Shuhari – “Preserve, Break, Leave”

There are considered 3 phases of training in Bujinkan Ninjutsu (and most Japanese Martial Arts) – “Shu, Ha & Ri”. These phases focus on what the intention and the approach of the student should be towards their training at a particular level.

Shu – “Preserve/Obey”

9th Kyu to Yondan (4th Degree)/Approx. first 6 years

The concept of “Preserve/Obey” is that you learn the technique as it is. There are no variations or departure from the technique. This ensures the full concept of the techniques are absorbed and internalized.

There is temptation to experiment with techniques while they are first being learned. Bujinkan Ninjutsu was borne out of combat. This means that ineffective techniques literally died on the battlefield. This concept is somewhat foreign to studying martial arts in modern times since most practitioners aren’t constantly involved in combat. However, realize that most of these techniques were constantly being used in warfare. This means if a soldier died in battle, the technique also died. This was the importance of sticking to the technique as it was being learned – to fully understand it’s implications.

Ha – “Break (Away)”

Yondan to Shihan (10th Degree)

The second phase, the “Break”, is achieved after techniques are learned, and variation is introduced. The practitioner begins to explore “henka” (variation) in order to adapt each technique to many situations and reactions of opponents. This lends itself to the flexibility and interconnectivity of techniques.

Ri – “Leave (Behind)”

Shihan and Forward

The last phase is “Leave”, which is the most advanced phase. This means a practitioner leaves the techniques, and creates new technique. This is closely tied to the concept of “Ku” (void), as in to move without thought as the practitioner and the art become one. Specific technique(s) are gone as only the practitioner’s movement is left.

By understanding the phase of training you’re in, you begin to understand the purpose of your training and your role in learning the technique. “Preserve” the technique until you’re ready to “Break” the technique until you’re finally ready to “Leave” the technique all together.

Shidoshi Hamilton

<p>Scott Hamilton is an 8th degree black belt in the Bujinkan, and travels regularly to Japan to train. In addition to being the owner and head instructor of Todai Dojo, Scott is also the CEO of a national manufacturing company. He has also received training in other martial arts, and in-depth modern weapons training.</p>

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