Continuing to learn Aikido has been an important component of my year. Aikido challenges me mentally, emotionally and physically, it puts me in the student’s shoes which helps me to be more compassionate and understanding of both my horse and human students. It teaches me about energy and body awareness and is good for my mind, health and fitness. I feel very fortunate and grateful to have this Dojo and Sensei in my home town, it is a Dojo of the Shin Sen School (soft Aikido – meaning it is based on using energy – our true power – as opposed to physical force). This year I was persuaded to do my 3rd Kyu grading. I wasn’t interested in gradings and I felt like I wasn’t ready, as in not competent enough, however Sensei really wanted me to do it, so I decided to do it and got more focused, studied the techniques more and did some extra training. I passed and received my hakama (flowing black pants that look like a dress that you where over your white gee). I learnt a lot from that experience and it was a lot about learning. One of the big lessons was how hard it is to learn under pressure and when things are rushed, thus emphasizing the importance of slow and right, repetition, breaking things down into bite sized pieces and then putting them together. Interesting I have just realised in writing this, that it is a similar lesson to the Arumi story. It actually was really important and empowering to stretch myself and get to another level of competence and I realised how things can stagnate and easily become sluggish in their progression and maybe the implementation of a step ladder via gradings in my horsemanship teaching could be good and something for the future ? Like everything it is all about balance, the balance of no time lines but at the same time working towards goals.