Testing – Taking It to The Next Level

This is the twentieth in this series of 26 posts, one for each letter of the alphabet, that I am writing during the Blogging from A to Z Challenge, April 2016. You can find all the posts, as they are published throughout the month, by following the A-to-Z April 2016 tag.   


T is for Testing.

Testing for rank is almost universally done in martial arts. There are many benefits to following that system. Most obvious is that you know where you stand – how you are doing – and that can be very reassuring. It’s a chance to get clear feedback. Being promoted to the next rank is valid reason to be proud of your accomplishment. You’re being acknowledged for your diligent training and hard work.

Another reason for rank is to know where others stand. Especially as a new student it’s useful to be able to seek out help from senior students, if you can figure out who they are. Rank is the instructor’s assurance that a person has met certain standards, both technically and in terms of participation in the dojo community.

Another huge benefit to testing is that it forces you to push yourself. Your friends and instructors can push you, too. If you’ve been feeling root-bound in a small pot, this is your chance to be transplanted into a larger one, with more room to grow. As you go up in rank, more will be expected of you, and you’ll find yourself rising to the challenge. As some friends shared on Facebook after our recent exams: “Have friends who force you to level up.”

You might feel ready – or not ready. Don’t be in a hurry to get rank. If your teacher hasn’t asked you to test, there’s probably a good reason. Keep training! If you think you are ready, and have been for a while, and are afraid your teacher may have simply overlooked you (unlikely), you could ask “Could you give me some guidance about what I should be working on?”

Finally, testing is a chance to run up against whatever is stopping you – and if it’s stopping you on the mat, it’s probably stopping you elsewhere in life, too. We each face our own obstacles – fear of being judged, fear of being inadequate, fear of screwing up. Maybe we’ve always told ourselves (or been told) we’re not physically up to something this taxing. Maybe have have an ongoing story about not having enough time. Where have these fears or stories stopped you in the past? This is your chance to stand up and face them.

What do tests look like?

In our dojo exams are about 15-50 minutes long, depending on the level. The format typically goes like this:

  • Demonstrate classic pinning techniques (ikkyo-yonkyo) from several attacks.
  • Demonstrate several techniques of your own choosing from a given list of attacks.
  • Demonstrate a set of weapons forms (jo and bokken suburi).
  • Demonstrate weapons take-aways (jo, bokken, and tanto dori).
  • Demonstrate freestyle Aikido (jiyuwaza) with one or more attackers.

If you’d like to see examples, here are videos of all of my exams, along with some brief commentary on each one.

What’s expected on an exam?

On the most fundamental level, you should be able to demonstrate technical proficiency appropriate to your level. That is to say a beginner’s best effort isn’t expected to look the same as what a high-ranking student would be striving for. Doing a technique clearly and correctly is preferred over rushing and getting sloppy. As Sensei said once to a friend who was preparing for their second black belt rank, nidan, “You don’t get bonus points for doing it faster.”

As important as technical proficiency is how to present yourself. Are you calm and grounded? Do you show proper etiquette. Do you execute the techniques with confidence and good posture? Are you staying present and connected with your partner throughout, not getting distracted by other things happening in the room, or rolling your eyes up in your head trying to think of how a technique goes? Do you lead your partner in the techniques (almost like dance, in that regard), drawing them in, entering into their movement as soon as they form the idea to move, or do you stand, frozen, until a strike almost hits you, and then react with a start?

Preparing for your test.

In some dojo exams are announced at the last moment. “Morgan, you’re testing today. Front and center.” Acck! I’m glad we don’t do that, but there are some good reasons for it. One could be that people don’t have time to get nervous and fret about it. But a more important one is that it encourages one to train every day as if the test might come at any moment – which is an idea very much in line with the kind of continuous attention we try to develop as martial artists.

