Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Way to Black Belt and My Current Martial Arts Goals

This weekend I finished reading an excellent book called "The Way to Black Belt" by Lawrence Kane and Kris Wilder. (You can find out a little bit more about them here) This is packed with great information for any martial artist, especially a beginner or anyone who is serious about really learning and seeking excellence in the martial arts. 

To be fair... if you are/were already serious about the martial arts, or have studied before, you MAY have trouble getting through the first chapter, which is essentially a pep talk. In all honesty, I really hated chapter one, I already knew I wanted to study martial arts, but it has some good information about goal setting. Chapter two was much better and could be incredibly useful to those seeking a dojo or looking for a good teacher. The rest of the book was/is awesome. It is one I will continually reference back to and probably re-read certain parts of frequently throughout my journey to black belt, and even after. (And, I very rarely re-read books within more than a few years)

Seriously, its a great book. Go read it. Each chapter has a theme packed with useful information, followed by an action plan and lots of really great sources for additional material and resources. Here are some of the questions from the first two chapter's action plans along with my answers.

Chapter One is all about setting goals, getting yourself into a dojo, taking the first step and starting on the path to martial arts. There is nothing that can stop you and there are no good excuses for not finding a way to get started. Once you get started you will need goals and motivation to help carry you to black belt. Simply wanting a black belt is not enough to get you there, so they talk about setting mile markers, and smaller goals, and really looking at your reasoning for wanting to be involved in the martial arts and get a black belt. This is where I gathered a lot of the information I posted about setting SMART goals in my first blog post.

To give you an example

The action plan questions for Chapter One are:

What are your top 3 specific, measure-able, achievable, realistic, and time-bound, short-term goals?

Mine are: - make a habit of practicing my kata every night before bed for the entire month of April and/or Practice meditation and VMBR on days when I am not in class or working out, all of April to create a habit that will carry over into the next month, etc.
- Go to at least one M.A. Seminar with my old instructor and close friend Nick Guinn by this time in 2012 (You can find his blog here.)
- Get my orange belt.
*Since these are short term goals, once they have been met in the near future, I can then make new ones. for example, once I can my orange belt I can then start working towards my purple belt.

What are your top 3 specific, measure-able, achievable, realistic, and time-bound long-term goals?

Mine are:
- Get my black belt in Kempo, which should/could take me anywhere from 3 to 5 years.
- After getting my black belt, or close to the time I get it, start training in Aikido/Aikijutsu again
- Within 10 years, I would like to be qualified to be able to teach for, and actually teaching for, Nick Guinn.

The next set of questions can help you articulate your goals

What are the 3 most important elements of your role as a student?

For me they are
- pay attention in class and take notes
- practice outside of class
- learn everything

What are the three most important things your instructor can do to help you succeed?

for me they are
- answer questions
- be patient
- correct me when I’m doing something wrong/give lots of feedback

What are three specific challenges you know that you will face?

for me they are
- smaller size and less strength than men
- possibly getting injured (again...)
- discouragement (usually from me, more than anything sadly)

What are 3 ways to overcome these challenges?

For me I can
- practice proper technique till it is ingrained into me and that is all I know how to do, NO SLOPPY Martial Arts. Technique always wins out over strength.
- Be cautious, don’t over do it in class or in physical training, and if I do get injured, take it easy and train mentally until I’m well again.
- no matter what happens, don’t give up. Seek encouragement and advice from my Sensei, or ‘those who have traveled the path before me’

What 3 indicators will serve as mile markers to demonstrate progress on your journey towards earning a black belt? (or Goals I would like to achieve before black belt)
- I am able to explain or teach something to others
- Unconscious competence when sparring/reacting - Mushin when practicing and doing kata (this is something I have yet to see from even the brown belts at my school trying to go through all their Kempos, DMs, Katas, and Pinons. I want to be able to do them all without thinking about it or having to stop and figure out what comes next or having to struggle through them)

So there you have it. Those are some of my Martial Arts goals, hopes, aspirations, etc. It really is my dream to be able to teach martial arts and help others some day. With a lot of hard work and perseverance, I'll get there.

I'm genuinely curious, feel free to comment with some of your goals, even if they're not martial arts goals. If you want to share, I want to hear them. ^.^ Take care, all

~ Samurai Girl Sahara


  1. Sugar -

    Thank you for a great, and balanced review. You spoke to what you liked and disliked e.g. The majority of the book, and Chapter One respectively. Regardless a nicley assembled review and that is much appreciated. You're pretty fortunate to have trained with Sensei Guinn – he is one of the good ones, and his foundation will carry you a long distance. Best to you and your endeavors and I'll keep reading.

    Kris Wilder
    Co-Author, “The Way to Black Belt.”

  2. You stated, "What are three specific challenges you know that you will face? for me they are - smaller size and less strength than men"

    Lean how to generate power using momentum, etc. See the Book of Martial Power by Steven J. Pearlman.