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The first time I seriously looked at the test requirements for 1st-kyu, I had a mini panic attack. Blends, attacks, and techniques came together in a dyslexic blur of words on the page—why were there so many? There were those requirements that touched upon my weaknesses: koshinage and high falls and all these ushiro-waza that I was certain to brain-freeze on. More henka-waza with three technique requirements from different attacks, and I couldn't even think of a single way to make it work. All those things that I was forgiven for at a lower rank, and all those I avoided practicing because I thought I had time to push them aside. The mere thought of what I couldn't do won over all that I had already accomplished, stripping away my courage like a coat of old paint, exposing the ugly fear underneath. How could I have gone so far and feel like I know so little? Why does every step toward Shodan from this point on feel like a backtracked step away? Confused and discouraged, I tucked away the test sheet, ratty and worn from my notes and studies for previous ranks. I always carried it with me but opted not to think about it much as life took me on its customary ebb and sway of social events and busy schedules. But the time to test is upon me; Sensei doesn't remind you three times without expecting some progress.
Recently, there was a health fair at my company, and I opted to take the usual assessment tests such as BMI, blood pressure, cholesterol-screening, and lung-capacity mea