The Adaptive Specialist

Specialists have deep knowledge of their chosen subject but often cannot adapt well to changing conditions.
Generalists are usually better at adapting because they can see the big picture but they often lack ‘deep knowledge’.
The trick is to have a foot in each camp. Cultivating our ability to adapt while at the same time developing deep knowledge or specialized abilities is one way of standing apart from the pack. Even the fire-maker needs to know how to hunt and gather. Wearing one hat does not preclude us from wearing the other. Specialization and adaptation need not be mutually exclusive characteristics.
Social dynamics, political events, popular trends, even natural events have always conspired toward making the world an unpredictable place in which to live. And perhaps now, more than ever before in history – our ability to take on the mantle of the adaptive specialist will determine how well we fare in this thing we call life.
Mixed Martial Arts is an obvious metaphor for this. Those who rely solely on their specialization could be in for a rude awakening in the modern arena. Similarly, those who are shallow generalists, will probably never rise to the top echelon – that position is reserved, in my opinion, for the Adaptive Specialist.


Matt Klein said…
This makes a lot of sense John. In my martial arts travels, I have tried to obtain knowledge outside my specialty. The question I ask myself is, what is considered "deep" knowledge? Training in another art for one, two, or even three years? I have been training in BJJ for over a year, but believe it would take at least five to obtain deep knowledge. Very thought-provoking post.
Ronnie Brown said…
This is an excellent post. Great truth in it. I've sparred MMA with several different people who were "specialists" in a single art or discipline, yet found great difficulty utilizing their specialized knowledge in the context of MMA. For example, a friend who holds a black belt in tae kwon do and has great kicks, had difficulty using those kicks in the context of MMA sparring.

There are so many complexities and nuances of the MMA context, and I believe that's why you can watch an incredible fighter like Mirco "Cro Cop" dominate in striking, yet be unable to utilize that striking effectively against a well-balanced strategist who is able to avoid is powerful strikes and get him on the ground, despite his years in MMA.

Cro Cop is one of my favorite strikers and I have the utmost respect for him, but his ground game is about avoidance and is very defensive because striking is his forte, his specialty.

I don't believe there's anything wrong with that; however, his grappling still leaves a lot to be desired, from an offensive and insistent perspective.

Mark Hunt is another prime example. He came from dominating K-1 and even a few other MMA events to fighting in UFC and getting submitted rather effortlessly.

Bruce Lee was well ahead of his time when he recognized the essential blending of techniques and disciplines.

Great post, John!

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