Shu Ha Ri

At the heart of it, mastery is practice. Mastery is staying on the path.”

~ George Leonard

Every expert is once a beginner, but not every beginner will become an expert. 

There are ways to accelerate learning, but there is no shortcut to mastery.  The good news is that the path to mastery is no mystery.  It typically follows three stages.

Beginner- intermediate-advanced, learn-do-teach, imitate-assimilate-innovate, or in the tradition of Japanese martial art, shu-ha-ri (守破離).


In shu (守), we begin by learning the fundamentals, follow the instructions of the masters, imitate their form and styles, and build a strong foundation of knowledge and skills.

In ha (破), we put the knowledge and skills into diligent and deliberate practice, deepen our appreciation of underlying principles, and are ready to challenge the convention, break away from what we were taught, and improvise.

In ri (離), we transcend the form, innovate freely from the essence, and be one with the craft.

The path to mastery begins with learning the fundamentals, followed by patience, practice, and practice.

“Excellence is not an art. It is the habit of practice.”



Opening, Middlegame, Endgame

If life is a game of chess, how will you play?

A novice would learn the rules, how each piece moves, some tactics, and perhaps even strategies. 

A trained player would learn the three phases through which a chess game typically unfolds – the Opening, Middlegame, and Endgame.

In the Opening, one focuses on developing the pieces, ensuring the King’s safety, and controlling the centre in preparation for the Middlegame where most of the attacks and defenses would take place.  Finally, in the Endgame, when only a few pieces are left on the board after the battle, one is ready to capture the opponent’s King and end the game.   

In the chess game of life, the opponent is not out there, but lies deep within us.  There is a constant battle between the light and darkness within. Hopefully, light prevails over darkness most of the time, kindness over meanness, compassion over indifference, forgiveness over resentment, love over hate, courage over fear.

With each new day, we get to start a new game.  Let us open each day by going back to basics – develop the pieces.  Bring forth love, kindness, compassion, courage, forgiveness, etc. Let our light shine brightly and triumph over darkness so that we end each day in gratitude of a sweet victory.

“It is during our darkest moments that we must focus to see the light.”