Saturday, March 03, 2007

Grace Under Fire

When we talk about Practical Pistol (and 3-gun, and Multigun, and Rifle, etc.) competition, we rarely talk about the intangible aspects of the sport.

We never talk about sportsmanship. If we did, what would we say? "It's good; it's necessary; it reflects well on us as individuals to be good sportsmen; bad sportsmanship tends to lead the sport into disrepute." Vague stuff like that.

Fine, we really have nothing to say about sportsmanship. We accept it as a standard, but we don't really worry about living our lives that way. Either we're gentlemen and ladies, or we're oafs and buffoons. But we don't pay much attention to it, we take it for granted, because we don't really know what it is.

But we know it when we see it.

Here's a video example of sportsmanship.

Big Dawg shot a stage badly at an important match. He had a good game plan, but (like Dirty Harry) "in all this excitement, I kind of forgot ...". It was a complicated stage with so may different ways to shoot it, it's difficult under game pressure to remember exactly which way you had decided to shoot it. (When I shot the stage, I was so overwhelmed by the possibilities that I just found the simplest way to shoot it and ignored the fact that it was going to cost me a big time penalty.)

In the actual event, he failed to engage to US Popper targets.

That's frustrating, and embarrising and disappointing too. But he was squadded with friends who constantly tease each other, so he was vulnerable.

Worse, SWMBO had done exactly the same thing just a few minutes prior, and dealt with her disappointment privately. When she saw the mistake, she embraced and applauded him because, as she put it, "You Did It My Way!"

Many people would have felt taunted, and reacted with anger.

Big Dawg instead chose to accept it as intended. He didn't get mad, he just ... milked the moment. The result is a video showing two friends laughing off a mutual silly mistake, and turning a rainy day goof into an amusing story they can share for years to come.

Grace Under Fire in the societal sense:

When we talk about speed, power and accuracy, we ignore one of the most important factors of IPSC competition: physical grace.

I have talked to very good, fast-rising competitors who seem to have a natural talent for the sport, and one common theme when I ask them what makes them so good is that, as one competitor said, they "practice moving gracefully".

Maybe it's a facet of Situational Awareness, but good competitors always seem to know where they are in relation to the people and physical objects around them.

The U.S. Coast guard, a miltary organization who must daily accomplish their mission while at the same time keep track of the ship and the sea ("one hand for the ship, one hand for yourself") even has a webpage which defines the concept:
Situational Awareness is the ability to identify, process, and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening to the team with regards to the mission. More simply, it’s knowing what is going on around you.

Those of us who are not sailors ... more important, those of us who spend most of our lives in safe environments, must learn a special combination of mind-set and physical acuity to keep us safe when we are running with guns.

The final safety feature, when our situational awareness fails us, is that we must learn to move as if we are dancers. Never a mis-step, only a step in a direction for which we had not planned.

It's embarrassing and painful to fall down. What is worse, is to fall down when we are holding a loaded firearm, the safety off and our finger dangerously near the trigger.

I've fallen while running a stage, and I bet many of you have done so, too. The trick is to fall safely, accepting the injuries involved with using your hands to keep the gun pointed safely and in a safe condition (some competitors report having actually flicked the safety ON while falling) rather than to worry about blocking your fall.

No, it's far far better not to fall, even though you may trip over obstacles which you did not perceive because 90% of your attention was focused on your goal, rather than your surroundings.

In this video, we see the lovely SWMBO navigating a course of fire which nobody in the squad had identified as particularly hazardous. What none of us had noted is that one of the firing positions was immediately adjacent to a vision barrier, the pedestal support of which was poking up higher than it should. The challenge is to move as quickly as possible between firing positions, but sometimes the need to set our feet 'just so' to stop our forward momentum, while at the same time being aware of the gun, the desire to position ourselves perfectly to engage targets ... [deep breath] results in an awkward encouter with a tripping hazard.

A professional dancer would handle this situation without comment. An athlete would take it in stride.

A Geek, even a Lady Geek, would probably not have been trained to deal with this rude interruption in a stroll across the park. But SWMBO has been competing in IPSC matches for going on 9 years now, and while not an athlete she has been taking dancing classes for some months.

Is it the IPSC competition experience, or is it the dancing classes which give her the ability to recover so adroitly?

No matter. She trips, but does not fall .. the gun is always pointed safely downrange, and she recovers almost unconsciously from an Unfortunate Encounter which may have left a less-body-aware person sprawling in the gravel.

We're glad that she maintained her poise, and even happier that she was not injured.

Was this just another of the common, everyday fortuitous "Breaks of The game" which turned out okay?

No, I prefer to believe it was just another common, everyday occurance of ...

Grace Under Fire, in the physical sense.

These videos can also be seen in higher resolution here. The "When Bad Things" video is 10mb, the "Tripping Hazard" video is 4mb.

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