Setting Goals & Creating a Training Plan for Martial Arts Development

Setting Goals and Creating a Training Plan for Martial Arts DevelopmentEveryone has their own general reasons for training in the martial arts somewhere at the back of their mind, whether it’s to develop self-defense skills, get in better shape, etc. Just coming out to the dojo and getting your butt on the mats will, as long as the training your getting serves those goals, will keep you moving towards them. But for many people it can be worthwhile to create more specific goals for themselves so that they can create a training plan around them. This can be especially true at the higher levels of development when belt tests become less frequent, as it recently became apparent to one of my higher ranking students.

One of my blue belts asked if he and I could have a sit-down together to discuss his development so he can know what things he needs to work on more specifically so that he can create a training plan around them. I am always happy to have students take initiative and approach me in this way because I know that it can lead to great things.

To help outline the process, I decided to write up some goals and a training plan for myself with regards to one of my own over-arching goals as a martial artist.

1. Define Your Primary Goal

If you want to make progress towards some over-arching goal, it’s important to define what the goal is. As a general rule, you should try to make the goal as specific as possible so that it’s clear when you’ve achieved it. One of my primary goals right now is to get more work in the film stunt industry, but that is not a measurable goal the way I just described it. So instead, I’ve written out my goal like this:

Primary Goal: To get a total of 6 stunt credits to my name so I can become a full member with Stuntlist Canada by Dec. 31, 2012.

Note that I gave myself a specific goal of becoming a full member of Stuntlist Canada, which requires a total of 6 stunt credits. I already have a total of 4, so I need to get at least 2 more credits. I also gave myself a date by which I would like to complete this goal. It’s good to give yourself a specific timeline like this because otherwise it can lead to procrastination. It’s okay if you don’t make the set time you give yourself, as long as you’re working towards it. Timelines can always be reset if necessary.

2. List Your Secondary Goals

Your secondary goals are things you are trying to achieve that will help you achieve your primary goal. Again, it’s better to be specific. For some goals you may want to give yourself a timeline, for others you can just rely on your over-arching timeline. The secondary goals you set for yourself should address your strengths and weaknesses. You should aim to maximize the benefits of your current strengths, while finding ways to improve your most hindering weaknesses. Here are mine in relation to my above primary goal:

1. To get my stunt fight “reactions” to a consistent, professional level.
2. To improve my ability to learn, retain, and perform fight choreography.
3. To get my basic head-level kicks to a consistent, professional level for stunt work.
4. To create a demo reel that demonstrates my ability to do all of the above, as well as my falling skills.

To achieve my primary goal, I’ve identified my biggest strengths for film work to be fighting and falling. I’ve been told by a number of stunt performers that my extensive martial arts background gives me that “fighter” look, which is hard to develop. I’ve also been told I have a variety of skills, including my falling skills, that are useful in the industry. That being said, I’ve also been told that my martial arts skills on their own are not enough for doing high-level stunt fighting work, and that I need to work my reactions and my ability to do choreographed fights. My above secondary goals reflects these strengths and weaknesses, making it easier for me to develop an action plan, which leads to my third point.

3. Create an Action Plan

Once you’ve determined your secondary goals, you can then give yourself a set plan to help you develop towards those goals. When I say “set”, I just mean your plan is something you are striving to accomplish on a weekly basis. You still have to have a bit of flexibility with it because sometimes life throws curve balls your way that can interfere with your plan. Don’t beat yourself up over it, and just try to get back into the rhythm of it the following week. Here is my action plan for achieving my goals:

To get my stunt fight “reactions” to a consistent, professional level, I will do the following:

  • Stretch my neck and shoulder muscles at least 2x a day to make them more pliant for hit reactions.
  • Practice my set of head and body hit reactions at least 2x a day.
  • Film my set of head and body reactions at least once a week so I can see my progress.

To improve my ability to learn, retain, and perform fight choreography, I will do the following:

  • Practice creating and performing choreographed fights at least 2x per week, either at the gymnastics gym with other stunt performers or at my dojo with my students.
  • Film at least one choreographed fight per week so I can see my progress.

To get my basic head-level kicks to a consistent, professional level for stunt work, I will do the following:

  • Practice 10 roundhouse kicks, 10 side kicks, 10 axe kicks, and 10 hook kicks with each leg 4x per week on B.O.B. or with kicking targets.
  • Stretch my hamstrings and adductors 2x a day to make them more pliant for high kicks.

To create a demo reel that demonstrates my ability to do all of the above, as well as my falling skills, I will do the following (once I’ve achieved my first 3 secondary goals):

  • Film myself doing a choreographed MMA fight sequence with a fellow stunt performer.
  • Film myself doing a dynamic, choreographed fight sequence with multiple stunt performers.
  • Film myself doing a variety of police-style joint locks, weapon disarms and handcuffing techniques.
  • Film myself doing one really dramatic fall (end-over from a bicycle?).
  • Edit together all of the above as well as some previous footage I’ve already filmed to create a stunt demo reel.

Tracking Your Progress

Once you’ve written out your primary and secondary goals, as well as your action plan for achieving them, it’s just a matter of staying on target with your plan. Each week review how you did on all fronts, taking note of things you may not have managed to do that week so you can make more an effort to include those activities in the week to come. Pat yourself on the back when you stay on track with your plan, and of course, when you achieve the goals you set for yourself. It’s important to celebrate your milestones and enjoy your achievements, because isn’t that supposed to be the point anyway?

I’d also like to emphasize here that you don’t really need to do all this to be successful in the martial arts. Ultimately, if you get your butt on the mats and keep doing so regularly over the long term, you can’t help but develop. And many people prefer to do it this way. But, if you really want to achieve something specific, sometimes laying it out helps.

Now to you. Do you set goals and make action plans for yourself to achieve them? If so, in what ways has it helped you. Please feel free to share in the comments.

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