The Importance of Goal Setting when Training

381830_10151094286386561_625153962_nBy Brendan O’Reilly

“When a man does not know what harbour he is making for, no wind is the right wind.”

As many of you may have already realised, grappling and MMA are multifaceted and highly skilled arts, far more dynamic and complex than most people first imagine. When one trains diligently for a substantial period of time it is also evident that there is no “right way to fight”. Every top-level fighter has their own unique and effective style. There is, however, a longstanding tradition in the sport to train with purpose and constantly strive to improve your skills. To do this, it is helpful to set yourself short-term goals, which over time will come together to build you into a more complete and confident fighter. Everybody has strengths and weaknesses, and once these are identified, it is possible to concentrate your effort to rapidly improve your skills.

Perhaps you are not great at escaping side control? Instead of ignoring this vital aspect of BJJ and MMA, commit to 15-20 minutes of quality drilling per day with a partner. You don’t have to tackle the whole “staircase” at once, just take the first step! Similarly, you may realise that although your punches are crisp and fast, you are lacking in defensive skills. For the next few months you can shadow-box, do defensive drills with a partner, and sparring, with the specific intention of improving your defensive techniques. By focussing the majority of your energy and concentration on this aspect, you will gain rapid results. The new techniques will soon become instinctive, enabling you to move onto your next point of focus. As suggested by boxing legend Kostya Tszyu, you should “Do short-term, small-picture things with the long-term, big-picture in mind”.

The greatest opponent you will ever have in life is yourself, and it is important to always create new challenges. This goal-setting mindset, and the refusal to stagnate with easy, monotonous training is what creates true champions, whether it be in the ring, the classroom or the office. So the next time you head into the gym, have a goal in mind, however big or small it may be, and work hard for it. If a training partner has a similar goal, work together and build a fun and competitive culture. For example, see who can do the most technically correct guard passes in three minutes. Each training session challenge yourself to improve by one repetition, and make your technique even tighter. It doesn’t sound like much, but each session you are setting a new personal best, creating mental toughness, and developing a winning culture at the club. Keep that goal in mind, and never give in to yourself. You will find that this mental toughness and discipline soon transfers into other aspects of your personal and professional life, and you will achieve results at whatever you set your mind to.

In the end, your ability to improve is not the responsibility of your coach, gym, family or friends. Ultimately it’s up to you and how much you’re prepared to give. So if you want to realise your full potential, set your goals and remember “You build the ladder by which you rise”.

By Brendan O’Reilly

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