PDA

View Full Version : Breaking Shu Ha Ri


Please visit our sponsor:
 

AikiWeb Sponsored Links - Place your Aikido link here for only $10!


R.A. Robertson
05-19-2010, 12:34 PM
Your partner grabs your arm. Hard.

They've got their left arm on your right one. You're both right-handed, so you should have the advantage. Who knew they could lock down so tight? The technique you're working on requires you to enter behind them, sliding off to your right and ending up in their ura zone.

But you can't.

Okay, well, sure, you could. You could kick them in the kneecap for all you're worth. You could put your whole body into it and power through their weaker arm. You could, as the late-great Peter Ting was known to do, spit in their face. You could stick a finger in their eye. Damn the torpedos.

These options ought to give some comfort. For all their unsavory nature, they may be reasonable recourse if your life is on the line. Are you thinking that could be a knife in your partner's right hand? That's not out of the question, whether as a training scenario or as a real mugging.

Or hey, you could just ask your partner to lighten up a little. But you don't.

You're not comforted. And you don't want to just be given the technique out of politeness or condescension. You want something better. It's just a puzzle, and you want to figure it out. You want the solution. You want to do it they way you've seen sensei do it, with that infuriating casual insouciance.

The art is frustrating, but you know it's you you're really running into. You've hit a limit, and your partner is showing it to you. You want to throw them on their ass, preferably with style and elegance, but something in you knows it's you that's got to change. It's not the technique you're trying to make better -- it's you you're trying to improve. You've got to learn how to be better, and you don't know how.

At this point I could tell you about a thousand things that you could do to make your way through, and with the efficiency and subtlety you seek. Most of them you already know, but you need reminding anyway. Things like paying attention to the tension in your shoulder, like shifting the angle slightly, like letting their skin melt into yours, like not focusing on where they're touching you. Actually, it probably would take about a thousand things.

Instead, I'm going to ask you to consider another possibility:

Don't do the specified art.

Think about it for a minute. Pay attention to what you're partner is really saying to you. Everything about their stance, their position, and the way they've clamped down on you is saying "Don't go this way. Entrance forbidden."

To stay within the technique, you'd have to go against their mind, their body, and their ki. Practice this long enough, do the thousand things I tell you, and you'll get better and better at it. Eventually it will even start to feel like aikido. But is it?

Or, even if it is aikido, couldn't there be a better way? Do we dare let go of the glass, and as Rumi says, swim in the ocean?

I believe we should, but this itself is a problem. If we abandon the technique, we disobey the teacher whom we should trust and follow. We risk disrupting the class by doing something other than what we've been asked. We go against tradition. And if our scenario were in the middle of a test, you'd probably fail if you took my advice.

So in good conscience, I can't really recommend it if you're not on my mat. Not to you students of other teachers.

But to you instructors, please consider letting your students out of these dreadful cages sooner than later.

We know O Sensei spoke of the ten thousand techniques as "empty shells." Yet we keep looking inside those same shells to find the elusive sea creature that is aikido. Why is this?

For one, as the saying goes... "If you want to learn about the ocean, don't ask a fish." We can't see what we are immersed in. We can't see what surrounds us and sustains us and permeates us. We can't see or understand the limitless.

Finding an empty shell, we crawl inside. See? It's not empty after all!

But really, these shells are unbearably confining, especially the more comfortable they become. They are the prison cells in the world of aikido. Worse, they are straightjackets.

Is there value in finding freedom within limitations? Of course. Should we discover that there is infinite space even in the smallest enclosures? Absolutely. But how much do we need to learn this? Are there not other, better lessons?

I was told once a long time ago that if you lock a tiger in a cage, it will pace around and around, testing its boundaries. If the lock is secure, eventually it will settle down. At some point, it's no longer necessary to lock the door.

The tiger will stay in the cage, because the cage is inside the tiger.

The door is unlocked and unlatched. Nominally the tiger is free. What was once real has now been replaced by an assumption, a belief. The belief is based in experience, the experience was once connected to reality. But now, not so much.

Immediacy of experience is our direct connection with the ocean. When experience forms understanding, we learn. Yet when habits and patterns of thought ossify and encase us, we lose our connection with reality. We dwell inside our shells. Make no mistake, these shells are real things. But they are not reality.

Within these shells is revealed the unity of tiger, hermit crab, and human.

I don't believe in Shu Ha Ri. I don't believe we must first be encased in form, then break out of it, and only then be free. We are always simultaneously within form and free of form.

For me, aikido is really about no other thing than increasing degrees of freedom. Because freedom is never absolute, there are boundaries and limits. From boundaries and limits arise forms.

My experience of aikido is now wholly devoted to exploring these zones of freedom. Within a technique, there is a zone of freedom, but there is far far more freedom outside any given technique. So while I continue to find aikido within form, there is much more aikido outside of it.

Within the larger freedom of formless aikido, forms nevertheless arise. But now they are transitory occurrences, inevitable patterns like intervals in music. The composer knows them, the listener intuits them, but neither composer nor listener need be bound up in them.

So now whenever your partner grabs you, pay attention to the specific limitations they are placing on your ability to move in a given direction. Lest I be misunderstood, let me now say it again -- you will learn volumes by training to overcome those limitations, and your life will be richer for it.

But broaden your vision and look at the expansiveness that surrounds both you and your partner. Move into that, simply because you can, and because there are no restrictions to moving there. Move into that, and keep moving into that, and watch as the endless forms come and go. Move into that, and you will no longer need the volumes. Move into that, and you'll know you never did.

Put lovers together in a room, and they will write their own Kama Sutra with the calligraphy of their bodies. And lo, though it be theirs alone, it will be much alike Vatsyayana's. No instruction manual is needed (though it doesn't really hurt to have the field guide).

Our vast compendium of so-called aikido techniques is really no more than such a field guide. The techniques are not the way to aikido, but merely samples in a catalogue of the way of aikido. Don't do these things in order to do aikido. Do aikido and simply observe these things that we've given names to.

Put people in a room together (or out in the open) and let them have their physical encounters. If even half of them are committed to exploring freedom through these encounters, they'll discover aikido within a very short period. Along the way they'll encounter puzzles, and some will take a bit longer to solve than others. But it needn't take years, except for the ongoing unmitigated joy of it.

