Sempai’s Corner – Goal Setting

This is a new series of articles written for by 36 year veteran Shotokan black belt Briant Peterson.

You’ve heard that martial arts can have many positive personal benefits. So you decided to give martial arts a try. You researched the local schools and found a school you feel is right for you. Setting a goal for yourself is the key to the doors of either success or failure in your karate career. I didn’t understand, or have the key to the door of success until the first goal I set was completed. I’ve been in the martial arts for 36 years, and intensely studying karate-do for 26 years. The below is written from the perspective of a martial artist, not a psychiatrist, nor sociologist.

Goals Setting

Many beginner and intermediate martial arts students set a goal of achieving a black belt, physical conditioning, or self-defense prowess. These goals tend to be too vague and abstract to be useful. The goal that may be more helpful for perseverance might be to give one’s best for two years to one’s karate. This might be an adequate amount of time to determine whether it is something one wants to stay with or not, to see if it has sufficient personal value.

You may encounter many obstacles that can tend to stop your karate study if you haven’t committed to a proper goal. Quitting is tragic to both Sensei and the student. Certainly After devoting so much effort to developing and training you. The rewards received for perseverance are valuable and inexplicable to non-practitioners. Below, is a discussion of the obstacles one may encounter and ways to succeed. Wear knowledge like armor and succeed.

The first obstacle to your training can be yourself. Your sub-conscience can try to “help” you avoid the stress of kicks, punches and other objects being hurled at your person. So, it can go about inventing excuses for you to not go to class. It can also “view” martial arts lessons and training as an avoidable, fatiguing stress in your life. I understand that it can enter and influence one’s cognitive thoughts.

One can go through a litany of excuses, such as, it’s too hot, it’s too cold; it’s raining; it’s snowing; I’ve had a bad day; I’m tired; there’s a good movie on TV tonight; my friends called and want me to join them for some fun; I have a headache; all my friends have dropped-out, so I might as well; I’ve missed for a month due to an injury and I need to get back into shape before I go back to class; I can’t afford tuition. These excuses can be inventions of one’s sub-conscience.

The second obstacle to training might be other students. There might be a fellow student that wants you to fail due to his/her jealousies, resentments, inferiority/superiority complexes, cliques, fear of the unknown, or other immature reasons. So, one needs to be prepared for the inappropriate egos, and abuses of some partners, opponents, seniors and juniors that one may encounter.

The third obstacle can be your family and friends. Some friends may become jealous of the time spent and devotion that you have and subconsciously be in competition with your karate. You might hear things said like, “You can miss tonight- You go three or four times a week; Let’s just have fun today; It would mean a lot to me if you came to my performance/presentation (instead of going to the studio).

Remember, your karate is fun, rewarding, relaxing. Don’t let anything stop you from achieving your worthy goal.

The black belt goal

Achieving a black belt level can be considered the very beginning of one’s karate training. Moving up through the colored belt levels is just preparation. It is a preparation of body, mind and spirit. Muscles are being prepared for quickness, speed, strength, efficiency. Mind is being prepared to instinctively use correct technique for a variety of situations. Spirit is being prepared to sense and avoid danger so you can defeat any opponent.

A lot of people drop out at 1st degree black belt. This is really the beginning of your journey in the martial arts. You may think you know what it’s all about at black belt, and; all that’s left is some polishing of your karate. So you quit, unaware your just getting started on a lifetime adventure.

What use is a black belt except to hold together one’s clothing. There is no final graduation in karate. There is just a continual perfection of your art and expansion of your universe. Even a grand master is still learning and creating. You are living a lifestyle of fitness.

A proper goal

After 2 years adequate training, you should have a pretty good idea of the value of what you have learned and that there is so much more to learn. You should also have a good grasp of your sensei’s teaching ability, your compatibility and the quality of your school.

After 2 additional years you might figure-out that the amount you thought there was to learn is much bigger than you thought before. After 20 years of study, you might start to understand how little you really know.

If you’ve recently entered the study of a martial art, consider giving it your best for a time period of perhaps two years. You deserve the best. Say to yourself “I am training today.” Repeat that phrase to yourself on class days.