It all comes down to the ready mind
The application of ready mind to martial arts and contemporary sports cannot be overvalued. Whenever a split of a second decides who wins and who loses, it is to large extent the mindset that determines the outcome. Successful application of ready mind strongly depends on the level of synchronicity between the mind, breathing and the body. In order to react with minimum delay, the idea (mind) needs to be expressed by the body in shortest amount of time and with as little time used for processing the information as possible. The proper use of breathing plays a vital role in the process.
Ability to reduce the reaction delay is one of the major factors in terms of successful response. In that context, the application of ready mind in karate and in the other sports doesn’t differ much. The main difference is that the response that is not fast enough in fighting often means more than just a loss – it is physically dangerous. Good example of testing the mind-body sharpness is 2nd tier category of drills where the opponent’s initial response to your attack forces you to respond to their response. The capacity for adjustment on mind-body level developed in those drills can be a game changer in the area of physical reaction but can be challenging at first.
In kumite (sparring), the ability to successfully respond to opponent already responding to your attack depends on maintaining the ready mind (zanshin) before, during and after the technique. Especially important is zanshin during the technique, which greatly improves your general ability to react and reaches well beyond strictly fighting applications. Ability to keep zanshin during the technique makes your body – mind available for unexpected adjustments “on the go”, with no pre-planning and no extra preparation. Most importantly, the changes are executed with no loss of speed, power or intensity of the movement. This gives you the ability to use opponent’s response to your attack as an opportunity to capitalize on, regardless how fast the opponent moves or how good their timing is.
Naturally, proper development of zanshin during the technique requires understanding and mastering certain drills that build and improve proper reflexes. In majority of cases, the opponent’s response can be successful only if you stay invested in the original attack after the opposing force is applied to deflect it or the distance/the body position is changed to avoid it. In both cases the response triggers the attacker to either switch between the techniques, expand the initial attack into block & counter or properly adjust the footwork.