Do You Set Goals For Yourself In Your Jiu-Jitsu Training?

One of the most difficult parts of training is not having tangible proof of ones own improvement.  I firmly believe it’s why the belt system, which can breed certain toxic attitudes, is so important to so many people, and I think it’s why so many people quit.  If you train day in and out with the same people and don’t cross train or compete often, it can seem like you’re standing still (even though you are probably not, but everyone else is moving forward along with you.)  I think that setting goals is a skill that many of us don’t focus on, and it’s a skill that can keep everyone from the high level competitor to the lowly brand new middle aged white belt on the mat.

Goal setting is one of the most difficult things to master, but it is at the same time relatively simple: choose an area, any area, of your game that you want to improve, choose a specific activity that can be monitored within that area, set specific milestones that you want to reach, and then reach them.

Here’s a recent goal that I worked on: I found that most of the submissions I was hitting both on the tournament mat and in the gym, were joint locks, arm locks, and leg locks.  I couldn’t finish new white belts with collar chokes, though. Rather I’d have to use the threat of collar chokes to then joint lock them, and I found myself losing in some competition matches to lesser opponents who didn’t respect my non-chokes.

So I decided I wanted to improve my chokes.  How did I do this?  I refused to joint lock anyone of lesser grappling prowess than me in the gi.  I’d sit there fishing for collar chokes, and as time progressed over the course of two months, my collar chokes became more and more effective.  Once my chokes became more effective, I started designating different chokes for different folks, only hitting loop chokes on partner A and then only hitting chokes from the back on partner B.  I even used a choke I had been working on in a competition match against a fellow purple belt.  It felt great!

Goal setting and accomplishment to me is more valuable than any stripe, belt, or medal.  Of course, one can set goals involving rank promotion or competition results, but skill development will lead to both of those, and is 100% under my control.  I can’t always control the outcome at competition and certainly don’t get to pick my own belt rank.

Instead of thinking about anything that is out of your control, spend time and energy focusing on setting and reaching goals.  Choose specific positions you want to work on, and then devise ways to work on them.  If you’re not particularly good at executing techniques in rolling, set numbers of repetitions you want to hit of a specific technique every training session, and then do it.  Know that even if you are not yet able to hit that technique on another person, doing the repetitions will inherently make the technique part of your muscle memory.

If you want more of a challenge, set a certain number of hits for a specific technique per training session.  Don’t leave the mat until you’ve reached your daily goal.  Try to exceed it if you can for bonus points.

And worst case scenario, if you have no clue what goals to set for yourself, you can always ask your instructors or training partners for suggestions.  Chances are they see something you don’t.

Setting goals will keep you engaged even if you feel like you’re not improving.  Being able to tap Jim or Bob is going to be a far more daunting task because both Jim and Bob are probably working just as hard as you and are familiar with your game. However, drilling your favorite sweep 50 times per session or hitting your high percentage submission on newer people at the gym is going to be attainable.  Set attainable and measurable goals, and crush them!


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