Archive for goal-setting

5 Ways to Choose the Right Gym

Posted in Martial Arts, Miscellaneous, Training with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on January 9, 2015 by Combative Corner

The tree has been taken down, the decorations have been packed away, the presents have been exchanged, and the last Gingerbread man has been eaten. Yes, the hustle and bustle of Christmas is over, and after all the holiday parties and eating at 14 different relatives houses, its time to get back in shape for the new year. New Year’s is by far the busiest season in the Wellness and Martial Arts industries. Everyone is ready to change their ways and get in shape, but before you make those changes you have a choice to make, which gym is the best ?

Eight Points GymFirst of all that question can be answered in a few different ways depended on what your goals are. For instance, if you want to become the next great Muay Thai Champion or fight in the UFC you might not want to sign up at the local YMCA and expect to go places, but no matter what your goals are (get in shape, learn self defense, or become a fighting champion) there should be some basic things that all good gyms who want to see you succeed have in common. Choosing the right gym and trainer is the MOST important step a person can make to actually reaching their goals and making LASTING changes that go from whimsical new years resolution to concrete lifestyle change. Below are 5 simple things to look for when shopping around for a gym. It doesn’t matter what kind of gym (Fitness, Muay Thai, Jiu Jitusu, Gymnastics, ect), these 5 simple things should be present.

1 Good Gyms and Trainers have Nothing to Prove: *I see this one all the time in the “MMA” gyms. Some guy with 2 amateur fights and a closet full of “skull” T shirts opens a “gym” out of a store front or someones basement. He has no real experience to speak of, so when new members come to class he goes hard on them to try and prove (to himself and to the prospective member) that he knows what he’s doing. It can also occur in the fitness industry. The so called “personal trainer” you hired who just got their PT certificate in the mail after taking a 4 hour class, doesn’t really understand how the human body works or how to invoke real change so he just screams “One More” or pushes you way past your limit to prove to you that his work outs are hard and he knows what he’s doing. This is an extremely dangerous situation and a HUGE red flag. If you are at a gym with this problem you are basically risking your health every time you come to class. A good trainer and gym who are well educated in their craft should have NOTHING at all to prove and their focus should be on building members up not on using members as dummies, showing off how much they know.

2 Good Gyms and Trainers have a Clear, Repeatable “Roadmap” to Success: *When going on any trip you need clear and precise directions on actually how to get there. When you get in your car to go somewhere that you aren’t quite sure of, you plug in your GPS and it guides you and gives you the road map for the destination. Gyms are no different. When you walk into the gym and sit down with the trainers they should be able to lay out a road map detailing how they will help you get from the starting point to reaching your goal. They should have a repeatable process that they have done with clients and members in the past to help reach goals. If you go into a gym and some guy is teaching head kicks one day to complete beginners, then showing those same beginners crazy 8 punch combos the next day, that is a red flag and you should probably look else where. You definitely should be able to see a system in place to build people up from complete beginner to advanced practitioner.

3 Good Gyms and Trainers Actually Charge People: * This is a no brainer. A real business that is good at what they do charges for its services.

4 Good Gyms and Trainers have a Credible Resume: * The person or gym training you should know what they are talking about and have a credible resume you can actually fact check. In this high tech age of Smart Phones, Ipads, and Google, its easy to type in the name of a potential gym or trainer into the search bar to see if claims they make on their website actually exist. If a guy says he is a 15-0 Kickboxer who has fought in the UFC 3 times, then when googling his name nothing comes up but old pics of him and his Frat brother “Leon” hanging out on the beach during spring break, chances are he’s lying. Always do the research so you know exactly what you are paying for.

5 Good Gyms and Trainers Believe in You: * Making changes is hard, reaching goals is difficult. There are times when you will want to give up, times when you will wonder if its worth it. In those times, you need a support system, someone who believes in you and believes you can reach the goals set before you, even when you don’t believe it yourself. A good coach and good gym family will have a positive uplifting atmosphere that inspires people to be their best and reach for their goals. If you are always surrounded by negative energy or an overbearing trainer that always points out what you doing wrong but never tells you when your doing something right, its not going to be to long before you give up on your dreams of ever getting in shape or learning something new. When you choose a gym your choosing a partner to come alongside and invest in your life to help you make lifelong positive changes, so make sure you choose a gym that wants to see you succeed and believes in you instead of just looking at you as a paycheck.




