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  #26  
Old 05-19-2010, 12:34 PM
Ross Robertson
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Breaking Shu Ha Ri

Your partner grabs your arm. Hard.

They've got their left arm on your right one. You're both right-handed, so you should have the advantage. Who knew they could lock down so tight? The technique you're working on requires you to enter behind them, sliding off to your right and...

Last edited by akiy : 05-19-2010 at 12:28 PM.
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Old 06-04-2010, 05:47 PM   #25
tarik
 
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

Hi Charles,

I have not intentionally ignored your questions, they just don't have simple answers.

Quote:
Charles Hill wrote: View Post
Hi Tarik,

Thanks for replying. Your post has gotten me curious and I have some questions.

1. What exactly is your understanding of shu ha ri?
2. How did you come to that understanding?
3. You describe your understanding as "rudimentary." How does a rudimentary understanding differ from a "thorough" understanding?

Thanks in advance,
Charles
1. My understanding of SHU-HA-RI is incomplete and always evolving. However, as Peter notes, Ross clearly states that his view for the purpose of this article, at least, is "be encased in form, then break out of it, and only then be free".

At the most basic description, I have heard this description plenty of times, and perhaps it is accurate on it's face, but I feel that it leaves out all the nuance of a master-apprentice relationship and what that entails.

This description only offers the very real model of learning fundamental curriculum to build skills sets, not questioning those skill sets until they have been very well learned, and then through experimentation and studying the reasons for those chosen sets arriving at a sort of freedom to use, reinvent, or innovate upon them in a novel manner to achieve a desired effect.

This would be a model similar to that of a classically trained musician who endlessly plays their scales and arpeggios and other practice methods to master the most basic aspects of form, but it seems to me that a great deal is left out of this model, particularly if the method being taught includes self-testing and questioning as a part of the process.

Obviously there are many models to the learning process, and while I prefer to model this type of process in my own training as an aspect of SHU-HA-RI, I don't feel that it is likely to be a pure form of SHU-HA-RI.

Incidentally, despite the implication in Ross' article, I also don't believe that most aikido folk actually follow this SHU-HA-RI model closely at least in the way I just described it. Their fundamentals aren't actually all that fundamental (but that is also normal for most activities for most people).

What Ross describes, is to me, more of a person lost in trying to do what they think is the right thing at the right time so that they both fit in and do and learn what they believe that they are supposed to be learning and doing in that moment.

But SHU is not doing ikkyo because sensei requested ikkyo and "damn the torpedoes even if uke isn't giving the right attack for ikkyo, we'll make it happen". SHU, to me, is about learning the fundamentals of the art from your teacher without trying to fit them into a cohesive whole until that cohesive whole has itself been fully presented to you. In my actual training, my senior would never attack me inappropriately for ikkyo, unless they were testing my understanding of what was going on and didn't really expect me to try and force ikkyo.

I have the sense that is also closer to what Ross is advocating, but it hardly falls outside of the way I perceive and understand the offered concepts of SHU-HA-RI.

2. I've arrived at my current understanding through much reading and interaction with my teachers, including a good friend who lived in Japan for a decade. I imagine it will continue to evolve in the same manner.

3. Not to be flippant, but the difference between a rudimentary understanding and a thorough understanding is evident in those two descriptive words. I believe my understanding to be no more than rudimentary and not fully informed.

Best,

Tarik Ghbeish
Jiyūshin-ryū AikiBudō - Iwae Dojo

MASAKATSU AGATSU -- "The true victory of self-mastery."
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Old 07-03-2010, 03:06 PM   #26
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

Ross, continuing to think about this.
Just started reading Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Motion.

"Only the 'form" survives of anything created and then passed on in time, since creativity resides within what is formless and this formlessness cannot survive, having never existed. Therefore, only when the form is being consciously created in this moment is it tuly useful and representative of its orgin. Otherwise it is hollow and useless, simply abinding force, a limitation."

