Not everything is as seems

English: Shuhari, Japanese

English: Shuhari, Japanese (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

The Karate Kid

The Karate Kid (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

More on Shuhari from the wikipedia entry

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!

Miyagi: So?

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!)


Always improving


As I was reading to my daughters last night, I thought about two things I do while reading to them that relate to this idea of improving:

  1. When I read I try to work on voice inflection – not being monotone, using different voices – in general, I try to get into the story as much as possible
  2. I try to read long passages at a time without looking at the page. Read a sentence quickly to myself, look up, and then say the sentence out loud. I’m not sure when this will come in handy (apart from having to deliver a pre-written speech in front of a large audience) but it’s something I practice anyway

So after typing these out, I realize this may sound very strange, but my kids love #1 and they don’t even realize that I am playing a memory game (I had typed out “they don’t even realize that I am doing #2” but I decided that sounded ridiculous!). I read to my kids every night, so every night is an opportunity to use the time I have to also work on my ability to speak in public.

What is something you do every day that could also help you improve on a skill you need for your job? Do you have an opportunity to take on a leadership role at a non-profit that you are involved in? I had a co-worker who viewed volunteering to read scripture in church as a way to improve her confidence to speak in public. Is “always improving” a reason on it’s own to volunteer? Of course not. I read to my kids because I love spending the time with them…it’s one of the highlights of my day. That said, I’m always looking for ways to improve.