How to Achieve Flow States, Ultra Instinct and Heightened Awareness With Wide Angle Vision

By on October 16, 2017

ultra instinct flow state (2)

In the awesome Dragon Ball Super 109 and 110 special, Goku once again ascends to a whole new level of power. This time it’s a little different though, rather than unlocking a new Saiyan transformation, he instead taps into what seems to be an advanced mental state or fighting style. Beerus refers to this as ‘Ultra Instinct’. Cue some awesome music and some crazy scenes of Goku kicking ass.

What’s interesting about the concept though, is just how similar it is to a real world technique used by martial artists, athletes and even creatives. In his excellent video, YouTuber Jax Blade has already spoken of how Ultra Instinct is similar in theory to the martial arts state known as ‘Mushin’ – or ‘mind without mind’.


In short, through repeated practice of the same movements, a martial artist learns to eventually move on instinct and without thought. This lets them respond with incredible reflexes and take out their opponents without even thinking about it. I’ve seen a kung fu master practice sticking hands without even looking at their partner and it was incredible.

But if you’re a fan of the Bioneer, then you’re probably already aware that Mushin is just one word for what appears to be a broader phenomenon: the flow state.

A flow state is a mental state that is discussed in neuroscience in which an individual focusses all of their attention on a single task, to the point where they seemingly lose awareness of everything else going on around them and even of themselves.

How to Achieve a Flow State

Imagine you’re playing a bullet-hell shooter and you get so into it that you forget to blink. That’s flow. Likewise, flow is when you have a conversation that is so fascinating, you talk into the middle of the night. And flow is the reason you can catch things that fall out of the cupboard in an instant.

In flow, time seems to slow down, self-doubt melts away and we perform at our very best. In theory, it really could upgrade your fighting prowess by allowing you to react without hesitation – just as Bruce Lee describes. It has been claimed that nearly all athletic records are set during states of flow, and that even wealthy entrepreneurs and successful startups have flow to thank for their success.

But how exactly do you access flow? How can we really attain Ultra Instinct?

ultra instinct flow state (3)

According to Stephen Kotler’s The Rise of Superman, there are 17 ‘flow triggers’. These include:

  • Intensely focussed attention
  • Immediate feedback
  • Clear goals
  • Challenge/skill ratio
  • Risk
  • Control
  • Rich environments
  • Deep embodiment

With a whole bunch of ‘social triggers’ in there for good measure.

Neurologically, flow states are close to the fight or flight response. Here, activity in the prefrontal cortex and the default mode network seems to shut down, putting us in a state known as ‘temporal hypofrontality’. The brain meanwhile produces a neurochemical cocktail of norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine and anandamide.

In short, it’s like stress + bliss.

It’s when your body wakes up to what is going on around it because it feels important. But rather than being afraid, it realizes that with precise control and attention it can survive and thrive. And it’s thrilling.

In other words, flow happens when something important is going on but there is an element of reward and enjoyment there. Deep embodiment means that you are falling or spinning and you have a lot of sensory input coming in. This is a fantastic learning opportunity for the body but it also needs to be highly focussed to prevent you from falling.

ultra instinct flow state (1)

Flow happens when you get immediate feedback during a task like a computer game, or while programming. And it happens when the task is difficult enough to provide challenge but not so hard as to crush your spirit.

At the Flow Genome Project, Kotler and his colleague Jamie Wheal use various swings, spinning wheels and other contraptions to try and trigger these states.

But for the most part, attaining this state remains an elusive goal. You can’t just will yourself to be engaged and fascinated, and most of us don’t have the luxury of being able to go skiing every day.

Wide Angle Vision / Splatter Vision

But I’ve recently stumbled upon another interesting technique for attaining these states, which is called ‘wide angle vision’. The Native Americans reportedly called it Owl Eyes.

The idea is that most of us use our vision in a very narrow, focussed manner. We fixate on a single point. This is the result of years of upbringing which has taught us to look at people as we talk to them, to focus on screens while working, to focus on books while reading… In short, we’ve trained ourselves to use our vision in one specific way. And it has actually been postulated that this might explain a lot of the vision problems we develop later in life.

Watch an animal in the wild and for the most part, it is not fixating on a single thing, but rather scanning the environment for predators or prey.

