By Kevin Vandeyck Ph.D

A true understanding of SHU-HA-RI is the true cornerstone of all classical Martial Arts and certainly within Ninjutsu.

The three Characters represent the stages of development a student will go through to complete comprehension of that discipline.

Shuhari roughly translates to "first learn, then detach, and finally transcend."

shu (守) "protect", "obey" traditional wisdom learning fundamentals, techniques, heuristics, proverbs

ha (破) "detach", "digress" breaking with tradition detachment from the illusions of self

ri (離) "leave", "separate" transcendence there are no techniques or proverbs, all moves are natural, becoming one with spirit alone without clinging to forms; transcending the physical



SHU = The student finds a teacher in whom they believe completely.  This is the formative period and a time when a strong foundation of basic knowledge is essential.  The teachings of the instructor go unquestioned and their direction is followed with total faith.  It is the stage where the student gives total commitment and dedication.  The completion of this stage is measured in endeavour and not in time.

HA = In this stage the student allows themselves to search in other directions than those of their original teachings.  These original skills are now a natural part of them.  They pervade their mind, body and spirit, while retaining the obligation to their original teachings.  The student now begins to absorb knowledge from other sources and incorporate it into their being. 

RI = In this final stage the student has gained an expert knowledge in various systems.  They are now a master and may express their own understanding in and through the system.  They have reached a state of maturity through their trials, hardships and training that makes this final step possible.

SHUHARI is a state of development which is not reached in a few weeks or even a few years.  It is a deeply profound transition from student to master.