After a long break from writing on a blog, it has become apparent the only consistent work I will do is to write with a friend in mind to give my jumble of thoughts shape. For today, I endeavor to shape my ongoing philosophy and training model lovingly referred to as The Pokemon Rule, Tao Te Pokemon.
What initially began as a way for athletes from other sports to successfully transition into combat sports such as grappling and kickboxing. After being introduced to the late great Poliquin Sensei, I started seeing how we could expand these rules for people interested in strength and conditioning outside of martial arts.
After compiling a decade of training notes, there was an age-old trend found that every management book loves to bring up, a Pareto distribution(80/20). As you see on a whim I often ask trainees (Clients, students, seminar attendees, people on the street) what is their favorite Pokemon, like a modern zodiac/personality test; confident there is something that can be gleaned from their 1 choice out of the staggering 807 in the Pokedex (of this write Pokemon Sword & Shield has not included in this total). Because of the 18 “Elemental” Types in-game, the majority of responses overwhelming fall under 5 of the classical elemental types you see in many popular mythologies. To reward those keeping track, 20ish% of available responses make up more than 80% of the answers trainees give.
A very happy realization to simplify an increasingly bloated model from with details that encourage people happens to be extremely narrow, let alone care to work it into training.
The model is simple. No matter how strong or fast you are, there will be a few vital moves you have that bring you success. For the uninitiated, no matter how many techniques a ‘mon is capable of learning, it can only remember 4-moves at any time. This connection occurred to me while training a soccer star for their first kickboxing match. What I thought to be a cakewalk turned out to be a frustrating experience until offering a comparison to Pokemon. He’s watched dozens of martial arts/action movies and had great stamina and coordination as a midfielder. But, there is a learning curve to new skills that good stats can’t translate into results. Expertly kicking a ball and an opponent has many similar mechanics, but they are not the same conditions or contexts. No, how much we love the cult classic Shaolin Soccer skills when starting a new endeavor start back at level 1. So, relaying it in terms of his favorite starter ‘mon (Squirtle for those who care) who only starts with two moves, one not particularly powerful the other deals no damage. The new kickboxer had to back burner the dozens of kicks he was ready to practice and begin with a Jab. Mostly because he was a lifelong gamer, he accepted my pokemon analogy and agreed only to learn four techniques over the month, and how those were all we needed to defeat his yet to be named opponent.
lead hand punch, Jab
Rear hand straight punch, Cross
Lead leg pushing kick, Teep
Rear leg round kick, Roundhouse
Often from people with no sports training but have seen plenty of martial arts flicks, that don’t include The Karate Kid, assumed I must not be a good teacher when they hear the story of basics and contrast it with tales of how I learned to do a 540 kick after watching my senior doing one at a party. Looking back, I was a young and a terrible teacher: impatient, expected everything from my students, and cared about ego too much. It took training a friend who was practicing at a very high level with semi-pro clubs in soccer who wanted to compete in a sport that breaks and concussions are on the menu. It was the click in my adolescent mind I didn’t get. Since many people are drawn to combat sports also identify with having a fiery nature themselves, so watching a technique and then immediately weaving it into a whirlwind combination of attacks is what my cohort of Fire types do in our little Dopamine craving brains.
To train someone who is contemplative has many questions, and practice with the goal of perfection is going to be irritated by a throw spaghetti at the wall and see what sticks approach, which is how I thrived. Like Water, this student had to find their tempo; because coming from being an expert in one domain and starting at level one in something else has an adjustment period, mentally more than physically. But because of the hours of practice required to become an expert on the pitch was a blessing to accepting that it would take time and four techniques would be plenty in the beginning.
I don’t have any other words at this time on the subject without delving into another topic, so I would like to close and for next time would like to go further into the detail about the 5 types and how they best respond to training.