We can use our eyes this way too. A quick way to engage this type of vision is to stretch your hands out by your sides and wiggle your fingers. While looking forward, watch your fingers moving and then try to maintain that state while going about your activities.

limitless wide angle

As you do, you may notice some things. Firstly, this state allows you to see a much wider angle of activity. While some clarity and detail is lost, if you use wide angle vision while walking down the road, you’ll likely notice things that you missed in the past. Movement will stand out in particular.

This is actually particularly useful for scanning crowds and for situational awareness. In fact, the FBI reportedly teaches agents something similar to help them spot potential targets in a scene – only they refer to it as ‘splatter vision’.

Not only that, but you’ll also likely hear more. Vision tends to direct our other senses (see my video on Daredevil Training) so as you see more, you hear more as well.

What’s more, is that if you use this vision while sparring, you may find that your reaction times appear quicker and things seem to be slowed down. Things move faster when your vision is narrowed, giving you less time to react.

Martial artists know this in fact, which is why some forms and kata begin with movements designed to engage wide angle vision. An example is kushanku from Wado Ryu Karate which starts with the karateka drawing a circle with both hands, the objective being to watch the hands move and thereby trigger wide angle vision and increase your chances of achieving mushin. Of course it’s also important that the practitioner has practiced their technique enough that their blocks and punches can be executed perfectly without hesitation. This is a big part of the philosophy behind Bruce Lee’s Jeet Kune Do.


Opponents will find that they can see this intensity – as though you are looking right through them.

And it’s a heck of a lot like Ultra Instinct. In fact, Goku’s eyes even turn silver when he’s in the state – suggesting that vision plays an important role.

Why does this work? Partly it is because having a wider field of vision helps to put things into perspective. If you notice when you’re driving, your speed often ‘feels’ faster when visibility is low.

But at the same time, it may be because this is a ‘hack’ that can help to trigger a state similar to flow. During his TED talk, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi – who initially coined the phrase Flow – suggested that the human brain is capable of attending to 110 bits of information per second (where decoding speech alone requires 60 bits). In flow, all those 110 bits appear to be spent on the same thing, putting us firmly in the moment and giving us those superhuman reflexes.

Perhaps, when we engage wide angle vision, we increase the amount of ‘bits’ we need to attend to that are coming in through our eyes and ears. And perhaps this ‘crowds out’ other information, shutting down our self-awareness and allowing us to act far more instinctively.

Taking in all this information has other potential benefits. In fact, a very similar technique is used for speed reading and allows us to ‘absorb’ information without having to sound it out in our head.

goku mushin

And not only that, but when we widen our vision, we send a signal to our body that there is nothing dangerous or threatening in our surrounding – that we got this. This allows us to remain in a calmer state than full ‘fight or flight’, even in a highly charged situation. Thus we can maintain the alpha and theta brain waves that are associated with flow.

The effect of this has been shown in a field of psychology called ‘context engineering’. This subject explores how altering the ‘context’ of what we see through our senses can alter the way our bodies and minds state. It’s not just what you see that matters, but what that means to you.

Closing Comments

The only potential problem with this theory? To many, flow states are all about being completely focused on one thing. In fact, ‘tunnel vision’ is often described as being one of the key ‘indicators’ of flow.

ultra instinct flow state (5)

And what does all this have to do with creativity? Which is also said to be enhanced during flow states?

My answer is that there may actually be more than one ‘flow state’. I have a hunch that people such as Stephen Kotler might be turning flow into something of a panacea for every problem. In fact, I think that the state you’re in during a skydive is probably very different from the state you’re in during a fascinating conversation – both in terms of how you feel and perform and in terms of the neurochemistry.

But that’s a topic for another day. And in future videos I’ll also be discussing warrior breathing and other ways you can access heightened mental states.

For now, consider that wide-angle vision is one awesome way to access a flow state that is similar to Mushin. And that in turn is the closest thing we have to attaining Ultra Instinct in real life.

ultra instinct flow state (4)

Let’s just hope that Goku figures it out before the end of the Tournament of Power.


About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

One Comment

  1. Sarah says:

    Thanks for posting this! It is a fun read and has good information!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

error: Content is protected !!