The long arc that Shu Ha Ri traditionally describes in the path of learning can certainly pertain. I just question its value as an assumption. The Shu Ha Ri that I believe in occurs on a scale measured in seconds, not years or decades. Conjoined bodies moving where they can, and not moving where they can't, invariably make certain patterns. Some are more statistically likely than others, but each is incidental to the movement, the circulation of energy, and the physiology of the human form.

Technical form is derivative of aikido, and not the other way around. Teaching a beginner nothing but form is to place a veil over their eyes that truly will take decades to remove. Thus, the unnecessarily long cycle of Shu Ha Ri becomes self-fulfilling.

Break the cycle, I say. Kick its knees, even.

Or better, simply move through, around, and beyond. Embrace it but don't cling. Begin with Ri, and move into Ri. Let Shu and Ha take care of themselves.

April 30, 2010
Ross Robertson
Still Point Aikido Systems
Honmatsu Aikido
Austin TX, USA
www.stillpointaikido.com (http://www.stillpointaikido.com)

jbblack
05-19-2010, 01:09 PM
Ross, as usual a "thinking/feeling" column.

I have been working to move beyond just the forms and the following is from a note I sent to a friend. It seems to explore what you are speaking about.

"The real craft of stone carving is a 'visual song' which cannot really be planned or repeated, because the vibration of the stone itself tells the carver how it should be shaped. The carver must become one with the stone, and then the music of the stone
expresses itself through him."

-- Ganapati Sthapati

(V. Ganapati Sthapati is a Sthapati, head of the "College of Architecture & Sculpture" in the Vastu Shastra tradition ascribed to the sage Mamuni Mayan).

He might as well be describing Aikido at its pure level. To feel ki from your partner is to understand his 'visual song' which tells you (if you can hear) how the throw should unfold. O'Sensei always said he could never repeat a throw, each moment is unique. As Nage becomes one with uke the music of ki express itself through him.

Cheers,
Jeff

SeiserL
05-19-2010, 02:00 PM
Interesting thoughts.
I tend to go with before you can be an artist, first become a craftsman.
To appreciate its freedom, first learn its constraints.
But then again, I did always take the slow way around.
Compliments.

aikidoc
05-19-2010, 03:06 PM
I would have never thought that of Peter Ting. When I first started aikido I went to a Osu Festival-marathon-and Peter took me under his wing in one of the sessions and worked with me one on one. He was one of the nicest people I ran into all day. To this day, I still teach one of the irimi techniques he showed us.

akiy
05-19-2010, 04:32 PM
I would have never thought that of Peter Ting.
Here's a nice blog article on Peter by Jake McKee that may provide more explanation on his spitting in people's faces:

http://twistingwrists.com/?p=464

Any other thoughts from folks on Ross's take on "Breaking Shu Ha Ri"?

-- Jun

Amassus
05-19-2010, 05:45 PM
I recently exchanged emails with a friend in the States and reviewed a book he sent me. "On Mastering Aikido" by Dan Linden.

Parts of what we spoke about is relevant to this article.
What we are trying to do (according to Linden) is to find the limits of the human body then exceed them. This will usually result in unbalancing our opponent or at worst cause serious injury. Linden treats the basic techniques of aikido like a language. Once you know this language you can then look further into the underlying principles and ideas of the art. Linden goes on to say that you can't trust a technique to work all the time. That is way the principles behind aikido are more important than the techniques themselves. Once you are open to the possibilities in any given encounter, technique is just not that important. Again, I agree.


And this...
Shouldn't the principles of body movement, timing, centre etc be taught first, as a general foundation to any martial art? Then a practitioner can go off and learn such and such martial art to gain some techniques. Are we training in the wrong order in budo? A topic for another time, I guess.


My thoughts ;)
Dean.

Aiki1
05-19-2010, 06:15 PM
To me, you are talking about doing Aikido instead of just practicing technique, which is a pet peeve of mine. I agree with you, although I have a slightly different view of it.

At the basic levels, practicing a specific technique involves Uke giving the appropriate attack that warrants that specific response. If they give a different kind or quality of attack, doing the prescribed technique would (likely) be, as you say, going against them. Expanding one's scope of practice, one would respond with what is appropriate to whatever Uke is presenting. I whole-heartedly support this. This is training to do Aikido, and I don't really see a whole lot of it.

I think too much Aikido practice is not actually Aikido per se, but simply learning and practicing a particular way of executing techniques. Some people never move beyond this, no matter how dynamic and dramatic their "Aikido" appears to be. I completely agree with you when you describe these constructs as "confining shells", "prison cells", and "straight jackets."

The interesting thing to me is, in a sense, that applies when one is perceiving "what Uke is giving" as what they are physically or even energetically constellating. If we look deeper into their being, at another level there is only one thing that they are presenting, ever: themselves, in whatever dynamic form that is being expressed. At that level, if we tune into that, or "them" as it were, then in theory (and practice), in that moment any number of techniques can be applied, beyond just what they are "informing us of" through their physicality, intention, etc.

This takes a deep technical knowledge and skill, but also deep perceptive skills that reach into the energetic and qualitative levels of connection, intention, balance, and manifestation. In those moments, my experience is that, while in truth "form follows function", one can apply almost "any form." This does have it's limits, ultimately defined by the same criteria - what Uke is "presenting", just at a very different and perhaps a more "open" level.

The other important point I would bring up is, learning to go with the flow is ultimately of most value, but I don't think most people can fully learn Aikido and have free access to consistent skill without a balance, and that to me is the answer - balance - between form and essence, content and process, technique and flowing creative response/Aiki.

Similar to playing an instrument, one can learn to solo, really fly with the music, but without having a solid, basic relationship to the instrument and to music itself, the ability to do so is transitory, not grounded, and therefore missing the elements that sustain a deep evolution and knowledge over time.

I personally believe in inducting a student into both realities, which when done carefully and consciously, can help bring someone along in their training (ability and understanding) quite quickly.

So, I actually both agree and disagree with you, on both the practical and theoretical levels.

:)

Janet Rosen
05-19-2010, 06:35 PM
Jun, thanks for posting that link. I'm sorry I didn't know Peter until he was in his terminal illness.

Ross, many thanks for a very thought-provoking column that is both cogent and passionate.

My own tendency is to feel things are best taught in a "middle path" that integrates time for both form (kata-based training, or as Lynn puts it, the craftsmanship approach) and free exploration from the start.

As learners we each tend to be stronger in one area than the other, and I think starting with both fallows each person to work on both strength and weakness from the start - so everybody experiences a bit of frustration and a bit of success.

