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. So my question then is, is shu ha ri a natural progression or just one way of doing things?
From most descriptions given by various great aikido teachers about O Sensei's teaching method, it was apparent that O Sensei did not use the concept himself. Luckily for us, most of his students (Tohei, Shioda, Yamaguchi, Mochizuki, etc.) did and they left behind their systems whereby the art can be transmitted to future generations. Aikido is not a biological progression like a baby learning to crawl, learning to stand and finally learningto walk. We as humans even have to learn to swim again - an act that was innate in us.
Shu ha ri, IMO, is not a natural progression, it is spiritual path (Do) of learning and one must have the passion and sincerity to pursue and complete the path/course (which is endless). The loops between the Ha stage and the Ri stage is never ending once one has reached these levels. Ha is about knowing and understanding the underlying principles and Ri is about applications (Oyo). Once one has understood the principles, then the techniques (oyo) are almost infinite depending on what ones body can do.
Just my two sen.