Make Your New Year's Resolutions

Set those annual goals today.

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 Purchase Books Featured in this Article
• The Art of War
• The Book of Five Rings

Another year has gone by--time to reflect on your accomplishments from the past twelve months, and focus on your goals for next year. What do you want to achieve?

Train Harder, Train More

I think I promise myself this every year--I'll train harder, miss fewer workouts, and improve my techniques. And at the end of every year, I wonder if I really did achieve that goal; especially around the busy holidays when it's easy to skip workouts in favor of another holiday party.

But placing this goal at the top of your list makes you think about it each time you review your goals (more on that later). And although you may doubt your ability to seriously devote time to your workout schedule, you'll find that you probably did do more, and did work harder, than if you hadn't made it a goal.

The key is to make training hard important. You can't progress in the martial arts without practice and repetition. Could you add a workout to your schedule? Maybe you could train at home for your extra workout--either by simply practicing techniques or forms, or by working up a sweat pounding a heavy bag or training dummy.

Expand Your Horizons

The martial arts are much more than biomechanical movements timed just right. Martial arts have an entire philosophical and spiritual side that is often ignored or forgotten by many students.

Don't miss out on these additional aspects to your training. One way to expand your martial horizons is to learn about the philosophies of the ancient warrior masters. Several classic texts, most notably Sun Tzu's The Art of War and Musashi's Book of Five Rings, are must-reads for all martial artists.

The Art of War distills ancient China's warrior heritage and experience into a strategy text for all types of conflict. Maxims provided in The Art of War apply to office politics or battling in the octagon as well as all-out war. So, no matter what style of martial arts you study, you can find something useful in this classic book.

The Book of Five Rings is the work of legend Miyamoto Musashi, considered Japan's greatest swordsman. Originally the textbook of Musashi's sword-fighting school, or ryu, this book, like The Art of War, has proved useful for all types of conflict. Those old warriors were on to something, huh?


While you expand your martial knowledge, you also want to focus on specific areas to improve. Perhaps you're not satisfied with your kicking techniques--your hands are fast and can throw multiple strikes from all angles, but you just can't get the kicks off fast enough. Or your weapons skills are deficient compared to open-hand fighting.

Pick the techniques or areas you need the most work on, and select them as your focus points for the coming year. Concentrate on improving your weak spots during every workout.

One technique I use to focus on weak areas is to force myself to use my weak technique at least once per sparring round. Although I'd much rather rely upon my tried-and-true favorite techniques, forcing myself to use my weaker ones makes me learn--otherwise, I'll get hit! Using them in a sparring situation makes you learn how to set up the technique, with fakes, baiting, or body movement. It also ensures you'll get the right timing as well.

Get Fit

Increasing your conditioning can help you fight better regardless of the techniques you use. Being in shape allows you to move faster, take more punishment, and last longer. Watching tournament fighters like those in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, you quickly see the advantage a fit fighter has over his or her opponent.  

Don't Just Say It, Write It!

It's one thing to promise yourself that you'll accomplish your martial arts resolutions. It's another thing to write them down and look at your list every day. Better yet, write them down where others will look at them and remind you of your commitment to yourself. Every day, review these goals. By reminding yourself every day, you'll find it's harder to "forget" to do your abs every day, or to skip class "just this once." (You are still doing your abs every day, aren't you?)

Ready to make a public commitment to your training? Post your goals in the Martial Arts Forum. See what others have committed to achieving in the next year.

Just Do It

You've thought about it, wrote them down, now's the time to start. Just do it!

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