Alec Corper
05-20-2010, 03:32 AM
Great post, in essence the truth of Aikido. For me the paradox of people saying do "O Sensei's" Aikido is that he stole from everywhere and created his own art. The calcification into a set of waza or kata may be a useful vehicle of entry, may even be the only one for many, but it is still a prison. I understand that for some people the maintenance of a tradition and the purity of practice is a shugyo in it's own right, and this is vital too, for without the maintenance of the vehicle it is indeed difficult to transmit the essence.
Rumi also said, "fools gold would not exist if there were not real gold", so I guess peeling away the lead is the way forward.

Peter Goldsbury
05-20-2010, 08:18 AM
I think SHU-HA-RI is primarily a teaching/learning relationship, not something based on form vs. the absence of form. The form, if any, is the vehicle for the relationship, not the other way round.

In my opinion, a good example of this relationship can be seen with Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda. All the elements: SHU, HA, and RI, are there. Form (= waza) enters into this relationship only to the extent that it is seen to be necessary. I think Ellis Amdur has argued quite strongly in his latest book that form did not seem to matter too much to Takeda or Ueshiba. But the relationship was there--and it endured. In terms of the relationship, the RI component was formalized only in 1936.

Best wishes,

PAG

Dazzler
05-20-2010, 08:43 AM
Have to agree with Peter - Shu ha ri for me covers the changing student teacher relationship as the student grows.

As an article though, it is interesting and raised the question of when is it ok to break free?

My own view is the ultimate goal of Aikido is freedom which includes freedom from the mere tools of practice, the techniques.

However failure to practice, even when the going is tough and easier options seem available may result in a toolset that is blunt.

Perhaps train hard fight easy is an appropriate thought.

Or not.

Regards

D

Marc Abrams
05-20-2010, 09:44 AM
I simply do not know if Ross is trying to be intentionally provocative, or does not have the depth of understanding that is behind Shu Ha Ri. The scenario that was presented displayed a surface and entirely inaccurate understanding of what Shu Ha Ri represents (my opinion).

I think that Peter provided a good counter-point perspective for people to consider. My own personal position is that waza is akin to kata. If you do not understand and appreciate the depth of waza/kata, learning will remain at a surface/superficial level.

Marc Abrams

Abasan
05-20-2010, 10:29 AM
Peter Sensei this was something that I forgot to ask you when you were here the other day... Having experienced Yamaguichi Sensei's teaching firsthand, would you accept that he taught his Aikido encapsulated within a certain form... but which his students captured its inner essence each in their own fashion. By way I mean, looking at how Endo Sensei felt that he was being shown something personal to him even though Sensei was doing it for the whole class... and indeed at that point in time, he was just recovering the will to train again after his injury.

To me I would think the form is a canvas (aikido et el) that the Sensei uses certain common principles (chushin, zanshin etc) meaningful to him to apply techniques (awase, musubi etc) that are his forte resulting in a painting (ikkyo, nikkyo etc)... in reality the picture is limitless than the boundaries of that frame, though it's essence is captured in what we see. Does that make sense to you?

I think SHU-HA-RI is primarily a teaching/learning relationship, not something based on form vs. the absence of form. The form, if any, is the vehicle for the relationship, not the other way round.

In my opinion, a good example of this relationship can be seen with Morihei Ueshiba and Sokaku Takeda. All the elements: SHU, HA, and RI, are there. Form (= waza) enters into this relationship only to the extent that it is seen to be necessary. I think Ellis Amdur has argued quite strongly in his latest book that form did not seem to matter too much to Takeda or Ueshiba. But the relationship was there--and it endured. In terms of the relationship, the RI component was formalized only in 1936.

Best wishes,

PAG

dps
05-20-2010, 10:31 AM
I am quoting partially from Larry Camejo's post on the thread,

http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/newreply.php?do=newreply&p=257779.


Over the years that I've been on Aikiweb one thing that has been constant is that there is no single, shared definition of Aikido.

Robert's post can take on as many meanings as there are ideas and definitions of what Aikido is.

We all think we know a better way.

David

tarik
05-27-2010, 03:17 AM
I don't believe in Shu Ha Ri. I don't believe we must first be encased in form, then break out of it, and only then be free. We are always simultaneously within form and free of form.

This description of shu ha ri doesn't remotely jive with my understanding of it. First off, I agree with Mr. Goldsbury that shu ha ri really describes a relationship with a teacher and that for most students without that personal relationship, shu ha ri is not a model that they will be able to follow very well even in a dojo with instructors present.

To me, shu is not about form, it"s about learning and obeying the fundamentals of the art in question from your teacher. It's about working on what you're told to work on even if you don't want to work on that. When you learn scales, you don't question why at first, you just do it and you trust that your teacher is teaching those scales for a good reason. If the teacher half to the relationship is any good, these fundamentals include form, but they also should include all the principles with the form taught as tools to explore the principles.

I've more not fully developed thoughts, but it's late and these budo twins I'm hanging out with tonight are telling interesting training stories, so hopefully I'll stop back later.

Regards,

Peter Goldsbury
05-27-2010, 08:09 AM
Peter Sensei this was something that I forgot to ask you when you were here the other day... Having experienced Yamaguichi Sensei's teaching firsthand, would you accept that he taught his Aikido encapsulated within a certain form... but which his students captured its inner essence each in their own fashion. By way I mean, looking at how Endo Sensei felt that he was being shown something personal to him even though Sensei was doing it for the whole class... and indeed at that point in time, he was just recovering the will to train again after his injury.

To me I would think the form is a canvas (aikido et el) that the Sensei uses certain common principles (chushin, zanshin etc) meaningful to him to apply techniques (awase, musubi etc) that are his forte resulting in a painting (ikkyo, nikkyo etc)... in reality the picture is limitless than the boundaries of that frame, though it's essence is captured in what we see. Does that make sense to you?

Hello Ahmad,

Yes, it makes sense, but I doubt whether I would express it in this way. If I compare S Yamaguchi and H Tada, from both of whom I have taken ukemi many times, it is what they do besides the waza that matters, as much as the actual waza, such as kote-gaeshi or irimi-nage. I have seen Yasuno and Endo teach and, yes, there are recognizable Yamaguchi influences (there seem to be no Tada influences). Encapsulated? What would this mean, I wonder?

Best wishes,

PAG

jonreading
05-27-2010, 11:30 AM
This is a though-provoking post.

