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efficiency is the key

Regardless of your intention for training, whether it be for self-defense or for sport, efficiency is the real goal for all athletes looking to compete at their highest potential. In an earlier blog about competition, I reference how insight, knowledge, skill, and mastery are what every athlete should seek. All of these qualities allow for the highest level of efficiency and when an athlete can compete in an effortless fashion they are much closer to truly perfecting their craft.

Check out John Danaher‘s analogy relating an overzealous money manager and efficiency in training.

“A common factor in sports performance – the parable of the prodigal money spender: Very often students come into the sport of jiu jitsu with very little athletic background. Others come from a background that has little or no overlap with the movements of jiu jitsu. In both cases, the usual result is a tremendous over use of force that very quickly puts them into a state of fatigue.

This state is analogous to a money manager who allocates a certain sum of money to get projects completed by the various work teams he funds. If a given task can be successfully completed for $1000 but he over spends and allocates $1500, obviously he has overspent by $500. He may be able to make this error occasionally without a problem, but if he consistently makes this mistake, it is only a matter of time until he bankrupts the company or allows rival companies to outperform his.

The majority of beginning jiu jitsu students are like this prodigal money manager, only their unit of expenditure is joules of energy rather than dollars. The common tendency is to spend ten dollars on a five dollar job. This kind of wastefulness is the opposite of what we see in all good athletes in all sports. The distinguishing factor in all elite athleticism is TO GET MORE DONE WITH LESS.

This crucial theme must be pushed if students are to progress from their inevitably clumsy beginnings, to maturity in the sport. This does NOT mean that they should flop around the mats with no application of strength- that is even more damaging to effectiveness than over tension. It means they should learn to correlate the amount of energy they are currently expending to perform a given task in jiu jitsu with the actual amount required. Sometimes this will still be quite a large amount of energy that will make severe demands on your strength reserves- but in the vast majority of cases it will be significantly less.

Learning to judge and compare your current energy expenditure with the actual amount required by the task at hand is one of the most vital steps in progressing from clumsy and exhausted beginner, to smooth and efficient expert.

The place for students to begin learning how to make this judgement is in drilling, for it is here, with a cooperative partner rather than a resisting opponent that it is easiest to see discrepancies between how much energy you are expending versus how much you NEED to expend.

Good students are not just students of jiu jitsu – they are students of ALL HUMAN MOVEMENT AND ATHLETICISM, of which jiu jitsu is just one example. Next time you watch elite athletes in any sport, don’t do as most people do, and simply watch for the result. Look deeper and assess the efficiency of their movement in relation to the tasks they are performing. You will see that the best all use the minimum energy to get the job done. Learn from their greatness in their domain and try to carry that over to yourself in yours.


By Austin Davie

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