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Helping beginners set realistic goals

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    Helping beginners set realistic goals

    I originally wrote this for Aesopian BJJ | Facebook but thought it would be worth sharing here too.

    I have been teaching a lot of white belts and beginners and I keep seeing people get discouraged because the goals they set for themselves aren't being met in a couple classes or even a couple months. They're ambitious ones like:

    - Submit that purple belt.
    - Not tap to anyone all night.
    - Pull off this awesome submission.

    Setting goals like those is normal but from my perspective as their instructor here is what I am really looking for:

    Basic conditioning, improving balance and coordination, learning the names for things, persistence and regular attendance, paying attention to instruction, diligence in drilling, being willing to spar even if they think they'll "lose."

    BJJ can be really rough when you're a beginner and going in with unrealistic goals sets you up to feel like you "failed" even when you didn't. When talking with beginners, I've had to help them see that rock bottom goals are just as good (better really) since they are realistic and are what a beginner is really trying to do. They are goals like this:

    - Remembering a technique you learned in the past.
    - Not having to sit out and rest during class.
    - Finishing full rounds of sparring - no sitting out.
    - Not getting swept as quickly.
    - Not getting submitted so quickly.
    - Seeing where you could do a technique you learned (whether or not you get it.)
    - Learning a technique and using it in sparring the same night.
    - Knowing the names of the positions and techniques.
    - Escaping bad positions or at least preventing submissions.
    - Being better at a move the second time you learn it.
    - Not panicking too much.
    - Not holding your breath.
    - Not being too tense.
    - Not burning out your grip by holding on too tight.
    - Coming to 2-3 classes per weekly regularly.
    - Having a really hard night and still training again the next day.
    - Giving a higher belt some trouble (even if just holding him in your closed guard so he can't pass.)

    How quickly a beginner gets past these and into more fun goals like "Develop my half guard" and "Hit triangles on everyone" depends on a lot of things (mat time, previous martial arts or wrestling experience, etc.) but when 9 out of 10 people quit BJJ in their first few weeks, it seems worth looking at things from this level.

    Let me know what you guys think.

    One of my fencing coaches used to emphasize the difference between result oriented goals and training goals. His point was that result oriented goals ("beating that purple belt," winning that tournament, etc.) tend to be outside the athlete's control, and don't give much day to day guidance. Training goals (I'll drill these moves this many times a week, go to this many practices, work from these positions) are the opposite, and are far more useful. That seems pretty much in line with what you're saying.


      Thank you for posting this, I'm going to make my students read it.


        Great list.

        I keep seeing people get discouraged because the goals they set for themselves aren't being met in a couple classes or even a couple months.
        Personally, after reading my favourite thread of all time back in 2006, I decided that I wanted my training to be completely focused on technique above all else (or as much as possible, given that even with the best intentions, you're never going to completely suppress your ego).

        I try to focus on a specific technique, or small number of techniques, for several months (or longer). I then attempt to apply those particular techniques in sparring: for example, focusing on escapes from side control and mount. If I can get one small positive after each lesson - maybe just feeling I better understand where my elbows should be, or improved timing with the upa etc - I'm happy and feel like I'm progressing.

        I find that way, it's difficult to lose motivation, because your goals are very specific and easy to track (I take a lot of notes after each class). You're worrying less about being tapped out, instead concentrating on how to make your technique better.

        If I get caught, it just means I have an opportunity to ask what I did wrong. That in turn gives me something to work on next time, trying not to make the same mistakes again.


          i need to show this to the ex-nfl dude who just started at my gym thinking hes going to do MMA by spazzing and tackling to get out of guard.


            I have been giving this speech a lot lately.



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