Budo Training – Shu Ka Ri
Yukiyoshi Takamura Sensei
Submitted by: Anonymous
Interviewer: How did you find learning & teaching different in the west compared to Japan?
Takamura Sensei: When I first came to America I realized that the western mind was not going to be taught in the same way as a Japanese mind. The American situation was just too different. Americans are by nature more skeptical and suspicious than Japanese. Western freedom of thought permits a student to examine and question things in a way that would be totally inappropriate in Japan.
This is both good and bad. On the bad side, it can lead a student to dismiss a technique or concept as invalid just because he has not put in the time to learn it properly or delve into its secrets. Students that fall into this trap never master their basics. Later in their training you find gaping holes left by ignoring important lessons that the student chose not to pursue because he couldn’t see the value in them. When I find a student like this I usually will not accept him. It is too much trouble to undo the damage done by this mindset and a mediocre sensei.
On the good side, it allows for a much greater flow of information between student and teacher. It also allows a greater level of creativity by the student. Students with strong basics and freedom of thought far outdistance the more traditional Japanese model. The best of both worlds actually exists in concept in Japan. It is called “Shu Ha Ri.” It is a theoretical method for transmitting any classical ryu. In practice however I believe it has had limited success.
Cultural realities in Japan historically don’t encourage individuality. So while a great foundation for learning is built, the creative freedom to expand upon it is seldom realized. For proof of this just look at what has happened in Judo, or even Sumo for that matter. The more innovative foreigners have been dominating Judo. Europeans and Korean’s are impressively driving the technical innovations in that sport. Foreigners are slowly making these same inroads into Sumo.
Sometimes Shu Ha Ri is correctly applied and innovative traditionalism keeps the arts core and practical truths in tact. Tenshin Shoden Katori Shinto Ryu is one of the rare examples in the koryu world where Shu Ha Ri has in my opinion been successful