How was your New Year's Day? In Japan on January first, there are many traditional things that start with the word Hatsu (初). There is hatsu keiko - the first practice of the year, hatsu yume - first dream, hatsu ne - the first warbling heard signing, hatsu hinode - the first sunrise and of course the hatsu mode - the New Year shrine visit.
Albert Camus said, "Life is the sum of all your choices." With that being said, these New Year "hatsu" are supposed to set the tone for the coming year and bring with them prosperity and good luck.
To reach life's greatest heights requires that we put forth the greatest amount of attention and diligence to every thing that we do. That is why the Japanese have the rituals so that the things that they do have the right tone so that they might inspire themselves to greater heights.
The dojo is supposed to be a respite devoid of the outside world and its distractions - a tranquility. Furuya Sensei used to say, "Before you enter the dojo, cut off your head and leave the outside world at the door." We can see this idea of hatsu in everything that we do in the dojo from packing our bags to bowing to our partners.
Training calls us to prepare or put in the proper amount of respect, diligence or effort into everything that centers around the dojo and training. Mastery is then the ability to extend that hatsu or positive tone to every aspect of our lives.