There is always form, it comes from the formless. It comes from the interaction with your partner. I am starting to see/feel how takemusu arises... Earlier you mentioned feeling what your partner is giving you. I am feeling that if you are not connected with your partner you are not doing Aikido.

The response from the formlessness to what your partner gives you is limitless. The form then is limitless.
Cheers,
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Old 07-04-2010, 11:18 PM   #27
Toby Threadgill
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

Mr Roberson,

What I read in your writing demonstrates a lamentable ignorance concerning Shu Ha Ri, but then again, how you know what it is? You've obviously only read about it, never followed it.

Toby Threadgill / TSYR
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Old 07-05-2010, 01:27 PM   #28
Eric Joyce
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

No offense Mr. Robertson, but I don't believe you have any idea what you are talking about. I echo Toby's comments.

Last edited by Eric Joyce : 07-05-2010 at 01:36 PM. Reason: Mispelling

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Old 07-05-2010, 10:40 PM   #29
Toby Threadgill
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

Hello,

Rereading this thread it's obvious that many people including the author don't grasp the Shi Ha Ri process beyond a very superficial level. Without any first hand experience, these people are projecting their own preconceived notions onto a process much more culturally complex and nuanced than a simple western interpretation of the teacher/apprentice relationship. How many people in the USA have ever had the opportunity to experience the western form of a private teacher/apprentice relationship, much less the more demanding Japanese version?

As Peter Goldsbury correctly points out, my sensei's essay on Shu Ha Ri limited itself to covering the omote aspect of this teaching model by choosing to use physical kata as the interpretative vehicle for the subject. If anyone thinks that's as deep as Takamura sensei's experience with Shu Ha Ri went, you obviously didn't know the man or grasp the ura aspect of his message.

I enjoyed a deep, personal and frequently exhaustive introduction to Shu Ha Ri. At times it was brutally frustrating, but as the years wore on I grew to appreciate the method for its uncompromising ability to manifest excellence. I therefore find it amusing when people having no real experience in the genuine process believe themselves qualified to comment on it from the sidelines. It's hard to imagine that any contemporary aikidoka in the west has any more than a smidge of experience with real Shu Ha Ri. In fact, if one is not studying koryu budo or experiencing life as an dojo uchideshi, if find any claims of genuine experience with Shu Ha Ri dubious at best. To live inside the Shi Ha Ri teaching model is to immerse yourself in the process of intense instruction and individualized demands that go far beyond that tolerated by most westerners. We just don't have many things in western culture to compare to it outside olympic caliber athletics.

Shu Ha Ri has its shortcomings for sure. Improperly employed it can stifle creativity and spontaneity. However, when properly managed its results can be most impressive. The best budoka I've ever encountered in my budo career are those who have been steeled on the uncompromising anvil of Shu Ha Ri. It is true there are those rare individuals that can transcend the model but these are rare prodigies of budo, not the more common among us. If you fancy yourself a prodigy, I'm happy for you and good luck on your journey, but to those less gifted than the prodigy the Shu Ha Ri model has resulted in budoka manifesting fantastic levels of mastery.

All the fancy talk of formlessness and freedom amuses me to no end. It may sound good in theory, but in practice it is fancy talk and little more. Without an orthodox method in place to maintain theory and principle, a frightening amount of knowledge can be marginalized. Just look at the current debate over Ueshiba's internal strength training per Ellis Amdur's book "Hidden in Plain Sight". From his accounts it appears greater aikido's freedom and formlessness completely missed the boat in passing along one of Ueshiba's most important skills. Without an orthodox method like Shu ha Ri for knowledge transmission, freedom and formlessness failed miserably in its endeavor to transfer knowledge to the next generation.

Toby Threadgill / Kaicho
Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin ryu
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Old 07-06-2010, 06:42 AM   #30
dps
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

Quote:
Toby Threadgill wrote: View Post
Hello,

Rereading this thread it's obvious that many people including the author don't grasp the Shi Ha Ri process beyond a very superficial level.
Toby Threadgill / Kaicho
Takamura ha Shindo Yoshin ryu
Not just Shu Ha Ri, but of Japanese culture and tradition and their relationship to Aikido. We play at it, mimicking what we see, read or are told without understanding exactly what or why. A few get closer to understanding but most don't.

dps

Last edited by dps : 07-06-2010 at 06:45 AM.
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Old 07-07-2010, 10:17 AM   #31
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

I have a question - two really - for Mr Threadgill.

Do you think your teacher if he is still alive (or if he was still alive) would be happy about you being patronizing to other martial artists, and does your understanding of the freedom of ri not include a continuing reponsibility to your teacher and to your ryuha?

Last edited by niall : 07-07-2010 at 10:30 AM.

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Old 07-07-2010, 11:36 AM   #32
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

BToby will address this himself but....
Shut/ ha/ RI is established and known. The fact that modern practitioners want to largely "redefine it" without first even understanding "what" it is, might strike those who have been trained that way as a bit arrogant or just misinformed. FWIW, I don't find Toby's admonitions patronizing, but a needed correction. I stayed out of it and only commented on "Kata as a transmission vehicle" because everytime shu/ha/ri comes up...these sorts of debates ensue.
Here's a thought; those of us in koryu have to deal with trying to manage those requirements in the modern era, it would behoove us all to try and understand each others transmission model before talking so dismissively about it. In that regard Mr. Robertson did himself a disservice.
Regards
Dan

Last edited by DH : 07-07-2010 at 11:40 AM.
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Old 07-07-2010, 11:37 AM   #33
Eric Winters
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

Hello,

I agree with everything that Toby said. I have been an uchi deshi with a fairly traditional teacher for 1.5 years and have been training with some high caliber Aikidoka and other martial artists for 20 years. All of my instructors have some knowledge of the Shu Ha Ri training model and probably would not be as good as they are without it. So I have a little understanding of the Shu Ha Ri way of transmitting a martial art.

I think Toby's assessment of the state of Aikido is correct as well. I think if people would actually learn proper body mechanics from the beginning instead of "doing your own aikido" from the beginning there would be a lot more people doing good aikido than there is now. Just from my basic knowledge, you cannot reach takemusu aiki without a good foundation in body mechanics and waza. Only exceptional athletes can figure it out, but they would be good at anything they chose to do.

By the way I am only talking about a very small aspect of Shu Ha Ri and it is much more than what little I talked about here.

Best,

Eric Winters
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Old 07-07-2010, 03:30 PM   #34
oisin bourke
 
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

Quote:
Niall Matthews wrote: View Post
I have a question - two really - for Mr Threadgill.

Do you think your teacher if he is still alive (or if he was still alive) would be happy about you being patronizing to other martial artists, and does your understanding of the freedom of ri not include a continuing reponsibility to your teacher and to your ryuha?
Personally, I thought he explained his position very well.
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Old 07-07-2010, 05:10 PM   #35
Toby Threadgill
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

Quote:
Niall Matthews wrote: View Post
I have a question - two really - for Mr Threadgill.

Do you think your teacher if he is still alive (or if he was still alive) would be happy about you being patronizing to other martial artists, and does your understanding of the freedom of ri not include a continuing reponsibility to your teacher and to your ryuha?
Mr Matthews,

I've never bought into the politically correct concept that all opinions are valid. Unless you are so inclined I cannot figure out how you interpreted my comments as patronizing. I merely sought to express an opinion based on intimate personal experience, which I continue to believe the author does not have. If my attempt at providing an "educated" opinion still seems supercilious in your eyes, so be it. But consider this, Peter Goldsbury cited the article written by my teacher on this very subject because he obviously felt it to be worthy of consideration. Ushiro Kenji of Shindo ryu karate and Dr Fumiaki Shishida, the aikido 8th dan at Waseda University have both told me in person that they believe Takamura sensei's short article on Shu Ha Ri to be one of the most insightful they've ever read on the subject. After Takamura sensei's passing I was designated the technical and administrative head of TSYR. As the head of a koryu jujutsu school I am charged by blood oath to maintain our traditions, and one of those traditions is the Shu Ha Ri pedagogy. I think most people would believe that qualifies me to comment on the subject with some level of authority.

