Saturday, June 07, 2014

Shooting in "The Zone"

What can be more boring than watching someone else shooting at Bullseye Targets?

The USOC (United States Olympic Committee) recently ran a study of alpha-wave vs beta-wave activities of a member of the US Olympic Pistol Team, and they found some relationship between the shots fired when (in the words of the shooter) "... it just happened the way it was suppose to".

This video is also available under "Isogora muscle and brain wave activity during shooting" and on YouTube under "Muscle and Brain-wave Activity while Shooting". (Published on May 22, 2013Pistol athlete Teresa Chambers works with USOC Psychologist Lindsay Thornton who is measuring her muscle and brainwave activity during shooting.  It's an 18 minute video.)

(I don't claim to understand the relationship between "Alpha Waves" and "Beta Waves", but I do think I understand that your body talks to you in ways that your mind doesn't.)

Surprisingly, the best circumstances didn't necessarily focus on the highest-scoring shots; in fact, it pretty much focused on the shooter's very personal "feelings" about each individual shot.

Which means ... what?

Essentially: when you feel good about a shot ... when you know that you did everything right even though your sights might not have been perfectly aimed at the 10-ring or the A-zone ... your body works with you so you 'feel' that you have performed well.  Even though you didn't necessarily achieve your goal of a perfect hit, your brain may know that you didn't aim perfectly, your body knows that you did what you trained it to do, perfectly.

And it rewards you.  Positive feedback is necessary to encourage you to come back another day to continue your quest for perfection, whether you can get all the parts together or not.

(Which may be the reason why only 5% of IPSC shooters are Grandmasters, and the rest of us continue to "feed the kitty" even though we know we may never win a match!)

This requires some background information, to establish a context:

I had an interesting Saturday; my Introduction to USPSA (safety) class had exactly one participant; Rod K.

Rod is an experienced shooter with a 1911 he had built himself, and although we discovered that the .45ACP ammunition he had loaded (using hollow-point bullets) had a disturbing tendency to feeding failures, when he shifted to his ammunition using FMJ bullets, that problem went away.

 Somehow, he managed to get past the negative self-talk which can undermine a shooter's confidence, and he was doing a good job of working with a stage which was a modification of the classic "El Presidente" stage design.

We had just finished discussing the concept of split times between double-taps and indexing between targets;  I had suggested that he consider that the time he was using to acquire a good sight picture and sight alignment on double-taps were approximately the same as his indexing time to the next target.   Why?  Because he 'rode the recoil' to incorporate the lateral movement when indexing between targets.

In fact, he had just got through the first pass through on the three targets (set at ten yards) when I stopped him during the reload.

 I was reluctant to put pressure on him because he was shooting consistent "A-zone" hits all day.  But this time, I noticed that (although his mag-change times were abysmal) his double-taps AND his indexing-to-the-next-target times were almost identical; somewhere in the 0.95 - 1.10 second range.  He continued to get consistent A-zone hits.  On every shot.

He was consistent in his accuracy, and his confidence (since he switched to the more reliable round-nose ammunition) was high.  As usual, I had strongly encouraged him to focus on his accuracy, rather than on "shooting fast".   But at this time, I wanted to reinforce is success on shooting accurately, and not being as focused on completing the individual exercise because ... he had just learned something important.

So, we started talking about shooting "In The Zone".

From the Urban Dictionary:
Expression used to describe a state of consciousness where actual skills match the percieved [sic] performance requirements perfectly. Being in the zone implies increased focus and attention which allow for higher levels of performance. Athletes, musicians, and anybody that totally owns a challenge of physical and mental performance can be in the zone.

Shooting "In The Zone", as most competitive shooters know, is that psychological/physiological compendium of mental and physical combination where you just turn your mind off and let your body do what it already knows how do.  Some people call it "getting out of the way"; some call it "going unconscious".

Brian Enos calls it "In The Zone" ... well, he wrote a book about it: some people don't buy into the "Zen" shooting "Mystique", but I consider it a true condition which is possible to attain when you just ... take yourself out of the equation, and let it happen.

Frankly, I dismiss the people who talk dismissively about "D-shooters In The Zen".   They are arrogant people, who don't recognize the endorphin high which is achievable at any stage of talent or competence; when you exceed your expectations, it doesn't matter that there are people of experience and expertise who competitively kick your ass.  You know you did well, even if you lose didn't win the match.

When you have "A Good Day", you know it.  If you can compete in Practical Shooting competition safely ... if not competently ... and especially if someone during the day says "Hey, good match for you, eh?", then you will come back again.

It's not that you're good; it's that you are good for YOU.

No wonder we're spending our childrens' inheritance on better guns, better gear, match fees and travel expenses;  this is one of the few sports which rewards you with an "atta-boy" from your new best friends.

1 comment:

Mark said...

Winning a match is not a realistic goal. Shooting well is. Trying to find the zone is the way to go. Once in a while you find it and that is reward in itself.