In this month’s column, I’ll make room for Marcelo Muller, who joined FLOW in September 2014 and is now part of our technical team in addition to playing ball. Some time ago, inspired by a book excerpt, I started studying Japanese martial arts and found a very interesting concept that can be applied to poker: Shu Ha Ri, which transforms the learning process from beginning to mastery. Each part of the concept is associated with a phase, which is linearly related to the other phases. Shushu, the beginning of martial arts, is the moment when basic, fixed movements are learned and repeated many times until they become automatic. If you want to go to the next level, ha, you must master the first one. In the second stage, the subjectivity of the individual begins to be applied to the technique, and he tests moves developed by others to check which ones work best for his style. In turn, Ri is when mastery can be achieved. The basic moves are automatic, some others are tried and tested, you already know your style. This is your moment to go beyond and create something unique using all your experiences thus far. The stages of Shu Ha Ri are not only a great way to learn poker, they also warn us not to miss the learning moment. Many players try to imitate the techniques of the professionals they admire without having a solid foundation and understanding of the fundamentals. This can cause the game to become disjointed and inconsistent, and technology can be used at less-than-ideal times. Daniel Negreanu didn’t learn to calculate his excellent distance value overnight. It is the many situations he has experienced and analyzed that allow him to examine his opponents and predict what cards he has at the moment.Another common scenario is to find players who want to invent new ways to play from the very beginning of their poker journey, taking inspiration from successful pros who played their cards out of the ordinary. It’s okay to get creative at the table, but it’s important to solidify your initial knowledge and basic understanding of ranges and situations first. A good player who is innovative may have gone through the early stages, creating new plays after learning the basics, doing a lot of testing, and learning their own style of play. To break a pattern, you must first understand it. Even if you’re not quite sure what stage you’re in, get organized and try to start over. Learn the basics and do them many times until they become automatic. You realize this when you realize that just by looking at a situation you already know what is the best course of action.If you master the technique, you can rest assured that you are already ahead of most players. You can then take the next step with greater confidence, reaching the Ha, the moment of creating your identity. Try to reproduce non-standard moves of other players. Test what works. Build your style and mindset. When you reach Ri, you’ll be able to go beyond what you’ve learned from all your baggage, and you’ll be able to develop new moves and readings in a more coherent and challenging way. Few are in this moment of mastery.