Less Is More

“Less Is More”

Ludwig Mies van der Rohe

This blog post I want to talk about the difference between basic and advanced techniques. With just on 32 year’s training in the martial arts I have come to an understanding that there is really no such thing as “basic” or “advanced” techniques. Really, the nuts and bolts of martial arts are a collaboration of high percentage techniques and low percentage techniques.

High Percentage Techniques

High percentage techniques will work more often than their low percentage counter parts when applied against a resisting and/or skilled opponent. This becomes very evident to those of us who begin sparring either on the ground or standing up. How many of you are able to pull off a jump spin kick standing up or an aerial arm bar on the ground when you spar? If you’re anything like me, probably very rarely. So what do you use? You use high percentage time tested techniques that work most of the time. Functional movement is what this category is all about.

Low Percentage Techniques

Low percentage techniques are less likely to work against a resisting and/or skilled opponent. Does this mean they don’t work at all? No. It is likely that you can pull these skills off if two things go in your favour. 1. You are highly skilled and athletic & 2. You have an unskilled or non-resisting opponent. The complexity of the technique in this category will largely dictate its effectiveness. If you are trying to do six things at once, it’s likely that you will need to be highly skilled, athletic and have all the stars and planets aligned to pull the move off .

The Resisting or Skilled Opponent

When you are sparring or defending yourself everything works if the person you are working with (or dealing with), provides no resistance and has no skill. As a consequence of having to work with a higher skilled and/or resisting opponent you will have fewer options. As your options reduce, you’ll be left with “high %” techniques. Does this mean that higher percentage techniques are going to work against everybody? No. If you are sparring a Mike Tyson or Royce Gracie then you’re in trouble before you start - but if you are able to do anything at all it will be a high percentage technique. High percentage techniques are the smartest and in many cases the only option that you have.

The High Percentage/Low Percentage Balance

This is something that I have battled with my entire martial arts life. How much time do I dedicate to high verses low percentage techniques? And I have two answers to that same question.

1.   In training (and certainly what I teach), I think, a healthy balance would be 70/30. 70% of my time would be focused on HPT (High Percentage Techniques) and 30% on LPT (Low Percentage Techniques). So why do LPT at all you ask? In short, it’s fun. Some of the coolest techniques that we learn in the martial arts are LPT. If learning new stuff that’s not a 100% functional keeps you coming back to class for more then that will serve you better. HPT have to be practiced to death to be reliable. Years on the mat are the only thing that will get you functional for sparring or self-defense. LPT keeps you training longer and that can only be a good thing.

2.   In application (ie sparring, grappling, self defence) 90% HPT/10%LPT. When it comes to the crunch, you can’t afford to mess around with stuff that’s not going to work. The 10% I allow for LPT is room to adapt. If I see an opening for LPT I will take it. But only if it makes sense and only if the opportunity presents itself.

The point I am trying to make here folks is to be really honest about what works and what doesn’t. When I first started training, I thought everything worked. But I learned the hard way - in the ring, on the street and on the mat - that it’s simply not true. It’s OK to practice non-functional stuff as long as we are aware that it’s non-functional otherwise we are training under a delusion. A delusion that could end up with us being hurt or disenchanted.

 “Simplicity is the final achievement. After one has played a vast quantity of notes and more notes,

it is simplicity that emerges as the crowning reward.” 

Frederic Chopin