"By developing a set of specific
goals and a plan for reaching those goals, athletes
can more effectively use their practice time and
even reduce the time required in practice to attain
Training “smart” is more important than the amount of daily practice. Too often an athlete
believes that the more he or she practices, the more proficient he/she will become. However, this plan
is not only ineffective, but it can also be detrimental to achieving the desired outcome. An
athlete who practices frequently and hard without an overall plan will be more likely to suffer
the effects of overtraining such as burn-out, exhaustion, and increased injuries rather than
actually improving performance. By developing a set of specific goals and a plan for reaching
those goals, athletes can more effectively use their practice time and even reduce the time
required in practice to attain their goals. Obviously, this does not mean that the martial
artist can achieve rank or win tournaments with little practice; it means that the athlete does
not need to waste time through ineffective practice and through the harmful effects of overtraining.
Often people state "I'm just lazy" or "I'm unmotivated" when they are unsuccessful. Yet, most
of the time, the problem isn't laziness, but lack of understanding about how to achieve goals.
For instance, I believe that much of the problem the American people have with weight control
is related to inability to set goals. Oh, we can set goals alright! We can set them until the
cows come home. But if we don't set goals properly we are unlikely to be successful. For
instance, I hear people all the time "I'm going to lose 10 pounds in the next two weeks" or
"I'm going to exercise an hour a day" or "I'm going to limit myself to 1200 calories a day"
or some combination of these statements in attempts to manage weight. However, even though
they might achieve these goals over the short-term, any long-term change is unlikely. They
will revert to old habits with resignation sighing, "I'm unmotivated. I'll never be able to
The same problem can occur in the work setting: "If only
I could get organized, I would be more successful at
work." Or in sports: "I just don't stick with things. I
give up too easily." Again, the problem is likely to be
problems with setting goals. We tend to set goals that
are unreasonable, perfectionistic, and unachievable.
Without confidence in one’s ability, an individual cannot perform to his or her potential. It is
even possible that someone with lesser ability, but with confidence, can outperform this person because
belief in oneself can be a powerful influence. What is this sense of confidence? Albert Bandura refers
to situation-specific self-confidence as “self-efficacy” which is the strength of an individual’s belief
that he or she can successfully perform a given activity. The concept of self-efficacy has often been
used interchangeably with the concept of self-esteem which is the process of evaluating the self;
however, self-efficacy is more accurately described as a precursor to self-esteem and is mediated
by the individual’s self-attributions.
Assessing performance and correcting errors are important internal skills for the martial arts student
to develop. But how does one develop this skill? To do so, the martial arts instructor needs to
consciously teach skill just as he or she teaches proper execution of a side kick or using faking
techniques during sparring. However, teaching the development of using internal sources of information
for feedback may be something many martial arts instructors were not taught themselves. So often when
we teach skills, our response to the student’s performance involves correcting errors or giving general
praise, neither of which are conducive to teaching the student how to self-correct errors. In fact,
these responses tend to create excessive dependence upon the instructor’s feedback and presence.
The manner in which instructors provide feedback to athletes can have significant impact upon an
athlete's self-efficacy which in turn affects the ability to learn a skill and the overall
performance. Self-efficacy is the athlete's personal belief that he or she has the capability
to learn and perform a specific skill or activity. The results of an interesting study by
Amparo Escarti and Jose Guzman in 1999 indicated that performance feedback which focuses on
providing feedback regarding technique rather than evaluating outcome was related to increased
self-efficacy, a higher level of performance, and the tendency to choose more difficult tasks.
Other research has shown that a higher level of self-efficacy improves performance. Thus,
research shows us that how a coach provides feedback to athletes is critical in the development
of the athlete.
To make this issue all the more complicated, there is research evidence that women respond
differently than men to feedback from coaches. This is most likely a crucial point in the
martial arts today because the majority of instructors in the martial arts are men and there
are more and more women choosing to participate and compete in the martial arts. Therefore,
a martial arts instructor needs to be more attuned to the methods of providing feedback to
women in order to elicit their best performance as well as to keep them interested in
continuing their training
Some people may be curious as to why this website is dedicated to the
"pursuit of excellence" when I am constantly warning about the dangers
of perfectionism. To address this question we must differentiate
between the pursuit of excellence and the need to be perfect. These
concepts are not only different but can be considered antagonistic to
one another. In fact these concepts are so opposed to one another that
excellence can best be attained by giving up the demands of perfection.
"I have so many great ideas, if only I could get
"I do well with deadlines, but I can't seem to motivate myself."
"I can't seem to lose weight unless I have someone constantly checking on me and I can't afford a personal trainer."
"I would perform better if I could make myself practice more."
Do any of these sound familiar? What the above statements have in common is the individual's need for extrinsic motivation for follow-through, the inability to achieve a desired goal unless someone else provides the impetus to pursue the goal. Without the development of intrinsic motivation, individuals have a great deal of difficulty achieving success in almost any area. If you examine successful people, one of the main differences is their ability to motivate themselves. They are not necessarily more intelligent, or have better ideas, or have better luck; they are just able to pursue a goal to its conclusion.
The vast majority of my clients with anxiety disorders are perfectionists. Additionally, perfectionism
is extremely pervasive in our culture generally. However, the typical response when I inquire about
perfectionism is, “Oh, no, I’m not a perfectionist. I’m far from perfect.” Such a response indicates
a lack of understanding regarding the concept of perfectionism.
Perfectionism is the belief that one must attain perfection or one is a failure. Perfectionism is
an extreme distortion of the concept “Do your best” when an individual believes that his or her
“best” means, “perfect.” The individual becomes fearful of making mistakes and may experience
stress, anxiety, and depression as a result.
Although we may prefer to believe that learning a motor skill is purely learning a set of physical techniques,
we have to consider that most learning typically takes place in the context of an interpersonal relationship with
a teacher. The critical question is how does this interaction affect the development of motor skills. It appears
that the mediating factor between the presentation of the instructions by the teacher and the performance of the
skill by the student may be the cognitive process of self-efficacy (Escarti & Guzman, 1999). Some may argue that
the development of effective skills may lead to the increased self-efficacy demonstrated by students of high
ability. Although this process occurs, it is not sufficient for explaining the role of developing
self-efficacy and its impact on learning motor skills. To fully explain the role of self-efficacy, we must
evaluate the interpersonal context of how the teacher or coach provides feedback to the athlete, how that
feedback affects self-efficacy, and how self-efficacy enhances performance. Unfortunately, studies directly
examining this relationship are sparse, and therefore, the inferences need to be made based on research
examining the relation of the different components of the equation such as the feedback/self-efficacy
relationship and the self-efficacy/motor skills relationship.