I bartered successfully! English tutoring for BJJ training. Today we met for our first English session, and it was all about goal setting. His goals will help me set the curriculum, figure out what activities to do, and ensure he’s “getting the most for his money.” πŸ™‚

It got me thinking: many people don’t know how set good goals/objectives, whether for losing weight, writing lesson planning, learning a language, or training BJJ. Setting SMART goals gives you focus, milestones, helps you improve faster and spend your time more wisely!

A specific goal gives you something exact toΒ work on. The more specific, the better! You can start by writing down your main goal, then work step by step to make it more specific. Improve BJJ (which aspects?)<guard (which position?)<closed guard (chokes? sweeps?)<sweeps from guard (which sweeps?)<scissors sweep etc.

Other BJJ questions: What is a move you consistently tap to? What is a move you’ve tried to do in sparring that hasn’t worked well for you? What are your go-to moves?

Programs like the Royce Gracie Jiu-Jitsu Network set these specific goals for you. If you’re part of this program, you know exactly what to work on! Sometimes, the instructor does it–like when you’re positional sparring and focusing on NOT letting the other person pass your guard.

Now THAT’S specific!

A measurable goal is observable with the senses. It can be seen, heard, felt, smelled or tasted (cooking classes anyone?). There is an objective way to say, “Yes, they did it.” If your goal is work on scissors sweeps, I can’t know if you’ve achieved your goal, but if your goal is successfully use a scissors sweep while sparring I can! In language it’s the same: “I want to use my new vocabulary while having a conversation.”

The Gracie Academy Women Empowered curriculum has this as a goal: By the end of the course, students will be able to overcome panic and apply the techniques against a resisting opponent in the Attack Simulation Drill. Anyone could watch and see if the person could do it. They are ticky-box goals. Saw it? YES/NO Heard it? YES/NO, etc.

An attainable goal is do-able given your current knowledge, skill and ability. A new language student flat out can’t do a debate. It is unrealistic for BJJ beginners to work on the 50/50 guard when they don’t know what full guard is. Set a goal you can realistically achieve. Aiming for something unreachable means you’ll ultimately get burned out and frustrated.

NOPE! Ain’t happenin’!

A relevant goal is one related to your overall gameplan. If your language goal is to do a job interview, why is your goal to learn 5 new slang words per day? If your goal is to compete in tournaments, don’t spend time on tournament-illegal moves. In other words, have focus!

Teachers should have their overall goal in mind when they are teaching moves or doing warmups! Often beginners can’t understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. Why are we shrimping? The teacher should be able to explain WHY they are doing something and should share those goals with the students instead of just pulling a Miyagi on them.


A time-bound goal has a deadline. It gives you incentive to work so you can achieve it by that time. It could be a week, year, or for BJJ may be the next tournament or next belt.

Programs like the Gracie Barra Fundamentals program set dates for you: 16 weeks in this case.

You want it WHEN?

“I don’t need goals. I really just want to improve my BJJ and I don’t have any specific needs.” Maybe, but whether you realize it or not, you have needs, and you should identify them. If they aren’t being met you will feel unsatisfied. Once identified, you can set goals. They will help you prioritize, focus, help you know what you’ve achieved. Ultimately, they will help you get the most out of your experiences.

Children will do whatever they tell you (in theory anyway :D). Adults in general have their own specific needs and if those needs are not met, they will leave. Whether they realize it or not, they do have needs, more specific than just “I want to improve.” A successful tutor/instructor/teacher should be able to help students set goals, set long term goals, and goals for each day (lesson planning, anyone?), identify student needs, weaknesses and strengths, and adjust accordingly.

Anton Farb tells new students the long term goals for his Krav Maga class. First three months: hand-to-hand combat, punches, kicks, grab releases. Next three: sparring and knife defenses. By sharing his overall plan, he can alleviate potential frustrations (why not knife defenses now???) and give them something to look forward to and work toward.

You will need to balance time spent on basics vs more advanced. After living in Ukraine for two years, I can speak Russian but always test low on tests. I focused on communication rather than grammar. If I took Russian lessons I’d want a mixture of strengthening more advanced language, and perhaps going back and filling in some gaps. If a purple belt is ONLY working on shrimping and bridging, he’ll likely get extremely frustrated. At the same time, if all the techniques are too advanced for white belts, they’ll also feel frustrated.

What if you DON’T achieve your goals? Goals should HELP you, not HINDER you. Be okay if you don’t meet all your goals! You are NOT a failure if you don’t achieve them all. Don’t be SO FOCUSED that you can’t enjoy the ride.

So…what are YOUR BJJ goals? And for the record, I absolutely believe a belt is a valid goal. But go ahead, disagree!

*Disclaimer: I have no affiliation with any of the schools I listed (though I do know Anton personally)–I simply used them as real examples.*