I believe the shu, ha, ri learning relationship is an older model of the learning process that is consisting under attack (for good and bad reasons). Shu, ha ri, is a very old, Eastern learning style, which is difficult to fit into a commodity-based, instant gratification-oriented Western culture. I use the term learning because at the end of the day, I will argue that aikido is about learning, not being taught.

I am not convinced that a mentor relationship is the better learning style. There is considerable evidence to support the emergence of master craftsman in those trades which use the mentor/apprentice relationship. However, I think a key difference between craftsmanship and aikido is the objective evaluation of success.

The nature of Aikido's subjective orientation to attract a variety of practioners who seek to accomplish a variety of goals is vulnerable to abuse. For this reason I express concern when discussion leads to the implentation of a mentor-based teaching structure. Teachers wield considerable power over impressionable minds. Without an objective control by which students can evaulate progress we become over-dependent upon our sensei for guidence (read "drink the kool aid, class"). Kata gives me training for my body when I am not in the dojo or training with a partner. Kata gives me a structure to emulate until I am competent to expand the form. Kata gives me right and wrong.

As I experience raising a child, I am reminded of a parenting book passage, "children do not see the world in shades of gray, they see it in stark contrast of right and wrong." Mentoring is a good learning style implemented for those who express a proclivity for competency, but I am not sure how it fits those new students entering a martial art.

Good post...

Shannon Frye
05-27-2010, 02:18 PM
I won't pretend to have the connections to aiki masters or the experiences that some of the elder aiki people on here have - but my understanding of Shu Ha Ri is not that it encapsulates and traps you. Rather that you learn until you are able to master it. After mastery, you evolve. I hardly see the learning and mastery phases as being fenced in.

I think we have too many teens and 20 some year olds that are watching a few videos of an art and thinking "Oh, I got this". I've encountered too many people who don't want to invest time to learn an art, just want a 'crash course' of the finer points so that they don't have to 'waste their time'. 2 months of BJJ, 2 classes of Aiki, a few Muay Thai classes, and a lot of bag work = I got this.

I think more students need to be acquainted with (and acceptant of) the concept of Shu Ha Ri. Invest the time to learn ONE art before trying to evolve it.

Charles Hill
05-27-2010, 06:20 PM
My reading of Ross' take on shu ha ri is that it does describe the relationship between student and teacher. If a dojo mate attacks with shomen and we respond with ikkyo omote, why do we do so? In the typical dojo, it is because that is what the sensei has shown and what the others practicing around us are doing. This is protecting the form of the teacher-student relationship. You tell me what to do and I do it.

The moving away from this relationship is typified by the individual doing the ikkyo omote because that is what is called for in reponse to that particular partner doing that particular attack. This is the ri that I think Ross is suggesting to start with.

I have read most of Ross' writings and I think he is not calling for the doing away with of specific technique. Instead, he has written that if you give students (children in the article I am remembering now) certain principles, specific techniques will spontaneously happen. Students will naturally do ikkyo omote because that will be directly perceived as the correct response.

tarik
05-28-2010, 01:07 AM
My reading of Ross' take on shu ha ri is that it does describe the relationship between student and teacher. If a dojo mate attacks with shomen and we respond with ikkyo omote, why do we do so? In the typical dojo, it is because that is what the sensei has shown and what the others practicing around us are doing. This is protecting the form of the teacher-student relationship. You tell me what to do and I do it.

The moving away from this relationship is typified by the individual doing the ikkyo omote because that is what is called for in reponse to that particular partner doing that particular attack. This is the ri that I think Ross is suggesting to start with..

What you describe doesn't square with my understanding of what shu ha ri is about even remotely. Doing what [appropriate technique] is called for in response to an attack is modeling exactly the sort of thing that should be taught while in shu in a proper teacher-student relationship.

Honestly, i doubt there are very many people out there training in a real shu ha ri relationship, much less understand what that really means. I know that most of my own knowledge of what it is pretty rudimentary, but from what I do know, I don't believe that most people are even approximating the real thing.

Regards,

Charles Hill
05-28-2010, 02:05 AM
Hi Tarik,

Thanks for replying. Your post has gotten me curious and I have some questions.

1. What exactly is your understanding of shu ha ri?
2. How did you come to that understanding?
3. You describe your understanding as "rudimentary." How does a rudimentary understanding differ from a "thorough" understanding?

Thanks in advance,
Charles

Peter Goldsbury
05-28-2010, 03:10 AM
Hello Charles,

A few comments.

About halfway through his column Ross makes the following point:

"I don't believe in Shu Ha Ri. I don't believe we must first be encased in form, then break out of it, and only then be free. We are always simultaneously within form and free of form."

This, it seems to me, is the strongest evidence that SHU-HA-RI here is connected to form. Evidence for this idea is contained in an article by Takamura Yukiyoshi, entitled 'Teaching and Shu-Ha-Ri', published in Aikido Journal. Takamura Sensei is discussing shu-ha-ri at several levels of proficiency, but the art he is discussing is defined by kata.

Another view is given by K Chiba, in an interview also published in Aikido Journal:
"In the shu stage you absorb what your teacher has to offer and remain absolutely obedient. Self-assertion, creativity, and independent ideas on your part are absolutely forbidden during these years, however long it takes. You have to follow what you are taught absolutely, without interjecting your own bias in any way. This is often referred to as a form of “self-negation.” Still, however much you learn, it remains your teacher’s art, not your own."

There is no reference here to kata or form, only to 'absorbing what the teacher has to offer'. From many hours of discussion with him, I know that K Chiba believes the relationship between master and student to be absolutely crucial to the latter's development, so much so that if you cannot find the right teacher for you, it is better not to start at all. Against this view, I argued that this 'esclusivist' view would restrict aikido to a few individuals. The link between Takamura Sensei's view and Chiba Sensei's view lies, in my opinion, in the fact that both are grounded on a very close personal relationship between master and student that lasts over many years. It is much more difficult to see this relationship in a large general dojo like the Aikikai Hombu.

My reading of Ross' take on shu ha ri is that it does describe the relationship between student and teacher. If a dojo mate attacks with shomen and we respond with ikkyo omote, why do we do so? In the typical dojo, it is because that is what the sensei has shown and what the others practicing around us are doing. This is protecting the form of the teacher-student relationship. You tell me what to do and I do it.
PAG. Possibly, but the relationship seems less close than that assumed by Takamura or Chiba and I believe your example is too wide to be applicable here. The example need not convey any indication at all of a learning relationship or even a respect or lack of respect for form.

The moving away from this relationship is typified by the individual doing the ikkyo omote because that is what is called for in reponse to that particular partner doing that particular attack. This is the ri that I think Ross is suggesting to start with.
PAG. In the two articles cited, RI is the result of a lengthy cumulative process and this is why, in my opinion, SHU-HA-RI has only a limited value as an explanatory device in a martial art like aikido.

I have read most of Ross' writings and I think he is not calling for the doing away with of specific technique. Instead, he has written that if you give students (children in the article I am remembering now) certain principles, specific techniques will spontaneously happen. Students will naturally do ikkyo omote because that will be directly perceived as the correct response.
PAG. Sure, but I do not believe that this is a case of maintaining or of breaking away from SHU-HA-RI.

A discussion can be found in Chapter 2 of Rupert Cox's book The Zen Arts. Cox, too, believes that SHU-HA-RI is essentially related to copying or breaking away from established form. It was my own relationship with Chiba Sensei, which included training and disputation, that suggested to me that the crux lies more in the relationship than on the forms studied as part of this relationship. I should add that Morihei Ueshiba never used the terms, because, I believe, he never saw aikido in terms of zen arts.

Best wishes,

PAG

DH
05-28-2010, 08:03 AM
There exists an incredible amount of information within kata and form. Any number of teachers from Japanese to Chinese will talk about the precision required to understand certain things; from angles within your own body, to angles to contact other bodies, to some very important lessons with weapons. All require you to absorb those lessons through rote training in order to-bind- your body and mind to a way to move. It's like rewiring your brain. And all of that is to attain? Freedom, and newly attained (educated) natural movement. From there you move to individual expression which now "expresses" an art form.

There is no other way to understand an art for what it is, not what you will make of it-or simply just butcher.

You can include the latest interest of some; individual internal training/ aiki. Although outside of any single art, even then, there is precision required to get things right to control the mind/ body, that is inescapable as well.

FWIW, you can train with any number of BJJ or MMA people who will scoff at Kata and traditional training. Sooner or later you will hear as they go through moves...."Okay, now lets drill it! Do it ten times; first slow, then faster." ;)

I think the arts are plagued with too many people trying to represent them who are utterly bereft of any real ability to do so. Instead what they are representing often is a very real incomplete understanding. If you are trying to preserve something like an art, than all individual expressions are not equal.
Cheers
Dan
P.S. If you have an interesting and well educated budo teacher there may be a richness to the experience, involving both them and some of their contemporaries as well.

R.A. Robertson
06-04-2010, 03:06 PM
I would have never thought that of Peter Ting. When I first started aikido I went to a Osu Festival-marathon-and Peter took me under his wing in one of the sessions and worked with me one on one. He was one of the nicest people I ran into all day. To this day, I still teach one of the irimi techniques he showed us.

John, All,

Just a quick note on Peter Ting.

Peter was a true enigma. Your memory of him resonates with my own. He was capable of being the kindest, most compassionate, gentle human being I've ever met. And I've had the privilege of being in the company of some truly great human beings.

But Peter was also one of the fiercest people I've ever known, and his sense of righteous indignation could turn toward violence, if we're to believe his own stories.

Keep in mind that Peter was among the very last of a generation of 19th century kung-fu guys. They were, in many ways, the analogs of the gunslingers of the American Wild West. Peter's training began when he was, what... four, five years old? Hard training, too, according to his tales.

Even if Peter never spoke about himself, we could still hear much of his story told in the broken lines of every single finger on his hands. More broken bones in the rest of his body, too.

Peter eventually found aikido, and for him, it was a better way. But he had a long life of severity that even decades of aikido would not erase. Indeed, I don't think much of Peter would have remained had all that been excised.

Peter's life ended harshly, and we nearly lost him to poverty and homelessness and destitution even before the cancer took him. There was perhaps some poetic symmetry in the tragedy, befitting someone of legendary, even epic, stature. For me, I'm just eternally grateful to those who found him on that park bench and took him in,
and gave him some friendship once again before the sickness came.

Make no mistake, Peter spat fire and shook the walls and rattled windows when he taught. He scolded and threatened and shamed. But I've never in my life seen such a look of liquid love as what came through his eyes when he saw you taking time and patience with a beginner. It was to these that he bowed the lowest, as if he knew that his time was done, and that real hope lay with those whose future was just beginning.

Ross

aikidoc
06-04-2010, 05:20 PM
That was a nice tribute to Peter Ross. Thank you. I was new, probably less than a month on the mat, at the time of my encounter with Peter. Obviously, he left and impression with me given he was one of 10 teaching and I only remember him and 1-2 others. His compassion for a new person was evident. I am saddened to hear he had such a hard ending. That truly saddens me.

tarik
06-04-2010, 05:47 PM
Hi Charles,

I have not intentionally ignored your questions, they just don't have simple answers.

Hi Tarik,

Thanks for replying. Your post has gotten me curious and I have some questions.

1. What exactly is your understanding of shu ha ri?
2. How did you come to that understanding?
3. You describe your understanding as "rudimentary." How does a rudimentary understanding differ from a "thorough" understanding?

Thanks in advance,
Charles

1. My understanding of SHU-HA-RI is incomplete and always evolving. However, as Peter notes, Ross clearly states that his view for the purpose of this article, at least, is "be encased in form, then break out of it, and only then be free".

At the most basic description, I have heard this description plenty of times, and perhaps it is accurate on it's face, but I feel that it leaves out all the nuance of a master-apprentice relationship and what that entails.

This description only offers the very real model of learning fundamental curriculum to build skills sets, not questioning those skill sets until they have been very well learned, and then through experimentation and studying the reasons for those chosen sets arriving at a sort of freedom to use, reinvent, or innovate upon them in a novel manner to achieve a desired effect.

This would be a model similar to that of a classically trained musician who endlessly plays their scales and arpeggios and other practice methods to master the most basic aspects of form, but it seems to me that a great deal is left out of this model, particularly if the method being taught includes self-testing and questioning as a part of the process.

Obviously there are many models to the learning process, and while I prefer to model this type of process in my own training as an aspect of SHU-HA-RI, I don't feel that it is likely to be a pure form of SHU-HA-RI.

Incidentally, despite the implication in Ross' article, I also don't believe that most aikido folk actually follow this SHU-HA-RI model closely at least in the way I just described it. Their fundamentals aren't actually all that fundamental (but that is also normal for most activities for most people).

What Ross describes, is to me, more of a person lost in trying to do what they think is the right thing at the right time so that they both fit in and do and learn what they believe that they are supposed to be learning and doing in that moment.

