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Old 05-27-2010, 10:30 AM   #17
jonreading's Avatar
Dojo: Aikido South (formerly Emory Aikikai)
Location: Atlanta, Georgia
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 1,139
Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

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...
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