I have two muses for this post.  The first is Dave Camarillo, who advised listeners of The Fightworks Podcast (http://thefightworkspodcast.com/2010/08/29/223-dave-camarillo/) to read broadly and apply lessons learned from outside jiujitsu to the practice of jiujitsu.

The second is Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Workweek and blogger at http://www.fourhourworkweek.com/blog/, whose book inspired this post most directly.

The book's cover.

Much of The 4-Hour Workweek is centered on actualizing yourself by freeing up time from activities that diminish from happiness and fulfillment and substituting them with activities that foster both.  A large thrust of the book is about being effective as opposed to merely being efficient.

The basis for being effective is a) eliminating waste and b) applying the 80/20 maxim.  I’m going to focus on the second.

The 80/20 rule was articulated by Italian economist Vilfredo Pareto, according to Mr. Ferris.  The rule asserts that, as a baseline, 80 percent of your outputs are caused or generated by 20 percent of your inputs.  If you’re in sales, that can mean that 20 percent of your clients generate 80 percent of your revenue.  If you’re learning a language, 20 percent of the language will most likely apply to 80 percent of the social situations you’ll find yourself in.

So, how do I think this applies to jiujitsu?  If we apply the rule to this domain, then 20 percent of what you learn will generate 80 percent of your effectiveness in sparring/competition/fighting situations.  If that’s the case, the logical question is which 20 percent???

The purpose of this post isn’t to go there.  Depending on the instructor, you will get different answers and frankly, what do I know as a casual, 30+ blue belt?  However, what it does for me is compel me to think more deeply about what it is that I choose to focus on.  If 80 percent of my effectiveness is going to come from 20 percent of what I know, then I need to search that out.  And drill it until I can hit it.

Less is more.

I’m sure there are data driven coaches (and fans) out there who’ve done this research; but, I will bet that if someone does an analysis on the submission holds that have led to the tap in the black belt finals of the Mundials, the distribution is not linear but rather has a long tail with an acute peak at the head.  I bet you will find submissions like the armbar, the triangle, and the collar choke.  It gets even more interesting…  What sweeps are most successful?  What takedowns?  What guard passes?  Etc. Etc.

It is reasonable to assert that if you want to get the most out of your training, especially if you’re like me and  you don’t have the time or the will to train full-time and at a world-class level, you should focus on that 20 percent.  It also means that even if you aspire to be a world-class competitor, most of your training should be centered on that 20 percent if you want to stack the chances of success in your favor.

Please feel free to leave comments on what you think comprises the 20 percent.  And, if anyone can point me to studies and analysis done on this topic, even better!