Traditions of the Martial Arts; Kodo, the ‘Ancient Ways’

Traditions of the Martial Arts

                                                                                                                    Kodo          Ancient Ways


There are three (3) levels in the pursuit of mastering a Japanese martial art; Shu/Ha/Ri. Generally, there are three separate Kanji (Japanese pictographs) for these terms;


Shu is the essence of the art. It means to train exactly as the instructor teaches. Duplicate every movement and try to perfect it. This is not something that is accomplished in a few years. Some exceptional students rush through this in a flashing 12 to 15 years. These people then become instructors, and teach the fundamentals of the art while entering the Ha stage of training.


Ha is the stage of training at which the student is starting to break down the techniques to totally understand the principles involved and how they get into other applications. This is a defining point in the student’s self-awareness and his ability to expand his or her understanding of what the art is all about from a mechanical perspective. To destroy their previous perception of what the art was and transform it into unlimited possibilities. Just as the Shu stage, the Ha stage does not happen overnight. If one is an exceptional student, one may develop this concept in as little as 10 to 15 years. Most individuals that have progressed through the Shu stage without the proper attitude find it extremely difficult to understand that this stage is not the know-all end-all. The major stumbling block to the elimination of the expansion of the ego.


Ri is now within reach for you, but only if you have overcome the self-importance that plagues most of the individuals that they have reached this level. This is the level of transcending the consciousness of movement.

This level is about becoming one with the “Spirit” of the power of movement without restrictions. Transcending the physical self and allowing the “Mushin Muso” (having no conscious mind). Becoming the water with no resistance, but with ultimate power.” This is the stage when you step outside yourself to become much more than the physical.


The American approach to Martial arts is one that has damaged the arts to the point of extinction. The martial arts are not about winning trophies, or becoming a celebrity. The martial arts are about developing self-awareness, taking the time to understand who and what you are through introspection and contemplation. The many so-called masters will find themselves greatly lacking in humility even as they claim the opposite.

The typical American ‘marital artist; goes from the ‘Shu’ stage to the ‘Ri’ stage and has no idea what the art is. They are typical ‘surface dwellers.’

In the Asian culture they have a saying; “In the West, people know a thing an inch deep and mile long. In the East, people know a thing a mile deep and an inch long.”

I was once had a friend from Sweden, and who had not been back to her homeland in 17 years. She told me she was going home to see her parents and was very excited about the reunion. Before she left, she took a couple (2) classes in yoga. She left for home and I did not see her for about a month. Upon her return I asked about her trip. She said her mother was very happy to see her and could not hug her enough. Her father was angry with her as well as disappointed. I inquired, “How could this be, he has not seen you in 17 years? How could he not be excited and filled with joy?”

She told her father she was going back to the U.S. to start a yoga school. She had taken two (2) classes and felt it would be her new career. Her father made the statement that says it all:


“Only in America can you be a student today and a teacher tomorrow!”