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Old 05-28-2010, 02:10 AM   #22
Peter Goldsbury
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Dojo: Hiroshima Kokusai Dojo
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

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.

Charles Hill wrote: View Post
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.

Charles Hill wrote: View Post
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.

Charles Hill wrote: View Post
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,


Last edited by Peter Goldsbury : 05-28-2010 at 02:13 AM.

P A Goldsbury
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