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Two classes last night. Toyoda Sensei was filling in for Garza Sensei. I attended because I was scheduled to teach a Japanese lesson after training. I sort of feel that if I'm going to be teaching Japanese to those who are teaching Aikido, I should reciprocate and study with them. Odd if you think about it, but it works.
The first class was the first time I've trained with several students of every color of belt on the mats. Sensei started by demonstrating the technique for the white belts. Then he did a more advanced form for the yellow belts, and then the blue, and finally the brown and yudansha.
From my perspective, it was awesome to see the different approach from all the skill levels to the same technique. One of the women who is just starting out commented on how she too enjoyed seeing the spectrum of applying the technique.
Experiences like that really help give me direction. Setting goals is paramount to anything in life, but Aikido is one of those things that mandates small goals. I can't see myself slapping a date on when I want to achieve, say, a blue belt, or shodan. You really cannot do that in my opinion. Short term, small goals are key; I'd like to think I could test for 5th kyu before the end of next year (yellow with stripe for us) at my current pace. That's a short term realistic goal.
The question I tend to hear most often from the people I talk to Aikido about is "how long does it take to get to black belt?" My answer is always the same "When I get there, I'll tell you how long it took me."
If I'm lucky, and if I train well, maybe someday I will find myself wearing a hakama on the mats. But right now it's not a goal. It can't be a goal for me because I'm impatient.
Setting lofty goals in life is risky. My preference is the safer path. Tomorrow I know what I'll do. Next month, I'm fairly certain what I want to do. Maybe I even have a plan for next year. But beyond that it's all pretty dim.
Too much planning, on or off the mats, is never a good thing. Life has a funny way of changing underneath your plans.