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Old 02-23-2021, 07:07 PM   #4
jonreading's Avatar
Dojo: Aikido South
Location: Johnson City, TN
Join Date: Aug 2004
Posts: 1,202
Re: Shu Ha Ri Dialogues

As a pessimistic observation, I think the world of modern aikido is confronting the reality of training outside its [dominant] social context. For any number of reasons...

George always has good points. He thinks a lot about this stuff and has for as long as I've known him. The other interviews are likewise interesting - I find myself agreeing with many of the things Ellis has to say. Conceptually, shu, ha, ri, acts more like a physical discipline than an intellectual one. It's easy to see the learning modality of an artist, or athlete, or craftsman building her skillset using a building block system. But, Zen is cool and back in the day we loved to talk about that stuff; I am not so sure that wasn't the case for gendai arts trying to wear their Zen on their sleeve, also. There was a book a while back by a guy named Dan Linden. He trained ASU forever and I met him when he lived in Orlando. Dan wrote a book, On Mastering Aikido. The book isn't great and I think Dan made a career of saying and doing things that did not give him a great reputation, but the book is written in an interesting way which sets it apart from others. The book is responsible for making me uneasy about Westernized Eastern philosophy confusing common thought for us simple Aikido people.

What gets my goat in Aikido is that more often than not we use shu, ha, ri to keep us in line. Ya gotta have a master to tell us when we've mastered something. In some ways, the lack of our in-person training has better illustrated that dependance. I mean, if you do an ikkyo at home and no sensei is there to approve... Or, why waste the time to practice your ukemi if there are no kohai to impress?

Since I am throwing out old names, my favorite summary of shu, ha, ri was given by Dennis Hooker, who once said that Picaso could paint a blob and call it a cow. Why? Because Picaso could paint a cow, first.

Sometimes it's OK to appreciate that art stretches our perceptions. But, it's also important to remember that skill first makes it practical. The whole series is interesting to watch if you haven't seem them yet.

Jon Reading
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