Shu – Ha – Ri
During your training in Ninjutsu, you will transition through many development stages. Along this path, you will have to
overcome obstacles that hinder or slow your progress. I have been asked by many students wondering about what to concentrate on, or what is right or wrong at each of these stages. They see senior students training on the kihon happo, and various henka, and ask me “what is right?”, “where should I focus my next practice on?” “how can I progress faster?”My answer to
these questions, are the principles contained within “shu – ha – ri. “
To grasp the principles contained in shu – ha – ri, you must start at shu (Protect).
In “protecting” one’s art, and at the simplest of understanding, each of us, have to start with
the fundamentals of our art, and practice them diligently. There is no need to forget them in fact you must master them for a true understanding of that which you practice. Training daily in the fundamentals of ninjutsu, like the sanshin
no kata, happo no sabbaki, kihon happo, and the kata of the various ryuha that comprise the curriculum of ninjutsu.
In Soke Hatsumi’s words,
“It means a Budoka obeying that which he must while pursuing Bufu Ikkan, and refers
to a process where one is consistent and single minded about observing kihon
happo, budo techniques, one’s attitude when learning budo, and the rules of
“Protecting” is the essence of learning a warrior tradition, the lessons being taught in these basic and sometimes even advanced lessons, are ones that have been gleaned from successful combative encounters, and can form the basis for many strategies, that you can employ in self protection or the protection of others. They may include deceptive tactics (kyojitsu tenkan no ho),
solid fighting tactics or even avoidance method. This stage in your training should not be glanced over or even treated as being “just a beginner”, as it is here you will form a firm and deep understanding of the systems fundamentals.
Remember, “We all need to continue to develop a beginner’s heart.”
In my many years of training and teaching I have run across several if not many low level instructors teaching in a very mediocre manner when this most basic of steps was left out of their training. This could be due to their Instructor’s teaching or even the young instructor simply deciding that they did not need to learn and master their fundamentals of their system in
this manner. What is sad is that many are not even aware of their deficit and their students will only suffer for it.
So I end this post with a question and a request: Honestly reflect and self examine where you are today in your training, and if you have not mastered the fundamentals and are protecting your art, take a step back and learn with a beginner’s mind once again.
(As I am preparing Lesson 3 for release, there is an 8 page component covering “shu” which includes a checklist to help you stay on track.)