Shuhari: a mental model for the phases of mastery

– *Shu* (守), *“protect”*, *“follow the rule”*: in this phase the
practitioner apply every method, approach or rule that the teacher
provides. The rule is followed to the letter. This is where it’s important
to follow every detail, even if it seems unimportant, and not deviate from
the teachings. This is the phase when a new discipline, approach or
technique is learned in its intimacy, step by step. The rules are also
repeated over and over in order to assimilate them. This is important not
because a specific path is better than the other, but because following a
single path till the end is the most efficient way to learn.
– *Ha* (破), *“cut”*, *“break the rule”*: the practitioner has now
reached a level where all the rules are well known and it’s possible to
break them when necessary. The practitioner is also able to teach other
learners, discuss the topic and improve the discipline itself. This is when
the rules are questioned, the reason of their existence is put into the
spotlight and the foundation becomes visible from the high point of the
*Shu* studies.
– *Ri* (離), *“depart”*, *“be the rule”*: the practitioner now doesn’t
just follow the rule, methods and approaches: the practitioner is the rule,
transcends the rule. The concepts are so well assimilated that are second
nature, and they can be even completely abandoned if the goal requires it.
The practitioner is extending the discipline.