As for Takamura sensei himself, I'm not just convinced, but positive his response to the author would have been far less delicate than mine. Takamura sensei had little tolerance for the prognostications of armchair experts or those unaware of their own ignorance. Training under the man could be harsh, both physically and mentally. Consequently, I am very aware of my "responsibilities" to him and my ryuha because his uncompromising expectations were ground into my very soul.

FWIW....In our rather indulgent western culture maintaining Shu Ha Ri has been a huge challenge as most westerners chafe against a method that demands such unshakable dedication and patience. However, I feel I improve in this quest every year, and I feel confident my students would agree with me because it is they who enjoy the fruits of their dedication..... and the dedication of the uncompromising man who walked the path before us.

Tobin E Threadgill / TSYR

Last edited by Toby Threadgill : 07-07-2010 at 05:22 PM.
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Old 07-07-2010, 08:07 PM   #36
tarik
 
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

Quote:
Toby Threadgill wrote: View Post
Hello,

Rereading this thread it's obvious that many people including the author don't grasp the Shi Ha Ri process beyond a very superficial level. Without any first hand experience, these people are projecting their own preconceived notions onto a process much more culturally complex and nuanced than a simple western interpretation of the teacher/apprentice relationship.
Mr Threadgill,

Thank you for confirming my initial impressions of SHU HA RI and expanding my knowledge about it including via the referenced material.

My inclination is to believe that people all too frequently project their own preconceived notions and values onto complicated cultural arts and ideas such as such the bizarre labeling of Aikido as the "Art of Peace" rather than letting the thing itself inform and educate them about itself.

Best,

Tarik

Tarik Ghbeish
Jiyūshin-ryū AikiBudō - Iwae Dojo

MASAKATSU AGATSU -- "The true victory of self-mastery."
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Old 07-07-2010, 09:45 PM   #37
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

Thanks for that reply.

This is what was supercilious and unnecessary:

Quote:
Toby Threadgill wrote: View Post
Mr Roberson,
What I read in your writing demonstrates a lamentable ignorance concerning Shu Ha Ri, but then again, how you know what it is? You've obviously only read about it, never followed it.
Toby Threadgill / TSYR
I'm sure Ross doesn't need me to defend him. In fact Peter's and your interpretation of shu ra hi is how I have always understood it. But Japanese can be interpreted in several ways. Or Ross could deliberately be using it in a different way to make a point. Either way you could have explained it politely without the negative baggage - as you have done now, thank you.

I think you and other representatives of less popular martial arts would get more respect from the hundreds or thousands of people using these forums who do aikido if you were a little more patient and a little less negative. The way you are - hopefully - with your own students.

we can make our minds so like still water, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life
w b yeats


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Old 07-08-2010, 01:31 AM   #38
Toby Threadgill
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

Quote:
Niall Matthews wrote: View Post
I think you and other representatives of less popular martial arts would get more respect from the hundreds or thousands of people using these forums who do aikido if you were a little more patient and a little less negative. The way you are - hopefully - with your own students.
Mr Matthews,

You'll have to ask my students how I am with them as I'm a poor judge.

As for my post, I stand by what I said and how I said it. It was accurate, direct and to the point. If some people choose to interpret my pithy remarks as "patronizing", that's okay. Just don't expect me to lose any sleep over it.

FWIW....I have shihan level instructors from many diverse arts training with us in TSYR, including aikidoka, and Japanese. In fact TSYR has been growing so fast that I've had to slow its growth down. If I was truly patronizing or mailciously negative to aikidoka why would so many continue to join our organization?

Are you telling me its not my charming disposition?

Tobin E Threadgill / TSYR

Last edited by Toby Threadgill : 07-08-2010 at 01:36 AM.
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Old 07-08-2010, 01:31 AM   #39
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

I just noticed I mistyped shu ha ri and I don't want this to be any more confusing than it is already. In Japan it is even sometimes used as a cool restaurant name, say.

