A concept that is often used to describe a student's progression through
training. "Shu" means "conservative" and is often translated as "tradition."
The beginning student learns the fundamentals of the art form, and all
the techniques and kata, essentially as her teacher has shown her. "Ha"
means "break" and has been variously interpreted in Western martial art
circles as "breaking the tradition" or even "breaking with your teacher."
However, it could also mean breaking as in "breakthrough in understanding",
i.e., going beyond the mechanics of the techniques to discover their underlying
meaning. "Ri," therefore, which has been interpreted in the West as "founding
your own style," or even "preserving the style but adding to it," means
"freedom" and could instead be interpreted as "owning the kata," establishing
one's own identity within the traditionally arranged and performed techniques.
Iaido at this point becomes very like free-flowing movement. Few practitioners
attain this level, though it remains a goal of training, however elusive.