Thread: Shu Ha Ri
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Old 07-03-2004, 11:23 AM   #16
G DiPierro
Location: Ohio
Join Date: Mar 2002
Posts: 365
Re: Shu Ha Ri

I say this because I do not hold that the "micro-adjustments" that we often see in high-ranking individuals during demonstrations and/or instruction are necessarily the same thing as Ri. Rather, it is, for the most part, just being really really good at forms.

To the extent that you use the metaphor of shu-ha-ri to apply strictly to form, then I would agree with this. But as I tried to suggest in my last post, this is not the only way to interpret that concept. As I have said in earlier posts, and attempted to reiterate in this thread, aikido is not an art of forms. It is an art of principles, the selection and application of which reflect a personal style.

Quite frankly, I frequently practice with a number of individuals, including several Japanese shihan, whose form I often find somewhat questionable, to speak euphemistically. I continue to practice with these individuals not to learn form or technique but because I believe that they have something to teach me that is beyond form. It is also my belief that these individuals do understand and are teaching according to the model of shu-ha-ri, though they are not using the vehicle of technical form to do so.

Now, you may put forth a critcism of that reality on the grounds that without developing the techniques and their application in this manner they are not teaching an effective martial art. While I would personally be persuaded by that criticism, it is nevertheless a separate point from whether they are, in fact, employing the framework of shu-ha-ri in one manner or another in their teachings.

We must accept the reality that the practice of aikido has significantly diverged from its roots as an effective martial art. Under the guidance of the previous generation, it has become primarily a social activity that may or may not have any relevance to real physical conflicts. This was an intentional change designed to address the realities of the environment in which it developed. Hence, the art as it is now taught primarily focuses on maintaining and building the organizational structure of the social club-dojo rather than on maintaining and building the skills to apply physical techniques to real conflicts.

Individually, we may reach our own value judgments regarding this change, but as none of us are named Ueshiba, we have little ability to alter this course of action beyond our own spheres of influence. We should understand, though, that those instructors who are not emphasizing the structure of shu-ha-ri as applied to form might still be employing it in other ways that are equally valid. We should also consider that such interpretations may reflect a truer characterization of what aikido as a whole is today (though perhaps not what it was during the lifetime of the founder of the art) than the interpretations of those of us who are practicing it primarily as an effective martial art. Again, while some of us may personally dislike this reality, in my experience most of the people in the art are quite happy with it (or at least they think they are).
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