There are many facets in martial arts to which one can pay attention: physical technique, including speed and accuracy, and attributes such as intensity, confidence, etc. I have a word of the day today, which captures a lot of the essence that I think distinguishes a successful practitioner from the novice, and that is "Certainty."
Certainty encompasses a number of aspects for success. One is clarity, which is being able to clearly envision what one intends to do. It also includes confidence, that one is capable of implementing that vision. Certainty is not bravado, because one is not selling oneself the idea of winning, nor is it the need to try to intimidate an opponent, though that may be a consequence. A big component of certainty is focus, but it goes deeper than intensity, and is not necessarily connected to visual attention. Certainty is not just of the intellect; one can be sure of that!
Certainty integrates past, present, future. It draws on past experience, training and knowledge to have confidence in one's accurate assessment; it is paying attention to the unfolding of events in the present moment; it is an expectation of successful results that does not waver with doubt. When one has certainty, one proceeds with confidence, knowing that the path chosen is one with which you are attuned. What happens, happens - as they say in the Philippines, "bahalana" - and you are ok with that. The key to certainty is knowing how to find one's center, and that puts it in the realm of spiritual development.
The spirit leads us, the mind interprets, the body acts. This is always the order of awareness. We know before we realize, we realize before we act or react. Thus certainty comes from letting the spirit lead our actions from a place of deep knowingness. If one is certain, then one's actions will have integrity, meaning an integration or unity throughout. One's mind will be calm, focused unhurried; one's body will be balanced and coordinated. Movement will be clean, simple, smooth and purposeful. These are attributes we develop through practice. They can lead us to know our certainty, but in truth that is the place from which they ultimately flow.
This is not to say certainty is blind to unforeseen results. Martial arts is the art of making adjustments, being able to adapt to circumstances as necessary. In fact, there can be a great sense of joy in being one with change; this is at the heart of skiing, surfing, etc. We call this being in the flow. Many philosophies conceptualize this, but in martial arts we actualize it in practice. Remember, "the difference between theory and practice is that in theory, there is no difference."