When attending a Dan Inosanto seminar some years ago, among the pearls of wisdom he gave out was something that I've since used with a small adjustment.
He said there are 6 attributes that you need as a martial artist: Strength, Speed, Stamina, Skill, Strategy, and Spirit.
He didn't put an order of importance on them, but I will, making a small change to replace Strategy with Smarts.
My six S's:
1) Spirit - the will to succeed.
I put this number 1 because without some level of it you won't even start, without a substantial amount of it you won't keep going when you don't feel like training, and without a very high level of it you might accept less than your best.
2) Smarts - what you know.
This includes breadth of technique, strategy on how and when to use it, but also includes situational awareness. You must be aware of the legal aspects of self defense and when it changes from protecting yourself to assault or manslaughter.
You need to know if you are outnumbered, where the exits are, lighting conditions, what obstacles or potential weapons are around, an opponent with an obvious weakness, etc. In competitions situational awareness covers the score, time left in the match, closeness to the competition boundaries, position of the referee, etc.
Situational awareness affects your strategy and what tactics you can use to implement it.
3) Skill - how good are you at doing what you know?
General rule of thumb is 2000 reps for muscle memory, 10000 to master, but that doesn't mean you're done. There are some skills you need to practice constantly. Professional baseball players still take batting practice every day.
4) Speed - how fast are you at doing what you know?
Speed in perception and in deciding what to do about it falls more under smarts, speed in executing what you want to do is a bit different. You have to develop the skill first, then develop speed with it. Slow correct can become fast correct, fast incorrect never does.
5) Strength - how powerful is your technique?
This is not as important an attribute for some martial arts because some techniques require very little direct muscular power because they are working against joints or pressure points, but there is still some level of force involved.
This can also be considered the level of commitment in your technique; if it is half-hearted it probably won't work. The attitude used when doing a technique can have a huge effect on whether it is successful.
6) Stamina - how long can you keep going?
Most self-defense situations will be over very quickly, in a few seconds. Spirit can keep you going for a while beyond normal limits, your mind can overrule your body - to an extent. But most isn't all, and eventually the body will collapse.
The average human can remember 5-7 things in short term memory; it shouldn't be too hard to keep these six 'S's in mind as you train!
David N. Beck is in his 36th year of martial arts study and practice. He is certified 6th Dan black belt in Hapkido by the World Sin Moo Hapkido Association (by Dojunim Han Jae Ji), 4th Dan black belt in Taekwondo by the Kukkiwon, and Lakan Isa black belt in Arnis by the International Arnis de Leon Federation. Mr. Beck has been teaching in the north Dallas Richardson/Plano area since 1993.
Mr. Beck teaches at Beck Martial Arts.