Have you ever been walking down the street and thought that someone was following you?  Have you turned around to see if you were correct?  If you answered yes, than you have exhibited a form of zanshin, which is a Japanese term meaning ‘combative awareness’. 

Zanshin is a very important concept.  It can potentially save your life!  Most people when they walk into a restaurant or store don’t think much about anything other than the direct reason they were going to that place, either to eat or shop.  But, the trained martial artist who has a high degree of zanshin is aware of everything!  He is aware of where all the other people are standing and sitting.  He is aware of where the exits are.  He is aware of who might look suspicious, and he is prepared to handle any situation that arises.  Furthermore, the person with a high degree of zanshin will not completely relax once in the store having finished his initial assessment.  He will pay attention to people as they enter and exit, and be generally aware of what is going on around him.  Perhaps some people nearby are starting to argue…could a fight break out?  Perhaps someone near the door drops a glass.  Certainly seems like a good idea to be aware of that hazard so you can avoid accidentally stepping on it and possible injuring yourself. 

Furthermore, if you are actually involved in an incident on the street, it is imperative that you have good zanshin.  You need to be aware of many things such as how many people are threatening you and from which directions they are coming from.  You need to be aware of your surroundings and be ready to use it to your advantage (such as escape routes, possible materials to use as weapons, etc.) Having this kind of awareness in this scenario can be the difference between a positive outcome, and a deadly result.

As you can see, having zanshin in your every day life is analogous to having common sense, but it is more than that.  Zanshin is almost like having a 6th sense.  So, the next time you go out to a restaurant, practice your zanshin.  Pay attention to the different people you see, and the layout of the room, etc.  Practicing this skill like anything else will help you become better at it, and in turn, could someday save you or a loved one’s life.

-Coach David Matusow-