Setting SMART Goals for Martial Arts Training

SMART goals are a commonly used framework when talking about goal setting and achieving your goals. Now it’s important not to think of smart goals as the only way to set your goals because it’s merely one framework that you can potentially use. But smart goals is probably the most well-known way to set goals, which we will discuss below.

The term SMART goals first started to be known in the early 1980s and were developed in the business management world and have since expanded beyond their to be used in any area of life where goal setting is essential and in particular martial arts.

The S.M.A.R.T Acronym

The term is an acronym where SMART goals set the criteria for establishing what your goals are going to be. 

  • S – Specific
  • M – Measureable
  • A – Achievable
  • R – Relevant
  • – Time-Specific.

That list provides the specific settings around your goals that you want to have figured out and established before you start doing the work to achieve them. It is an essential step because it helps define your success criteria clearly and can help shine the light on any potential issues that may arise in achieving those goals and allow you to anticipate and deal with them ahead of time.

Next up, we will explain in more detail how to write your goals with each of those points that make up the acronym in mind.


Perhaps the most crucial step is being precise with the goal that you want to achieve. It’s all too easy to say that you want to get better in your martial arts training. Still, you will dramatically increase your chances of achieving that if you get specific about what area you want to improve in and how you’re going to go about doing it.

In particular, when to find the specifics of your goal, you want to answer five questions that all start with the letter W. What, Why, Who, Where and Which.


You want to write down precisely what you wish to accomplish, and the more detail you can write about this, the better it will help you establish what you’re going to need to achieve to say that you’ve reached your goal. That’s where having a nebulous definition of simply getting better at something will be a hindrance to the process. So think about it and write down as specific as possible precisely what you want to accomplish.


Next, write down why this goal is one that you want to accomplish. This part will help you define your reasoning and motivation behind the goal that you were setting for yourself to achieve. By thinking about precisely why you want to achieve something that can help you firmly establish the motivational drive, you need to turn your idea into a reality. It can also be something that you refer back to if you find yourself unable to remember why You started the process of achieving this goal in the first place.


In this section, you want to think about who has to be involved in achieving this goal. It’s important to understand that some plans may require you to rely on other people’s input and participation. In particular, for martial arts, this could be your coach’s training partner, and in some cases, it’s going to need your opponents to turn up to particular competitions to take part.

Establishing all the critical people required for you to achieve your goal will help you determine the best way to work towards it, even if you need to communicate with these people about the plan you’ve set. Ideally, this step should help you avoid a situation where you’ve selected a goal that relies on someone else, and they are unable to feel the expectations that you’ve placed upon them.

If you want to show an abundance of caution, it’s a good idea never to set goals that will ultimately require another person’s compliance if you’re going to achieve them. 



The “Where” part of the goal has you write down exactly where the process of achieving your goal will take place. It could be in the training room, or it could require time in the training room to perform at a competition arena, but knowing where you will have to go to achieve your goals can help you plan the logistics in your life around the achievement of your goals.


The “Which” section will be where you write down the resources or potential limitations that you will have on your desired outcome. For instance, one resource may be the number of training sessions you can attend in a year. If your academy does offer more than one class a day, then setting a goal of attending more than 365 classes in a year will need you to expand the resources that you have available to you to attend classes.

Knowing what resources will place limits on you in your current situation can help you establish any roadblocks you might encounter and what steps you will need to take to overcome them.


Having measurable goals means that you will be able to track your process on your path to achieving them, which can help you stay motivated and help you establish any deadlines that you would require to meet if you want to achieve your goals in a certain way amount of time.

You don’t want to set a goal that you cannot measure if you have achieved it or not. As you would never be able to get to the point where you can take it off your list, establishing some form of metric to track your progress along the pathway to achieving your goal will be critical.

When writing out your goals for the measurable section, think about if there’s a certain amount of your goal that you need to reach and how you will know if you’ve been able to get that amount. It could be hours spent training, repetitions of drilling a particular technique, several competitions or medals, or tactics and strategies applied in training sessions.


When writing SMART goals, you want to make them as realistic and achievable as possible. It’s easy to write down the dreams that you would like to achieve in your wildest fantasies, and they may have a place in other goal-setting frameworks.

But for smart goals, we want to make sure that the plan you set is entirely possible and realistic for you to complete. Generally, this means you will have two factors the current constraints you might have on your life into the goal you have set.  

These constraints could be financial, Based on your location, based on your current skill level, or even the free time available to train. While setting a goal of becoming champion of the world is commendable, a SMART goal would first have you set the goal of becoming champion of your local region.

Once you have achieved that goal, you have taken steps to make some of those lofty goals more achievable, Attainable and more likely to fit into the SMART goal criteria.

When writing this down, think about the practical steps required to accomplish the goal and how any possible constraints could limit the likelihood of achieving it.


You want to make sure that the goals you are setting have some relevance to your current position in life and any other goals you may already have. You want to outline your goals so that they are all working synergistically towards similar outcomes so that working on one thing can help propel you towards achieving multiple goals.

Writing down a goal that requires a complete lifestyle change or a radical behaviour change can be a good process if that’s something your life needs, but it’s not going to meet the requirements of a SMART goal where the goals should be relevant to you. 

Some questions that you need to answer to determine if your goals are relevant to you will be if you are the right person and it’s the right time to reach the goal, if you currently find it worthwhile and how it would align with your other goals and lifestyle.

Even if you want to achieve something that may not be currently relevant to you, the process can help you pick a more appropriate goal. Completing a smaller but more relevant goal could also get you to a position in life where that lofty goal may meet the relevant criteria for SMART goals.


You want to set your smart goal to have a time-restricted limit; this includes a start date and finish date with potential deadlines and milestones along the way. For instance, if you want to have done a certain amount of training before a competition or reach a particular weight class before an arranged date for a match, you need to know when you’re starting the process and when you should finish.

When writing down this part of the SMART goals section, you want to consider what is achievable in specific blocks of time, what you can do as a daily process to help achieve those, what you can do in a month to help you achieve it and exactly when you will complete them.

Smart Goals For Martial Arts

As mentioned in the introduction, SMART goals are only one framework for goal setting, and we will explore other frameworks in separate articles. By working through the framework requirements, the exact process and objectives you will need to achieve your goals by the set day, this process can help motivate you and focus on completing each of those steps.

One thing SMART goals will not do is achieve the goals for you; it’s essential to understand that simply writing them down is not doing the work of what the goals we will require. Don’t fall into the bad habit of getting any ego over the fact that you have written or made SMART goals; it’s the first step in a long process of goal achievement.

And remember, if you find that SMART goals don’t work for you, then don’t consider the process of goal setting as a whole to be not a worthwhile process but instead look for a way to set goals that you find more compatible.

Remember, goals are the first step. Working towards achieving the goals is the bulk of the process. That process should be one that you enjoy, which will fuel your desire for martial arts training.

Even if you didn’t achieve the outcome you were looking for, it should be something that will have given your life an overall benefit or help you in other areas or goals that you have also set.

Take on board any lessons that you learn in setting your goals or working towards them. No matter what happens in achieving your desired outcome, you will still benefit from the process and be in a better situation for any long-term planning.