These milestones are some of the core areas of martial arts content every martial artist works on improving. We are all on the same martial arts learning curve; the same loop of success and frustration. These aren't improved on a straight line, but a never-ending circle. Focusing on these basic milestones of martial arts will take your training far better than belts, ranks, or titles.
Milestone One: Shape(s)
Circles! Triangles! Squares! Oh Myyyyyyyyyyyyy!
Are you able to create a cohesive and stable structure out of your body's various parts, unting your arms and legs with your center (hara)? Can your body recognize the core shapes present in Aikido - the square, circle, and triangle? Can you place your body, mind, and energy (ki) into these structures?
Milestone Two: Motion
Just keep moving ... Just keep moving!
In responding to attack, are you able to keep your structure and shape intact throughout movement? Are you able to change your shape to meet the needs of your situation? Are you able to change your attacker's shape? These are some of the elements in this milestone.
Milestone Three: Energy
What goes around, ALWAYS comes around
Do you demonstrate aware, sincere, and controlled attacks? As you practice ukemi (tumbling, falling, rolling, receiving attacks), are you aware of your shape and your movements? Is your ukemi soft and fluid? Is your ukemi appropriate for the martial arts technique applied to you? Do you resist techniques with force, or connect to them to learn what your opponent is doing?
Milestone Four: Connection
When you attack, are you soft and fluid, or rigid and quick? When defending, are you able to move slowly and calmly with freedom, or do you move quickly and suddenly? Are you able to connect to yourself and then to your attackers? Are you able to keep and control the connection throughout the exchange?
Milestone 5: Centered
There is no spoon (?)
In all things, are you in complete control of your body, mind, and energy? Are you able to move independently of attackers or defenders? Are you able to attack or defend at will, flow between techniques, find reversal moments, or defend without techniques?