This shouldn’t surprise me, but learning methods in Japan (the east) and the US (the west) are completely different.
My earliest exposure to the eastern teaching style came while watching The Karate Kid. Daniel-san is utterly confused by the tasks that his sensei, Mr. Miyagi has him perform. What does painting a fence, waxing a car and catching a fly with chopsticks have to do with karate? Nothing….and everything.
In the west, we want to be told the answers rather than discovering the answers for ourselves.
In the east, there is a structured teaching method, called Shuhari, that places much of the burden on the student (with guidance from sensei) to discover solutions. The process never stops…a student never arrives at the final answer.
Shuhari roughly translates to “first learn, then detach, and finally transcend.”
- shu (守?) “protect”, “obey” — traditional wisdom — learning fundamentals, techniques, heuristics, proverbs
- ha (破?) “detach”, “digress” — breaking with tradition — detachment from the illusions of self
- ri (離?) “leave”, “separate” — transcendence — there are no techniques or proverbs, all moves are natural, becoming one with spirit alone without clinging to forms; transcending the physical
Now back to The Karate Kid…check out the quotes below and see how they relate back to Shuhari.
Miyagi: We make sacred pact. I promise teach karate to you, you promise learn. I say, you do, no questions.
Miyagi: You karate training.
Daniel: I’m *what*? I’m bein’ your goddamn *slave* is what I’m bein’ here man, now c’mon we made a deal here!
Daniel: So? So, you’re supposed to teach and I’m supposed to learn! For 4 days I’ve been bustin’ my ass, and haven’t learned a goddamn thing!
Miyagi: You learn plenty.
Daniel: I learn plenty, yeah, I learned how to sand your decks maybe. I washed your car, paint your house, paint your fence. I learn plenty!
Miyagi: Ah, not everything is as seems…
This last line, “not everything is as seems” is important. Being taught by a master sensei, there will often be times when you do not understand why a lesson is being taught. But remember, you are the student, not the sensei.
I admit, that I am not the best student or sensei. I want the answers directly and I’d rather not interpret a Chinese folk tale or sand a deck to understand the answer to a question. As a teacher, I’d rather not take the time to think about the appropriate exercise for the student for him or her to discover the answer on their own.
Shuhari is hard work, but the more I study the lean thinking and eastern culture, the more it seems like it’s worth the effort…not to mention, my deck is being sanded by someone on my team this weekend. (just kidding!)