“If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle. “If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.”

― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

One of things that I was taught and learned early on in my study of the Fighting Arts was that planning and percentages was of major importance and always worth considering and keeping one eye focused on. Even more so when it came to understand how to use ones skills in confrontation. The above quote by the famous Chinese military strategist Sun Tzu is well known and outlines the importance of such, but many Martial Artists often read his works and even quote them, but they then fail to use the lessons within so all becomes useless.

Like it or not life is full of odds and percentages, the same with preplanning, some people do this well as they set things out for their future whereby others don’t and just take what life throws at them. Within the study of the Martial Arts to not pre-plan or understand percentages will most certainly either hold you back or result in failure, as to not do so is not productive or efficient at all. There are literally hundreds of instances that I could use but I will just drop a few on just so that you can get the idea and my thoughts on things.

1, When I was practising Judo as a youngster it became obvious that the more you practised a technique then the more success you had with it in Randori or during combat. However, over complex techniques rarely worked unless you were very lucky as the percentage odds diminished. So, before such trials I would do my general Dojo training and sessions, but away from thus 90% of my focus was always working on a few favoured techniques. I watched my father well and I could see that once he got an opponent in a certain position he’d got them where he wanted them, so he won. Why? Because he’d worked things to the point that his preferred techniques were then 90% effective and unstoppable. Most skilled exponents are like this. That’s why he’d scold me for trying the low percentage technique when there were higher percentage success things available.

2, What is the percentage of Martial Artists that actually do train on a daily basis or near on? The same in the number that train really hard and give it their all when in the Dojo? For both cases the number is probably not as high has many would believe. I’d say 20% !? Even though 80% of practitioners will say that they do. This is the reason why those that actually do, not only stand out from those that don’t, they will normally reap the most benefits too. This is also why to know and understand your Martial Art deeply and inside out you not only need to give it your all, you need quality guidance combined with your own individual experimentation and thought feeling process, as you will need to discover much for yourself. This is similar to how the tiger hunter of old survived, he gets taught and he also learns for himself, he knew not only everything about his own capabilities and weaknesses but the same about the animal that he hunts too, where he sleeps, when he shits and when he eats the lot. If not quite simply he died. Refer to the Sun Tzu quote above!

3, In the past I would always research a Dojo and Sensei very seriously before even considering putting in a sincere request to join or become a student. I never ever just joined any Dojo or followed any teacher, why do people do that!? The same in that I never took the number of students that a Sensei had in to consideration, as it’s all irrelevant and of little or no value. Their deep understanding of their art and skill level being of parament importance to me. I looked at things in percentage value.

Many years ago I used to travel quite a considerable way 2 or 3 times per week to train under Slater Williams Sensei. People used to say to me at the time that I was mad and wasting valuable time, and then proceed to list all of these supposed great and higher graded Karate teachers who were teaching more locally. What others failed to see was that I’d already got a decade or more of Karate experience behind me, so I’d already checked these other teachers out! Most of which had very little or nothing to offer me and kind of only offered 10% in Budo terms. So of course I sincerely went to the Sensei Williams and requested his guidance who had much to offer me in training terms and pushed me to my limits, whilst rarely if ever giving me any praise or external gratification. I could see what others chose not to see.

4, Now if your goal is to become a really effective ground fighter, then it’s no good just being a member of a Karate Dojo that happens to do a little ground work in their curriculum, equating to say 20% of training time. The same with training under some talk it jack of all trades guy. For success in studying groundwork you would need to train regularly at a good Judo, Brazillian Ju Justu that spends 70% of their time training going to ground. It’s simple percentages isn’t it…

5, Now, how many of the people who will be joining gyms in January to get fit and in shape are going to still be around in April? Say 20%? Now that’s the key number, because those 20% that do stay around will start to reap the benefits so there’s the goal. The 80% wasted their time! Just like in the Martial Arts, there’s no point in joining a place with a high percentage success rate of achieving say a Black Belt. No No No!! The real value and worth will be at training places where by years of effort and hard work reward the few. If everyone passes, then anyone can pass! Does everyone pass their A level exam or their driving test? No of course they don’t, if they did then the percentage value would be low and the standards even lower. Work it out!!

As for seeking out quality teachers in percentages. Look, no person in life will ever be 100% as you would wish to be yourself, or speak in a way so that you would always be in agreement with them 100% of the time, or if they are you are starting to become a disciple and going in to worship territory which isn’t good or healthy. When seeking out Teachers and Dojo it’s the same, you just get the percentages up and high.

As far as effectiveness and self protection in my techniques goes I work things just the same. I work the tried and tested core to the point that their success rate will be 90% to those on the receiving end. However, if under duress things happen to go in to that 10% failure zone for some reason, (say you shoot the shot and it misses) then I will still have two or more 90% shots following up and going in with the same ferociousness and force so that the success rate is high. As my teacher says “Karate is not about winning, it’s about not losing”  Yes it’s all about percentages so plan your training out wisely.