Hidden Gems of Martial Arts

Martial Arts Article
Efficient Rather Than Effective?
     by Keith Pascal

Are Any of Your Martial-Arts Techniques Ineffective?


Why Does Pascal Say "Efficient" Rather Than "Effective?"

Stephen Wilshire wrote an interesting letter. It seems that he and I read the same business books. Without knowing it, I think that Stephen gets to the heart of why I practice what I do.

At first pass, it seems that we are only discussing semantics. I feel this discussion goes a lot deeper. First, Stephen's letter:

Mr. Pascal,

I've been a subscriber of MAM for about a year and a half, and have also purchased a couple of your e-books. I really enjoy your thought-provoking style. It allows one to explore a subject more deeply than just being given "The Answer". Very refreshing in this age.

I've noticed you tend to use the word "efficient" quite often in your writing. I agree that efficiency is a good thing in most endeavors; however, I tend to think that effectiveness, particularly in the martial arts, is perhaps more appropriate.

I have had the opportunity to take some management courses in my lifetime, and here's how I finally came to understand the difference between efficiency and effectiveness:

Efficiency: Doing things right.

Effectiveness: Doing the right things.

It's a subtle difference. One can be efficient in doing the wrong things, or one can be effective but not necessarily efficient, at least in the beginning. Of course, it is best to be both efficient and effective; but, if it comes to a choice between one and the other, it is usually better to be effective.

I don't know if you've ever explored this realm before, but it might be worth looking into.

Anyway, great magazines and books. They really get my mind going sometimes.


          Stephen Wilshire

This is one of those arguments that I could sink my teeth into and defend either side. But Stephen is correct; I do emphasize efficiency a lot in this ezine.

Here are my thoughts on the subject:

I assume that almost all of the martial arts that we (all) do is at least marginally effective. So, if we are just discussing whether or not a technique works, we don't need to talk about efficiency, at all.

Remember, what makes martial arts interesting is the chess-like quality of moves countering moves. In this case, efficiency has to enter the discussion. (Some moves are better than others.)

In my book, the minute you start talking about the "most" effective, you have to compare and contrast efficiency or lack thereof.


Let's get specific:

An opponent punches toward your face.

You block and then counter with a punch.

Hey, it works. It's effective.

Now, let's repeat the sequence with a modification.

Your opponent punches toward your face.

This time, you respond with a punch/check combination. Both your counter and your protective move happen at the same time.

Yes, this also works. It was effective, too.

No problem, right?

Both are effective moves. They both worked against someone else who blocks and punches.

In fact, if both parties are blockers and punchers, then each would block the other's punch. And the series of blocking and punching could go on all day.

In which case, both have been made ineffective, because now, neither is making contact, wouldn't you agree?

      -- But --

The game is over, as soon as you add the element of efficiency, with the more efficient fighter who combines the block and punch into one check/punch motion.

The block puncher never gets a chance to punch, because he (or she) has to respond to the punch on the first beat.

(And let's not even talk about interrupted timing, which is even more efficient.)

So, almost all moves can be considered effective, until they encounter efficiency. Efficiency is such an important part of the equation....



An Attacker Punches Toward Your Face

Let's consider another practical scenario. It further explains why the two terms seem to overlap, and why one is more important in my mind:

Let's say someone again punches toward your face.

You have a combination that you have deemed effective. You block and punch.

But wait!

It wasn't a straight punch to your face, after all. It was a fake.

You block just as you get whacked by a hit or kick to a different target.

Your effective move was rendered ineffective by good timing and a feint.


Effcient Reaction, This Time

OK, now it's time to repeat the scenario again. This time, efficiency comes into play:

Your opponent punches.

You react with your check/punch combination.

But, oops -- your opponent's punch was a fake. Your check met air while your punch made contact.

The check didn't do any good.

So what?

No big deal ...

You still hit at the same time with your punch. You hist just as your opponent pulls back for the the fake.

In other words, even though it was the wrong move, it was still effective, BECAUSE it was efficient.




This argument could continue talking about a variety of topics, for example, knife fighting. After all, efficiency is the premise in "10 Days to better Knife Fighting."

And of course, I could take Stephen Wilshire's side (or the position held by "our" business books) and argue that without effectiveness martial arts is just preservation of history and art.

Remember, I always talk about "practical" martial arts. For all 'practical' purposes (very punny, today), when we say practical, I think we mean "effective."

Hmmm .... in the first article, we talked about shin kicks. In this article, we discussed efficiency and effectiveness. Now, let's make our shin kicks more efficient. And of course, more efficient shin kicks mean more effective martial arts.


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