But SHU is not doing ikkyo because sensei requested ikkyo and "damn the torpedoes even if uke isn't giving the right attack for ikkyo, we'll make it happen". SHU, to me, is about learning the fundamentals of the art from your teacher without trying to fit them into a cohesive whole until that cohesive whole has itself been fully presented to you. In my actual training, my senior would never attack me inappropriately for ikkyo, unless they were testing my understanding of what was going on and didn't really expect me to try and force ikkyo.

I have the sense that is also closer to what Ross is advocating, but it hardly falls outside of the way I perceive and understand the offered concepts of SHU-HA-RI.

2. I've arrived at my current understanding through much reading and interaction with my teachers, including a good friend who lived in Japan for a decade. I imagine it will continue to evolve in the same manner.

3. Not to be flippant, but the difference between a rudimentary understanding and a thorough understanding is evident in those two descriptive words. I believe my understanding to be no more than rudimentary and not fully informed.

Best,

jbblack
07-03-2010, 03:06 PM
Ross, continuing to think about this.
Just started reading Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Motion.

"Only the 'form" survives of anything created and then passed on in time, since creativity resides within what is formless and this formlessness cannot survive, having never existed. Therefore, only when the form is being consciously created in this moment is it tuly useful and representative of its orgin. Otherwise it is hollow and useless, simply abinding force, a limitation."

There is always form, it comes from the formless. It comes from the interaction with your partner. I am starting to see/feel how takemusu arises... Earlier you mentioned feeling what your partner is giving you. I am feeling that if you are not connected with your partner you are not doing Aikido.

The response from the formlessness to what your partner gives you is limitless. The form then is limitless.
Cheers,

Toby Threadgill
07-04-2010, 11:18 PM
Mr Roberson,

What I read in your writing demonstrates a lamentable ignorance concerning Shu Ha Ri, but then again, how you know what it is? You've obviously only read about it, never followed it.

Toby Threadgill / TSYR

Eric Joyce
07-05-2010, 01:27 PM
No offense Mr. Robertson, but I don't believe you have any idea what you are talking about. I echo Toby's comments.

Toby Threadgill
07-05-2010, 10:40 PM
Hello,

Rereading this thread it's obvious that many people including the author don't grasp the Shi Ha Ri process beyond a very superficial level. Without any first hand experience, these people are projecting their own preconceived notions onto a process much more culturally complex and nuanced than a simple western interpretation of the teacher/apprentice relationship. How many people in the USA have ever had the opportunity to experience the western form of a private teacher/apprentice relationship, much less the more demanding Japanese version?

As Peter Goldsbury correctly points out, my sensei's essay on Shu Ha Ri limited itself to covering the omote aspect of this teaching model by choosing to use physical kata as the interpretative vehicle for the subject. If anyone thinks that's as deep as Takamura sensei's experience with Shu Ha Ri went, you obviously didn't know the man or grasp the ura aspect of his message.

I enjoyed a deep, personal and frequently exhaustive introduction to Shu Ha Ri. At times it was brutally frustrating, but as the years wore on I grew to appreciate the method for its uncompromising ability to manifest excellence. I therefore find it amusing when people having no real experience in the genuine process believe themselves qualified to comment on it from the sidelines. It's hard to imagine that any contemporary aikidoka in the west has any more than a smidge of experience with real Shu Ha Ri. In fact, if one is not studying koryu budo or experiencing life as an dojo uchideshi, if find any claims of genuine experience with Shu Ha Ri dubious at best. To live inside the Shi Ha Ri teaching model is to immerse yourself in the process of intense instruction and individualized demands that go far beyond that tolerated by most westerners. We just don't have many things in western culture to compare to it outside olympic caliber athletics.

Shu Ha Ri has its shortcomings for sure. Improperly employed it can stifle creativity and spontaneity. However, when properly managed its results can be most impressive. The best budoka I've ever encountered in my budo career are those who have been steeled on the uncompromising anvil of Shu Ha Ri. It is true there are those rare individuals that can transcend the model but these are rare prodigies of budo, not the more common among us. If you fancy yourself a prodigy, I'm happy for you and good luck on your journey, but to those less gifted than the prodigy the Shu Ha Ri model has resulted in budoka manifesting fantastic levels of mastery.

All the fancy talk of formlessness and freedom amuses me to no end. It may sound good in theory, but in practice it is fancy talk and little more. Without an orthodox method in place to maintain theory and principle, a frightening amount of knowledge can be marginalized. Just look at the current debate over Ueshiba's internal strength training per Ellis Amdur's book "Hidden in Plain Sight". From his accounts it appears greater aikido's freedom and formlessness completely missed the boat in passing along one of Ueshiba's most important skills. Without an orthodox method like Shu ha Ri for knowledge transmission, freedom and formlessness failed miserably in its endeavor to transfer knowledge to the next generation.

Toby Threadgill / Kaicho
Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin ryu

dps
07-06-2010, 06:42 AM
Hello,

Rereading this thread it's obvious that many people including the author don't grasp the Shi Ha Ri process beyond a very superficial level.
Toby Threadgill / Kaicho
Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin ryu

Not just Shu Ha Ri, but of Japanese culture and tradition and their relationship to Aikido. We play at it, mimicking what we see, read or are told without understanding exactly what or why. A few get closer to understanding but most don't.

dps

niall
07-07-2010, 10:17 AM
I have a question - two really - for Mr Threadgill.

Do you think your teacher if he is still alive (or if he was still alive) would be happy about you being patronizing to other martial artists, and does your understanding of the freedom of ri not include a continuing reponsibility to your teacher and to your ryuha?

DH
07-07-2010, 11:36 AM
BToby will address this himself but....
Shut/ ha/ RI is established and known. The fact that modern practitioners want to largely "redefine it" without first even understanding "what" it is, might strike those who have been trained that way as a bit arrogant or just misinformed. FWIW, I don't find Toby's admonitions patronizing, but a needed correction. I stayed out of it and only commented on "Kata as a transmission vehicle" because everytime shu/ha/ri comes up...these sorts of debates ensue.
Here's a thought; those of us in koryu have to deal with trying to manage those requirements in the modern era, it would behoove us all to try and understand each others transmission model before talking so dismissively about it. In that regard Mr. Robertson did himself a disservice.
Regards
Dan

Eric Winters
07-07-2010, 11:37 AM
Hello,

I agree with everything that Toby said. I have been an uchi deshi with a fairly traditional teacher for 1.5 years and have been training with some high caliber Aikidoka and other martial artists for 20 years. All of my instructors have some knowledge of the Shu Ha Ri training model and probably would not be as good as they are without it. So I have a little understanding of the Shu Ha Ri way of transmitting a martial art.

