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Shuhari – martial art concept which describes the stages of learning to mastery

Shuhari is a martial arts concept that describes the three stages of learning from beginner to advanced level.

Shu () – Learning – in which the student learns the basics of their art. In this stage, the student must obey the teacher, the traditions, and the standards set by the teacher.

Ha () – Detachment – in which the student begins to break from the mold of limited standards. In this stage, the student begins to apply their own personal experience and knowledge to their martial art.

Ri () – Transcendence – in which the student begins to act naturally with their environment. All things become natural, and there is no clinging to the unnecessary. In this stage, the student gives freely, aware that The Way works through the understanding of no-thing (Void or Emptiness).

“It is known that, when we learn or train in something, we pass through the stages of shu, ha, and ri. These stages are explained as follows. In shu, we repeat the forms and discipline ourselves so that our bodies absorb the forms that our forebears created. We remain faithful to these forms with no deviation. Next, in the stage of ha, once we have disciplined ourselves to acquire the forms and movements, we make innovations. In this process, the forms may be broken and discarded. Finally, in ri, we completely depart from the forms, open the door to creative technique, and arrive in a place where we act in accordance with what our heart/mind desires, unhindered while not overstepping laws.”

Many will believe that they are advanced students after attaining their first dan black belts. The truth is that many black belts, even second or third dan, are still at the Shu stage of learning. Even some fifth or sixth dan, may yet be at the Ha stage.

Martial arts are a long, deep, sometimes arduous journey. A true understanding of The Way of Martial Arts can take a lifetime to achieve. Hence the saying “Martial Arts are a Way of Life”.

Only by living in The Way, can a person hope to reach the Ri stage, once they’ve given themselves in mind and spirit to their martial art.

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