By Joe Maurantonio, shidoshi
The Japanese principle of unification of shin [mind], gi [skill], and tai [body] is an important concept in modern Budo. It is herein that a person can develop him or herself to the point of selflessness and achieve the ultimate level of the martial arts.
Let us take a brief look at the component parts of this concept. The Japanese kanji for shin presents the meaning of mind at its most basic level. To view the character with deeper insight we come to the meanings of heart and moral integrity. And from this we come to the understanding of doing a task for the love of it and not for gain. It is here that we must gather our emotions and focus them on the task at hand.
Secondly, the character for gi, also called waza, presents us with the translation of technique or technical skills. Herein we can see the necessity for learning and developing skills that will benefit ourselves and thus benefit our society. Training, though arduous at times, is for the improvement of the form and progression of ability.
The final character is tai, which translates as body and confers the notion that our physical forms must be cultivated to the pinnacle of human ability. This tells us that man is limited only by his own personal limitations and that these self-imposed limits need not exist.
Shin-Gi-Tai is the joining of mind, skill, and body to produce a complete person. These three human qualities parallel the essence of the heavens (represented by a person's mind), earth (an individual's skills) and man (the body). Eric Clapton playing solo "unplugged" has Shin-Gi-Tai. He sits and puts all of himself into each note, striking not only the guitar's strings but the "cords" in the audience's heart and bringing tears to their eyes.
An important point is that a martial artist, as well as any other individual that seeks this level of ability, must understand that this path is fraught with certain pitfalls. Not the least of these is that to actually be conscious, to take deliberate action in any of shin, gi, or tai is to unbalance the unification and lose this ability.
Hatsumi Sensei has said that this unification of Shin-Gi-Tai is the ultimate quest for the martial artist. This is the purpose of his or her training. And though we may not be able to have this intensity in every moment of our lives, it is the journey, the training on the way, which we endeavor to constantly perfect.