One of the most neglected areas I see in any of the combat arts is mental conditioning. Normally, when most people think about mental conditioning, they think of a good combat mindset. And having a solid combat mindset is vital and possibly the most important tool for you to have if you plan on defeating your enemies. But there are other mental conditioning skills you can use to increase your odds of hitting your threats under stress and living to tell the tale.
Imagine If You Could Win Every Gunfight
The use of mental imagery or visualization in sports has been around for many years and has a proven track record of success. Top athletes in every category will often credit their success to the use of these tools on a daily basis, and scientific studies back up their claims. So if it works in basketball and golf, will it work in shooting? What about combat? Well, a recent study by researchers in the Netherlands has shown that simple mental imagery can help law enforcement officers keep their shooting skills from deteriorating in high-threat encounters.
They conducted before and after firearms performance tests on sixty-six police officers, and the results were quite dramatic. After everyone shot a basic course to get their baseline, they were split into groups where some listened to an audio tape guiding them through mental imagery of a gunfight in which they performed flawlessly and others listened to meaningless audio.
After the audio session, both groups were then presented with a more dynamic scenario where the threat was now shooting back at them with Simunitions (Small marking rounds). The group that listened to the guided imagery with a positive outcome consistently outperformed the group who listened to the unrelated audio.
You can read the full report or a brief outline titled Positive Effects of Imagery on Police Officers’ Shooting Performance under Threat.
Training Your Mind
For some of you, this may be a bit too mystical or new age, at first. It can be hard to go from meat-eating mouth-breather to vegetarian belly-breather, but you don’t need to give up your red meat to become more enlightened. In fact, when you do your visualization, you can be as ruthless and barbaric as you want and if you do it right, you’ll be even manlier when you open your eyes! For others, this will just be a simple understanding of the power of your mind and a few tricks on how to focus that power.
I have been practicing martial arts since I was twelve and started meditating regularly as part of my practice about twenty years ago. I became a believer very quickly when I witnessed the power the mind has when you know how to unlock it. I would meditate before sparring and then see every move my opponent threw at me come in slow motion, and his defeat was a foregone conclusion. I continue to meditate for twenty minutes every day and believe it contributes to much of my success.
If you want to take your shooting to the next level and increase your chances of surviving a violent encounter, just follow these simple guidelines:
- Set time aside each day (10-minutes?)
- Find a quite place where you won’t be disturbed
- Close your eyes and relax your body
- Breathe deeply and relax your mind
- Visualize yourself performing at your absolute best
- Anchor the act with emotion
- End with a positive feeling. That’s it! But here are a few tips…
A Different Perspective
What you see when you visualize is going to be up to you. You can see things through your eyes or like you’re watching yourself on TV. Try each one out and see which one comes more easily to you. If you’ve never tried this before, it may take a week or more before you can even start to “see” things with your mind, and the way you see things will likely be different than you do with your eyes open.
This is fine and perfectly normal. Just keep trying and the details will come into focus. We’ve all visualized things before. In Fact, you already visualize everything you do, before you do it! Planning on hitting a baseball? Before you even touch the bat your mind is picturing what your body needs to do — This is how we learn and perform any skill naturally. Using visualization and the New Rules of Marksmanship is just understanding and harnessing the power you already have!
Using visualization and the New Rules of Marksmanship is simply harnessing the power you already have!
Use (all) Your Senses
Using all your senses is very important. In the same way you are seeing things with your eyes closed, you need to learn to feel, smell and hear things. The more senses you can get into play, the more real this will be in your mind and more benefit you will get from it. In fact, the most important feeling you need to get is emotional. If you can make an emotional connection with your imagery, the benefit you get will be the same as if you’ve physically done whatever you imagined. So if you’re visualizing hitting all your target’s center mass in the fastest time during a competition, feel that excitement you would feel knowing you won the title!
Stay in Control
Sometimes your visualization will get away from you and you’ll find that the shot missed or you dropped your gun. Again, this is normal and this is why you’re training. Rewind that video in your mind and keep playing it through until you do it the way you want. If you just let it go, that’s teaching your mind the wrong thing and you’ll be working against yourself. Once you’ve played it through the right way, make sure you reinforce it with some emotion — Bamm! Hell yeah!
You can also control the speed, color and size of your images. Maybe slow down that new technique you’re learning so you can see all the details or make the size of your target huge so you get the feeling that it’s easy to hit. Work with all the different options and make the images exciting to get the emotion that should come with it.
Free Your Mind (and the rest will follow)
The mind is powerful, but if you push the limits beyond what you believe is humanly possible, it’s not going to work. So if for instance you want to run faster and you imagine yourself flying, literally flying, your subconscious mind will short-circuit any positive results and you’ll just end up spinning your wheels. But that doesn’t mean you should limit yourself either. Say you want to improve your score on a shooting course of fire. You should picture every round hitting the center of the target. Why? Because it is possible for that to happen. You’ll never fly, but it is possible for you to shoot perfectly, and the more clearly you see yourself doing that, the more likely it will happen next time you’re at the range.
Now that you know you don’t even need a gun to practice shooting — no more excuses! You don’t need to find time to go to the range, buy ammo, pick up brass or clean the gun when you’re done. And if you do it right, the benefits you get from ten minutes of visualization could be more than you get from actually going to the range.
Remember, just like any training you do: Consistent training = consistent results. Better to do ten minutes every day than seventy minutes once a week. Train Hard and keep eating red meat!
Do you practice focusing your mind? What have been your results?