On Shu Ha Ri - The Path Of Self Mastery

Shu Ha Ri is a model of learning derived from a Japanese martial arts philosophy. Charting three steps which trails the practitioner’s progress from an initiate to intermediary and an expert, Shu Ha Ri has practical application in modern organizations.

Let’s take a closer look at the three stages in Shu Ha Ri .


The first of the three phases, in Shu, the practitioner(or ‘disciple’ if you like your terminologies arcane) is completely committed to following all the things the teacher taught them. In the original martial arts-inspired philosophy, this phase would have the practitioner discipline themselves so that their bodies could absorb the forms which the forebears have created or designed. Absolutely no deviation in these forms are allowed in this phase. The sole objective of this phase is for you to learn all the conventional models which the forebears have found successful in their practice. In other words, if you’re looking to apply some critical thinking, you would have to wait a bit.

Influencde Map

And that’s not as bad a thing as it may sound like. For one thing, you do learn new things in this phase. Your focus is solely on learning the new approach or technique which you learn in a gradual manner. This is the phase in which you get as intimate as possible with the new technique, assimilating as many details about it as possible. To do this, you may have to repeat certain rules over and over again until it becomes a part of your psyche.

This principle is at play in Temenos Vision Lab or TVL- a session developed by Temenos+Agility based on 25 years of business consultancy experience, that helps change agents develop their vision. In TVL, the change agents are also encouraged to share their vision with others. In fact, a rule of thumb is that you need to repeat the vision with at least ten others for it to reinforce in your mind. This is encouraged as team members share their vision with each other in TVL.

The beauty of the Shu phase is the single-pointed devotion that you show towards learning something new. And in TVL, that devotion is not only encouraged but also nurtured.


In the Ha phase, the practitioner has progressed, so much so that s/he is thoroughly well-versed in all the rules of the new technique. More importantly, they also know how to break those rules for success when necessary.

There is a creative angle to this phase as well, in that practitioners may discard rules to innovate a form or technique. Such innovations may well be born out of necessity, forced by external circumstances. But for an ingenious change agent, the familiarity with the rules also give them the chance to blend or even bend the rules to give vent to the creative energy in them. The results could be often wonderful and may even help their organizations progress exponentially than was thought before.

But the verve for free thinking may be blocked in the change agents by their own mental apprehensions. These apprehensions may be about people or processes and they may have acquired these from poor past experiences. This makes them apprehensive to changes, to get into a mental framework to innovate.

The Clean Slate session in TVL helps change agents clear their minds of such negativities that pull them back. This allows them to wield the full power of the learnings they acquired in the Shu phase and innovate without their own mental inhibitions coming in the way.

Ri (離)

Passing through the phases of Shu and Ha, the practitioner has come to the final phase- one where they have complete mastery over the technique. A literal translation of the word ‘Ri’ is “Be the rule.” And that is very much the case in this phase.


The Ri phase, like in a beautiful song, is one of great harmony with your self

For, even when they are careful not to overstep the laws, they could bend or break the rules to refine the technique, to pave a new way forward, so much so that it becomes almost second nature to them. In fact, the confidence and self-assurance of the practitioner at the Ri phase is such that they may even completely abandon the rules in their single minded pursuit of a goal. Needless to say, the practitioner is now more than equipped to be a teacher themselves, and this is the phase in which they contribute to the furtherance of the technique.

The caveat is that the breaking of rules become truly useful only if it’s done with a vision in mind. Your True Personal Vision is something that should be discovered in your own self and nowhere else. Only, many times, distractions and confusions mask the vision from us, so that we feel directionless to grow. Using psychological insights and with the aid of the proprietary tool, Influence Maps TVL helps you discover your True Personal Vision, so that you could channel your ingenuity you have garnered by reaching Ri in the optimal direction.

Temenos Effect Gathering

Temenos Effect Gathering 2018- Bengaluru, India(Dec 29, 2018)

An event dedicated to the idea of personal mastery, for nurturing your beautiful self, for change agents and leaders to become their true selves.

For more details, visit our website: https://www.visiontemenos.com/events

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