Itaidoshin - Different Bodies, Same Mind 異体同心

Posted 11 Jan 2020

Itaidoshin 異体同心 literally means “Different Bodies, Same Mind” — highlighting the incredible power of unified thinking in oneself, in one’s relationships, and in all aspects of our lives.

Putting itaidōshin 異体同心 into practice is an exercise in focusing our energies, trimming and removing distractions, and having a clear and focused vision for the way forward.

It is impossible to estimate the power of itaidōshin 異体同心: it underscores success in almost all aspects of our days and years, and can even reach across generations.

Itaidōshin is pronounced “eee-tie-dough-shin”

Inside Our Own Minds

We sometimes say that we’re “of two minds” about something, or perhaps “we’re conflicted, internally” — in either case, we mean that we have no unity of thought and mental posture concerning a matter.

Not having a clear direction on our position or our goals is a very expensive mistake to make. Consider how much time and resources (money, material, etc.) is wasted by not having a clear idea of what we are trying to accomplish.

The best way to picture this is to consider what it’s like to go for a trip to a specific destination. Imagine two scenarios: in the first, we get into our car, and drive. Oh yes, of course we start in the direction that we believe is the correct one — almost everyone does that when they first start trying to accomplish a goal. But inevitably, we get confused: which road to take next, which highway exit to get off, which new road to take? Many times we do actually get to our destination, but doing it this way adds countless additional minutes or hours, causes us to travel a longer distance than we had to, and costs us more money in fuel and wear-and-tear on our vehicle.

In the second scenario, we use a good mapping program and a GPS. We know the best roads ahead to take, we even might have advance notice of construction obstacles that will slow us down and require us to take an alternate route. We arrive in the minimum time needed, having traversed the least amount of roads and spent the least amount on fuel possible.

It’s obvious which scenario is best, isn’t it?

But let’s get a little more subtle.

We want to set a goal for ourselves to improve our health. A wonderful goal, isn’t it? Perhaps we are so organized that we write down a few ways we’re going to do that: exercise more, eat more healthfully, get more sleep.

But then…. We’re at lunch with friends, and my, we’re conflicted: eat the delicious range of foods that perhaps should be viewed as an occasional treat rather than a daily meal, or stay on course with our “eat healthfully” plan? All of a sudden, we’re not acting with one mind, are we? We have a divergence of opinion internally, we are of “different bodies, different minds” about what to choose.

And the same thing happens to us in regards to choosing to exercise, to getting enough sleep, to shopping for food and making recipe choices for dinner.

In tends to not happen dramatically, nor does it tend to happen obviously: but slowly, our unity of mind slips away, falling victim to the friction of every day.

Imagine a year of such unfocused action: the accumulation of all those choices that were not unified with our initial goals of “eating better, working out, getting more sleep, and becoming healthy.”

Now, imagine a year of focused action: of consistently (perhaps not every time, of course, but consistently) choosing the more health food, choosing to stay unified with our plan and working out, choosing to get more sleep.

In other words, imagine a year of acting with one mind, one focus, one unified picture of how we want to be.

What a year that would be!

Inside Our Own Strong Spirit

So of course there is a a powerful argument for having a unified mind — being of one mind, not two bodies — that itaidōshin 異体同心 makes in regards to accomplishing goals and being successful. But the argument for our psyche, for our happiness, is even more powerful.

Indecision is the core of anxiety. Dwelling on “what might have been” creates a backdrop of dis-ease and dissatisfaction with our present life. Dithering over decisions, replaying the “pros and cons” of everything from the decision to buy a new computer or not, or “what did they really think of me when I was awkward during the party last night” is a recipe for creating a constant buzz of unhappiness in the present. And worst of all, dreading the decisions and tasks of our future self — whether tomorrow’s meeting or the choice next year of where to live — robs your present day of its equanimity and joy.

Being of two minds, of two disjointed, separate minds and bodies, takes away from your happiness. It is a thief that steals your balance, a parasite that eats at your joy.

A strong spirit is one that is unified. And that strong spirit even has an impact on our body as well. We know from a wide range of studies and observation that our state of mind can affect our physical health (and vice versa). When we’re happy, we tend to be a little more resilient to sickness and we become injured less (this isn’t a mysterious thing: a clear mind is an aware one, and we simply fall, trip, and scrape against things less).

So in terms of “separate bodies”, a single “mind” keeps our bodies health and strong as well as promotes our happiness and sense of balance and peace.

In Our Relationships

If we look outside ourselves, we also see how valuable itaidōshin 異体同心 is in our relationships with others, especially in our personal relationships.

Consider some of your primary relationships: perhaps with a wife or husband, girlfriend or boyfriend. Or perhaps with your son or daughter, or your parents. It is perfectly normal, even healthy and expected, to have occasional disagreements or conflict of opinion.

But to allow that conflict to continue, that disagreement to continue unaddressed (not necessarily resolved, but at least addressed to the satisfaction and peace of all involved) is unhealthy, potentially corrosive, and clearly a waste of time, effort, and resources.

Imagine how much more happy a home is where those that inhabit it are generally of one mind. Conflict is less, effort to resolve conflict is instead used to move the family forward, and in general peace and harmony are the rule, not the exception.

If your home is not this, then change it. If your primary personal relationships are not this, fix them, and fix them quickly: make this a top priority.

