Tuesday, August 26, 2008


From Wikipedia:

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

A rough translation of the three stages:

  1. Shu ("protect", "obey") — traditional wisdom — learning fundamentals, techniques, heuristics, proverbs
  2. Ha ("detach", "digress") — breaking with tradition — finding exceptions to traditional wisdom, reflecting on their truth, finding new ways, techniques, and proverbs
  3. Ri ("leave", "separate") — transcendence — there are no techniques or proverbs, all moves are natural
Back in my Goju-Ryu karate/martial arts days, this was how students were supposed to progress in "The Way of the Empty Hand" ("Karate-Do" - "Karate" meaning "Empty Hand", and "Do" meaning "The Way".)

The concept of Shu-Ha-Ri can be applied to the mastery of any discipline - even Tango.

In the "Shu" stage, one starts off in Tango learning the basics, adhering to fundamentals. In the "Ha" stage, one takes what is learned in the "Shu" stage but starts to find new applications, new directions. In the "Ri" stage, one transcends - and "forgets" about conscious adherence to the techniques one has learned for perfect free expression of one's dance.

But since we are all apparently Tango geniuses in Toronto (can you say "tango teacher to student parity"? Every second person you talk to is giving private classes. Bet you can't get that just anywhere), Toronto has it's own very special take on Shu-Ha-Ri:

1. Toronto "SHU" - See ad for latest workshop. Pay for and take the said workshop.

2. Toronto "HA" - Adamantly do your own thing at the workshop irregardless of what is being taught. Maybe even teach a "better version" of the workshop material to your hapless workshop partner.

3. Toronto "RI" - Promptly forget about everything you learned at the workshop. You weren't paying attention anyway.

This way, Toronto tangueros/tangueras can constantly maintain a state of blissful uninterrupted transcendence, and yet have something nice to add on to their resumes! A win-win situation all around.


Anonymous said...

Apparently, Toronto Shu-Ha-Ri has become the preferred method of Tango knowledge in most places around the world...

tangocherie said...

This happens everywhere, it's not a Toronto phenomenon!

You're right, win-win!
Except for learning and improvement.
But what can you do?

Maybe large workshops aren't the way to go?

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Johanna,

You are quite right, and what's more, Toronto is quickly becoming the centre of the tango universe. Soon, everyone will be doing the "Jerk and Spasm" style of Toronto Tango - much more easy to master than Milonguero/Villa Urquiza/Nuevo or what have you. No need for musicality! What a relief for tangueros everywhere.

Thanks for your comment!

Irene and Man Yung said...

Dear Cherie,

If the biggest tango names in Buenos Aires would set up a on-line tango university in which tangueros can get "tango diplomas" and "tango degrees" without ever setting foot in workshop or class! Then all these "impressive" resumes will become "astoundingly impressive" resumes. I bet you can't wait for that to happen.

Thanks for your comment!

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