Pareto's Law and the Martial Artist

An excerpt from "75 Down Blocks - Refining Karate Technique" by Rick Clark

paretoPareto's 80/20 law is a statistical discovery I think has considerable relevance in the study of the martial arts. In brief, over 100 years ago, Vilfredo Pareto discovered a relationship that manifests itself repeatedly in larger systems.

In its most basic form, Pareto's 80/20 law states you will get 80 percent of your results from 20 percent of your effort. In the business world, for example, it implies you'll get 80 percent of your business from 20 percent of your customers. In the academic world, it implies you'll get probably get 80 percent of your research results from 20 percent of your time spent in the library, or 20 percent of your fieldwork.

When you first encounter this 80/20 rule, you may get the mistaken idea the ratio between effort and results should be exactly 80/20. This is not really the case; the actual percentages vary from case to case. Rather, this ratio should be thought of as a guide, designed to remind you of the disproportionate effect of effort compared to results.

As you begin to recognize the 80/20 patterns that exist around you, the application of Pareto's rule will become apparent in everyday situations - in personal relationships, financial dealings, and national and international events.

In this chapter, I hope to demonstrate a few ways in which you can use the 80/20 rule to help you analyze and improve your martial arts training.

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The JKA Instructor Qualification System

At JKA headquarters, all instructors are specially trained and licensed to teach. Each of them must train extensively and complete the JKA’s unique specialist instructor training program before receiving certification to fulfill the various functions they are responsible for within the JKA.

The JKA offers three basic kinds of qualifications:

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What is the JKA

A Brief History of the Japan Karate Association

Originally, the martial art Te (“Hand”) developed in Okinawa as a system of self-defense. Due to Okinawa’s frequent contact and exchange with China, it is certain that the Okinawan martial art was influenced by Chinese kempo at some point during its development. However, with only oral tradition and no formal contemporary written records, it is not certain exactly when the art called Kara-Te first emerged in Okinawa. It is believed that it developed roughly 500 years ago, when the dynastic ruler King Shoha unified the region after decades of warfare and issued an edict banning the possession of weapons on the island. According to conventional accounts, a similar law forbidding the possession or use of weapons was re-issued and enforced by the Satsuma clan, who had invaded Okinawa in the early 1600’s and brought it under the rule of the Japanese Shogunate. It is believed that in this environment karate developed as a form of unarmed combat for protecting oneself and one’s country, and it was taught and practiced in secret.

Then came the birth in 1868 of Okinawan karate master Funakoshi Gichin. He dedicated his whole life to promoting the values of the art, and introduced the way of karate-jutsu to Japan, where it spread across the country. In 1949, his followers (including Isao Obata, Masatoshi Nakayama and Hidetaka Nishiyama) had established an association for the research, promotion and education of karate; they called it Nihon Karate Kyokai, or Japan Karate Association. It was the beginning of the JKA.

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By Toby Threadgill, Takamura-ha Shindo Yoshin-ryu

Recently I was introduced to a gentleman interested in martial arts training. He was not really aware of what I teach or of what constitutes Nihon Koryu Jujutsu. He just assumed that because I taught it, that I must believe it to be "the best". When I told him I did not believe the art I taught to be "the best", an uncomfortable silence ensued. I finally broke this taciturn moment by explaining that there is actually no such thing as a "best" martial art. Despite a noble effort to grasp what I was talking about, the gentleman in question eventually regressed, unable to shake the impression that if I was not convinced that what I taught was superior to all other forms of martial arts, that I was somehow unworthy of teaching him. I politely encouraged him to look around, consider what I had said and contact me again if he had any further questions. A few days later I received an e-mail from this gentleman in which he explained that he had indeed found someone convinced that they taught the ultimate style of martial arts. It was called "mixed martial arts" because it embodied only the best of all the styles. I just smiled to myself as I politely responded, congratulating him on his fortuitous discovery.

An ultimate martial art, huh? Now there’s an oxymoron for you. Every martial art is ultimately based on assumptions. In fact any training program formulated to address conflict is based on assumptions. It’s kinda like the old joke about bringing a knife to a gun fight. No matter how good you are, your assumptions define your training paradigm. Narrow your assumptions and you specialise, gaining the opportunity to excel at one task. Broaden your assumptions and you might be able address many different situations but at what level of expertise? It’s an intriguing dilemma isn’t it? Specialise, and be defeated by someone outside your strengths. Be a generalist and some specialist will hand you your head on a platter. What’s a martial artist to do?

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Costs of Choosing the Wrong Martial Arts Style

A lot of people nowadays are getting into the martial arts and choosing a school without even knowing which style of martial arts the school teaches. Some schools are not totally clear on what their style is as many are practicing and teaching a hybrid mix of multiple arts. Is this a problem? Should you know which style you practice? Are clearly lineated styles even important? The easy answer to all of these questions is yes and no. Unfortunately there are hidden costs involved in choosing the wrong style of martial arts.

Here's why:
Choosing a style based on popularity rather than something that fits your personal strengths
Just because a style is the most popular thing going doesn't mean that it is right for you. Taekwondo has held the interest of many a young person due to its dynamic and spectacular kicks. If you are athletic and flexible then this might be the art for you but if you have bad knees and worse hamstrings, then think twice.

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