This is the wikipedia description:

"Shuhari is a Japanese martial art concept, and describes the stages of learning to mastery. It is sometimes applied to other disciplines, such as Go.

Shuhari roughly translates to Learn, Detach and Transcend.

Shu 守 (しゅ) "protect", "obey" traditional wisdom learning fundamentals, techniques, heuristics, proverbs
Ha 破 (は) "detach", "digress" breaking with tradition detachment from the illusions of Self.
Ri 離 (り) "leave", "separate" transcendence there are no techniques or proverbs, all moves are natural, becoming one with spirit alone without clinging to forms; trancending the physical.
Shuhari can be considered as concentric circles, with Shu within Ha, and both Shu and Ha within Ri. The fundamental techniques and knowledge do not change.[1]

During the Shu phase the student should loyally follow the instruction of a single teacher; the student is not yet ready to explore and compare different paths."

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shuhari

As Toby Threadgill and Dan Harden indicated this is a rather rare teacher/student model in the west. Or even in Japan in large organizations like the Aikikai or the Kodokan.

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Old 07-08-2010, 01:38 AM   #40
niall
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

Hi Mr Threadgill - I see your comment just crossed with mine. I don't mean to be personal. I thought your original comment was lacking in gentleness, shall we say? Magnanimity? If you are happy to give that impression that is cool with me and let's move on to more important things.

we can make our minds so like still water, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life
w b yeats


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Old 07-08-2010, 02:05 AM   #41
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

Mr. Threadgill, I understood you and thought you were very succinct and to the point. I agree that to really understand Shu Ha Ri you must have significant experience in that form of training. Along with some budo teachers, I knew a number of fine art students in Paris that were undergoing very similar training in Montmartre area while learning to paint from very traditional master teachers. If they didn't want to "keep and obey" the first level training methods, they were told to leave and make room for serious students. I seem to remember some very serious classical music and ballet teachers that used very similar methods also. Funny how that works...

Best regards,

Chuck Clark
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Old 07-08-2010, 05:46 PM   #42
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

There's very little literature in English about this traditional concept, but Donn Draeger covers it in his book "Classical Budo." He uses the terms "Shugyo" "Jitsu" and "Dou" (I think). Ellis Amdiur also addresses some aspects of this methodology in his excellent essay "Keppan" in the book "Old School". Pascal Krieger's English/French work "The Way of the Stick" also covers some aspects.

I think all three are worth reading along with Takamura Sensei's essay to get an insight into the subject.

And one could always go out and train
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Old 07-08-2010, 06:46 PM   #43
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

I too was drawn to thinking about this in terms of being a musician - I went through some of this kind of process at the hands of Robben Ford and blues music many years ago - ended up in the Ri "stage" eventually with the following - to me an important aspect is that even when one diverges creatively, everything is still based on recognizable fundamental principles:

http://www.novickmusic.com/GonnaNeedMeIntro.mp3

Larry Novick
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ACE Aikido
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Old 07-09-2010, 11:03 AM   #44
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

Without pretending that I have any insight at all into the notion of shu ha ri . . one of the questions I ask of myself and anyone else that starts speaking about their "innovation" (or often in the cases of an online forum, simply their "opinion" - even if they don't realize that's all it is) on a form is whether they have any right, authority or credibility to have a reasonably valid comment or approach regarding such a thing. And this goes much farther than just martial arts related disciplines.
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Old 07-09-2010, 11:31 AM   #45
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

Quote:
Budd Yuhasz wrote: View Post
... whether they have any right, authority or credibility to have a reasonably valid comment or approach regarding such a thing. And this goes much farther than just martial arts related disciplines.
The tricky part is how does one become proficient enough to recognize authority. Rights and credibility seem a different categorization than authority. 'Sensei says' is different from '4 out of 5 dentists recommend' or 'internationally recognized' and still leaves one wondering whither lay the authoritative source.

