Forty years ago today I took my Shodan (1st degree black belt) test in Tokyo. It was an extremely hot and humid day, much like here now. We sat in seiza for an unbearably long time.

I had trained diligently for the test and thought that I performed satisfactorily. The following day the names of the successful candidates were posted at the dojo. Mine was not among them. Typically there was no feedback in Japan, no guidance about how to improve. I did find one instructor whose class I had been going to regularly. He said that he hadn’t seen my test, but that he noticed that in regular class my practice wasn’t “genki” enough, i.e., it lacked energy.

With only that information in mind I returned to practice the next day and attempted to be more dynamic.

I retook the test in November and passed the second time around.

Where possible, failure should be an incentive to improve, not an excuse to give up.

In Aikido the techniques are a means to an end. Testing is a means to a means.

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