Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Fundamental Inefficiency

Watched a highly ranked martial artist a while ago, and something's been bugging me.  He was smooth.  He had a good explanation of what he did and why.  He had a lot of little, subtle motions (subtle is not the same as fine motor skill, these were good) and some fighters I respect were impressed. But something struck me as

I've seen other practitioners of this style.  Some were good, some terrible. But all had his same 'off' feeling.

Finally figured it out.  In every case, they were doing inefficient things efficiently.  The best practitioners are smooth.  The 'slow is smooth, smooth is fast" concept works because speed is really based on efficiency.  Smooth is efficient.  The less you move to get the same effect, the more efficient you are and the faster you seem.

So each actual motion was very efficient, but he would use five or six moves when only one or two were necessary to get to the same result.  In one case, a 45 degree difference in the first step would cut out the need for three moves.  And give you more options.

So there is a difference between efficiency of motion and tactical efficiency.  And even experienced people sometimes confuse them.  And people love complexity.  If they are quick enough to get away with it, people tend to extend engagements (at least play or training engagements) and make things more complex.

Efficient complexity may look good.  Maybe some people see it as proof of skill.  But simplicity is efficient.  Efficiency by itself isn't 'mastery' (I hate that word.)  It's efficiency of motion and efficiency of tactics and strategic efficiency.  Minimum motion for maximum effect.

Kano was a genius. (Maximum efficiency, minimum effort.)


  • Does your uke have to attack from out of range for your technique to work?  Big red flag.
  • Does your technique require or expect uke to follow a specific pattern?
  • Is that pattern nonsensical with respect to tori's movement?
  • Does tori use more motions than uke?
  • Does uke have to hold still?
If what you do is truly efficient, none of these training artifacts are necessary.

One more edit, because I think the point isn't clear: You can be the fastest runner in the world, but if you take an inefficient route you will still lose.


Lise Steenerson said...

Love how you worded this Rory. Definitely a homerun!

James L said...

Hi Rory, you mentioned Kano, who is he?

James L said...

Oh yeah, Jigoro Kano. Never mind :)