For a 36" tree, you're going to need the trunk to be a mminimum of about 4" in diameter (not circumference) for a tall thin tree, with 6" being better and more convincing. Those are minimums. Anything you do as far as removing branches, twig, and leaves will slow that process down, yes. But tremendously? Well, that depends on how much you're chopping, the overall health of the tree, the length of the growing season, how much it's being fertilized and with what, etc.
Just let it grow pretty much wild each season. There's no real need to let it get to 6' tall, you can take off the leader before it gets that height (most bonsai nurseries DO keep their stock maples limited to certain heights). And if it gets too wide, you can trim a little of that back too. But, that's it. No "styling", especially since anything you do will really be wasted effort. For maples, anything above the lower third will be lost to the chop (although you CAN airlayer) once the trunk is the desired girth. Anything below, if left to groe, will be too bulky to be convincing in the "finished" tree. So, it should just be allowed to grow otherwise.