I think Toby's assessment of the state of Aikido is correct as well. I think if people would actually learn proper body mechanics from the beginning instead of "doing your own aikido" from the beginning there would be a lot more people doing good aikido than there is now. Just from my basic knowledge, you cannot reach takemusu aiki without a good foundation in body mechanics and waza. Only exceptional athletes can figure it out, but they would be good at anything they chose to do.

By the way I am only talking about a very small aspect of Shu Ha Ri and it is much more than what little I talked about here.

Best,

Eric Winters

oisin bourke
07-07-2010, 03:30 PM
I have a question - two really - for Mr Threadgill.

Do you think your teacher if he is still alive (or if he was still alive) would be happy about you being patronizing to other martial artists, and does your understanding of the freedom of ri not include a continuing reponsibility to your teacher and to your ryuha?

Personally, I thought he explained his position very well.

Toby Threadgill
07-07-2010, 05:10 PM
I have a question - two really - for Mr Threadgill.

Do you think your teacher if he is still alive (or if he was still alive) would be happy about you being patronizing to other martial artists, and does your understanding of the freedom of ri not include a continuing reponsibility to your teacher and to your ryuha?

Mr Matthews,

I've never bought into the politically correct concept that all opinions are valid. Unless you are so inclined I cannot figure out how you interpreted my comments as patronizing. I merely sought to express an opinion based on intimate personal experience, which I continue to believe the author does not have. If my attempt at providing an "educated" opinion still seems supercilious in your eyes, so be it. But consider this, Peter Goldsbury cited the article written by my teacher on this very subject because he obviously felt it to be worthy of consideration. Ushiro Kenji of Shindo ryu karate and Dr Fumiaki Shishida, the aikido 8th dan at Waseda University have both told me in person that they believe Takamura sensei's short article on Shu Ha Ri to be one of the most insightful they've ever read on the subject. After Takamura sensei's passing I was designated the technical and administrative head of TSYR. As the head of a koryu jujutsu school I am charged by blood oath to maintain our traditions, and one of those traditions is the Shu Ha Ri pedagogy. I think most people would believe that qualifies me to comment on the subject with some level of authority.

As for Takamura sensei himself, I'm not just convinced, but positive his response to the author would have been far less delicate than mine. Takamura sensei had little tolerance for the prognostications of armchair experts or those unaware of their own ignorance. Training under the man could be harsh, both physically and mentally. Consequently, I am very aware of my "responsibilities" to him and my ryuha because his uncompromising expectations were ground into my very soul.

FWIW....In our rather indulgent western culture maintaining Shu Ha Ri has been a huge challenge as most westerners chafe against a method that demands such unshakable dedication and patience. However, I feel I improve in this quest every year, and I feel confident my students would agree with me because it is they who enjoy the fruits of their dedication..... and the dedication of the uncompromising man who walked the path before us.

Tobin E Threadgill / TSYR

tarik
07-07-2010, 08:07 PM
Hello,

Rereading this thread it's obvious that many people including the author don't grasp the Shi Ha Ri process beyond a very superficial level. Without any first hand experience, these people are projecting their own preconceived notions onto a process much more culturally complex and nuanced than a simple western interpretation of the teacher/apprentice relationship.

Mr Threadgill,

Thank you for confirming my initial impressions of SHU HA RI and expanding my knowledge about it including via the referenced material.

My inclination is to believe that people all too frequently project their own preconceived notions and values onto complicated cultural arts and ideas such as such the bizarre labeling of Aikido as the "Art of Peace" rather than letting the thing itself inform and educate them about itself.

Best,

Tarik

niall
07-07-2010, 09:45 PM
Thanks for that reply.

This is what was supercilious and unnecessary:

Mr Roberson,
What I read in your writing demonstrates a lamentable ignorance concerning Shu Ha Ri, but then again, how you know what it is? You've obviously only read about it, never followed it.
Toby Threadgill / TSYR

I'm sure Ross doesn't need me to defend him. In fact Peter's and your interpretation of shu ra hi is how I have always understood it. But Japanese can be interpreted in several ways. Or Ross could deliberately be using it in a different way to make a point. Either way you could have explained it politely without the negative baggage - as you have done now, thank you.

I think you and other representatives of less popular martial arts would get more respect from the hundreds or thousands of people using these forums who do aikido if you were a little more patient and a little less negative. The way you are - hopefully - with your own students.

Toby Threadgill
07-08-2010, 01:31 AM
I think you and other representatives of less popular martial arts would get more respect from the hundreds or thousands of people using these forums who do aikido if you were a little more patient and a little less negative. The way you are - hopefully - with your own students.

Mr Matthews,

You'll have to ask my students how I am with them as I'm a poor judge.

As for my post, I stand by what I said and how I said it. It was accurate, direct and to the point. If some people choose to interpret my pithy remarks as "patronizing", that's okay. Just don't expect me to lose any sleep over it.

FWIW....I have shihan level instructors from many diverse arts training with us in TSYR, including aikidoka, and Japanese. In fact TSYR has been growing so fast that I've had to slow its growth down. If I was truly patronizing or mailciously negative to aikidoka why would so many continue to join our organization?

Are you telling me its not my charming disposition? ;)

Tobin E Threadgill / TSYR

niall
07-08-2010, 01:31 AM
I just noticed I mistyped shu ha ri and I don't want this to be any more confusing than it is already. In Japan it is even sometimes used as a cool restaurant name, say.

This is the wikipedia description:

"Shuhari is a Japanese martial art concept, and describes the stages of learning to mastery. It is sometimes applied to other disciplines, such as Go.

Shuhari roughly translates to Learn, Detach and Transcend.

