Kokoro-Gamae 心構え

By Pertti Ruha

With kokoro gamae we refer to a method and technique based on decision theory. The simplicity of means to exclude everything that does not aim to achieve the predetermined goal or outcome.

Kokoro (心) means both “heart” and “state of mind“, while Kamae (構), means the position-before-something. The activity “kamaeru”  (taking an attitude; 構える) is positioning oneself physically before anything will happen, compare to a cat just before it pounces or a snake before striking.

Kokoro gamae is used to describe the inner conditions we have while facing an event, the mental state we prepare prior to an activity. The outer physical form of a kamae usually termed “katachi-gamae” (Form of the attitude; 形構)

Kokoro gamae is about the intentions and resolutions that are created in the “heart”, and is processed by the mind, which is reflected in our conduct, behavior, speech and action.
One can categorize kokoro gamae in the following areas;

  1. heightened attention
  2. tranquil focus
  3. target scenarios


  1. In an acute emergency, our attention is enhanced automatically, but it’s also about being able to intuitively discover that something is done before the event itself actually concludes. In this urgent situation, we take note of the physical, when the opponent strikes “atemi” (striking the body; 当身). In order to act before the event happens, we must also be able to feel “ateki” (the striking intention; 当氣) ie, everything that is expressed in the form of “pre-incident signals” (PINS), which is sent by the opponent. It could be body movements, the pitch of the voice, rhythm and speed of speech, eye movement, breathing and blink rate etc.
  2. We need to focus our capability with a quiet mind while we have an increased state of alertness. The opposite of this is to be affected by the opponent’s aggressive energy. One name we usually use for this is fudōshin (unwavering mind; 不動心). To achieve this state one must be able to concentrate without either mental or physical exertion .
  3. Mental training counteracts stress responses and increases the internal security when facing difficult situations. By linking mental target images with katachi-gamae we create shortcuts in our mind to the effective management of difficult situations. Therefore, each kamae is a mental vision that you have to train yourself to create. The most effective way to achieve this is that as often as possible, set aside time to wind down and calmly focus and depict images in his mind of one kamae while taking on a different katachi-gamae.

In our training instructions, there are nine kamae that is both katachi and kokoro gamae.

  1. Hira no kamae
  2. Fudōza*
  3. Hira Ichimonji no Kamae
  4. Ichimonji no Kamae
  5. Dōko no kamae
  6. Hichō no kamae
  7. Hōko no kamae
  8. Kōsei no kamae
  9. Jūmonji no kamae

* Note that this term lacks the suffix “no kamae”. Kuden.


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