Charles Hill wrote:
I think that it is important to note that Okumura Shihan has said that while the concept has been useful for him to explain things to his students, he also has said that the Founder did not use the concept and has indicated O`Sensei did not find it appropriate for Aikido.
Is Shu Ha Ri really appropriate for Aikido? Aikido is said to be a formless art, so how can one master the forms? Kihon waza are ones which demonstrate fundamental principles, but the waza themselves are not fundamental in the technicalities of how they are done. If we say ikkyo is a base form, then whose ikkyo do we stick to?
Well, then perhaps it is the concept of Shu Ha Ri that is misunderstood. I believe it is less about forms (sticking to them, and breaking the form, etc.) and more about a way of thinking.
In the Shu stage, this is where one does not question the Sensei, but just does as is told. He just practices the way without putting his own 2 cents in (protect). It is not the point of sticking to the forms, but just practicing without question. This is considered to take a long time. Mastery of forms is not the goal, but instead an internalization, appreciation, and deep understanding of the way.
In the Ha stage, now one begins to ask questions like "Why is this done like this, how will this really work, or what happens if I do this?" When does this Ha stage happen? The traditional way of learning is broken. Sometime after one's own way has become that of the sensei's way does this happen. At this point, the student is really putting all the knowledge he or she has learned into practice in different ways.
Finally the RI stage. By now, the student has listened, learned, and now starts learning through self discovery.
This is the time where the student is ready to create, (takemusu) discover, and learn without the aid of his sensei.
In short, the length of time needed for each stage to occur depends on the individuals ability to listen, apply, and then create.