The 80/20 Rule

Vilfredo Pareto designed a mathematical formula to describe the grossly unequal distribution of wealth in his country. He discovered that 80% of the wealth was controlled by just 20% of the people. Later still, he observed that in his garden 20% of the peapods produced 80% of the peas.

After Pareto first made his observations and created this formula, others began to notice the same phenomena within their own fields of study. Dr. Joseph Juran, the creator of “Quality Management”, noted what he called the “vital few and the trivial many”. As a result of Juran’s writing, the observation that 20% of whatever is responsible for 80% of the results became known as “Pareto’s Principle”.

The 80/20 rule means that in anything you care to investigate, the few (20%) are vital, and the many (80%) are trivial. In Pareto’s original theory, 20% of the people owned 80% of the wealth. In Juran’s early work, he identified that 20% of the “defects” caused 80% of the problems. Any manager can tell you that 20% of whatever project you work on will consume 80% of the time spent on that project. It is possible to apply the 80/20 rule to almost anything.

Why should this matter to a martial arts instructor? Well, consider the following possibilities;

·        20% of your students will cause 80% of the problems

·        20% of your students will provide 80% of your successes

·        20% of your tournament competitors will bring home 80% of the trophies

·        80% of your instruction will be actualized by 20% of your students

There is more – 20% of what you work for in a day will bring you 80% of your results. The trick is to identify and focus on that 20%. When things start to feel like they are going out of control, remember this principle and focus on the important 20%!


  • Hartman, R. (2008). Taekwondo Tutor [Online]. Available: [2008].