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Last year feels like it was full of all kinds of things and I feel like, looking back, I'm staring at a cluttered room where I cannot see everything very clearly. Training was sporadic, but I'm accustomed to that by now and have come to terms with the fact that my initial goals had to change. I wanted to be one of those folks who trained as a very central part of their life, and in a very broad sense it has been, but the bottom line is that my mat time simply hasn't reflected the ideal. That said, last year I felt more connected to my training than the last several years preceding it. My "nightly practice" has actually been almost nightly, often for an hour or more at a time, and I've built a tanren uchi/makiwara thingy to help condition myself.
This year, the year of the horse, my plan is to ramp things up again and really push for my shodan. This means I must get organized and more formally study for the tests I'll need to take. The last time I tested was in late 1998 (I think), for my gokyu. Sensei says he thinks I'm approaching the level of shodan and it will just take consistent training to make it happen. I have never been one for ranks and feel too fallible to assume any position of authority compared to even newbies, except perhaps in the most superficial ways, but I want to take that first step and stop being so damned flakey.
Life's a real trip. It's interesting how one's path can meander into some interesting directions and while I have always valued the concept of the un-aimed arrow for its relaxed "twang," I'm thinking now about the process of "straightening/smoothing my ki" and trying to apply myself with a crisper purpose. The risk of really trying and investing myself into a goal is, of course, failure. And I have long known that I prefer the "un-aimed arrow" approach because it maintains the idea that there is no failure; there is only doing. I think it will be interesting to experience trying to find the same kind of relaxed attitude while actually aiming. If I miss the mark, I will aim again.