In some schools, you can opt out of testing. I urge you not to. It’s too valuable an opportunity to pass up.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Everyone wants to live on top of the mountain, but all the happiness and growth occurs while you’re climbing it.”
~ Andy Rooney

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I find that I and others get a lot of benefit from the process of preparing for an exam. In our dojo we are told at least a month ahead of time (sometimes several months) that we will be testing. We know what we will be expected to demonstrate, so we can focus on polishing those things. We use a system of mentoring, typically working with someone at least 2 ranks above us. This gives the text candidate access to lots of personal instruction and one-on-one practice, and also gives more senior people an opportunity to begin learning how to teach others, not to mention having to expand their own knowledge along the way.

During the period before our tests we typically train a bit more than usual, sometimes including open mat sessions and practice run-throughs with our mentor and others.

A rising tide lifts all boats.

When exams are coming up at the dojo – usually 3-4 times per year – nearly everyone gets involved on some level, and all grow from the experience. I and many of my dojo mates have observed that we have never felt so strongly the truth of the saying “It takes a village.”

There are, of course, the people who will be testing. They need to bring their practice up to the level of the next rank. This usually means getting a hundred questions answered about this or that detail of a technique, drilling them over and over until the body remembers how they go, and ironing out a thousand rough spots.

Their mentors have to up their game as well. It’s easy to think we have a pretty good grasp of things, and then someone asks if a technique is done this way, or that way, and we find we aren’t sure at all. So there’s a lot of development on the mentors’ part during this process.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Testing leads to failure, and failure leads to understanding.”
~ Burt Rutan

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Students of all ranks benefit throughout the intensive training leading up to exams, too. Beginners get exposed to more advanced techniques as they are covered in class. Everyone’s ukemi – skills in attacking and falling or rolling – gets pushed to higher limits during open mat and exam run-throughs, when things are done with more speed and power than we sometimes see in class.

The instructors – senior students who teach some of our classes – get asked to present some material that we might not cover often. Like the mentors, these students have a chance to deepen their understanding of the techniques during this time, too.

Even Sensei himself gets feedback on his teaching. He can see how everyone is developing during daily training, of course, including the instructors. And sometimes misunderstandings or uncertainties about techniques reveal themselves during the run-throughs, or on them exams.

Throughout the process everyone involved is challenged and grows in some way.

And circle comes ’round again

Just before our most recent exams (2 April, 2016) I watched Sensei go to the chalk board and write down the next exam date, 6 August, 2016. He listed below it the names of several people who will be testing.

One of them, a woman who had just mentored a candidate for that very day’s exam came over and asked me if I’d be her mentor for August.

As one group were feeling satisfied and relieved to have done their best, after the past months of focused work, a whole new batch of people were excited to be diving into the next months’ of intensive study and hard training. Roles change – the mentor now has a mentor. Some new folks step up to get more involved, and some back off for a while.

Such is the cyclical nature of testing – it circles around, like the seasons.


Linda Eskin is a writer, Aikido student, personal trainer, horse person (with a pet donkey), and former software/web industry professional (tech comm and UX). She is currently completing two books for students of Aikido, one for children and one for adult beginners. Linda trains with Dave Goldberg Sensei at Aikido of San Diego, in California, and holds the first black belt rank, sho-dan. Sho-dan literally means “beginning rank.”

Good bye, 2014. Hello, 2015.

In looking back at 2014 I see it involved a lot of completions – clearing out the old, and making room for new things – and beginnings – laying the foundations for future work. Time to head into 2015 and take advantage of all that groundwork.

Thankfully, Michael and I, and our immediate families, all stayed mostly healthy, happy, and sound all year. *whew* Plus we celebrated out 25th anniversary.

Most of the first half of the year was consumed with managing a whole-house renovation. There are still bits and pieces to be completed, but for the most part we now have a home that is much more pleasant and functional, and supports us better in our respective activities.

