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This one may seem like a no-brainer but there is a bit of an art to setting and meeting goals. I say that because I fail at setting and meeting goals frequently. It’s easy to become discouraged when the goal is too big and unmotivated when the goal is too small. We try to tackle everything all at once in skills like Krav Maga because there are so many areas to improve. Students often feel rushed to advance to the next level and want to improve as quickly as possible. The trick is to make the goals manageable so you can walk the fine fine between aiming high but also meeting goals consistently. Small disclaimer: I’m not an expert on this (or anything I blog about here). These are tricks that work for me; they may not work for you, and that’s fine. The whole goal of these posts is to generate some discussion and self-reflection on how you can improve your training. Take from this what you will.
Goal setting in Krav Maga can be especially vexing for me because I’m a perfectionist and
absurdly ambitious. I found, through a lot of trial and error, that I get frustrated if I set a goal, and it takes too long to meet it or if I set too many goals for myself. I also tend to get discouraged when I fail one little thing in a class, even if I have done everything else correctly. However, I find that setting a goal for myself (either short term or long term) can redeem most classes and can make tracking progress a lot easier. At the very least, it makes me feel like I’m working towards something I can be proud of later, even if I have a bad class in the meantime.
The easiest way to tackle goal setting is to pick one small thing to work on per class. That could be one thing per skill or just an overall thing you want to achieve in that class. For example, I realized reading body language is not always my forte. I guess wrong often, especially when I’m trying to anticipate a motion from my opponent versus just reacting. This eventually annoyed me to the point where I changed how I “play” shoulder tag. Shoulder tag in itself could (and probably will) fill an entire blog post, but one area a lot of students tend to ignore is movement. This became a tool I wanted to use to improve how I read an incoming attack. I tried to make a point of moving away from the arm rather than blocking it. This forced me to react and pay attention to body language. It was not successful at first. I kept moving into the arms instead of away. But I got it eventually. This also helped develop better footwork for moving left and right, since I tend to favor creating distance. Did I move successfully every time? No. Is my movement better than it was six months ago? Absolutely. That’s all that matters, and I can take that improvement.
Another example of a small goal was developing a solid hook. My hooks used to be my weakest skill. I didn’t get them, and my form was terrible. This also annoyed me to the point where I made improving this a goal as well. So I worked on them constantly. I took small aspects of it I knew I was bad at, and tweaked them each class until they became less of an issue.This was not a quick process; it took months of work, and I just wasn’t feeling it some days. Eventually, my hook developed into something solid. Sometimes it can be my strongest part of the combination, which is something I’m proud of now.
Goal setting has become an integral component of my training. I always have something to work on. I have found that it makes a big difference for my training if I place progress markers for myself. It allows me to track my progression in skills, and continually work on things that I know I need to be better at. I would be willing to bet that all of you do this to a degree without realizing it. Having a test date in mind for your next belt is a goal you are actively working towards. If you can make that a goal, why not make other aspects of training a goal as well?
I’m not an expert on setting goals. There are plenty of self-help books that tackle it much more effectively than I do. Your goals can be whatever you want them to be based on your strengths and weaknesses. It can be anything: getting to class three days this week, going non-stop on a punching drill, doing those ten burpees a little faster, etc. You have so many options to make classes more productive for your skill development.
The only thing I would caution is not to let your goals be centered around other people. It’s okay to be competitive and use other people to push yourself to work harder. However, training becomes a little more toxic when the training becomes more about surpassing other people than about progressing your own training. Stay focused on your lane. In the end, you are the one that is going to get yourself through belt tests and training long-term. Put you and your training first in class. Goal setting can be a really beneficial tool to do that. It helps you track progress and gives you something to work toward. I highly encourage everyone to consider making it a more central part of your training. Remember, it’s okay if you don’t meet those goals quickly. Some of them are going to take time. You will eventually have that class where the stars align and the technique just works; it will all be worth it in that moment.