Past Performance – Future Results | Part 1

Posted in Philosophy, Self-Defense, Teaching Topic, Training with tags , , , , , , , , on February 27, 2012 by Combative Corner

I have trained in martial arts and hand-to-hand combat skills for going on 45 years, and just when I’m tempted to think that I’ve learned a thing or two, just when I start to believe that I have arrived, I soon begin to realize that there is just so much to learn and so many skills to master.  I must concede that I have barely scratched the surface of the proverbial tip of the iceberg.
The word ‘iceberg,’ from the Dutch term ‘ijsberg,’ literally means ‘mountain of ice.’  Formed from ice more than 15,000 years ago, glaciers slowly move towards the sea where they break apart and begin drifting into open waters. Thousands of sections break off each year, and, as fans of the movie Titanic recall, they can become a genuine hazard to ships at sea.  One giant mountain of ice, Iceberg B-15, was 183 miles long and 23 miles wide, (larger than Jamaica), and weighed an estimated three billion tons!
However, as big as they are, what you don’t see is what’s beneath the surface.  It’s been estimated that as much as 90% of the iceberg’s mass is under water.  If basic skill acquisition in martial arts is the tip, mastery, like the other 90% of the iceberg that most people never see, is what lies beneath.

The board game Othello has a great tag line:  “A minute to learn…a life time to master.”  I have always liked that concept, and as a combatives instructor I have often thought about the lifelong journey, the long and winding road from beginner to master.  I have often wondered how long it should actually take to first learn the basic skills and then to move on to competency and finally mastery of self protection skills.  Also of great interest to me is how to effectively facilitate the retention of key skills so that they will be available in a critical moment.
Consider the game of chess. “Chess masters spend roughly 50,000 to 100,000 hours studying chess to reach the ‘expert’ level.”  (Simon and Chase, 1973).  “Let’s do a quick calculation,” write Karl Wirth and Dexter Perkins about the process of moving from beginner to expert in chess in their educational article, ‘Learning to Learn.’  “An average of 75,000 hours means spending 8 hours per day, 365 days per year, for more than 25 years to become an accomplished chess player.  That’s how long it takes to develop the necessary skills for recognizing patterns of chess pieces, understanding their implications for future outcomes, and making the best moves.”
Mastering a musical instrument also requires extreme dedication.  When Pablo Casals turned ninety-five, so the story goes, a curious reporter asked him a question:  “Mr. Casals, you are ninety-five and perhaps the greatest cellist who ever lived.  Why do you still have to practice six hours a day?”  Casals answered, “Because I think I’m making progress.”
Bruce Lee, arguably THE spokesperson for directness and simplicity in martial arts training, seemed to agree with Casals when he said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once…I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times.”

Legendary combatives instructor Hock Hochheim, ever the iconoclast, was curious about the concept that it takes thousands and thousands of repetitions to become skilled, and he asked himself the simple question, “Where do these magic numbers actually come from?”  In his blog Hock posted “How Many Reps Was That?  Again?”*, where he refers to research by Richard Schmidt, Craig Wrisberg, and Timothy Lee.  This research indicated that it may not be 3,000 to 5,000 repetitions after all, but actually only 300 to 500!
Hock understands the concept of statistical analysis however, and he says, “I am well aware that each student will have a different, learning repetition ratio.  One might really ‘get’ something with only 75 reps, another person may take 6,000.  Another, even 10,000.”  Hock also acknowledges that skills are ‘perishable‘ and that they “need to be exercised with some frequency that is – once again, different for each person…
Remember, the ‘masters’ be they in golf, cooking, baseball, piano, or karate…practice forever. The Masters lose count and just practice for practice sake. That’s why they are masters.”
Hock is on solid ground on this one.  Some important skills, like that board game Othello, can be learned relatively quickly.  Have you ever attended a CPR class?  In these classes laypeople are taught basic life support (BLS) techniques involving ‘CAB’s:  Circulation, airway, breathing.  Most laypersons can learn BLS skills after attending a short course offered by the American Red Cross or American Heart Association.  Attendees learn the compression-to-breath ratio (30:2) and the techniques associated with these life-saving measures.  Most of these courses run from 3 to 9 hours.  There is even a new, hands-only course “a potentially lifesaving technique involving no mouth to mouth contact” taught by the Red Cross that only takes 30 minutes to learn.
In a previous post I used the analogy of learning to ride a bike to show that some things, once learned, are not easily forgotten.  Balancing on a bike is not inherently a natural activity, but there is something else at work…something very special.  There is a lot of anticipation, determination, and excitement associated with that magic moment when you take off the training wheels and begin free-wheeling down the road.  The strong emotions of that moment of freedom combine with the effort it takes to learn, and it’s almost as if that particular skill becomes etched into the brain!  Perhaps this is one secret to learning and remembering an important skill:
Combine Effort with Emotion…Mix Intent with Intensity
Most skills are indeed perishable.  Without constant, continual and consistent maintenance, abilities can fade away all too quickly.
If you’re an investor you’re probably familiar with the oft-used disclaimer which is usually included in fine print:
Here’s an excerpt from another investing disclaimer that speaks to this idea that skills may be perishable:
According to R. Keith Sawyer, writing for CERI-Centre for Educational Research and Innovation, cognitive research indicates that expertise is based on the following characteristics:
  • A large and complex set of representational structures.
  • A large set of procedures and plans.
  • The ability to improvisationally apply and adapt those plans to each situation’s unique demands.
  • The ability to reflect on one’s own cognitive processes while they are occurring.
Sawyer contends that it’s really about the need to learn “integrated and usable knowledge,” rather than “sets of compartmentalized and decontextualized facts.
Becoming an expert requires building a large repertoire of patterns that can be recognized and acted on,” according to Penuel and Roschelle in ‘Designing Learning.’  “There is no known mechanism for short-cutting direct experience of the situations of practice in order to build up these patterns.”
J.S. Atherton** defines the components and pyramid structure of expertise in ‘Competence, Proficiency and Beyond’:
  • Competence: is the simple ability to perform the requisite range of skills for practice. 
  • Contextualisation: is knowing when to do what. 
  • Contingency: is the greater flexibility to be able to cope when things go wrong. 
  • Creativity: is the capacity to use all the “lower” level skills in new ways to solve new problems. 
In Part II we will take a look at some specific steps on the journey to expertise based on the breakthroughs in cognitive science.
Ron Goin, P.U.M.A.
(Originally posted 2/23/2012)


