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Shu-ha-ri

A concept that is often used to describe a student's progression through training. "Shu" means "conservative" and is often translated as "tradition." The beginning student learns the fundamentals of the art form, and all the techniques and kata, essentially as her teacher has shown her. "Ha" means "break" and has been variously interpreted in Western martial art circles as "breaking the tradition" or even "breaking with your teacher." However, it could also mean breaking as in "breakthrough in understanding", i.e., going beyond the mechanics of the techniques to discover their underlying meaning. "Ri," therefore, which has been interpreted in the West as "founding your own style," or even "preserving the style but adding to it," means "freedom" and could instead be interpreted as "owning the kata," establishing one's own identity within the traditionally arranged and performed techniques. Iaido at this point becomes very like free-flowing movement. Few practitioners attain this level, though it remains a goal of training, however elusive.


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