Perhaps it really comes down to the individual student/seeker 'grants' authority to whom ever they wish and goes from there. Choose wisely.

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Old 07-09-2010, 01:52 PM   #46
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

Quote:
Robert M Watson Jr wrote: View Post
The tricky part is how does one become proficient enough to recognize authority. Rights and credibility seem a different categorization than authority. 'Sensei says' is different from '4 out of 5 dentists recommend' or 'internationally recognized' and still leaves one wondering whither lay the authoritative source.
Yup, which might actually put some onus on the person that uses the phrase, "Sensei says" to understand that it doesn't necessarily mean anything to justify their point unless they can demonstrate (beyond said "Sensei" being their sensei) why that makes the Sensei's opinion worth listening to -- beyond the individual choice they made to grant said sensei authority over them to begin with . .

Quote:
Robert M Watson Jr wrote: View Post
Perhaps it really comes down to the individual student/seeker 'grants' authority to whom ever they wish and goes from there. Choose wisely.
Yes, it does go from there - but again that's the individual's choice - which doesn't transmute the individual or collective choices of calling someone "sensei" to mean anything beyond that. Like I don't necessarily look for a martial arts teacher to give me an opinion on religion or politics. And if they do, I don't give it anymore weight because they are my teacher.

An absurd example was in the early days of the martial arts craze as depicted in the media - where anyone with a black belt was automatically good looking, a ninja and drove a fancy car.
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Old 07-09-2010, 02:54 PM   #47
Janet Rosen
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

Quote:
Budd Yuhasz wrote: View Post
An absurd example was in the early days of the martial arts craze as depicted in the media - where anyone with a black belt was automatically good looking, a ninja and drove a fancy car.
WAIT A MINUTE, THERE, BUDD! You mean I'm NOT going to get the fancy car? Well, shoot.... I may as well quit right now....

Janet Rosen
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Old 07-12-2010, 11:51 AM   #48
R.A. Robertson
Dojo: Still Point Aikido Center
Location: Austin, TX, USA
Join Date: Jul 2002
Posts: 293
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Re: Breaking Shu Ha Ri

Quote:
Jeff Black wrote: View Post
Ross, continuing to think about this.
Just started reading Cheng Hsin: The Principles of Effortless Motion.

"Only the 'form" survives of anything created and then passed on in time, since creativity resides within what is formless and this formlessness cannot survive, having never existed. Therefore, only when the form is being consciously created in this moment is it tuly useful and representative of its orgin. Otherwise it is hollow and useless, simply abinding force, a limitation."

There is always form, it comes from the formless. It comes from the interaction with your partner. I am starting to see/feel how takemusu arises... Earlier you mentioned feeling what your partner is giving you. I am feeling that if you are not connected with your partner you are not doing Aikido.

The response from the formlessness to what your partner gives you is limitless. The form then is limitless.
Cheers,
Jeff,

You really should share your whole reading list. That's two wonderful quotes from two different sources in this thread alone. Not to mention your own insights:

"The response from the formlessness to what your partner gives you is limitless. The form then is limitless."

What you say in your post resonates very strongly with my own experience of aikido. However, problems arise in training when a teacher is trying to create a context for students to experience something in particular (whether form or formlessness or both), but your uke has not got the sophistication to adequately collaborate in creating that experience. So we become divided in our need to obey the teacher and learn the lesson (have the experience) versus engaging truly with the reality of what uke gives us. Because of this fissure, the lesson is broken.

Mending the crack, or reconciling the divergence between sensei and uke, in itself is a tremendously valuable experience, with much to be gained in the attempt. Yet I think more efficient ways exist, and I think it's the responsibility of the instructor to convey certain experiences that allow for the inevitable diversity of experience.

I do think that obedience to a trustworthy teacher is paramount. In return, the teacher must foster creativity always, and help the student see the art from their own perspective. Not a single one of my teachers ever expected me to do aikido from their center -- each was passionately devoted to helping me find my own, and to understand how that unique center connects with others.

Thanks,

Ross
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