In memory of a once fluid man, crammed and distorted by the classical mess

This snippet of potted wisdom adorned a small desk plaque in Bruce Lee’s office. For this master of martial arts it represented a principle he recognised at an early stage, one that shaped his philosophy of fighting and the approach he took to teaching his students.

Its meaning was simple – the orthodox approach to martial arts was for each style and methodology to bend its practitioners to fit the requirements of the system. In addition, there were aspects of each which Lee saw as superfluous and so he developed ‘Jeet Kune Do’ (JKD) and the mantra of ‘I am no styles but I am all styles’. Put simply, JKD comprised numerous components lifted from martial arts around the world, employed in a fluid and unforced way according to the personality, physical attributes and mental state of Lee and those he taught. It was fighting ‘in the moment’, free from conventions and rigid  rules that allowed western boxing techniques one second and Judo the next, one flowing seamlessly into the other and the next and so on.

So what has this to do with modelling? Step back and take a global view of the hobby today and it is dominated by styles and personalities that seek to gather followers to their banner. These methodologies are identical to classical martial arts – you pick a style, read the rules and bend yourself to fit the system. As such, they engender rigidity, conformity and a lack of fluidity. The adopted style is a finger that points inwards on itself. As Lee said, ‘The finger points to the stars. Concentrate on the finger and you will miss all the wonders of the heavens’.

There’s nothing wrong with studying styles and techniques and to do so across the whole panoply of modelling, taking in dioramas, aviation, armour, figures, ships and sci-fi, will yield approaches and finishes that suit you as an individual, leaving the remainder to be cast off. Cumulatively, the object will be to create your own modelling ‘Jeet Kune Do’ and while that translates into ‘The way of the intercepting fist’, your modelling version might be said to mean ‘The way of avoiding the cult of modelling celebrity’.

Bruce Lee, as charismatic and masterful as he was, told his students ‘Never try to follow me, look up to me or bow down to me’. The cult of modelling celebrity demands all three. Enjoy the whole world of modelling, take what suits your personality and how you feel ‘in the moment’ and be free of the classical mess.

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