NGAExperience® Nihon Goshin Aikido

Martial Arts Goal Setting ~ A Tutorial

January 5, 2015

Goal Setting ~ Whether they be  New Year’s Resolutions, or otherwise ~ What Makes Them Successful?

So in 2013, I made a great New Year’s Resolution. Looking back, I think it was my first good goal setting experience.

I remember it vividly.  My resolution was to compete in a natural bodybuilding contest.  It was suggested to me by a friend in the summer of 2012.  I had been lifting weights for several years, and my weight had gone from a fit 185 lbs to 230 lbs.  

By way of background, in my early years of barbell training, I was a believer in the “GOMAD” school of strength training.

GOMAD stands for “Gallon Of Milk Every Day” ~~~ Which spells “GOMED” and not “GOMAD”~ but who am I to point that out to a bunch of guys whose hobbies include going to the Wal-Mart, and then picking up small cars and moving them to new parking spaces and then watching to see how long the car’s owner searched to find their car.....  Anyway, like all those guys,  I lifted heavy on the BIG THREE LIFTS in barbell training (Squat, Bench, and Dead Lift) and ate as much as I could stand.  It generally worked.  I got somewhat stronger, but by December 2012, none of my pants fit me, and I was wearing warmups to church.... So a bodybuilding contest seemed like a nice way cut the fat ~ as I had no plans to buy bigger pants.

So, I did all the goal setting steps in Lou Holtz’s book “Winning Every Day:”  

#1  Write the goal down ~ somewhere you can see it every day.

#2  Tell everyone about your goal.

#3  Devise a daily action plan to reach your goal.

#4  Track and Keep everyone informed of your progress.

And it worked.  On contest day, I weighed 182 lbs.  It was a good thing I didn’t write down “Win Bodybuilding Contest” as my resolution ~ because it turned out that the diet I devised was so poorly planned that I lost most of the muscle mass in the cutting stage that I gained in the bulking stage ~ but that’s a different topic for another time.... By the way, the title of that article would be something like, “Some Times It Pays To Hire An Expert.”

Back to the point though:  It’s funny about the progress I made through the year after setting that goal.  For about 4 months, I could not tell any difference in my body ~ and my updates were met with blank stares and indifference.  It appeared as if nothing was changing, but I stuck to my plan, and continued to document my progress (in pictures).

Then one day, everyone could tell a difference, and as the contest got closer and closer, I actually had people I’d never met coming up to me in the checkout lines at the grocery store asking me what my calf routine looked like, etc.

I’ve attached some of those progress pictures on the left hand side to document the transition.  They are generally spread 6 - 8 weeks apart, but I actually took a set of pictures pretty much every week.  If you compared the pictures week to week, the differences/ improvements are barely noticeable (if at all).  Far from an exercise in vanity however, the point of the pictures to the left is to demonstrate that the resolution of 2013 went well.  I competed in a bodybuilding contest ~ and finished second to last out of the whole field of competitors.  SUCCESS!  

Fast forward to my next great goal which was my 2014 New Year’s Resolution.  My 2014 resolution/ goal:  “To begin teaching a morning or lunch hour aikido class at the dojo.”

It seemed like a great idea ~ as I was a newly promoted Sho-dan and was anxious to discover all the things I did not know.  It was a selfish goal also, as this would work well within my schedule, and increase my training time without compromising family time in the evenings.  The goal was an across the board failure.  

Failure #1:  I did not write the goal down.  

Failure #2:  I only told my Sensei and a few others that I thought would be interested ~ who already trained within the dojo..  

Failure #3:  When the class failed to immediately form, I stumbled on an opportunity to cross train in Ueshiba’s Aikido style on Monday & Friday mornings at a friend’s house and forgot all about my resolution.    

So what went wrong?  

First off, I stopped way to soon.  I made my 2013 goal in January, but did not realize that goal until August (8 months later).  There was no real plan for how it would work.  I never bothered to ask Sensei, “Would it be okay to do it?”  (In other words, could I get a set of keys to the dojo?)


Now as it relates to goal setting AND meeting the goal: “defining the goal” is the most important part of the entire process.  When I say “Define Your Goal” ~ I mean, make your goal something that you can control.  

Had my 2014 Goal been, “increase my aikido training time without compromising family time in the evening” ~ then it was a blazing success.  Which leads me to an even broader point.  You must really think about why your goal is important to you, and what you are really trying to accomplish.

For example making a goal like, “become a black belt by this time next year” is probably a poor resolution because you can not control your own rate of progression.

Far better than making a goal like, “Become a black belt by this time next year” would be to declare your goal to, “have 95% attendance at all dojo training sessions this year.”

Now, why is the second goal or resolution better than the first?  Well, because the second goal only requires actions in which you are held responsible.  You either make it to training or not.  The training itself may or may not develop your ability to warrant promotion to sho-dan in the time span hoped for, but you will have given yourself the absolute maximum opportunity to improve over that time period ~ and this is what you can control.

One other point about Goal Setting.  Sometimes the actual goal takes a degree of thought, and therefore is not quite ready for public proclamation at a moment’s notice.

In fact, as I write this article it occurs to me that my 2014 Goal actually was simply misstated, and misinterpreted as a failure.  At the core of my resolution to begin a morning or lunch time class was the desire to become better at aikido by increasing my training hours without further compromising my evening family time.  

When I was thinking about how to accomplish the goal, I was focused on creating what was needed and that meant teaching a class that wasn’t being offered anywhere else in my area.  That said, when I found the opportunity to train with another aikido yudansha, the “core intent” of the stated goal was indeed met after all.  SUCCESS!

So take some time to mull your next goal over, and follow your steps to success.  Don’t be afraid to adjust the goal based on new realizations of what is important, and mark your progress throughout.

Let's meet on the mat together soon!


Jonathan Wilson

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Unless otherwise stated, the author’s views, musings, and opinions do not necessarily reflect the attitude of leadership within any of the various Nihon Goshin Aikido associations, or unaffiliated Nihon Goshin Aikido dojos.

4 March 2013 ~

weight 205 lbs

4 January 2013 ~

weight 225 lbs

18 April 2013 ~

weight 196 lbs

6 June 2013 ~

weight 190 lbs

(This is when people started coming up to me in Wal-Mart)

4 August 2013 ~

weight 182 lbs (5 days before my first contest)

31 October 2014 ~

weight 194 lbs

Over a year later with (nearly identical body fat percentage but 12 lbs heavier than in the 4 August 2013 photo above)

The best New Year’s Resolutions never end.

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