離 Ri – To go beyond all knowledge (The pupil exceeds its master)
Ri can be translated as separation, leave, depart (from), release, set free, detach; there are no more techniques, proverbs etc.
Ri, in ShuHaRi, is to transcend. This is to go beyond traditional learning and all available knowledge. In this stage, the student is no longer a student, in the normal sense, but rather a “pioneering practitioner.”
One must now think originally and develop from one’s own background knowledge, using original thoughts about the art and test them against the reality of his or her knowledge of everyday life.
In Ri, the art truly becomes the practitioner’s own and to some extent, his or her own creation. This stage is the completion of one’s study, though it is not the end of study. The “student” is now given recognition as a “Master of the art”, independent in the art. One has acquired every required technical skill, knowledge and experience. Spiritually or mentally one no longer depends or relies upon external help or guidance.
ShuHaRi is not linear
ShuHaRi is not a linear progression. It is more akin to concentric circles, so that there is Shu within Ha and both Shu and Ha within Ri. Thus, the fundamentals remain constant; only the application of them and the subtleties of their execution change as the student progresses and his or her own personality begins to flavor the techniques performed.
Chiba-Sensei’s vision on the value of ShuHaRi:
Whether the above-mentioned system is still practiced in today’s Aikido in Japan, or whether it is workable here in the United States where culture, life-style, and way of thinking are so different, is not my present interest. I am convinced, however, that this system still carries profound value for today’s society, as it presents deep insight into the growth of humankind. Furthermore, it clarifies the responsibilities of the teacher and student, thus contributing to the establishment of an ideal relationship between the two.
The Implications of ShuHaRi
Where it is in the nature of the ShuHaRi learning system to challenge the student to exceed its master, it seams to me that in our society it is more a matter of sheer luck when a student exceeds his master.
Our vision on Education and Master level
First of all there is no clear ‘master’ or even a ‘school’ to identify with, or better to measure up, although some universities do a wonderful job to become excellent in their field. And even so, it is very rare to see a clear unique vision, a master level that the student can level up to.
The way we reward
In our highly competitive environment we all have our personal targets. I have rarely seen that sharing knowledge, being a good master to a (group of) student(s) would be rewarded or highly appreciated. In best case it is “a necessary evil that would be tolerated“.
Where in the Japanese (or should I say the Buddhist-Asian) culture being a Sensei (a Master that Teaches) is a highly respected status, here (not only in Holland) it is something for people we pity; it is like a self fulfilling prophecy: If we do not respect and reward our real sensei’s, how can we expect the real masters to become a good sensei?
Lacking basic skills being internalized
It is not usual to invest in internalizing basic skills and knowledge as practiced in the Shu phase. Even artisans develop most of their skills after school, when they are lucky enough to meet a good master. One that has the skills, the ability and patience to teach the youngster. In modern education I miss the internalization of the most basic skills and values. “We show you once, we ask you if you know it, and if you can give a satisfying answer we forget about it” is what I experienced in most of my own education…
Albert Einstein about our learning-factories:
(in a message to the students at the State University of New York in Albany on 15 October 1936)
„To me the worst thing seems to be a school that principally works with methods of fear, force and artificial authority. Such treatment destroys the sound sentiments, the sincerity and the self-confidence of pupils and produces a subservient subject. It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge. One should guard against preaching to young people success in the customary form as the main aim in life. The most important motive for study at school, at the university and in life is the pleasure of working and thereby obtaining results which will serve the community. The most important task for our educators is to awaken and encourage these psychological forces in a young man or woman. Such a basis alone can lead to the joy of possessing one of the most precious assets in the world – knowledge or artistic skill.”
Having good Sensei’s
- Maybe the lack of good sensei’s is the reason we so easily assume that knowledge and skills come ‘automatically’. Just look how a new operator enters a factory and starts operating a multi thousand dollar piece of equipment…. In Japan I visited factories where more than 80% of the operators had a national qualification as Maintenance Engineer. Not because they needed the maintenance skills, but this was the key to fully understand the equipment they operated.
- Going through the ShuHaRi system not only creates good discipline. It will be most certainly a serious test to the motivation and the ambition of the student. In my daily practice I meet too many people that went through an education without a trace of the ‘fire, enthusiasm, ambition and pride’ that I would expect from someone who just spent 6 or more years in a ‘learning factory’. The result: Weak students with poor motivation can survive. And even worse: talented students become dropouts because the system does not challenge them enough. Learning too often has been reduced to ‘get your paper’ instead of ‘Mastering the Art’
Dr. W. Edwards Deming’s vision on the basis of his improvement (learning!) strategy:
Deming referred often to the Bible. His favorite statement was that of King Solomon in the Book of Ecclesiastes, Chapter 3, Verse 22 (New International Version, NIV):
“So I (Solomon) saw that there is nothing better for a man than to enjoy his work, because that is his lot. For who can bring him to see what will happen after him?”
Understanding the value of the Shu
Understanding the value of the Shu phase, creates an other perspective for our contemptuous attitude towards the Japanese being ‘just copiers’. To copy something from someone you consider to be a master is an act of respect to that master and a natural thing to do if you want to learn something.
How do we learn to play piano? For years we try to play someone else’s music; to copy as a learning strategy. When we master the technique fully, we will start to give our own interpretation to the play, put our own emotion and emphasis in it. Only than and not before we might grow to the level where we would create and play our own music and just maybe that might be better than the music we copied from. And yet we despise the Japanese for learning that way, we think we are brilliant enough to skip the Shu and Ha phase and start in Ri….
Resistance to copy from the master
In the ShuHaRi system there is no resistance to copy from the master, to learn from the master what one can learn, without doubt and questioning.
Why should you? He is years ahead of you and has proven to be a master. How different in our society. Even the most brilliant concepts and skills taught by the best teachers to a random group of brilliant or retarded students always gets a variation on the same theme as response: a declaration why we can not accept what the speaker just said. The first response is always one to justify why we should not just accept and use what was told. This is perfectly legitimate if we do not know the level of mastership of the speaker but that is not the issue. In our culture it is simply not done to learn from someone by copying -thus using- proven quality.
Not Invented Here
We have to invent ourselves. Even if we have no basic knowledge at all. Why else do we suffer from the Not-Invented-Here-Syndrome? Do you now understand why it is so difficult to implement standardized work-procedures and beautiful tools like 5S workplace organization? We get the shivers just by the idea to adopt something from someone else.
There are regional differences in ‘the West’. For example in countries like Brazil and Argentina, the implementation of World Class techniques like Lean and TPM are surprisingly successful. Why? There is less resistance to proven quality as a ‘not invented here thing’. My careful conclusion is that this is a result of a perceived underdog position. If you look up to someone else it is more easy to accept what happens there as an example. Japan and the US could be a role model to the Brazilians so why should you not copy their strategies like Lean and TPM?
Japan after WW II
The same happened in Japan after WW II. Juran and Deming where fully accepted. The books from Henri Ford (even in 1950 already forgotten in the West) where ‘law’ to every industrial engineer. Why? Because for the first time in the modern Japanese history there had been a nation that was powerful enough to strike the ‘Great Empire’. This was a Master! Those people had power and knowledge that one could achieve…. by copying! No hard feelings, no false pride, just learn and become better… ShuHaRi, and the rest is history……
(I did not carefully stipulate every individual source in this text, but my gratitude is immense to all the sources mentioned below that offered the right definitions, kanji and explanations of ShuHaRi.)
1. Kuroda, Ichitaro “Shu-Ha-Ri” Sempo Spring 1994 pp 9-10
2. McCarthy, Patrick “The World Within Karate & Kinjo Hiroshi” Journal of Asian Martial Arts. V. 3 No. 2 1994
3. Fox, Ron; MWKF “SHU HA RI” The Iaido Newsletter Volume 7 number 2 #54 FEB 1995
4. Chiba, T.K. “Structure of Shu, Ha, Ri, and Penetration of Shoshin” Sansho, Vol. 6, No 2, Winter 1989 (Read complete Article)
5. The Swiss Deming Institute (Read more about Dr. Deming)