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Get Busy Imitating!



 

I look around today and see young kids executing high-level martial art movements that took me years to develop (not to mention some I never had the physical ability to do). Many of them don’t train in martial arts at all. I see the same thing when it comes to other physical endeavors such as sports and dance. How do they do it? By imitating what they’ve seen, be it in a movie, a video game, or on some online social media site such as YouTube or TikTok.

 

We are mimetic animals. We learn as kids by copying and imitating what we see and hear, be it from a parent or relative, a friend, or someone we look up to and admire.

And in many things, especially those of a physical nature, the same process continues as we move into and through our adulthood.

 

Let’s say you’re someone who’s brand new to martial arts. When you first start learning, you will undoubtedly find yourself imitating or mimicking the instructor who is teaching. Later, as your training continues, you might find yourself drawn to the way a more advanced student moves around their opponents with fast, fluid smoothness and decide that’s how you’d like to move. So, you spend time watching them and attempt to imitate their footwork and body movements.

 

You may study a particular martial artist whom you admire and who inspires you and

pattern yourself after their movements, their techniques, etc. All these things are perfectly fine. They’re simply examples of the “see it and imitate it” phase of learning and growth.

 

It’s important to understand and recognize that imitation can fail at times. You may discover that, for whatever reason (physical, mental), what works for a particular martial artist doesn’t work for you. This, by the way, has nothing to do with an oft-used statement that some people in the JKD world like to toss around, “only Bruce Lee could do that,” which, in my opinion, does nothing more than deter people from attempting to do something Lee did, and then gives them a handy excuse for not doing so. On the other hand, you may discover something that helps you do something much better than the way you first did it.

 

It's simply this. When you watch someone perform something really well that you’d like to be able to do, ask yourself questions such as whether or not you have the same physical structure as they do, or if you possess the same or similar coordinative abilities as they do. Some things you may be able to change and some you may not.

 

Imitation remains a powerful teacher. Traveling the path of excellence, even in someone else’s footprints at times, can be a vital means to acquiring skill. Maintain the freedom to mine from other martial artists available to you, around you. And get busy imitating if you need or want to.

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