Monday, February 20, 2012

Shu ha ri

Shu ha ri, also known as jo ha kyu, is a long-term philosophy of learning. It's seen in Japanese arts like the tea ceremony, theater, and martial arts. It easily applies to any art, Asian or not.

Shu ha ri consists of three parts, each representing a time of your study:
  • Shu represents your initial teaching, when you are learning the basics of an art. You absorb what you are taught and follow tradition. This tradition doesn't have to be ancient or long-standing, just the fundamentals of your teacher and/or group.
  • Ha is where we break with tradition and introduce innovation. In a martial system, this would be reaching the black belt level, where the core style is mastered and it is time for the student to explore alternative paths, look to other arts, etc.
  • Ri is after paths have been explored and the art is simply a way of expression. It's not an end to learning, but effectively your style is you. Your actions are natural and come from years of both experience and effective teaching.

In taiko, think of it this way. In shu, you try to kiai properly. In ha, you might realize the similarity to kiai in karate and start learning how to incorporate those techniques into taiko. In ri, there is no "taiko" or "karate" kiai, it is just the way you kiai naturally and powerfully.

Even if you never reach the ri stage, that's no reason to stop trying. I feel like I'm definitely in the ha stage with karate, but don't think I'm involved enough or invested enough to take it to ri. With taiko, we'll have to see. I can see the possibility of reaching ri, but who knows if it'll happen? I can only keep going where I'm going and find out.

Also within shu ha ri can lie areas of progress as part of the whole. Maybe your projection on stage is at the ri level, but your chops aren't. It's more than just identifying your strengths, you should also know what level they are at.

Thinking of each art you study in this fashion can help to put things in perspective. Should you be understanding the fundamentals or departing from tradition? Sometimes there's no one to tell you these things; you'll just have to experiment for yourself. Just remember there's rarely a "right" way to get there, and each person might have a different approach.

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