Throughout that time I was dealing with our donkey Eeyore’s worsening arthritis. I tried to keep him comfortable, and he had his good days, but was trending in a bad direction. Eventually, in July, we elected to give him the easy way out. Now Clementine is on her own. She was doing well, but now seems to be having trouble with tendinitis or something in her front legs. Having the vet out, again, tomorrow, to see if there’s anything we can do to help her heal and get off pain meds. Right now she’s not very happy, and I’m hoping she doesn’t follow the same trajectory as Eeyore did.

[I’m including a lot of links here because if any of this sounds like fun to to you I hope you will come out and play, too! Each link will open in a new tab, so you won’t lose your place here.]

Because of other priorities and limited finances (career transitions can be hard on one’s bank account, after all) I didn’t get to as many seminars as I would have liked. But I did participate, as usual, in the Bridge Seminar in San Diego and the O Sensei Revisited Retreat with Robert Nadeau Shihan and his senior students/instructors. Both of those are really worthwhile events, and I’m glad I was able to make it to them. Also, finally, after years of wishing, I took the train to Seattle (2 days each way!) and participated in George Ledyard Sensei’s Randori Intensive at Aikido Eastside. It was a blast. Highly recommended!

I hope to be able to do all three of those seminars again this year. Definitely the San Diego Bridge Seminar, which is in just a couple of weeks. And this year there’s a new retreat that I’m really looking forward to – the Joshua Tree Evolutionary Aikido Retreat with my teacher, Dave Goldberg Sensei (Aikido of San Diego), Patrick Cassidy Sensei (Aikido Montreux, Switzerland), and Miles Kessler Sensei (Integral Dojo, Tel-Aviv, Israel). It’s going to be a pretty spectacular event, at a historic retreat center in the Mojave Desert in February. The Aiki Summer Retreat is reported to be happening again this year, and I hope to make it to that as well.

After the house project was done I got busy studying, and passed the test for my ACE certification as a Group Fitness Instructor, then went right on to get certified to teach SilverSneakers Classic, Circuit, and Yoga classes for seniors, and began the process for offering their FLEX Community Fitness classes.

At the same time, I clarified the concept, created branding and marketing materials, and launched my company, Fit Coach Linda. Its mission is to support people in getting moving, and living active, healthy, happy lives through better connection with their own bodies, with nature, and with others. Right now I’m designing programs and materials, and arranging for venues. I should have had that up and running for New Year’s. Alas, too much to do at once. I’ll have to catch people as their resolution motivation is waning, and they realize that a supportive group environment and accountability is more likely to lead to success than determination alone. If you want to be a part of this, you can follow my Fit Coach Linda Blog  for info and inspiration for living a more active life, and also “Like” the Fit Coach Linda page on Facebook.

As always, I enjoyed training all year at Aikido of San Diego. In December I passed my shodan (blackbelt) exam. I’m looking forward to “just training” this year, and deepening my understanding and application of Aikido. The Joshua Tree Retreat will be a huge part of that, I’m sure. I didn’t meditate as much as I would have liked in 2014 – must incorporate that into my regular practice this year, too.

Between the renovations, donkeys, studying, and training, I didn’t get as much writing done as I should have. However, I was able to make tons of progress on two books (Aikido-specific, for students, to be published in the next few months), and some progress on a third (non-fiction/self-help, maybe later in 2015). Writing – actually publishing books via my other company, Shugyo Press – is my “day job,” along with the programs I’ll be teaching for Fit Coach Linda, so I need to be diligent about actually getting that work done this year.

But before any of that, today is the first day of New Year. I’ll be celebrating by heading to the gym to work with my personal trainer, Kyle, of San Diego Strength and Conditioning. A very nice guy who knows what he’s doing, and his facility is right next to the dojo. Perfect. Part of my own strategy to make 2015 an even better year.

Shodan Test Group Photo

[Note – All the blog photos were imported only in the thumbnail size. D’oh! I will be uploading the full-size photos soon.]

I am very grateful to these amazing people for their instruction, encouragement, and ukemi. They trained with me and David (we tested together) for months, generously giving many Sunday afternoons, evenings after class, and a few Friday nights, too. Some of the nicest, most capable folks one could ever hope to train with. Domo arigato gozaimashita.

Dear Ueshiba Sensei

[At our dojo we have a tradition of submitting an essay when we test for sho-dan. My exam was today, and here’s what I wrote.]

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13 December, 2014

Dear Ueshiba Sensei,

We have never met, Sensei, but I am a student of yours. My direct teacher is Dave Goldberg Sensei in San Diego, in the United States. His teacher is Robert Nadeau Shihan, who I am sure you remember well. Goldberg Sensei also trained in Japan with your devoted student, Morihiro Saito Sensei. Sensei has had many teachers – he has told me about a few of them – and I have learned a bit here and there from other teachers and friends as well. There are many bubbling rivulets and quiet brooks that feed into the river that is my experience of Aikido, but they all originated with you.

I owe you a debt of gratitude for this art you created. I’ve been practicing Aikido for a while now, and so thought I should introduce myself and share with you how my training is going.

Today I am testing for the rank of sho-dan. Some of my friends who aren’t familiar with martial arts see earning one’s black belt as having arrived. It is an accomplishment, of course, but it feels to me like a starting point, like being accepted into a university. Commencement. “Beginning rank,” truly.

It has been a great adventure getting to this point. So many hills and valleys, forks and detours, breathtaking vantage points and mysterious deep canyons. I have traveled to seminars and camps and other dojos, and made good friends from around the world. So many kindred spirits in this community! My health is much improved, to say nothing of my attitude. I never used to smile or laugh much. I didn’t even care for people, for the most part. I am not the same person who set out on this expedition. Or maybe I am, I have just set down a lot of unnecessary, burdensome things along the way. Any way I look at it, training in Aikido has been a journey of discovery.

About 6 years ago a wise horseman and writer, Mark Rashid, suggested that I train in Aikido when I went to him for help with my riding. He said it could help me become the strong, clear leader my big, goofy young horse needed. That is what got me started on this path. Mark learned of Aikido from a student of his, and found the principles entirely compatible with his work with horses. I know you were a farmer at times. Did you work with horses? I often wonder if you found that to be true as well.

I had tried Aikido almost thirty years before, in college, briefly, but it went right over my head. All I remember was the kneeling kokyu-dosa exercise. Where was the sparring? When were we going to do something? It seemed boring and dull. I really didn’t see the point. Young and stupid, I suppose…

In high school I had trained in Tang Soo Do, a hard, competitive Korean martial art. Things were tough at home. My sister’s drug and alcohol problems kept our family in constant turmoil. I was angry, and wanted to learn to hit things. Fortunately, I had an excellent teacher. Yes, he taught me how to punch (and kick), but he also taught me how to be calm and centered so I didn’t feel the need to. I left to go to college after just my first test. I always thought I would return to train afterward, but my teacher died suddenly a few years later, and I never found my way back to it.

Even before, as a child – I must have been about 8 – I tried Judo for a summer. I don’t know how I heard about it, maybe at school, but I was the one who insisted in signing up. I was an eager student, and brought friends with me to train, too. But all the others in the class were boys – they refused to train with us, and the teacher allowed that. We didn’t learn much, and quit after the summer. Who knows, I might have stuck with it otherwise. I’ve seen photos of women and girls in your classes, and I know you said that Aikido is for everyone. Thank you for that. At least I learned to fall and roll that summer – I could practice that on my own. I think it saved my life once… But that’s a story for another time.

I have been thinking a lot lately about the tenuous fortune and fragile connections that comprise these chains of chance encounters leading to my being here today. I met Mark, the horseman, when he led a workshop nearby, right at the moment I was having trouble and needed his help. My teacher learned of Aikido when his cousin demonstrated a simple technique at a family gathering. A young Mary Heiny, who has taught at our dojo on occasion, saw you because a friend encouraged her to observe your class, and it changed the course her life completely. How fortunate that you encountered Deguchi Sensei! And perhaps more so, Takeda. So many paths crossing, like wavy rings from stones tossed into a pond.

