odin-tongueA goal is defined as “the object of a person’s ambition or effort; an aim or a desired result.”

Are you training with a sense of purpose? If you do not have any goals for your training then unfortunately you are training without a purpose. Now to take that idea a step further, if you are not keeping track of your progress then you are also not training with a purpose. Every year millions of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions and most of those resolutions are health related. Hence why come the month of January gyms across the country are full of people enthusiastic about accomplishing their New Year’s Resolution. Fast forward one month and those same gyms that were crowded are now thinning out. What happened? Where are all of those “Resolution-ers?”

Sadly they just left for numerous reasons. One of the main reasons that people quit anything is because they do not have their goals mapped out. It is similar to planning a vacation. Saying that you want to go to Disney World is different than planning out exactly how you will get to Disney World. When you plan a vacation there is an order of things that have to be done to make that vacation dream a reality. Let’s look at this in steps:

  1. Estimate how much the vacation will cost (Travel, hotel, food, fun etc)
  2. Set a budget to be able to save the money to cover vacation expenses
  3. Stick to that budget even when you would rather eat steak instead of hot dogs
  4. Request time off of work (Assuming you have a job)
  5. Pack your clothes and essentials
  6. Travel to and enjoy the vacation

These 6 steps are a very simplified way at looking at how to plan for a vacation. The main point being that in order to accomplish any type of goal it requires you to map out how to get there. Now there is a goal setting method that is taught in most college and high school level Critical Thinking classes and that is the SMART method (SMART being an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Results, Time(ly) ).

Specific: Be very specific with the goal that you want to accomplish. The more specific the better chance that you have at accomplishing that goal.

Measurable: The goal should be measurable to be able to track your progression towards accomplishing that goal.

Attainable: You should be able to attain this goal in the time frame set. Going from white belt to black belt in BJJ in 6 months is not an attainable goal. Your goal should challenge you and you should possess the abilities, skills, and knowledge to achieve your goal.

Results: Your goal should have an outcome. For instance if your goal is to lost 25 lbs then the outcome of that goal would be the weight measurement on the scale.

Time(ly): You should have a specific time frame set for you goal whether it be 30 days, 6 months, 1 year or 5 years. Each goal should have a start date and an end date.

As 2015 winds down and I am sitting here looking back over my year and thinking about the upcoming year of course there are a whole list of goals that are going through my mind and most likely they are going through your mind as well too. One of my goals is to become the best martial artist that I can be (this is not a very specific or measurable goal is it?). If you are reading this then most likely you have a very similar goal too or maybe your goal is a little simpler like getting in better shape (round is a shape but not all things round look good).

Bringing it to the realm of MMA how can we set goals to improve our “game?” Honesty is a good starting point. One of the things that I have meditated on over the holiday break is the realization that I am not as good as I think I am. For me this is of the utmost importance because when I acknowledge that I am not that good then I allow myself to be open to instruction from others who are more proficient than me. That is how I can improve my skill set. Another thing is to ask others (who have more experience) where I may be lacking and where I can improve. In any sport, we want to expose our weaknesses and blast them into strengths. Weak on your back? Then start sparring on your back. Weak at standup? Start sparring from standup.

Seems simple but how can we actually track our progress in a sport such as jiu jitsu? Jiu Jitsu is so dynamic that as you get better so does your training partner(s) and sometimes it is hard to see if you are actually getting better. That can be very discouraging too. So how can we measure our progress? Our professors measure our progress with stripes and belts but we cannot give ourselves belts and stripes so how can we know that we are improving and headed towards our goals?

Let’s do a simple example from a Jiu Jitsu  perspective, as a white belt one of your goals should be to earn a blue belt and when I say earn I mean EARN as in have the skill set that is able to be demonstrated to where no one will question it. (Disclaimer: Do not worry about your belt color or train for a belt color. Train because you love it. See my previous article about promotions.)

According to most the average time to attain a blue belt from white belt takes 2 years. Some people earn it quicker (6 months) and for some people it takes longer (4 years). For this example I am going to use the 2 year time frame for the purpose of establishing a training goal and tracking it.  

Goal: Blue Belt

Starting point: White Belt

At the White Belt level, you are a beginner like a baby learning how to roll over (and you do have to learn how to roll over the right way as a white belt), you know nothing and everything is new. So now we have to map out how we can get from knowing nothing to knowing the required knowledge that is blue belt level. Again I really want to reiterate that your progression is largely based upon your schools philosophy on training and skills. Schools vary in testing and belt requirements.

So we have a starting point and we have an end point, so now let’s map up a plan of attack to get there. The first step would be to setup a training schedule of Jiu Jitsu classes.

Training Schedule:

  1. Commit to a minimum of two classes a week. Two classes a week is the bare minimum that anyone would want to do. You will get better and improve but at a slower rate. We get better at BJJ through the amount of time that we spend on the mat.
  2. As your body gets used to two days a week add a third day and then eventually a fourth day. Four days a week for a working adult is still challenging to maintain a work life balance but it is extremely doable and as far as skills are concerned, 4 days a week is a great progression point.

You are now training four times a week and are slowly becoming an athlete. Yeah you might be losing a lot and getting whooped in class but you keep showing up! This is a measurable success and you can track your attendance on a calendar. Each class that you attend brings you one class closer to your goal.

Eating Habits:

  1. Change your eating habits. You are training four times a week and working really hard at improving so let’s feed our bodies accordingly! Replace the candy bars and soft drinks for protein bars and sports drinks. Eating habits can certainly hinder your progression. If you eat like crap then you will perform like crap.


  1. Pay attention in class. Ask questions. Show up early. Stay late. Do not just go through the motions. If you do not understand something then it is your instructor’s job to make sure that you understand and if you have instructors like we have at Neutral Ground, they will be more than happy to go over a move and explain a concept to you.
  2. Read books and articles. Watch YouTube videos. Fill your mind with knowledge and come back and ask your instructors questions about what you have read and watched.


  1. In open sparring is where you can demonstrate your skill level. When rolling with others try new moves, fail, get stuffed and come back for more.
  2. Compete as much as your body and finances allow you to compete. This is a great way to manage your skills. You can certainly tell how you are progressing when you stack yourself up against others.


  1. Do this for two years and beyond. Never give up.

This does not guarantee that you will be a Blue Belt in two years.

If you have made it to this point then you have arrived at the place to where you do not care about your belt changing colors because you have stuck around and developed a love for Jiu Jitsu, but if you still want to measure your ability to that of a Blue Belts then roll with them in class and during open mat. If you find yourself not getting submitted and actually getting into a dominate position on a blue belt or even submitting a blue belt who is of equal or greater stature to yourself then you know where your skill set is don’t you?

There are no destinations in Jiu Jitsu only the journey.