One of the things that gets talked about a lot in martial arts (and software methodologies, for that matter) is that of Shu-Ha-Ri. We seem to follow a similar pattern in my hapkido class, but I have not been able to find any equivalent Korean term for either Shu-Ha-Ri or a similar concept that may have nuanced differences from shu-ha-ri.

So the question is: do the Korean martial arts (either modern or historical) have an similar concept and, if so, does it have any variance in interpretation from the way the Japanese arts generally seem to use it?

1 Answer 1


If I understand what you are asking I would say :

The closest I can think of and what we use in Tang Soo Do a (Korean martial art); we refer to the Neh Gong, Weh Gong and Shim Gong. It does have different translations depending on it's use but you can think of this as the External Power, Internal Power and Spirit/Mind. When referring to it in the way of training its usually your internal energy, external energy, and your breathing.

I am a 4th Gup in Tang Soo Do and have been assisting in teaching for about a year now.

[edited to add] We often say that a white-orange belt partake in the Weh gong aspect the physical. they learn by doing but they don't yet know the reasoning "Why" we learn the technique based solely on the teaching. They are raw, ridged and still young.

Upon demonstrating some degree of enlightenment in their techniques they are promoted to Green (on through red) as they now demonstrate the Neh gong or, the movements of forms or technique start to be refined along with breathing (inhaling or exhaling at the appropriate time is key as it improves power and precision), and as mentioned the movement becomes more refined you start to see proper rotations in the hips and feet when throwing punches or kicks.

Finally when they have progressed in to the Shim gong there is a spiritual understanding where technique and drive have come together at the point you are promoted to 1st Dan (1st degree black belt) in our art the belt is navy blue as in Korean culture black symbolizes an end of grown, death or an end too being or reason. A 1st degree Dan (black belt) rank is called Cho Dan meaning True beginning. Its were you take all of your fundamental training and you have awakened enough to know not only how but why and when. That is when your real training begins.

I am sorry if this does not help any but I hope if its not the answer you seek it at least helps you in your journey.

Here are two comments from Senior Masters within my federation.

Master Rockhold: Looks like a similar concept to Ryu Pa, river runs/flows down divided, but not quite. Gonna have to dig into some of my old paper notes.

Master Danella: Moo Do Chung Sin, the spirit of martial arts, is one that comes to mind when the subject of martial art mastery is discussed. As there have plenty of masters before us who authored the subject based on years of experience and concepts handed down before them, I believe there is a common thread that I see evident in any mastery of any martial art discipline. I think the path to martial art mastery is the internalization of specific areas of discipline that influences that particular art . For example, in order to master a low block, one must see what a correct low block looks like then the explanation all the science that goes into the low block. He then needs to be shown how and then comes the arduous task of repetitive moves until the low block looks like a low block. That’s the first part. The next part is to know the effectiveness of the low block. The practitioner has to go through what I call a “feel” process. Much like a culinary student who studies the manuals but eventually has to actually go in the kitchen and cook and makes adjustments to achieve the required taste. As in the case of the martial art practitioner, the internalization comes with knowing and understanding correct timing, speed, power, target specificity, and necessary intensity to effectively deploy the low block. This can only come with tons of repetitive work as everyone knows to master the move.

  • 2
    I believe that these are different concepts than the ones in the question, which are about levels of mastery of a skill.
    – Anon
    Commented Jan 19, 2013 at 23:56
  • Perhaps, though maybe I should have mentioned that we do use them in the context of levels. I'll edit Commented Jan 20, 2013 at 16:43
  • This was a great edit, and very valuable information, although I believe it is still different. Let me explain: SHU is like "in this stance, he grabs this wrist with this hand, then you do that". HA is like "try this technique in various wrist grab positions, stances, etc". RI is like "Well, based on the way he grabbed my wrist, what I did was the proper response".
    – Anon
    Commented Jan 20, 2013 at 22:04
  • yeah in that instance I am not really sure what that would be. I'll ask my master. Or if need be Grand Master though he is a littler more difficult to get a hold of these days (traveling a lot) Commented Jan 21, 2013 at 2:47
  • edited to add some commentary from two master instructors as a source, if not the answer you're looking for maybe it will help guide you. Commented Jan 26, 2013 at 4:48

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