Shuhari: Keep, Break, Separate

For October 15, 2018


守破離 (shuhari) is a Japanese martial art concept that describes the stages of learning from beginning to mastery. There are various translations, but I think of it as “Learn the rules, break the rules, and free from the rules.”



Chinese character: 守
Chinese character: 破
Chinese character: 離
The first character, 守 (shu), means to keep, guard, protect, or defend. To master anything and to eventually create your own style, you first need to learn the fundamentals. 守 (shu) is an inch (寸) under a roof (宀). Think of it it as staying close to home or following closely to what you’re learning.


The second character, 破 (ha), means to break. This character consists of a rock (石) and the skin (皮). After you have mastered the fundamental rules, your next step is to break through any obstacles—like using a rock to break the skin or the shell, properly and artfully.


The third character, 離 (ri), means to separate. The character 離 (ri) consists of pictograms of an animal (离) and a bird (). For easy learning, imagine the pictogram of the unknown animal (离) to be a scarecrow separating the bird (隹) from crops, keeping it away. After you have mastered the fundamentals and broken the rules properly and artfully, you are ready to be separated, free from the rules, and create your own unique style.



Inches from the Hawk


So the character 守 (shu) means to guard, protect, or defend. It’s an inch (寸) under a roof (宀).


My friends had two pet rabbits in their backyard in Fresno. One day, one of the rabbits disappeared. So now they have only one. The friends said a big hawk has been hanging around on their garden fountain. Interestingly, the remaining rabbit has been hanging around the bush next to the fountain. I think the rabbit is quite smart. The hawk can’t just jump two feet to grab a rabbit. It needs to rise high enough to gain speed and force before descending on its prey. Since the rabbit is so close to the hawk, as soon as the hawk moves, it can easily hear it and has enough time to run somewhere else to hide. Thus for this rabbit, the seemly most dangerous place, inches from the hawk, turns out to be the safest.



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