new years, hatsu geiko, goals and trajectory

January 2, 2022

Many traditional Japanese martial art practitioners observe Hatsu Geiko (first training), spending the first day of the year training, sparring, practicing, and socializing with teammates and friends. Over 10 years ago, we adopted this tradition at my Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu school IBJJA, and this has been a resounding positive influence on my growth as a person.

I’m normally not overly sentimental for Holidays, but in my culture it’s common to ring in the new year by getting as intoxicated as possible, often making regrettable choices and outlandish New Year’s Resolutions which almost never stick. As I get older, it seems silly and counterproductive to begin each new year in a state of mindless inebriation, poisoning the body and then spending the next day painfully reeling from that unnecessary overindulgence. What kind of message are we sending our bodies with this behavior? Are we perhaps squandering an opportunity for rebirth and reevaluation? 


Hatsu Geiko for me is a good motivator to avoid those indulgences, to begin the new year with a clear state of mind and positive trajectory. I spend some of my first waking hours of the year on the mats, surrounded by dozens of people with the same purpose of self improvement. It’s powerful. And this in turn has inspired me to adjust my routine for the first day of each year.

This year, I woke up early on January 1st, took a cold shower, meditated, and read through my entire journal from last year. Observing my challenges, ups, downs, adjustments, and how I’ve grown as a person, clear as day. This was refreshing and comforting because growth is slow and often not apparent. 

Then, I wrote down some goals. Certain quotas I want to hit each week and each month, things I want to accomplish by the end of the year, things I want to learn. One of these goals is to write a blog for this website every single week, so here I am. And already I’m just a little bit better at writing and refining my thoughts. Now, whether I actually meet my weekly quota is irrelevant in my opinion. The point is to push myself forward with tangible and attainable benchmarks, evaluate my progress, adjust as necessary, and grow. Which will also inevitably inspire other positive changes I haven’t yet anticipated.

Goal-setting also creates a shift in thinking by prompting us to ask interesting questions. Most people mindlessly proceed through the motions of their daily and yearly routine, never making adjustments or paying any mind to their development as a person. We wake up by accident, passively accept our circumstances, and never challenge ourselves to actually make things better. 

But when we set goals—for example making $7,000 a month by the end of the year—we have a target, a purpose, a mission. Then we ask ourselves questions which allow us to explore possibilities we otherwise never would have considered:

  • How might I achieve this goal?
  • How much money would I need to make in a week, in a day, to hit this mark?
  • How many hours would I need to work a week?
  • How much should I charge my clients?
  • Will I need to take on more clients or provide new services?
  • Might I outsource some of my work to save time for more lucrative tasks? 

By setting an arbitrary goal and asking questions, we invite our mind to explore possibilities beyond its normal reach, shining light where there was once only darkness. Maybe I won’t hit the goals I’ve set. Maybe my progress is only half of what I aim for, but it’s progress nonetheless. Progress that would not have happened had I not set the mark and asked the pertinent questions. 

It is a powerful thing to start the new year off on a positive note. Clear headed, functional, contemplative. We send a powerful message to every cell of our body that our purpose is to grow and develop. After all, if we aren’t growing, we are decaying. 

But growth doesn’t need to be as involved and complicated as we tend to make it, often it’s just a series of small steps. For instance, adopting a tradition of introspection and evaluation every new year—it’s not a big ask for most people. But little things like this move us forward. Small and incremental improvements compounded over time may be the push we need to achieve our greatest potential. Because life, like Jiu-Jitsu, is a game of inches my friends. 


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