Summary of notes from instructor course


Shu-Ha- Ri

This is a concept that explains the different stages in the training or journey in Karate, or martial arts.

Although grade levels are unimportant in this concept. I like to use them to provide milestones or landmarks that are easily recognizable to the Karate practitioner.


Shu: (Imitate)

Is the first level and would be comparable to first day at school or starting an apprenticeship, through to graduation or completion of a trade.

In this period, the basics are studied and practiced with correct form and adherence to perfecting technique. It is of paramount importance for a serious practitioner to seek the best instructor or school possible for this period. Unfortunately there is a lot of luck and good fortune involved in finding the right instructor.

Correct form must be demanded, just as though you would demand a good job from an apprentice who needs to make a living from his trade.

Having found a good instructor; it is the duty and obligation of the student to make progress in mastering the fundamentals, sources of body power, form and delivery of techniques. Basic Kata should be studied and practiced with diligence and application in mind.

In addition, emotional stability should be explored in everyday training and particularly in pressure situations such as Kumite and grading exams.

The “Shu” stage maybe attained prior to Shodan level but that is the exception rather than the norm. Which is one of the main reasons most quit either prior to or at Shodan level. In practice most students do not get past this “Shu” stage at all. Even after many years of study. There are many reasons for this “plateau” type of stagnation at the Shu level. Most can be attributed to enforced Dojo loyalty or lack of encouragement to seek or think outside of the box.

Further in depth discussion of this aspect of training and development is recommended. Not only for instructors, but an explanation of the process can prove enlightening and instructive for students at this stage of development.


Ha: (Assimilate)

At this point in the journey; with his fundamentals and basic concepts supporting his techniques, he starts to look at the underlying principles and theory behind his practice. This stage is usually around Sandan level. The learned techniques are applicable; form and timing of Kata are usually personalized to some degree, and in most Dojo’s there may be some element of assisting in instruction. The student should, at this stage also feel some ownership in his particular style or Dojo. He may begin to branch out, seeking or looking at other styles or masters, and may integrate this into his training. If you are a confident, competent instructor this is something that should be encouraged. Let the student know he is a representative of the Dojo or style. I personally try and make all my students exceed my limitations and let them find theirs. They are all going to be better than me.


Ri: (Innovate)

Now the student is not learning from other people or masters, but from his own practice. He creates his own adaptations and approach to technique, to his own circumstances and ability. There is still an element of learning as there is in all aspects of life. But at this stage he is very open to other styles and ideas that may support his theories and practice. He will have developed drills and methods to reinforce any innovations to support his training.

With regard to rank this is usually around Godan, and at this stage a student should feel more of an owner in his style or Dojo.



Adapted from:

Dreyfus model of skill acquisition:

Shu-Ha- Ri Toyota:

Hakan Forss The learning cycle: