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Be formless, my friend

Our recent podcast about people shooting IDPA matches with guns they don’t actually carry brought out a strong stripe of IDPA shooters who clearly are not in it to practice with their carry guns, but instead to win. Just flat out win. Not CCP, not BUG, high overall.

That’s a fine goal (although winning matches is ultimately a terrible goal), but if you’re in it as a game, go shoot USPSA.

If you’re going to an IDPA match, do it in the spirit of the sport. Shoot your carry gear. Be realistic about it. It reminds me of something Bruce Lee said about martial arts and different styles and forms:

Empty your mind
Or in this case, your self-image. Don’t pigeonhole yourself as an IDPA shooter or a USPSA shooter. Don’t pigeonhole yourself as a tactical shooter or a competitor. Be a shooter. Don’t tell yourself “I can’t X because I’m a Y.” Shoot what’s in front of you. Define yourself by what you do (“I shoot 2 second bill drills and 25 yard bullseyes.”) not what you are (“I’m an IDPA ESP Marksman.”) Always be expanding what you do.

Be formless, like water.
Don’t shoot in a particular style. Don’t have a particular form. When shooting standing up, shoot squared up. When you’re shooting prone, shoot from prone. Do not try to mold the world to fit your style. Mold your style to fit the world you shoot in. If that world is only ever USPSA matches, then shooting from retention isn’t probably something you should practice a lot.

You put water in a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle.
When you go to a USPSA match, shoot your gamer gear, and exploit the rules. When you go to an IDPA match, play along with the scenario. If you’re shooting an IDPA match like it’s a USPSA match, you’re in the wrong place and you’re just going to annoy people around you. Expand yourself to fill the space you’re in, don’t try and force your way in to spaces where your rigid form doesn’t fit.

Be water, my friends.

About Ben

Blog contributor. Active in IDPA and USPSA, and he won't flinch if you call him a rules lawyer. Ben is a beard wearing, bacon eating, whiskey drinking, motorcycle riding, coder.


  1. How very zen! I IIke it.

  2. Jerry “The Revolver Lama” Miculek keeps reminding shooters to “be in the moment,” which I always interpreted to mean shoot the match you’re shooting, not the match you wish/think/imagine you were shooting (with the training you wish you could have done).

    It reminds me of the Top Shot competitions on TV, where I was amazed by the inability of some high-ranking competitive shooters to function in less-than-perfect situations. By contrast, the generally less-qualified military guys rarely groused, and just focused on doing what they could do.

    To shooters, maybe “Be in the moment,” “Be like water,” and “Improvise, Adapt and Overcome” all mean pretty much the same thing.

  3. I love what he is saying at 7:00 into the full interview. I’m pretty sure he is talking about USPSA vs IDPA at that point. 🙂

  4. I see both sides of this issue. I think the IDPA shooters need to use their carry guns more often, but not exclusively. It’s a game, not training or practice. Have fun and test your skills with lots of guns. I carry Glock 19 and 17 and shoot with both as well as a 34, a 1911, and even with a revolver! Love them all as they are all different challenges with unique skills.

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