Photo courtesy of Stephanie Booth
In judo there is this concept of tokuiwaza – techniques that are your best or favorite – techniques that tend to work especially well for you a lot of the time. Most black belt judoka have a handful of tokuiwaza. But is there such a thing as the opposite of tokuiwaza? Throws that just never seem to fit certain people regardless of how much practice you put into them? Sure there is – it just doesn't have a cool Japanese name like tokuiwaza.
This is the basis of my 80% rule in rank demonstrations. I say you should be able to demonstrate 80% of the material at your level with decent mechanical precision 80% of the time. Thus, of the yellow belt throws for instance – deashi, kosoto, osoto, hiza, ukigoshi - a new yellow belt should be able to execute four of those throws and look pretty good doing it 4 times out of 5. This is a forgiveness factor because everyone has non-tokui techniques and you'll even screw up your tokuiwaza once in a while.
This does not mean that you can choose one throw out of five to write off. You still need to be working on those things that are the opposite of your tokuiwaza, but you don't have to beat yourself up about them. Relax and play with those ideas for ten or twenty years. For most of these techniques, proficiency will come in time. And if you practice a given technique a million times over the course of the years and still can't get it right – consider it a puzzle – a gift from your sensei – the gift that keeps on giving.