Shuhari is a Japanese martial art concept which describes the stages of learning to mastery. It is sometimes applied to other disciplines, such as Go.

Shuhari roughly translates to “to keep, to fall, to break away” or “follow the rules, break the rules, transcend the rules”.

Shuhari can be decomposed in 3 kanjis:

  • shu (守) “protect”, “obey”—traditional wisdom—learning fundamentals, techniques, heuristics, proverbs.
  • ha (破) “detach”, “digress”—breaking with tradition—detachment from the illusions of self, to break with tradition - to find exceptions to traditional wisdom, to find new approaches. In some styles of Japanese music (gagaku and noh), it is also the middle of the song.
  • 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 - there is no traditional technique or wisdom, all movements are allowed.

(“Shuhari” 2023)