In any case, somehow the gears of the universe meshed and turned in such a way to arrive at this state of things.

I know how lucky I am to have found my teacher. It is said that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear. Apparently that is so – and the right teacher, too! I have trained with and learned from many skillful practitioners and gifted instructors. Like the proverbial blind men and the elephant, each one sees Aikido from a different perspective – a tree, a wall, a rope. In my experience, their perspectives are each valid in their own way, and contribute to a more complete understanding of the whole. Every teacher has something valuable to offer. But I think it’s ideal when there is harmony of temperament and resonance of philosophy between the teacher and the student. A teacher that challenges and corrects, supports and encourages, as each student requires. The right teacher, here at the right location on the earth, at the right point in time. It’s a wonder we ever find our teachers. I suppose most never do. So unlikely…

Speaking of unlikely – I have been surprised again and again at the things I have learned in practicing this art of yours! It’s never been about fighting or defending myself, for me. I expected I would learn to relax under pressure, and respond from a more centered place. Indeed, I continually work on that, and like to think I am improving. I’ve seen that pushing back against … well, everything, is counterproductive and exhausting. I am more comfortable with letting things be – and letting people be – now. But I have also gotten better at being clear and standing my ground when that’s appropriate. I might expect to learn that from a martial art. But more important, I have begun to know what it is that I stand for.

Your art has expanded my understanding, opened my heart, and enlivened my spirit. These have been happy, free, rewarding years. Through Aikido I have begun to discover who I am.

Oh, look… I have rambled on too long! It’s time to get on the mat for my exam. Thank you for your kind attention. I’m so grateful for your vision of what Aikido could be, and how it could change people and the world. Thank you for being a teacher, and sharing with us what you discovered.

With much respect,

Linda Eskin

Almost There…

It seems like I’ve been checking things off to-do lists and taking care of details for days. Finally in the last few hours before exam day, and pretty much on top of things.

A few of us cleaned the dojo earlier, and set up chairs for guests last night. Someone pointed out it was my last time going home as a kyu-ranked student. Acck!

Today I had some notes to write and errands to run. I’ve got my gi (and new hakama) packed up and ready to go in the morning. My stuff for the dojo holiday party afterward is ready to go.

I just need to get the coffee pot set up so I don’t need to fiddle with that in the morning, and have Clementine’s morning food ready except for adding hot water. I have a little writing to do, and want to run through things in my head once more. And then I think I’ll set every alarm clock I can find and try to get to sleep.

Looking forward to giving it my best. 

Seeing Past Saturday

Taking a quick break from getting my brain, body, and environment ready for Saturday to look beyond my coming sho-dan exam. There are things I’ve been wanting to do, but I’m kind of living in risk-avoidance mode lately. The idea of pulling a muscle or spraining a joint doesn’t stop me most of the time, but right now it would be really inconvenient. After Saturday, though… Here are some things I’m looking forward to trying in the coming months:

  • Learning to surf, with my friend Karen (whose brilliant idea is was). How did I grow up in Pacific Beach and not learn to surf?
  • Trail running. I am not a runner, by nature, but for some reason that’s been calling to me for a while now.
  • Snowboarding, maybe. No specific plans to go, but I’ve always wanted to try it.
  • Strength training. Yeah, I’ve been doing my PT exercises and swinging a kettlebell a little, but I want to get a little more serious about it.
  • Going to the local trampoline place – wall-to-wall trampolines – and playing. Who’s in?
  • Working more on suwari-waza and hanmi-handachi-waza (techniques from a kneeling position). I’ve been enjoying training in those, but don’t dare overdo it.

