Sunday, February 11, 2018

Shu Ha Ri

Shu    = Observe / Follow / Learn
Ha    = Break-Down / Study / Practice
Ri    = Separate / Advance / Create

 Student's are commonly concerned with their "progress" (regardless of what they are studying). Instructors are likewise mindful of their student's progress. Both have a desire to see the student advance in the chosen subject. The concept of "Shu, Ha, Ri" is often presented as being an understanding of how that instruction is being provided, learned and practiced. 
I've been reading numerous articles that have attempted to (re?)define and/or order this concept, and there are (widely) varying opinions on what the saying constitutes. Those articles that attempt to present arguments in regards to the order of how those concepts (or at least what those concepts represent) should/could be learned and are more often more delusional than practical (IMO). The majority of those articles I found to only be an attempt to redefine the individual stages. Personally, I find the original saying (and the order of those concepts) to be a valid application of them, I just don't commonly see it being utilized in the manner that I believe it was originally presented. 
Reflecting on the time that I've spent teaching (both) Shodo and a Martial Art, I've found this (Shu-Ha-Ri) concept to be prevalent in both (regardless of the studied subject). I've also found it interesting that for my brush calligraphy student's, the Shu-Ha-Ri concept is (more) readily accepted but is (also) more readily abandoned (?). 
Regardless of the subject being practiced, student's want to do the "advanced" version, whether they are actually able to do so, or not. "Advanced" motions are a collection of the basic motions that have been (correctly) practiced to the point that they can be individualized in their use/application. This is true whether the student is performing a "kata", or brushing a kanji. 
I believe that many (if not most) students believe that their progression is (or at least is understood to be) a reflection of their entire level of study. In my own (teaching) experience, a student learns at multiple levels. They will have motions that come easily to them, and those that require greater amounts of study/practice (before they are able to correctly perform them). 
I detest the (concepts of) "Basic, Intermediate, Advanced" designations. I prefer the ideas of "Introductory, Developmental and Individual". I believe the initial (and commonly utilized terms) to be restrictive in their understanding (for the student). The practice of (either) a martial art or brush calligraphy is an individual study, and this is evident in the results of the final product (the student). 
In either practice, the manner that the individual motions are being applied will determine the results of the produced application. Whether a motion is applied in the "basic/introductory" manner, or in the "advanced/individual" manner, it should result in the same desired outcome/effect. 
"Style", is only a method of application. A person is only able to motion (their body) in a particular manner. Though often similar, different people move in varying degrees of that similarity. Introductory motions address the ability to simulate the desired action. With the practice of those motions, the student will refine their own version of performing those actions, and (with continued practice) will develop their own method of achieving the results that they desire. 
The use of (the terms)"Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced" is an attempt to (IMO, to"over") generalize students. This is evident in the majority of commonly taught subjects. In regards to the martial arts, I blame the Japanese for this (over) generalization. The (original) Okinawan instructors commonly only had a few student's (at any given time). It consisted of (more so) individual instruction. Following the introduction to Japan, the offered classes consisted of a higher number of students and resulted in a "production" mentality (Yes, I'm aware of the additional factors, but I stand by this opinion). 
The "lack" of that production mentality is (one of) the reasons for my admiration for the practice of Shodo. Oriental Brush Calligraphy (easily) has as many different "schools" of instruction as the martial arts do (yet any "animosity" between them is rarely as antagonistic as what exists between the schools of martial arts). Both (practices) present introductory motions, and then (should) allow the student to develop their own individual manner of performing those motions. In either practice, there exist introductory manners of technique performance that (eventually) lead to individual methods of performing those applications. That shouldn't imply that the student "creates" a new one, only that every person will perform those techniques in their own manner. Most (if not every) "new" system that I've observed uses the same motions that are taught in most every other system. The only actual differences are in how those methods are taught or practiced (the results of those "different" methods are almost identical). Any (supposed) differences are more often only different, in how they are learned. This makes the instruction of those applications, the more important aspect of one's training. 
That instruction begins with a demonstration of the movement ("Shu "). This allows the student to practice the motion and determine the individual characteristics that are involved with performing the motion ("Ha"). IMO, it is this area of study that is revisited regularly.
Students regularly fret over beginning their practice of/for "Ri". Practice at the level of Ri can only be achieved with the student's (total) understanding of Ha. This type/manner of practice is only able to be achieved once the student fully understands the individual motion(s). Ri is the culmination of an individual's technique practice, combined with their experience with the known application of that practice. That experience is used in the development of (further) continued technique refinement. 
Although this study can often be personal, the goal is for that development to be universally applicable. If/when it is not, then it becomes (only) a "personal" technique, useful, but not something worthy of becoming an instructed technique (within a systems syllabus). It is only those techniques that can be utilized by anyone, that are worth becoming part of the system's instruction (and are, therefore "taught" to the general student's of that system). 
Students are more often only concerned with their personal use of technique(s). It is only when the student chooses to become an instructor, does the student truly understand the so-called "hidden" meanings of a system's instructed principles. Though often sought by/through individual study, it's only through the instruction of another that those principles become evident. 
For many, if not most student's, these concepts are only applied in the most simplistic manner. Within our classes, our goal is to create future instructor's. Though not (necessarily) being the objective for each of our student's, it is the basis for the instructional methodology that we utilize.