Shu 守 (しゅ) "protect", "obey" traditional wisdom learning fundamentals, techniques, heuristics, proverbs
Ha 破 (は) "detach", "digress" breaking with tradition detachment from the illusions of Self.
Ri 離 (り) "leave", "separate" transcendence there are no techniques or proverbs, all moves are natural, becoming one with spirit alone without clinging to forms; trancending the physical.
Shuhari can be considered as concentric circles, with Shu within Ha, and both Shu and Ha within Ri. The fundamental techniques and knowledge do not change.[1]

During the Shu phase the student should loyally follow the instruction of a single teacher; the student is not yet ready to explore and compare different paths."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuhari

As Toby Threadgill and Dan Harden indicated this is a rather rare teacher/student model in the west. Or even in Japan in large organizations like the Aikikai or the Kodokan.

photo by tr4nslator used under creative commons licence http://www.flickr.com/photos/tr4nslator/157270698/

niall
07-08-2010, 01:38 AM
Hi Mr Threadgill - I see your comment just crossed with mine. I don't mean to be personal. I thought your original comment was lacking in gentleness, shall we say? Magnanimity? If you are happy to give that impression that is cool with me and let's move on to more important things.

Chuck Clark
07-08-2010, 02:05 AM
Mr. Threadgill, I understood you and thought you were very succinct and to the point. I agree that to really understand Shu Ha Ri you must have significant experience in that form of training. Along with some budo teachers, I knew a number of fine art students in Paris that were undergoing very similar training in Montmartre area while learning to paint from very traditional master teachers. If they didn't want to "keep and obey" the first level training methods, they were told to leave and make room for serious students. I seem to remember some very serious classical music and ballet teachers that used very similar methods also. Funny how that works...

Best regards,

oisin bourke
07-08-2010, 05:46 PM
There's very little literature in English about this traditional concept, but Donn Draeger covers it in his book "Classical Budo." He uses the terms "Shugyo" "Jitsu" and "Dou" (I think). Ellis Amdiur also addresses some aspects of this methodology in his excellent essay "Keppan" in the book "Old School". Pascal Krieger's English/French work "The Way of the Stick" also covers some aspects.

I think all three are worth reading along with Takamura Sensei's essay to get an insight into the subject.

And one could always go out and train:)

Aiki1
07-08-2010, 06:46 PM
I too was drawn to thinking about this in terms of being a musician - I went through some of this kind of process at the hands of Robben Ford and blues music many years ago - ended up in the Ri "stage" eventually with the following - to me an important aspect is that even when one diverges creatively, everything is still based on recognizable fundamental principles:

http://www.novickmusic.com/GonnaNeedMeIntro.mp3

Budd
07-09-2010, 11:03 AM
Without pretending that I have any insight at all into the notion of shu ha ri . . one of the questions I ask of myself and anyone else that starts speaking about their "innovation" (or often in the cases of an online forum, simply their "opinion" - even if they don't realize that's all it is) on a form is whether they have any right, authority or credibility to have a reasonably valid comment or approach regarding such a thing. And this goes much farther than just martial arts related disciplines.

Rob Watson
07-09-2010, 11:31 AM
... whether they have any right, authority or credibility to have a reasonably valid comment or approach regarding such a thing. And this goes much farther than just martial arts related disciplines.

The tricky part is how does one become proficient enough to recognize authority. Rights and credibility seem a different categorization than authority. 'Sensei says' is different from '4 out of 5 dentists recommend' or 'internationally recognized' and still leaves one wondering whither lay the authoritative source.

Perhaps it really comes down to the individual student/seeker 'grants' authority to whom ever they wish and goes from there. Choose wisely.

Budd
07-09-2010, 01:52 PM
The tricky part is how does one become proficient enough to recognize authority. Rights and credibility seem a different categorization than authority. 'Sensei says' is different from '4 out of 5 dentists recommend' or 'internationally recognized' and still leaves one wondering whither lay the authoritative source.

Yup, which might actually put some onus on the person that uses the phrase, "Sensei says" to understand that it doesn't necessarily mean anything to justify their point unless they can demonstrate (beyond said "Sensei" being their sensei) why that makes the Sensei's opinion worth listening to -- beyond the individual choice they made to grant said sensei authority over them to begin with . .

Perhaps it really comes down to the individual student/seeker 'grants' authority to whom ever they wish and goes from there. Choose wisely.

Yes, it does go from there - but again that's the individual's choice - which doesn't transmute the individual or collective choices of calling someone "sensei" to mean anything beyond that. Like I don't necessarily look for a martial arts teacher to give me an opinion on religion or politics. And if they do, I don't give it anymore weight because they are my teacher.

An absurd example was in the early days of the martial arts craze as depicted in the media - where anyone with a black belt was automatically good looking, a ninja and drove a fancy car.

Janet Rosen
07-09-2010, 02:54 PM
An absurd example was in the early days of the martial arts craze as depicted in the media - where anyone with a black belt was automatically good looking, a ninja and drove a fancy car.

WAIT A MINUTE, THERE, BUDD! You mean I'm NOT going to get the fancy car? Well, shoot.... I may as well quit right now.... :D

R.A. Robertson
07-12-2010, 11:51 AM
Ross, continuing to think about this.
Just started reading Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Motion.

"Only the 'form" survives of anything created and then passed on in time, since creativity resides within what is formless and this formlessness cannot survive, having never existed. Therefore, only when the form is being consciously created in this moment is it tuly useful and representative of its orgin. Otherwise it is hollow and useless, simply abinding force, a limitation."

There is always form, it comes from the formless. It comes from the interaction with your partner. I am starting to see/feel how takemusu arises... Earlier you mentioned feeling what your partner is giving you. I am feeling that if you are not connected with your partner you are not doing Aikido.

The response from the formlessness to what your partner gives you is limitless. The form then is limitless.
Cheers,

Jeff,

You really should share your whole reading list. That's two wonderful quotes from two different sources in this thread alone. Not to mention your own insights:

"The response from the formlessness to what your partner gives you is limitless. The form then is limitless."

What you say in your post resonates very strongly with my own experience of aikido. However, problems arise in training when a teacher is trying to create a context for students to experience something in particular (whether form or formlessness or both), but your uke has not got the sophistication to adequately collaborate in creating that experience. So we become divided in our need to obey the teacher and learn the lesson (have the experience) versus engaging truly with the reality of what uke gives us. Because of this fissure, the lesson is broken.

Mending the crack, or reconciling the divergence between sensei and uke, in itself is a tremendously valuable experience, with much to be gained in the attempt. Yet I think more efficient ways exist, and I think it's the responsibility of the instructor to convey certain experiences that allow for the inevitable diversity of experience.

I do think that obedience to a trustworthy teacher is paramount. In return, the teacher must foster creativity always, and help the student see the art from their own perspective. Not a single one of my teachers ever expected me to do aikido from their center -- each was passionately devoted to helping me find my own, and to understand how that unique center connects with others.

Thanks,

Ross