And nothing to do with risk – I’ve just been busy with other things:

  • Gardening. The yard is starting to green up with recent rain, and more on the way. Perfect time to tidy up, and get the raised-bed veggie garden ready for planting.
  • Finish some house projects. OK, not really looking forward to doing those, just looking forward to putting them behind me.
  • Writing. There are some books that need to be finished and turned loose on the world.
  • Getting my business going – Reconnecting Ourselves – and beginning to lead group programs to get people moving, and get them connected to their own bodies. 

More than anything, though, I’m looking forward to being in class on Monday night and just training.

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[Added on December 12th.]

An interesting follow-up… The morning after posting this I had a feed delivery (food for Clementine, our donkey). The delivery guy explained he was moving a little slow – he’d been to a trampoline park the night before and messed up his back. Later that afternoon one of the parents from the kids’ class mentioned her other kid had been to a party at a trampoline place and kind of overdid it – very sore that day. I guess I wasn’t being paranoid to avoid that before my exam! :-)

Countdown to Exam Day

A week from Saturday, on December 13, 2014, my friend David and I are scheduled to test for shodan (first black belt, or “beginning rank”). Tonight is the final (yikes, that word, final…) run-through.

On the one hand, it’s just a test. Afterward I will show up and train just the same as before. But it’s also Kind of a Big Deal. I’ve been training for a bit over five years, and for the past year working diligently with David and our sempai (senior students) to refine and polish our techniques. I’m sure I have improved, but it’s the kind of improvement where you finally catch one thing, and see two others you need to work on. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed and incompetent.

As with any big deadline in life – a trip, graduation, marriage – there are a lot of little things to coordinate as it approaches.

I paid my exam fee months ago, just so I wouldn’t have to have it on my mind, but still have my association fee to take care of. Shodan is the rank at which the international association starts to care that you exist, so there’s a registration fee for that. Up to this point I’ve only been an anonymous student at my dojo, as far as the outside world is concerned.

I actually bought two hakama – those black flowing skirt-like pants-chaps things – several years ago, at 4th kyu. I knew I would get here eventually, and my favorite gi supplier was going out of business, so I snapped them up. I finally took them out of the package and tried them on a couple of weeks ago. One fits (the other needs to be tailored), so I have one I can wear afterward. Something else I can check off my to-do list. Whew.

My current gi (training uniforms) are falling apart, so back in July I tried to have a new one made locally. The tailor is still working on it. So… Not counting on that to be done on time, or done right. I ordered a new one online. It needs some simple work to make it right, so at least I should have a decent gi to wear on exam day.  

I’ve been very careful to stay healthy and sound. Interesting… When it matters (and doesn’t it always matter?), there’s a lot we can do to fend off whatever is going around, and to avoid injury. I started noticing this right from the beginning of my training – that as a test or seminar approached I could be a lot more assertive about protecting myself from everything from random coughing people to stupid risks like working around Clementine, our donkey, in flip-flops. The thought “oh, it’ll be OK this once” goes right out the window when the consequences of a bad cold, a pulled muscle, or broken toe are so high.

During our previous run-through we discovered I was not breathing freely. I was holding my breath and getting winded. A lot of that was tension – both from being under pressure, and from other things going on in life. But also I actually was having trouble breathing! I noticed as I tried to focus on breathing more freely that I really couldn’t. Breathing through my nose was like breathing though one of those little plastic stirring straws. And when doing techniques I tend to keep my mouth closed, so I really wasn’t breathing enough at all. It was off to the doctor about that, where I learned I have a deviated septum partially blocking airflow on the left, and a nasal polyp clogging up the right side. Aha! So I’ve been using a nasal spray to try to reduce that problem, and it’s been helping. Then on Tuesday I realized I was set to run out of my nasal spray just a few days before the test, so I just took care of getting a new bottle.

Now that exam day is just over a week away I’m down to the fiddly stuff. I want to clean out my car. I feel unsettled, unworthy, and ungrounded when my car is a mess. I’ve been meaning to clean it out for months. Gotta get that done. And as any big date approaches I refuse to try new restaurants or take other seemingly minor risks. A case of food poisoning a few days before an exam would not be cool at all.

