Re: Advice for shodan test
Funny to find your post here--nice to see you mentally preparing (i knew i saw Sensei scouting you out for shodan!). Having passed you up going from 3rd kyu to shodan, and having just been uchi deshi at our dojo for 1.5 years, i think i can answer both questions.
Regarding the test: you are more than ready. For my part it has been a pleasure to know you and train with you, and you're actually one of my inspirations for improving myself and working hard to have my skill level match my rank. Your ukemi is natural and beautiful and it's only been my secret envy in watching you that has propelled me to get better at it. Work on the jo and bokken stuff, though! let me know and we can arrange to practice outside of class hours--if you want.
As far as uchi deshi, i dont think reaching shodan means your too late. We've known of people and heard stories of uchi deshi in their shodan and nidan ranks. There is so much to learn and pick up on, that i would think being uchi deshi at those ranks is better: having already become proficient in ukemi and basics, one should be in good position to focus more on the intricacies and really get some in depth exposure.
We can take (enter name of you-know-who here) as an example. If you start as uchi deshi too soon, you are spending too much time going over basics and all that time that you would have for in depth studying is kinda wasted, IMHO.
In any event, I too wonder about being "tested" more in Japan because one has a hakama on, but I want to go, so that's that. Perhaps we can rally some of our gang together for an iwama trip, and some can stay longer than others.
hope this helps. but i know first hand that you'll be great.
see u soon.