We all set goals.

Sometimes we set S.M.A.R.T. goals (more on that acronym later). Sometimes we set STUPID goals (that one isn’t an acronym, just emphasised). Some goals we achieve, and some we don’t. The problem is, between the goals that we never achieve and the ones we achieve at first but lose afterwards, we often end up with a net growth of close to zero! Let’s take a look at how to set the right goals, know when to use them, and know when to lose them.


Learning how to set SMART goals was really helpful for me. For those that haven’t heard of this before, SMART stands for Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely. This is a method of setting goals that is taught in many different branches of study because goal setting is useful in almost any activity, career, or lifestyle.

A specific goal means taking the time to think about the details, rather than setting a general goal. For example, instead of saying, “I’m going to get back in shape,” you could say, “I’m going to join The Black Belt Academy and train twice per week.” :-) We want to lay out a plan for our goals to help achieve them.

A measurable goal is just what it sounds like. Make your goals things you can measure. This enables you to actually track your progress, which will keep you motivated. For example, numbers on a scale, waist size, money in savings, and time spent with loved ones can all be measured to give yourself some numbers to check.

Setting an attainable goal means setting goals that are possible to achieve. For me, it means setting smaller goals along the way that help me see that I am growing closer to my ultimate goal. This will increase your confidence and determination to reach that final goal. The obvious martial arts connection here is the coloured belts we use to measure progress. Imagine how much more difficult it would be to get from white belt to black belt if there weren’t any belts in between (it used to be that way)! The other colours are a useful way to track our progress, and feel like we’ve made progress at each level. All of these smaller progress indicators will help you reach your bigger goals.

Realistic goals come back to being attainable. This doesn’t mean you should only set small goals. In fact, the big goals are sometimes the easier goals to achieve because you want them so badly! Have you ever completed a big task and felt so good afterwards that you said, “That was a lot easier than I thought!” Chances are the task wasn’t easy, you were just highly motivated to do it.

Timely means to put some timeframes on your goals. Sooner than someday, though! Don’t use the “someday” word, although this one has to tie into the rest of the points. For example, saying you want to achieve your Black Belt in 2 years could be very unrealistic. This is both something that is ultimately not your decision, and highly unlikely depending on the martial art that you are training in. On that note, I don’t recommend using belts as your goals to try to achieve a belt by a certain time. For weight loss, timely also means in a “reasonable” time. It’s best to shoot for between 1 – 1.5lb per week. Any more than this is not encouraged.

When to Use Them and When to Lose Them

Goals are great to use in the beginning of a journey. The first few weeks of working towards a goal are usually the most difficult to get through. During this period you are breaking bad habits or building new ones (usually both) and this can be both very challenging and very frustrating. This time is where many people lose motivation. During this period, if you have set some SMART goals, they might just be the motivation you need to keep going.

Have you ever reached a goal only to lose the progress you made shortly afterwards? Of the thousands of people that have tried the famous BeachBody workouts (such as P90X or Insanity), most people don’t make it through (because they are challenging!). But of the few people that do, all of them that I have met have fallen back to where they were before the program within a year of completing it! The problem is that most short term programs usually aren’t maintainable. If you can’t maintain what you did to reach your goal after the program finishes, you will likely fall back to where you started.

Try this for analysing a program before you start:

What if we lay out not only intermediate goals and plans for the timeframe we think it will take to reach our ultimate goal, but also a maintenance plan for after we do? With fitness I think this is a lot easier than we make it. Find some exercise that you enjoy doing, and then follow a healthy but maintainable and enjoyable diet and you are all set (just kidding, I know it’s not always that easy). If we have to do a workout plan to achieve our goal that we won’t be able to maintain afterwards, let’s NOT do it! Wouldn’t it be better to lose that 20 pounds over the course of a year if it meant it stayed off for the rest of our lives?

The same applies to martial arts. If you set your sights on Black Belt as your goal, and follow a training plan to get there that you aren’t going to maintain once you achieve it, will it really be worth it? If your goal was just to scratch it off a bucket list, then that answer may be yes. But if your reasons for achieving your Black Belt include growing as a person, learning to defend yourself, being more confident, and getting in the best shape of your life, then you won’t be happy to learn that those benefits will all disappear within the first year of quitting your training.

The Answer

What if we learn to set SMART goals for the items I just listed (growing, defending yourself, confidence, fitness, etc.) at the beginning of our journey? Then, as we grow closer to reaching the goal that we originally set out to achieve, we wean ourselves off of using goals and learn to just enjoy what we’ve achieved. We become motivated to maintain what we have because of the value it adds to our lives. If you learn to set smart goals, enjoy the journey, enjoy the training, and then enjoy the benefits of reaching your goal, you will continue to reap the rewards for the rest of your life.

In a sense we could call these lifestyle goals. We set small goals towards making something part of our lifestyle – healthy eating, fun exercise, spending time with loved ones, relieving stress, getting (and staying) out of debt, and the list goes on! Then once we have made them a part of our lifestyle, the goals disappear. You are now motivated by the joy that you get from living a positive, healthy life with the people you love. This phenomenon is what occurs as a lifelong martial artist. It may take you many years to make it to Black Belt, but once you get there you realise that it was only the beginning of the journey, because now the rest of your life is in front of you. You used the goals in the beginning (white to red) but then ditched them and just enjoyed the lifestyle once you got there (black).

On a final note, we should never stop growing. So once you have achieved a goal and integrated it into your life, remember to move on to another area that needs growth (or reduction!).

“In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.” – Robert A Heinlein

Final grading preparations today, another read over the Black Belt submissions etc.

Best of luck to everyone testing tomorrow, especially the Black Belt candidates. This is a very special day for them, representing the final stage of their ‘apprenticeship’ and the beginning of the journey to mastery!