On the mat I’m finalizing some things I need to have memorized – which techniques I’ll be demonstrating for certain parts of the test – and ironing out the details of anything that feels a bit iffy. But the biggest thing is settling down and trusting that I’ll do my best.

“Find your ground,” one sempai says. “If anything goes wrong, just relax and continue – don’t let it take your focus,” says another. Connect, and stay connected. Don’t rush – be earlier. Take center, and don’t give it back. Be clear and ruthless – not tentative or cautious. Use your hips. Use the ground. Move into the space. Be the space. Relax and breathe. You know how to do this.

Too Much To Write About!

I haven’t posted since late September, and even that was pretty lame. But it’s not for lack of anything to say. About every 15 minutes I trip over another “I really should write about this” kind of experience. But then I remember I have a dozen things to do. Maybe later… Maybe tomorrow… I don’t like that. For me not writing is like not speaking to a good friend for too long. I need to make it a higher priority, along with meditation, which I’ve also not been doing nearly enough.   

Meanwhile, I passed my ACE exam to become a certified Group Fitness Instructor. Afterward I immediately got to work setting up my company, Reconnecting Ourselves (www.ReconnectingOurselves.com). Among other things, I am planning short-term programs, like boot camps, but for total beginners – the kind of folks who “will join a gym after I get in better shape.” A first step to get people on the path to being more active, and more connected with their own bodies, with nature, and with others. I hope to be offering them soon after the start of the year.

Along with that whirlwind of website work, content creation, and marketing mayhem I have been continuing to train in earnest for my shodan (first black belt) exam, just over two weeks away now, on December 13th. 

Training for shodan, for me, has been pushing me in every way I can be pushed. And I suppose that’s part of the idea. I’m enjoying the process, and learning so much every time I step on the mat. But the more I see, the further I see I have to go. I keep having to remind myself that “shodan” means (as far as I know), “beginning rank.” I think of it like graduating from high school and starting college. A big deal, yes, but then you’re a freshman – just starting into serious study. I’m trying to be patient with myself and keep my perspective, and at the same time of course I want to do the best I can. 

I’m rediscovering a few ways to get myself in the right state of mind, including listening to music that helps me call up the right energies, and visualizing techniques done well. Affirmations, too. I might naturally find the little voice in my head saying “I’m never going to be able to get this down smoothly,” so I’m countering it with some different messaging. If it’s going to chatter on, it might as well get to work saying something helpful.

Sleep is probably important, too, especially because we do exams on Saturday mornings – not my best time of day. Time to get into the habit of being rested, up, awake, and ready to go earlier in the day. Guess I should hit the hay.

Owww… My Brain…

If my brain had a warning like my iPhone does it would be telling me that it’s overheating and needs to shut down for a while.

Today I got my “Your Group Fitness Instructor exam is one month from now” email from ACE, the American Council on Exercise. Yikes. I need to be totally prepared for this. Failing isn’t an option (although it’s certainly a possibility.) It’s going to take some serious effort over the next few weeks, but I have to nail it.

At the same time, I’m training diligently for my shodan (first black belt) test in Aikido. While the test isn’t until mid-December (thank goodness), there’s a run-through coming up in just two weeks. Lots more training to be done between now and then – and after, of course. I’m refining my focus, and really working on polishing the things I will need to demonstrate.

On the home front, the weather is cooling off a little, so it should be possible to finish more projects remaining from this year’s spring’s house renovation project. Something about the temperatures being in the 90s and 100s just saps one’s enthusiasm for that sort of thing.

I’ve gotten away from meditation, and “keep meaning to get back to it.” That starts now. I really need it. I need that settling down. With so many important things drawing me in conflicting directions it’s easy to feel scattered and overwhelmed, not knowing which to handle first. I need to find that centered, calm place from which to act effectively.

Should be an intense few weeks.