For more or less the entirety of my time in grad school at UPENN, I was focused on building an understandable and practical model for skill development and improvement in combat sport and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
One of the more important concepts for me was the idea of having distinct improvement goals in the long-term and short-term. These are different from competitive goals (IE: winning the advanced division at NAGA next week, winning the no-gi world’s at black belt in 4 years, etc…). Improvement goals focus on just that – a player’s own progression and development – rather than competitive benchmarks.
If you dig into the Sport Psychology literature, you’ll likely find that the highest level competitors set both competitive and improvement goals (IE: goals that measure their progress both in terms of self-to-self and self-to-other).
In this article we’ll look at long and short term improvement goals and how to make them meaningful for your own grappling progress:
I use a lot of analogies to business when I talk about high-level grappling training. Reason being: business is serious and in a big business, thousands of people have their livelihood in the hands of the leaders of the corporation and the systems they have to continue to succeed as a company. In BJJ, there is nowhere near that degree of granularity or focus on improvement as a science.
This could change – and I feel as though it will as BJJ becomes more and more popular, and the developing best practices of other combat sports (MMA included) start to eek their way into common practice culture.
Here are a few sources of insight that are important to draw on before setting goals. In my opinion you should aim to have at least 2 of these in your repertoire (and understood thoroughly) before setting goals that you’re going to follow seriously:
Goal setting is not a “whimsical” activity – although creative thinking may be useful. Its a task that requires serious subjective and objective feedback in order for it to be effective. You wouldn’t invest in a business if it had no business plan – so why not apply the same rigor and forethought to your improvement in grappling?
High-level athletes and coaches use both. Think about the difference in this way:
Food for thought indeed. What are the long-term and short-term areas YOU need focusing on? More importantly – what sources of insight and perspective will you use to determine these improvement areas and your plans for working on them?
For the love of grappling,
PS: Big thanks to Joe Lauzon for tuning me into the dichotomy of long vs. short term goals over a year ago – during an interview at his academy!
Coach Daniel is the founder and head publisher at Science of Skill, LLC. A martial arts black belt and self defense instructor, Dan has spent years training with and interviewing some of the world's best self protection experts. His passion lies in encouraging others to train smart and to improve the skills that make them safer and stronger.
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