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This Is Only a Test
by The Mirror
This Is Only a Test

This month's "The Mirror" column was written by Katherine Derbyshire 2016, all rights reserved.
Your test will not be perfect.

It doesn't matter what rank you're testing for sixth kyu, shodan, sandan there's always more to learn. You may not master aikido in a lifetime; you certainly won't between now and your test date.

At my dojo, a number of people are testing for black belt ranks in a few months. There's a lot of preparation going on as people try to fix the imperfections in their aikido. Everyone is training with more-than-average intensity right now, even people who aren't testing.

That's a good thing. I'm among those who believe that the preparation process is as important as the test itself, that a period of intensive training teaches lessons that cannot be learned any other way. Train hard for six months or a year and you almost can't help but get better.

And yet you won't be perfect. At the end of the day, when it comes time to bow in for the test, none of the half-remembered suggestions from teachers and training partners matter. None of the things that you ran out of time to fix matter.

When asked, I suggest that people stop taking advice a few weeks before the test. Don't pepper instructors with questions, don't solicit feedback, just train. It's too late to change anything anyway. Rather, the test is about stepping forward and saying, "This is where I am. This is the best I can do today." Don't apologize for the mastery you haven't yet achieved, own the place where you are standing now.

We often talk about owning the center line, controlling the interaction with a partner. We talk about irimi, about entering without evading. Irimi is not just a Japanese word for a particular footwork pattern, though. It's a way of being, a state of mind. It applies on the mat, but also to giving a presentation at a business meeting or confronting an unhelpful contractor.

The real world doesn't care why you missed class last week. It doesn't care about the things you understand in your head but can't yet manifest in your body. It doesn't care about the mismatch between what your teacher does and what you can do.

A test is not the real world, but it's not normal training, either. There's nowhere to hide, nothing to do but step forward into the moment, into the place under the sword.

"The Mirror" is written by a roster of women who describe themselves as a disparate bunch of scientists, healers, artists, teachers, and, yes, writers. Over ten years into this collaboration we find we are a bunch of middle-aged yudansha from various parts of the world and styles of aikido. What we share is a lively curiosity about and love for both life and budo, and an inveterate tendency to write about our explorations.
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Old 07-25-2016, 04:12 PM   #2
Janet Rosen
Janet Rosen's Avatar
Location: Left Coast
Join Date: May 2002
Posts: 4,339
Re: This Is Only a Test

I absolutely love this essay. Thank you, Katherine.

Janet Rosen
"peace will enter when hate is gone"--percy mayfield
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Old 08-07-2016, 09:32 PM   #3
Susan Dalton
Dojo: Greensboro Kodokan
Location: Greensboro
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 346
Re: This Is Only a Test

I shared this one on our college aikido club's FB page. Thanks, Katherine.
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Old 08-08-2016, 12:39 AM   #4
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 716
Re: This Is Only a Test

Published the day after my test. What timing! Good article.
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Old 08-13-2016, 04:20 PM   #5
Dojo: Aikido Club of American Samoa
Location: American Samoa
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 179
American Samoa
Re: This Is Only a Test

Nice article, thank you. Also, congratulations to Robin; was that for Sandan?
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Old 08-13-2016, 05:45 PM   #6
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 716
Re: This Is Only a Test

Steven Shimanek wrote: View Post
Nice article, thank you. Also, congratulations to Robin; was that for Sandan?
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Old 08-20-2016, 05:43 PM   #7
akiy's Avatar
Join Date: Jun 2000
Posts: 6,049
Re: This Is Only a Test

Editor's note: I have moved the posts regarding Yuishinkai Yudansha Testing Protocols to this new thread:


-- Jun

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Old 08-20-2016, 06:19 PM   #8
Join Date: Jun 2011
Posts: 716
Re: This Is Only a Test

Thanks Jun,

Sorry to spam this thread. After a few posts, we took the conversation to PMs.

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