Setting yourself goals is an important aspect of your martial arts training.
For some it is to achieve black belt, for others simply to get fit, some want
to gain more confidence. Other goals may include getting a full splits,
winning a gold in a competition or becoming an instructor one day.
It is important to set goals, both long term goals & short term goals.
Even more important is setting realistic goals. An example of a long
term goal may be reaching black belt level, but all great walks start with the first step, so in this case your short term goal will be getting a yellow tag, then the next short term goal will be getting your yellow belt. Each short term goal will take you one step closer to your long term goal of achieving a black belt. By having the short term goals that are relatively quick to achieve (provided you train hard for them) it should stop you becoming despondent & coming out with things like "I'm never gonna be able to do this" etc.
Even if you set yourself the short term goal of passing your next grading & you don't pass, this is not a failure, a set back maybe, but not failure. True failure is not the falling down, its the not getting up again.
Motivation is another issue that should be looked at. Motivation is hard to maintain when the going gets tough. Beginners are usually highly motivated because they are starting to learn something new & exciting, but after performing "Kaunde An Palmok Makgi" for the five thousandth time this motivation starts to wean a little. It has to be remembered that being a martial artist is not just about learning a technique, then learning another as soon as possible, but about making each individual technique as good & effective as it can be. In the old days it was not unusual to spend the entire lesson practising a single stance (i.e. Annun Sogi) & a single technique (Ap Jirugi). I remember a Karate friend of mine telling me a story of how an instructor was disappointed that his students foot sweeps were so poor. So he decided that for the next two months he would teach his class of thirty or so students the finer points of foot sweeping. He didn't tell his class he was
going to teach this way, he just did it. After a few lessons of foot sweeping students slowly started dropping out. At the end of the two months he was left with just two students, but them two students were able to foot sweep any person, no matter what size or skill level they were. That had in fact perfected the technique to a very high level indeed & they knew that if all else failed they could rely on their sweeps to win through.
As for the students who dropped out, well in my opinion is was their loss, but I could easily see why they would become disenchanted & lose motivation, one primary factor would have been boredom. All martial artists reach a peak or plateau, sometimes known as the Taekwon-do blues. A good example of this is stretching. When a beginner starts stretching they may feel inflexible, but usually within six months they have doubled their expectations of what they thought possible. Then it gets tough. From gaining 2 to 3 inches a lesson, suddenly your hard pushed to gain 2 to 3 millimetres a week. But with perseverance & motivation your stretch will increase at a slow, but steady rate. Again, goals come into play here, the long term goals may be to achieve the splits, but the short term goals is just to gain a centimetre a month. Remember, if you train regularly you can never go backwards, it just seems that way sometimes.
Parents can motivate their children. Winning at a competition is a good motivator, losing can have an equal or opposite effect on a student (remember you actually learn more when you lose than when you win). Other
students & of course instructors can help a little with motivation. But when it all comes down to it you need to motivate yourself. Remember why you started, what you set out to achieve, what you've achieved so far etc.
Even if you have been training a year, had a couple of grading set backs & are still a yellow belt, you've still achieved more than when you started, more than Joe Bloggs bumming around the streets or the guy who couldn't be bothered to come training because he'd miss Eastenders.
A final point to consider is this. If you compete against other people (i.e. your friend or brother/sister) one of you will always end up disappointed, as individuals learn different things at different speeds. If you compete against yourself you cannot ever lose.
Martial Arts Motivation & Setting Goals
by Stuart Anslow III
Martial Arts Motivation & Setting Goals
as featured in Combat Magazine - October 2003