With the new year fast approaching, the internet is abuzz with jiu jitsu practitioners reflecting on their accomplishments over the last year and listing their goals for the next. Throughout these posts about jiu jitsu goals, I’ve noticed a few common themes that warrant some discussion:
“Get my ____ belt”
Too many posts indicate that a practitioner wants to achieve a new belt color in the coming year. In general, these goals seem to be particularly common among less experienced practitioners (white and blue belts). I’d argue that these types of goals tend to miss the point of jiu jitsu – to improve as a practitioner. Your belt color will follow as a consequence of your skill level and dedication. Often, they are also unrealistic – it usually takes several years to transition between belts in BJJ, and promotions are ultimately up to your instructor. By focusing too much attention on your “rank” you may simply end up frustrated and de-motivated.
“Win ____ division at the ___ tournament”
Competition is a great way to test yourself against practitioners of similar experience. Accordingly, competing is an excellent way to identify areas of your game that need improvement. In addition, upcoming competitions provide excellent motivation for training. However, setting an overly specific (or perhaps unrealistic) goal such as winning the -85kg blue belt division at the Pan Ams may be counter-productive if losing a match at the tournament will overly discourage you. Perhaps a more productive approach would be to set a goal such as “compete at 2 regional and 1 national tournament in 2012.” This still provides a concrete framework to motivate you to train, but will direct your focus towards learning from each competition rather than placing too much emphasis on a specific outcome.
These types of goals are too vague to be helpful. Of course, you will get better with regular, consistent training. A more helpful goal may be something like “attend __ classes per week” or “train ___ hours per month.” This approach provides a manageable timeframe in which to assess your progress, and allows you to keep track of something objective (hours trained/ classes attended) rather than a vague sense of your skill.
Of course, I’m no personal trainer or life planner. I can only speak from personal experience – I’ve made these same sorts of goals in the past, and found them to be either too vague to be useful or so unrealistic that they were frustrating. So what are my BJJ goals for 2012?
- Drill 2 techniques per week from Pedro Sauer’s blue – purple belt curriculum for at least 20 minutes each outside of class.
- Learn/polish the sweeps on Pedro Sauer’s blue – purple belt curriculum until I can reliably execute them on resisting opponents.
- Gain at least an additional 200 hours of mat time in 2012.
- Each month, attend at least 1 class/open mat at a different academy.