Whatever the results tomorrow, remember in the martial arts you’re automatically a ‘winner’ every time you show up to train. The only way you can ever ‘fail’ at martial arts is to give up. 

Perseverance is the key, remember “A Black Belt is a white belt that never quit”

From Parenting magazine:


Activities like tae kwon do, kung fu, and aikido are a fun way for both boys and girls to achieve fitness and focus.

Some parents may think they also promote violence, but that’s a myth, according to experts. The martial arts actually help teach self-discipline and socialization skills.

In fact, many parents whose children have attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) report great success with these programs because self-control and concentration are exactly the skills underdeveloped in ADHD kids.”

But, say experts, it’s the respect kids learn, whether from bowing or standing still and waiting for the next command, that can be the most important benefit: It often carries over into school, helping to improve behavior and even grades, according to recent research. “Six is usually a good age to start classes,” says Mimi Johnson, M.D., a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Sports Medicine and Fitness. By that time a child should have enough muscle control to punch and turn properly and safely  — essential to getting a real kick out of the martial art he chooses.

Why not find out more for yourself and try 30-days FREE membership as our VIP guest!

Don't say can't

Every time you say you ‘can’t’ do something you’ll tend to believe yourself… Your subconscious will interpret it as a definite CAN NOT BE DONE, which is incredibly debilitating as it will stop you from even trying..

Think just how much more powerful it is when you switch that around to ‘how can I?’ instead. When you think that your mind immediately goes to work on looking for solutions, ideas, things to try. Has anyone else ever done it? What did they do? How could I get started? etc.

I know which I’d prefer. How about you?

Dillon Callinan

When we first met Dillon he was really shy, and you’d be lucky to get a few words out of him even if you asked a direct question.

How amazing then to see him a few years later where he stood up in front of his whole school and gave a 20 minute presentation about his martial arts to well over 100 people! Such a huge improvement in his confidence since he began training at the Academy. 

Well done Dillon!


Sometimes life throws us a curve-ball and we have to miss a few classes.

“The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure”

When that happens it’s easy to feel a bit ‘out of the loop’ and though it really shouldn’t be a problem, sometimes our subconscious takes over and starts playing silly games with your confidence, and it seems to get harder and harder to get back in the dojang. If you’ve ever been in that position, I bet a few of these thoughts have gone through your head:

“I’ve not been for ages, I’m so unfit it’s going to hurt when I go back”

“I’ve forgotten everything!”

“Everyone else has learned a load of new stuff and I’ll look daft because I can’t do it”

“They’ll all think I’m useless for not training”

Trust me, we’ve all been there, and I’ve heard all these B.S. excuses a hundred times over the years.

The simple fact is thats just our silly subconscious talking. The same one that makes us procrastinate about all sorts of things.  Sure, you may need to take it steady for a couple of classes to ease back into a routine, but other than that you’ve got nothing to worry about.  Worried about what others are thinking?  Think about it, how much do you worry about other people’s training?  The simple fact is, we miss you when you’re not there, and the only thing we’re likely to be thinking is “hey I hope they’re ok and back training soon”.

There’s a very simple solution if you’ve missed some training and want to know how to get going again.  Take a top from Nike and JUST DO IT!  All you need to do is take that first step back into the dojang and you’ll soon realise that you had nothing to worry about.

We’re looking forward to seeing you soon!

Hey team,

Wow, the past year has flown by, it doesn’t seem like five minutes ago I was writing ‘happy new year’.

Did you make any goals last year? Maybe you set some new years resolutions. If you did, did you stick to them? I’m guessing for a large group of us probably not, but rest assured you weren’t alone!

Do you know why most people’s new-years resolutions fail?  It’s because as a society we’re conditioned to the fact that “nobody sticks to new years resolutions”, or “they’ll be forgotten by the end of january” etc. If your whole life you’ve heard things like that it’s going to be pretty hard to break the mould isn’t it?

Japanese Kanji characters for KAIZEN

So, instead why not try a different plan this year, and don’t just make short-term resolutions, but instead commit to one simple principle of Kaizen– aim to just make small improvements every day.  If every day you do one small thing to improve your health, a small ‘chunk’ of time on a project, one good deed for someone else etc. after a while they all add up.  You couldn’t jump to the top of a mountain in one step, but you could climb it one small step at a time..

Now I know I rattle on about it a lot, but how about trying one thing, spend a bit less time on Facebook and try visiting our discussion forum instead!  At the last count there were over 11,000 posts in 700 topics with some really interesting discussions about all kinds of topics relating to martial arts, fitness training and personal development.  Everyone is welcome to join, it’s free and it’s a great place to keep in touch and share in your passion for the martial arts.  Parents are welcome to join too!  We would love to see some contribution from you guys on there :-)

Check it out at: www.blackbeltacademy.info/forum If you’re not a member yet just click on the ‘register’ link at the top, pop in your name and email and we’ll get you online right away!

As we’re approaching our christmas break I’d just like to take a moment to express my gratitude to everyone for their support over the past 12 months.   Firstly, thank you to everyone who contributed the very touching testimonials which led to two very special awards for me at the GIMA training weekend, promotion to 6th Degree Black Belt and GIMA Instructor of the Year.

I would especially like to thank Shirley Williamson and Robbie Hirst for their fantastic support in class. They really are the unsung heroes of the Academy that keep things running smoothly behind the scenes and allow me to focus on the teaching. If you’ve not done so recently, please take a moment to thank them personally.  Thank you also to all the parents who support their children and ensure they’re in class nearly every lesson, to the adult members who turn up regular as clockwork and even those who can only make it once in a while, you all inspire me every day, and you are the reason I do this.

Until next year, KAIZEN!

Master Olpin  관장님 리차드