In this article I’m going to go through some of the advantages of goal setting and how they can boost your performance through strong mental plans. You are more than likely all aware of the SMART acronym, there are many interpretations but below are some of the meanings that I feel best suit.

Specific, significant,

Measurable, meaningful, motivational Achievable, action-oriented Realistic, rewarding,

Time-based, trackable

This is in the student handbook which I produce in our clubs, I feel it is very important for students and all martial artists to remember things do not happen overnight.


When looking at the stars and heroes in the martial arts: Grand Master Hee II Cho, Bill Wallace, Tony Sewell, Benny Urquidez; these people did not become extremely talented overnight. Through hard training (both mental and physical) and constant goal setting they were able to improve, and more importantly measure their progress.

For a beginner, goal setting becomes slightly easier, with the majority of martial arts the belt system allows more frequent gradings for the beginner. Any taekwondo practitioner will know that up until blue belt you can be graded every few months. This leads to an ability to plan for the next grading, and train effectively for it. However as the time between gradings increases (from intermediate up -but far more so at Black Belt) it can become more difficult to set new goals and targets; this is where your mental planning comes in.

I can remember when I first began; I was very overweight and inflexible. My instructor is well known for his awesome axe kick, and I’d look round in awe at the other students and their flexibility. I became frustrated when my own flexibility did not increase as fast as my fellow students, at that point, after reading a goal setting article, I set realistic goals for my flexibility and general training. It worked extremely well, and once I reached a goal level I would treat myself, I really felt like I had achieved something in a shorter length of time.

Once the coveted black belt is reached your role within your club changes, you are instantly noticed by new students, and without even noticing you will be a person that they will admire and aspire to be like. When the time of gradings increase it is vital to keep your body on its toes and keep setting yourself smaller goals, the likelihood of training for a grading when it is two or three years away for the majority is slim. I have watched it happen to people, Oh it’ll be alright -I’ve got a year and a half! these people can soon become demoralised due to the lack of progress they feel they are making – yet in reality they are constantly improving and refining their skills.

Below is a set of simple manageable steps which can help you set your goals out, successfully measure your progress, and leave you with a sense of accomplishment and a stronger mind.


Grab a piece of paper and a pen, write down what you want to improve. Perhaps it’s your flexibility, body fat levels, power, or technical performances. Anything at all, then you can decorate it, make it bold and stand out, then put it somewhere where you can see it regularly.

There are a number of effective places: on your desk at work, a bedroom wall, wardrobe, and a recent study showed that the bathroom door is an effective place to hang something should you want to take it in! If flexibility is your goal, take a photo of your maximum flexibility as you write your goals. If endurance is, time how long you can hold your leg at maximum height in a side kick position; if it’s your physique, take a photograph of your body at rest, the list is endless, but the point is clear -make a note of your ‘before’ aspect. Your goal should be measurable, and by that I mean you should have a way of seeing, and proving your progress. This is why I have emphasised the ‘before’ shot, this will give you a shot of where you’ve come from, and how much you’ve achieved.

When you plan your goal, check that it’s achievable, if it’s a final goal of becoming a world champion say, try to set smaller goals, leading up to the final goal. The chances are if it’s something you can easily see progress in you’ll feel better as you progress. ACTION is the key – so make sure you find out ways of achieving your goals, if you’re not sure, ask your instructor, or check the internet. Make sure your goal is realistic, you’re probably not going to be able to go from knee height kicks to the splits in a few days. The time it takes to achieve your goal will vary on your anatomy, approach and determination; but if you’re unsure as to how long, get a ballpark figure and add on a few days or a week – you’ll probably achieve it sooner than you think! Enjoy your path to success, persevere, and good things will come.

That’s all from me for this article, happy planning, and let’s look forward to goal orientated success in the future.

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