Becoming a black belt world champion may be the loftiest goal one can shoot for in our sport. However, this goal is not for everyone. If this is your current goal, I don’t want to shoot down your dream. This article is not for you. If you are busy with work and can only train a few nights a week, are a BJJ hobbyist, busy mom that loves training, or like me, a mat rat (or panda) that has no interest in becoming a world champion this article is for you.
My BJJ instructor/role model/life coach Kevin Sheridan used to sit us down once a year, usually in January after Sunday class, and we would spend an hour on goal setting. We did this every year, I can honestly say this was one of the best things Kevin ever did for me and his other students. Over the course of the years, everyone that put the time into our little meetings achieved much more than the ones that opted out. Let me share some of the most popular ones in no particular order:
I will go to BJJ practice X number of times a week. This is one of the most powerful goals you can set, especially if you struggle with consistency. I find that three times a week is the magic number for improvement. Although it seems easy, you would be surprised how many people I saw choose this goal and struggle to meet it.
I will lose X number of pounds. Weight loss is a pretty common goal. I had many students lose upwards of 50 pounds in about a year. Many times weight loss goals were tied to competition weight classes, so someone walking around 195 would set a goal to make middleweight or 180 with the gi on. Many times this goals had a specific deadline like a tournament. If you choose this goal, don’t cheat yourself. Make the weight a week before the tournament through dieting. Don’t go full UFC weight cut on us and make the weight through a sauna suit and water manipulation.
I will not close my guard for a year. This was my goal in 2009. I had just gotten my purple belt and wanted to improve my open guard that Kevin kept smashing. At this point, closed guard was strongest part of my game, and I completely abandoned it for a year. I forced myself to play open guard. Unless we did specific drills or sparring from closed guard, I did not play closed guard for a year. The first few weeks were rough as guys that I usually handled were suddenly getting around my guard, but I slowly improved. By the end of the year, open guard was one of the strongest parts of my game. You can apply this concept to anything, I had training partners start every roll from side control for a year for example
I will go for an armbar every roll. My friend Andrew did this and it sounds easy, but after a week or two when your training partners catch on to what you are doing you, it becomes much more challenging. They will become hyper-aware of their appendages and you will have to become more crafty with your armbar attemtps, setting them up different ways, looking for them in different positions. I am currently working on a similar goal, and I have been going for a cross-body ankle lock on every roll for the last 3 months.
Talking about goals in terms of years might sound like an unmanageably long stretch of time. In jiu-jitsu hours, it ends up going by quickly. At the same time, having a year-long goal does not mean that you stop learning everything else, but it does give your training a consistent direction that will drive your overall progress much more effectively than working on one concept for a month and leaving it behind.
What goals are you working on? How is it going?