Ron Goin is a critical thinking, rational, humanist, skeptical & a non-traditional combatives instructor with 45 years of Martial Arts & combatives training.  He runs a blog of his own.  Follow it if you dare.  (click his picture to travel there)

Roundtable Discussion 008: The New Year

Posted in Discussion Question, Roundtable Discussion with tags , , , , , , on February 9, 2011 by Combative Corner

“Do You Make New Year’s Resolutions? If so, what are they? If not, why?”

I’m a firm believer in goal-setting.  The big problem is that, statistically, resolutions are hardly ever met.  I think this usually stems from a combination of setting unrealistic goals and not working at it one a daily basis.  What helps most (in my opinion) is to write it down… keep it as a brightly-colored post-it note… whatever it takes to help you accomplish it.  I’d give yourself some some short-term goals and some long-term ones.

As for this year, The Year of the Rabbit, I’m stepping it up!  I plan on learning to dance salsa.  Since my future bride (Oct. 7th) is Puerto Rican, both our reception and rehearsal dinner will be full of latin music.  My second resolution is to spend more time on languages.  I spend countless hours driving from one place to the other, listening to the same songs over and over.  Believe it our not, but I used to be relatively fluent in Polish.  I’d also like to learn more Spanish (for obvious reasons).  My final goal is to finish my second book, Ladies, I’m Talking To You (forecasted release, December 2011).  This will just take a strong motivation for me to sit at my computer, turn off my cell phone and try my best not to click back over to Facebook – another time consumer that I should file down.

I am always setting goals for myself, but they have nothing to do with New Year’s Eve or other events.  I look at things I want to accomplish, and then I determine what needs to be done for that to happen. Then I proceed to take the steps necessary to accomplish the goal.

This is a never-ending process, and has little to do with what time of year it is.


This is the first year I explicitly did not make any resolutions. I resolved last year to simplify my life, and I intend to treat that goal as an ongoing pursuit. In the past, setting resolutions have been pretty successful for helping me progress towards my various goals. But my life has gotten busier and more hectic in recent years, making lofty year-long goals harder to achieve.

I’ve decided to switch over to shorter 30-day goals. By shifting my goal timeframes, I find it easier to get myself to take action and make lasting changes. Simple things like getting myself back into a daily meditation practice, flossing regularly, and setting aside personal practice time were my first goals which I’ve successfully managed to re-incorporate into my life. I hope to kick start my Chinese language studies and get myself on a better sleep schedule for my next round of month-long goals.


I do not make new years resolutions because I do not track my life according to the year. In the common way of thinking in terms of years, I do not think that way. I live more of a natural way. Like the animals, they would not know what year it is. They simply live and breath in the moment. That’s what I train myself to do. Like what the Tao would say, you would eat when you are hungry and you would sleep when you are tired.

I simply follow my way. I have no goals, but I still accomplish much without wasted effort. That is the essence of wu-wei, another strong concept of Tao.

I’d already made goals for myself before the end of the year so I guess technically they weren’t new years resolutions. My first goal was to do a better job of planning out my day so I can be more productive.

A big part of this is waking up at 8am to workout giving me more of the day to check off my to do list before I have to teach class. I also decided to put aside more time for my own martial arts training as I have done more teaching than training lately.

I also decided to go back to school this year. I’m not planning any kind career change I just had some free time and saw some classes that would give me an opportunity to reunite with an old love (Art) and explore a new one (Writing).

I think resolutions can be a good thing if people stick to them, but it seems that more often than not people make new years resolutions just so they can break them later. Personally I’m happy to report that all my goals are still going strong!

I never make New Year resolutions.

My main reason for not making resolutions is I feel each and everyone should be striving to do better then the day before.

If you have something you are trying to give up – do your best to deal with it.  If it something that is affecting your family or work life – don’t deal with it on your own. There is nothing wrong with asking for help to gain control again. This is part of learning to master the self.

新年快乐!在兔年!Happy Chinese New Year!Year of the Rabbit! ( My sign is the Rabbit. So this should be a good year:)

What are your goals for 2011 everybody?

%d bloggers like this: