Improvement Through Subtraction

The Art of Subtraction is one of the “trade secrets” of mastering any physical skill set. Whether you want to master the guitar, karate, or practical shooting, the greats all work on becoming more focused and efficient. Your body is only going to get so quick or strong while working within the Laws of Physics, Anatomy, and Bio-chemistry. At the highest levels of performance, the winning edge usually comes down to shaving away wasted activity and effort and decluttering the apparatus used.

Doing this requires us to break down an activity into the essential elements: what must happen to accomplish a task (like drawing a pistol from concealment and placing 2 shots on target, for example). I once had a trainee who wore a Medic Alert bracelet that kept snagging his cover garment when he tried to clear the garment from his holstered pistol. Simple solution: lose the bracelet. But significantly increasing the risk to his health during a medical emergency to improve a self-defense skill he wasn’t likely to ever use wasn’t very wise. So he went to a Medic Alert necklace and pendant instead. The Art of Subtraction can be complex, requiring us to make multiple value judgments. But jewelry that doesn’t serve a vital life-saving purpose is one area to focus on when shedding the excess baggage of your self-defense. But the real key is to strip out all unnecessary movements and thoughts. Stick to the essential elements. This process is ongoing and progressive. Then figure out how much actual effort is required to accomplish a task. For example, how tightly do you need to grip the pistol in order to fire a tight 3 shot rapid-fire group? Once you answer that question through trial and error, retrain yourself to only squeeze the gun that much. It will make you quicker and improve your endurance under stress.

You can apply the subtraction principle to the refinement of almost everything in your life. Your life will get a lot better – at least far more manageable, less stressful, and less confusing.