A few weeks pass, and one day I arrive at Sensei's apartment and grab my work folder, opening it to find that all of my assignments from the previous month have been graded and returned!
Sometimes, the return of these assignments comes with news that I've been promoted to the next kyu or dan ranking. There are two things more important than promotions though!
1. Seeing recent work, but at a remove, often gives you a fresh perspective. I am generally dissatisfied with my work right after I've done it, and can only really see its flaws. If I forget about it for a few weeks and see it with fresh eyes, I'm able to appreciate its strong points.
2. It is another opportunity to get feedback, improve my eye, and guide my practice. The two pieces below have been graded and corrected in orange.
The first piece on the left is kana. The section that is circled is the part that the grader considered particularly good. The other orange bits of writing demonstrate lines that should have been differently shaped or positioned. For those of you who know Japanese hiragana, the corrections (moving right to left and top to bottom, are for "mo," "mu," and "yori." When I next practice, I will work on these specific characters with the corrections to guide me.
The second piece is rinsho. In addition to the usual corrections, rinsho comes with written comments. The orange swirl on the first character means it's very good. As you can see, the second character has LOTS of corrections! It is longer from top to bottom, the top portion is wider, and the lines of the lower portion are different lengths. The comment in the top reads, "You have a sense for sharp lines. Use a little more vertical line width." The comment on the bottom left reads, "Make the middle [of this portion of the kanji] wider." Note: I am not completely literate in Japanese, and the grader's handwriting is hard to read, but I've done my best. It is very likely I've gotten the translation a bit wrong.
There you have it! I know have specific things to keep in mind to improve my calligraphy the next time I'm practicing. If this all sounds fun and interesting to you, or if you'd like to learn more, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.