80/20 Jiu Jitsu

80/20 Jiu Jitsu

Portland jiu jitsu

How An Old Italian Economist Can Maybe Help Us Train Jiu Jitsu


Since I began writing this blog, I’ve taken the liberty of quoting a number of famous historical figures and turning what they’ve said towards jiu jitsu, for the way in which their quotes and teachings can be applied to the practice of BJJ and help improve the way we train and appreciate the gentle art.  While the next character may not be quite the household name that Da Vinci has come to be, his name-sake discovery can be potentially applied to BJJ in a very affective way. Vilfredo Pareto was a 19th century Italian economist who made a discovery, originally related to Italian wealth distribution, that could later be applied to a wide array of different events. The idea was the ‘Pareto principle’, and it relates to the way in which 80% of outcomes often come from just 20% of causes. In his original example, 80% of the wealth in Italy belonged to 20% of the population. It was later applied to a huge range of areas of interest; 80% of sales come from 20% of customers, 80% of health care costs come from 20% of patients, 80% of crimes are committed by 20% of criminals, etc. So how does this apply to BJJ? What if 80% of our success in jiu jitsu stemmed from just 20% of our game?


Portland Jiu JitsuJiu Jitsu Not Focused on Submission

This idea of the 80/20 principle has been mentioned on other BJJ blogs previously, but those that I have read have mentioned it to suggest that perhaps we should focus on the 20% of techniques they find most effective in finishing a match; to pick those few out of the hundreds of ways to get a submission that are most successful for the individual and drill only those. I feel there is an alternative way to view it. Instead, the approach should be to focus our time training on the basic set up when we roll. The 20%, as it relates to jiu Jitsu, is perhaps getting the basic postures and pressures correct, before jumping to the endless wealth of possibilities that may end a contest from the correct posture.


Portland Jiu JitsuFocusing on BJJ Fundamentals

SBG Portland employs such an approach through its constant focus on the fundamentals. An ability to employ the correct posture in a given position, and apply the correct pressure, opens the door to the majority of our success in BJJ. Getting this initial 20% portion right can take us to the proverbial 80% success. Alternatively, focusing on learning each and every possible way in which to submit an opponent, trying to perfect every approach to the arm bar, triangle, kimura etc; attempting to master all of this, without first grasping the fundamentals, is a recipe for failure.


Lets not, then, view the 80/20 Pareto principle as a suggestion to pick our favorite submissions that we want to master. Instead, view it as a reminder that an understanding of the basic fundamentals, the first ‘20%’ of our BJJ game, is could be where the contest is won or lost, and train accordingly.