad as it seems now, this too will pass; things will inevitably change. The trick is to take advantage of any windows of opportunity when the change occurs.
  • Build relationships and recruit others to help them. Most resilient people are not loners. They make friends and work with people. They are quick to ask for support or help. Relationship building is a secondary theme in SEAL training that is supposed to help to weed out loners. The training is framed to reinforce continually the idea that the sum is greater than the parts of any operation. Athletics is supposed to build this type of esprit de corps, but it often falls to the competitive nature of the sports.
  • Set moderate goals and make plans. Resilient people like situations where there is an even chance of success and they only take moderate risks. They perceive high risk as too dangerous, and little or no risk to be boring. Resilient people do better in natural disasters, as they are the ones who prepare by boarding up the windows and storing food in the basement. They are the ones who care about getting their children into better schools or getting more education for themselves.
  • Work hard for what they want in life. Long hours, devotion to study, and hard work to become better at skills in which they already excel are normal activities for the successful. They understand that, if all other factors are equal, the one willing to work harder and smarter will usually win.
Think about how you may apply these concepts of Fudoshin to your own life.


  • Morris, G. (2003). Fudoshin.
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