The Martial Arts Learning Process Of SHU, HA, RI

20 Jun
The following is a continuing example of how martial arts ideology and concepts can be used to enhance various aspects of daily life.
Many of us pursue extra-curricula activities, hobbies and sports. My favorite pursuit is Karate-Do. Regardless of the activity, there is a learning process associated with any teacher – student relationship. I submit that in order to fully understand your chosen activity, it is necessary not only to understand the fundamentals associated with the pursuit, but also process whereby such technical knowledge is transmitted and assimilated. To this end, one may look to the following concept from Karate-Do, specifically Goshin-Do Karate-Do. It is ironic that although the following is derived from the martial arts, few martial artists are aware of the within learning analysis.
The following stages have been ascribed to the process of learning the martial arts. By extension, the following applies to any pursuit transmitted from teacher to student. There are three stages of the learning process which are generally accepted and a fourth, more esoteric stage. The three generally accepted stages are the stages of “SHU”, “HA“, “RI“.  

The Kanji for Shu – Ha – Ri

Each particular stage is described as follows.

SHU (pronounced “Shoe”) means to correctly copy all of the techniques of one’s instructors;

HA (pronounced “Ha”) means the liberty allowed to a student to develop his own way of executing techniques based upon the demands of his own physical stature and his own individual understanding of Karate;

RI (pronounced “Rhee”) means “transcendence” or “mastery”, when a student can perform all of the techniques automatically and becomes a teacher himself.

The following symbolism has been ascribed to each stage. Such symbolism may assist you in further understanding the three stages of transmittal and learning.

SHU is symbolized by an egg. The first stage is hard, the form or shape of the technique must be mastered or protected, just like a mother protects her egg.

HA is symbolized by the breaking egg. The basic form is broken into its infinite applications. It means the fundamentals are now mastered and are applied in all situations.

RI is symbolized by the fully released chick that has matured and flies away from the nest. The student forgets all forms and masters the formless technique, leaving old ideas behind him. He has fully matured in his training.

Over time, a fourth, more esoteric, stage of the process of learning the martial arts has come to be identified. This stage is called the “KU” (pronounced “Cue”) stage. 

KU is the stage of emptiness. It means everything is gone and no trace is left behind. The student has reached the highest level and no one can trace his movements or capture his techniques.

The aim of my ideology and methodology of Jiriki Kata-Do is to take the physical methods and spiritual concepts of the Karate-Do and illustrate to non-martial artists the benefits derived from applying them to daily life. In accord with that aim, I submit that the learning process of Shu, Ha, Ri and Ku applies to any art form or activity that is transmitted from one individual, acting as a teacher to another who is the student. Thus, it applies to a great many human activities. To be sure, these concepts need not extend solely to recreational pursuits. The learning stages apply to any pursuit, including business matters, the formal educational process of children, religions and the like involving a mentor or teacher and a recipient of knowledge.
One additional point concerning Shu, Ha Ri needs to be addressed. Many endeavors involve levels of knowledge. This is true of Karate-Do. The stages of Shu, Ha, Ri apply to the overall endeavor (such as Karate) and also the individual levels of knowledge attributed to the endeavor. I will illustrate this point with one aspect of Karate and my ideology of Jiriki Kata-Do. Within Karate, there are martial protocol known as “Kata”. One such Kata is the Kata called Sanchin. Sanchin, which translates as “Three Battles” is the cornerstone of my ideology and methodology of Jiriki Kata-Do. In Jiriki Kata-Do the three battles of Sanchin are the physical, spiritual and metaphysical aspects of human existence. During the course of learning and practicing Sanchin, a practitioner will have attained various stages of Shu, Ha, Ri for each individual aspect of Sanchin. Thus, a practitioner may have attained the Ri stage as to the physical battle, the Shu stage as to the spiritual battles and may be unaware of the metaphysical battle. Eventually, a practitioner will attain the Ri, or even the Ku, stage for the entire Sanchin. The same is true of any multi-level endeavor. Thus, a student will at any given time possess the attributes of either the Shu, Ha or Ri stage of the individual components of the overall endeavor. Eventually, the student will attain and subsequently transcend the overall mastery of the endeavor itself.
Understanding the various stages of learning is beneficial to both the teacher and the student. Such an understanding provides a roadmap for the subsequent transmission of knowledge. The stages also provide a degree of satisfaction and achievement in the manner in which the subject has already been learned. Additionally, the stages point to an incentive for future understanding of the subject being transmitted. An understanding will ultimately enhance your learning and assimilating the subject of your learning.
Until the next article, I remain assimilating and living the lessons of my teachers,
 Sensei John Szmitkowski, Soke, Jiriki Kata-Do
Please feel free to visit Sensei John’s new online store containing various Jiriki Kata-Do products with the unique logo of Sanchin. The Sanchin logo depicts the three battles of Sanchin in a new contextual paradigm. You may find Sensei’s store by clicking the following link

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