Western sports psychology defines the ideal performance state as "relaxed focus", a state where the athlete is completely focused on executing the activity perfectly. The athlete is so completely in tune with the activity that everything else fades away. This peak performance state is called being "in the zone" or "flow". In this state the mind is completely focused yet void at the same time, there are no thoughts or doubts in the mind, no distractions, only presence. In western sports psychology, the goal is to be able to put yourself into this peak performance state consistently to reach your maximum performance potential. The more skilled you become at a sport and the less you have to "think" about what you are doing, the easier the body can flow and fall into this state of relaxed focus.
Our thinking is that every Waterman has had a taste of this state and wants more. This is why we get hooked and spend so much time in the water. The fluid nature of water and the balance it requires almost forces us into this state as it gives us instant feedback if we are distracted or try to overthink our moves. Going with the flow is the only way to becoming a better waterman. We are plugged directly into nature and are harnessing the natural energy, using it, becoming part of it, flowing with it and wanting more of it.
In Zen philosophy this state is seen as a way to reach enlightenment or nirvana, where one becomes one with the natural flow of energy. Zen arts include Kendo, Judo and Kyodo (archery). The ending -do does not translate well into english but can be called "way". In the "Way of the Waterman" we will explore the ways that the masters have found to reach states of peak performance finding a deeper meaning to what they do. We have a list of amazing watermen that we are interviewing with and hope to develop deeper insight as we go along; we hope you join us for the ride.
Robert Stehlik and Len Barrow