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Martial Arts and Goal Setting

Posted: October 02, 2022

Goal-setting is an essential life skill, one that we all need to learn–and the sooner we learn it, the better off we’ll be. While participating in any sport or physical activity can help, when it comes to goal setting martial arts training is powerful because the techniques to set goals and work toward them is built into the process.

What Are Martial Arts Goals?

Let’s start by talking about martial arts goals and how they work. Beginning and experienced martial artists are always engaged in the goal setting process because they are on a path of perpetual self-improvement.

While there are some martial arts that do not have a belt system, most of the disciplines taught at the average martial arts school do involve earning belts and stripes. Each belt or stripe represents a goal that students pursue. As they achieve goals, they get to display their achievement in the form of a new color belt or a new stripe on a belt.

The martial arts journey is one of constant learning. In the process of preparing for a test, students must repeat movements and master them to move forward.

Are Martial Arts Goals SMART Goals?

If you have ever read anything about goal setting, you may have heard about SMART goals. A SMART goal is one that is:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Time-bound

Let’s talk about what that means in a martial arts setting. All progress in martial arts training is incremental, with each level of achievement building on what the student has learned previously. There are no shortcuts. If a student wants to earn a black belt, they must begin with a white belt and work their way up.

What this does is teach kids and adults the importance of persistence and hard work. It also helps them to internalize the idea that every large goal is preceded by a series of smaller goals that lay the groundwork for it.

Mastering each skill is a mini-goal that helps martial arts students prepare for a test. Skills build on one another. In other words, all skills are specific, measurable, attainable, and relevant. They are also time-bound because students must prepare to take a test, and tests are only offered on certain dates.

Does Martial Arts Training Help Kids with Setting Goals in School?

One of the questions parents often ask us is whether learning a martial art can help kids set goals in school and beyond. The short answer is yes.

As we mentioned above, the process of learning a martial art involves a long series of actionable steps. Students are always making progress toward achieving goals, whether the goal is a small one like mastering a new kick or a large one like earning a black belt.

We have found that when kids experience the benefit of setting attainable goals, it helps them set long term future goals as well. It teaches them that hard work pays off and that achieving one goal can help them achieve their next goal, too.

Are Martial Arts Goals Relevant to Real Life Situations?

While the goals that martial arts students pursue may be specific to the discipline they’re learning and their skill level, these goals also apply to life beyond the mat.

A student who struggles with math in school may get discouraged if they try to move too fast to master a new concept. Participating in the martial arts shows kids that slow and steady is the way to go. They may not be able to master quadratic equations the first time they try, but if they apply the same persistence they learn in martial arts class to their math homework, they will see that any big goal is attainable if they work hard and break it down into achievable steps.

The goal-setting work that martial arts students do can lead them to success in any other area of life, from school to work and beyond. In fact, people who study the martial arts are often highly successful in their lives because they understand how to set and achieve long term and short term goals.

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