Shu Ha Ri – my interpretation
By Mick WRIGHT – January 2017
A SIMPLE but impressively valid Japanese understanding or concept can be comfortably related within all organism’s life through its learning, progress and heights reached.
To be taught, then to test, and to then triumph, are the three stages of how I interpret the budo concept known as Shu Ha Ri.
Shu, predominantly means in Japanese language, ‘to abide by’, ‘to follow’, or ‘to obey’. Ha, is translated to ‘break’, or ‘detach’. Ri can be understood as ‘leave’ or ‘separate’.
Understanding the Shu Ha Ri of my own journey of martial arts, is not just of interest but also of amelioration.
Specifically relating this to my training and progress of the Hanshi Partick McCarthy developed system Koryu Uchinadi Kenpo Jutsu (KU), the budo concept is a reality.
Even after years of training and development within the martial arts system Kempokan Karate, attending the dojo of Shihan Robert King was an immensely new experience with much to learn in the KU world of a practical martial art.
Repetition, Repetition, and you guessed it… Repetition (of course with form adjustments), was the initial mindset as a new student in the dojo.
The two-person drills learnt in KU are an example of following a set attacking and defending routine. These drills are a best-developed situation of a real-life encounter or situation conducted in a controlled environment.
The focus initially is to only obey all instruction. Following what is told in relation to stance, timing, distance, application, form and general routine of the drill.
Over time, an understanding of what is actually going on is acquired. The flow-drills in their entirety are not designed as one single example of a ‘possible fight’, but instead are responses to many different habitual acts of physical violence (HAPV).
The drills become more than a set routine. The drills can be pushed by each person to develop reaction skills, intensity and variation of some of these primary attacks from people – HAPV.
Eventually, countless variations and ‘break away’ techniques for each step (of any given drill) are demonstrated through Sensei and Senpai. Eventually countless variations and ‘break away’ techniques are able to be accomplished and practised by the kohai.
What happens at some point is, you begin to feel comfortable with the basic responses to particular attacks. You then start to test and try different defences, options and ‘what-if’ situations based upon the initial standard attack.
Part of the overall understanding and progress is the realisation of predetermined responses (PDR) of the human body. Once you add this knowledge into a basic two-person drill, there becomes a new level of competency within any given response (both for defence and counter). You find you have decisions and choices. Choices like, adding a mae geri to the attackers inside leg, or maybe a quick groin flick. All in aid to obtain the PDR you want.
Knowing body mechanics and how five ancient tools manipulate and dictate body movement in different ways – the lever, wedge, wheel, pulley and screw – this just adds to yet another layer of competency and in-turn aids the subconsciously transition into the ‘Ha’, from the ‘Shu’.
Breaking the rules and pushing the boundary of the applications are now a normal process of training, in order to continue learning.
My current journey of a martial arts life is, just that! It’s a life-long learning process. To transition into a state of ‘Ri’ I imagine will be a non-identifiable point, but would happen initially in parts.
At this point, I look to my Sensei Robert King and his Sensei, Hanshi Partick McCarthy, and know that even though learning never stops, mastery is still achievable – Ri.
I encourage readers to think of your own Shu Ha Ri in any form of your life experience and development.
A student will go to university to learn. They will eventually get a job to apply use the skill and lessons learn. The student will one day become an expert in their field.
A child taught to play guitar by their parent. They will one day know songs, how to play them, and even improvise within the songs. They will one day write and make their own music.
A bird will hatch from an egg, learn how flap its wings, fall down many times, but one day it will fly wherever it may desire. Hatch to Flight.