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Azato's picture
Specialization vs Well-Roundedness


This is the first video I have tried to do like this where I lecture about a martial arts related topic. I feel like I rambled a bit and am considering scripting the next one. Any feedback is welcomed, thanks!

Iain Abernethy
Iain Abernethy's picture

A good presentation! I don’t think you rambled and I agree with the sentiments expressed.

My own “mantra” around this is, “We can’t be experts in everything, but we should be beginners in nothing”. I’m also great believer in ensuring the “base skills” of self-defence are addressed before we move onto the enjoyment of fighting, culture, art, athletics, etc.

The point about the joy of taking a skill to a high level is also a good one. There is a pleasure in learning a skill and martial arts are good providers of that.

Aside from that desire to excel in a particular skill, there’s the fact that martial artist spend most of their time fighting their own kind. That also leads to the specialisation as judoka try to out throw each other, boxers try to out punch each other, TKD folks try to out kick one another, BJJ folks try to submit one another, etc. This causes an “inhouse arms race” where complexity will be rewarded and will thrive due to the slight advantages being sought over fellow specialists.

Good video Dan!

All the best,


Neil Babbage
Neil Babbage's picture

At work (proper work, not playing in the dojo!) I am regularly called on to present to new joiners and trainees on "management". The people who facilitate the sessions have a standard question to throw me: "what do you know now that you wish you'd known then?"  My standard answer is about specialisation v's generalisation. Throughout our lives we seem to have a natural tendency (or need) to specilise. In education we begin with 10 GCSEs, then 3 A levels, then one undergraduate degree, then a narrower master's degree and so on.  At work most jobs focus on getting better at the one thing we are employed to do and as we get more specialist this tends to lead to greater rewards and promotion. I work in IT, so the example is usually about the IT graduate who takes a job as a developer and immediately forgets everything they ever learned about other aspects of IT. Eventually they become head of a large software development team. The next step requires generalisation because moving upwards means broadening out and taking responsibility for multiple areas - infrastructure, architecture, projects, as well as coding. A similar example is a teacher working up to become head of department in their speciality and then finding that they need to broaden out in order to be a head of school. At this point people suddenly wish that they hadn't spent their whole career focusing on one thing but had "dabbled" more broadly - learned a bit about other areas that would now prove hugely useful. My advice at the end is to tell the trainees that they should embrace the chance to "move sideways" sometimes as it will pay back in the end and suggest they review the career of Eisenhower as a classic example of this. Back to the dojo, or self-defence, the same applies. Being brilliant at one thing is great, but at some point advancing further needs broader experience...