We have so much wisdom from the ages about this: Lincoln’s “a house divided against itself cannot stand” is perhaps among the more famous examples of this wisdom, and even that is simply a quote from much older sentiment found in Western literature more than two millennia ago.

The amount of effort to constantly fix the collateral damage that disunity causes is great, and even the material costs might be great as well.

Keep in mind that this is true among all the personal relationships you have. Even more casual friendships are to be examined and maintained: to have friendships with those that are of “different bodies” from you is problematic: ultimately, they need to either converge to a “single mind” or serious consideration should be given to removing those types of friendships from your life.

Remember, guard jealously your own sense of peace and harmony, and do not allow it to be corroded with the mental and psychic noise of so many “different bodies.”

Any investment in maintaining a “single mind” in your personal relationships will bring great rewards. Be sure to make that investment.

A Note of Caution About Single Minds

It is notable that we tend to value diverse thinking and diverse points of view. Diversity that brings different information, different ways of viewing the world and its problems and opportunities, and diversity that gives us a chance to see reality from a different perspective are amazing treasures.

Such diversity makes us stronger, smarter, and more able to seize advantage. Such diversity makes us better.

Do not confuse an appreciation of the power of the “single mind” with a desire for a lack of diversity of thought. That would be a grave error, and really would not support itaidōshin 異体同心 in the slightest.

Yet, understand that diversity of thought and a “single mind” are also not opposites. Not at all. To build a strong “single mind” one must have diversity of thought in order to consider all the things that go into that strong “single mind” that we hope to achieve.

So by all means, seek out thoughts, experiences, and perspectives that are different and engage with people that are diverse in their thinking and actions and experiences. Some of those people may become your very best friends; sometimes, even, they might grow into being a life partner.

But keep in mind that, in the end, there still needs to be a “single mind” — that when all is said and one, your mind should be settled on the path forward. And while your life is, and should be, peopled with the diversity of thought necessary to both be strong in your own mind, and strong in your relationships, in the end the people in it should have a commonality of a “single mind” with you as well.

In Our Organizations and Communities

Lastly, we should consider the importance of itaidōshin 異体同心 in our communities and organizations. All of the advantages of a single mind that are important to us inside our own minds, and in our primary relationships, and in our expanded circle of personal relationships, are all just as important in our organizations.

It’s a truism that the larger organizations and communities become, the more inefficient they are. Why is this so? After all, in modern society, we have communications tools that allow millions of people to near-simultaneously read news, post comments, and engage in debate. Clearly, we have the physical tools to communicate to a vast audience quickly and efficiently.

Yet, our larger organizations become creaky with inefficiency, and wasteful with resources. Everything from big companies to government organizations become derided for an inability to execute their missions well.

Why is this?

Much of the time, we can lay the blame at a lack of a “single mind” — a lack of an overall implementation of itaidōshin 異体同心 across the organization.

Achieving a “single mind” in an organization is very challenging, and the challenge grows exponentially as the size of the enterprise grows.

Consider a small company of perhaps three or four founders, who come together to accomplish a specific mission and bring a product to market. They act mostly of a single mind, they plan and execute with a common set of goals, a common language among themselves, and common actions to move their mission forward.

Then they are very successful, and the company grows. Before there were three or four people to have a single shared mind. Now there are thirty or forty. The company prospers, but the “single mind” becomes frayed at the edges, and sometimes people at the company do not understand their mission, or do not execute it as they should.

Yet, the company grows. Now there are three hundred men and women working at the company. Imagine how hard it is to maintain itaidōshin 異体同心 among a group that large!

Is it impossible to do so? Can large organizations maintain a “single mind” and move forward as a focused, disciplined, organization?

Yes, surely it is possible, and history is replete with examples of this. Generally we see that strong organizations accomplished this because they shared certain characteristics: they had a strong leader or a few strong leaders; they clearly enunciated their mission and their values and the ways to achieve their mission; they reflected constantly on their present state of “single mind-edness” and made adjustments constantly to maintain that “single mind”; and they worked hard to make sure their vision was implemented throughout even the lowest reaches of their organization, and ruthlessly weeded-out anything, including employees, who didn’t effectively support or implement it.

Even if you do not lead an organization, or aren’t involved in a large community, you can still take these lessons to heart in your daily life. Imagine yourself as that organization: make sure your goals and values are known to you and are clear; work hard to maintain your “single mind” and even be ruthless (i.e., be aggressive and work hard) to make sure that your “single mind” is healthy and strong, and is reflected in your thoughts and actions.

Inside Our Own Minds

Itaidōshin 異体同心 can be your superpower: it can help you accomplish so much in your life that others may look at you like you’re magic. And truly, it is a type of magic: your “single mind” is the hidden advantage that you can carry with you throughout your days and years.

And let itaidōshin 異体同心 permeate every part of your life, your home, your relationships, and your professional career. Use it to establish and maintain happiness and peace, use it to focus your energies and resources, and use it to accomplish all that you wish.

Your single mind can indeed be your superpower.


As a concept in karatedo, itaidōshin 異体同心 is classified as a yojijukugo 四字熟語 — it is a four-kanji idiomatic concept (i.e., the literal meanings of the kanji do not express fully, or sometimes, not at all, the actual meaning of the phrase as a whole).

Itaidōshin 異体同心 was chosen as the Kagami Biraki message for 2020, and presented in a lecture on January 11, 2020 at the dojo.

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