Modeling Mannerisms

Modeling Mannerisms

Posted by Matt Little on 28th Oct 2023

“Absorb what is useful, discard what is useless and add what is specifically your own.” - Bruce Lee

One of my martial arts teachers years ago said something in class once that resonates with me still. He was talking about a shihan, a senior teacher in that particular art, who had recently taught a seminar at our school. That particular teacher had very erect and upright posture when he performed throws or pins. Following the seminar, many of us emulated that instructor’s style, the appearance of his technique, as best we could.

Turns out that particular shihan had a bad back, and the erect posture was a compensation to avoid aggravating a chronic injury. What made his techniques so masterful and effective had nothing to do with the mannerism we were emulating. There’s a powerful lesson here. We all model our technique on the examples of excellence that we are exposed to. We imitate those better than us, so that we can reach their level of skill.

The danger lies in what we emulate. Are we modeling the aspects of technique that make it effective? Or are we simply imitating mannerisms that don’t affect performance? This is especially vital for firearms training. The things that make someone’s technique masterful in practical shooting aren’t always apparent from observation. You can’t see grip pressures or other technical subtleties from outside the technique, they have to be experienced.

This is why I’ve come to emphasize the importance of experimentation in technical training. The principles of correct technique are universal, but how we apply those principles is a very individual thing. The only way to learn this for yourself is through experimentation in your training. Adjust the variables and find what works.

When we model our technique, it’s crucial we are modeling the right things. Everyone has mannerisms and affectations, but we want to strip those away, not add to them. Learn your own best technique and sharpen that. Daily decrease, not daily increase. Like a sculptor, chip away at the marble of your technique until only the masterpiece remains, and all else is eliminated.