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If you aren't already in the habit of reading the columns here on AikiWeb, be sure to head over there and check out my column about my experience of our recent open mat / exam prep sessions. I write as part of a group of women calling ourselves The Mirror. This month was my turn to write, and we all collaborate on editing and revisions. :-)
It's been about a year - actually a year and two months, since my 2nd kyu exam. My 1st kyu exam will be this morning. I think of each exam like New Year's Day - a time to look back, and to look ahead.
This year has been one of transitions. Bringing things into alignment. Getting behind center. Grounding. Being clear.
I changed the way I work. With my employer's and husband's support, I cut back on my hours, and now work exclusively from home. This has meant a huge reduction in stress and a better physical workspace for me. It allows more time and flexibility for my Aikido training, and lets me focus on writing as my primary activity.
Over the past few months I have upgraded my office, with a new computer and printer, and all new software tools for writing and design work. There have been a few steep learning curves, but now I'm off and running.
I established my own publishing company, Shugyo Press. I wrote and published my first book, "A Bowl of Love - How to Make a Big Green Dojo Potluck Salad." On Monday morning I will be moving directly into my next two books, one of which is to be my "Black Belt Project," something we each take on at our dojo, before our shodan exam. (The other is a secret, for now.)
There have been a lot of little things, too. A long-delayed household improvement is finally on track. My blog on AikiWeb just went over 200,000 views. I turned 50.
I've happily spent over 250 training days on the mat. I have helped out in the kids' classes
My to-do list for the day before my 1st kyu exam. I am also publishing my first book today: "A Bowl of Love — How to Make a Big Green Dojo Potluck Salad". I'd better get busy checking these things off!
Yesterday I completed one entire month on the mat. I'm preparing for my first kyu exam, which will be this Saturday, so I've been training even more than usual. I did it just because I could, and because it seemed to help me keep up the proper momentum, and stay loose physically. The nerve problem I was having with my neck and arm has been improving with constant activity, and I'm generally feeling very good. So why stop?
I trained every day, even Sundays. Every class, even the kids classes, and every open mat session.
When I shared that milestone with my friends, one suggested that I must be experiencing an "awesome growth spurt."
Actually, no. Although I have been enjoying training and having a lot of fun preparing for exams with my dojo mates, I've actually been fairly perturbed by my lack of progress. Sometimes it's felt like I'm going backward. It's been discouraging. For for each new "aha" moment there are three more things I see I seriously need to work on.
Here's what I said to him:
"Not really feeling like it... Well actually, yeah... But the kind of growth where you become more acutely aware of where the holes are, and what needs work. Humbling - in the classic sense of the word."
In writing that answer I saw the situation in a new light, and suddenly felt a lot better about things. I really was making progress, it just didn't look the way I had been thinking it should. So I guess that does still count as an "awesome growth spurt