This article was written by Nicolas Gregoriades, who is a 3rd degree Jiu-Jitsu black Belt under Roger Gracie. Nic is an instructor at Subconscious Jiu Jitsu.
Vilfredo Pareto was a 16th-century Italian economist who made several interesting discoveries which led to the formulation of his law, which states that in any endeavour, 80% of the result is derived from 20% of the effort.
Most of the grappling arts consist of hundreds upon hundreds of attacks, defences and counters. However, during the practical applications of sparring and competition, only a small selection of these techniques are employed successfully and, more importantly, consistently.
These are what grapplers are referring to when they speak of ‘high percentage’ and ‘low percentage’ moves. Think back to the last grappling tournament you were at – more likely than not there was a very limited selection of finishing/scoring moves. These can be viewed as the ’20%’ which lead to the ‘80%’ of the result
Try to find the 20% which works for you and devote the bulk of your training resources to perfecting it. This does not mean that you should not use any of your training time to practice the fancier or lower percentage moves, just that the majority of your training should focus on the most commonly experienced positions and techniques.
A good example is the guard. It could be argued that fighting from the guard and passing the guard make up only 20% of the available and encountered positions in BJJ, but if you watch most matches you will see that the amount of time combatants spend in the guard is much greater than that. Therefore it would be prudent to devote more of your resources to practising your techniques from the guard than a lesser encountered position, e.g. north-south.
Note: this is especially important regarding defence - commit a large portion of your time learning to defend and counter the most common attacks in your grappling art.
Using the Pareto principle in your training will make your time on the mat more efficient. And efficiency is the ultimate goal of jiu-jitsu.