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Thread: Mental Skills Philosophy

  1. #1
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    Mental Skills Philosophy

    Guys:

    There is a saying that goes something like this.

    Marksmanship is 95% mental, 3% physical, and 2% luck.

    Your opinions on this saying? Look at it in terms of your own experience and please do state the conditions as I think the percentages vary according to conditions.

    LR55

  2. #2
    Hoot
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    Boy, if you work that theory backwards, I'm manic depressive.

    Hoot

  3. #3
    RangerRick
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    I could buy off on that. Most of the time when I screw up, it's lack of patience. That applies to the shooting end as well as the reloading end. If I get in a hurry reloading or get distracted, my groups suffer. When shooting the same happens, getting impatient for the wind to settle down, or squeezing off a shot without taking the time to position the rifle so it naturally settles on to the target. Or jerking the trigger when things line up trying to force the shot.

    All of those are mental errors. When you get into doping for wind there is more skill involved. All that is assuming decent gear. If you have a crappy scope, there is only so much you can do.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by RangerRick View Post
    I could buy off on that. Most of the time when I screw up, it's lack of patience. That applies to the shooting end as well as the reloading end. If I get in a hurry reloading or get distracted, my groups suffer. When shooting the same happens, getting impatient for the wind to settle down, or squeezing off a shot without taking the time to position the rifle so it naturally settles on to the target. Or jerking the trigger when things line up trying to force the shot.

    All of those are mental errors. When you get into doping for wind there is more skill involved. All that is assuming decent gear. If you have a crappy scope, there is only so much you can do.
    Rick:

    Good to see you back!

    What is up with the patience thing? Twinkies and Soda for breakfast as a kid? He, he.

    OK -- you said you know it when you get impatient so I am sure you have found a solution. What is your solution?

    LR

  5. #5
    RangerRick
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    Good to see you back too! Hey, I put Pepsi and sugar on my Fruit Loops when I was a kid.

    Well, the impatience results from trying to cram 20 pounds in a 10 pound bag, schedule wise. If I go to the range with only an hour to shoot I tend to get rushed. Or if I get an unexpected break to go shoot and don't have ammo loaded, I might tend to rush the reloading.

    I don't get to shoot as much as I would like, so I tend to jump at the chance when an opportunity presents itself.

    The solution is just realizing that your messing up if you try to do that. It's better to take the time to reload properly and skip the range if you are short on time, and maybe reload 2 or 3 times as much. Then when you get a chance to shoot again, you have plenty of ammo, and you can spend the whole time shooting.

    When I'm short on time, if I'm not careful, I tend to rush to load gear, rush to unload it at the range, rush downrange to set up targets, etc. By the time I can shoot, I'm hyped up and huffing and puffing. Not optimal.

    So it's better to forgo the range time rather than use it badly. You can use that smaller block of time to reload, clean gear, etc. Then set aside a large enough block of time to do it right when you go. Then it becomes an enjoyable activity and you improve your skills rather than leaving the range pissed off because you rushed and shot poorly.

  6. #6
    Moderator bwaites's Avatar
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    When I began shooting, I knew that I was the weak link in the chain. My lack of knowledge, practice, and efficiency were the issues that caused me problems. There were so many things to remember just to get to the range! That list was difficult to arrange, and make sure that I consistently brought everything with me. It seems simple, but even today I find I repeatedly have to double check! I actually have developed a check list for trips!

    I've found that getting all the things together I need takes quite a bit of time, and that if I have limited range time available, I'm better off either selecting only ONE thing to do, or using the time for reloading or some other task, as RangerRick notes.

    That said, I've come to believe certain things, most of which have to do with the training I've received:

    There are 3 major items that play a part in my shooting, 2 which are uncontrollable at the range, one which I can actually do something about.

    The uncontrollables:

    1) The rifle and ammunition. Once I arrive at the range, I am stuck with the rifle and ammo I have. (I realize some guys make their own ammo at the range, I can't and don't). This means that I have to prepare them properly ahead of time. The rifle has to be clean, the ammo has to be appropriate. If I have a well built and cleaned rifle, with appropriate ammo, that is the best I can do. The rifle is static, it doesn't change in a range session, short of something loosening up and if I did my prerange checks correctly, that shouldn't happen. Within the constrictions of normal wear or something breaking, nothing will change in a singe range session on the rifle that is significant enough to make a difference in my shooting.

    2) Weather conditions. They will be what they are. Sure, I can wait out a gust or two in a competition, but most competitions are time limited to some extent, so I simply have to do my best. I actually enjoy practicing under tough conditions, because it makes less tough conditions much more enjoyable. If I know I've shot well in worse weather, then mentally I am better off.

    The controllable:

    1) ME-- There are times that I simply cannot get my mind around shooting well. Sometimes its because I forgot to do something, or to bring something, and its distracting. Sometimes its other distractions like being time limited and wanting to accomplish something. Sometimes its because of some physical issue, like an injury, distracting me. (Though the match that I shot absolutely the best in was right after I had been injured fairly significantly in a basketball game. I had a black eye, an injured non shooting shoulder, and bilateral wrist sprains, with both wrists in splints. I could barely pick up my rifle. I had forgotten the bipod I intended to use and had to borrow one. BUT...I felt better on the rifle, more comfortable and relaxed than I ever had. Everything just felt right, and I shot like that, winning the small match, and having high X count. I really was shooting just for fun, because I had brought a friend to the match and he was shooting a match for the first time. I was injured and expected nothing, and thus I suspect I was very relaxed!)

    But I have come to realize this... I can shoot better than any rifle made. I know, I'm a beginner, how can I say that? It is because the only variable I can control is me!

    NOT because I am a great shooter, but because I can continue to improve. The rifle stays static, or even gets worse with use. I can compensate to some extent for that wear. The rifle itself makes none of its own adjustments. The rifle does nothing on its own, it requires me to make conscious efforts, and to make constant adjustments.

    It took a long time for something LR1955 told me at the very first session I ever had with him to actually sink in. I had said that the rifle was capable of more than I was. He replied, "Why do you say that? Its simply not true. You are the one that runs the rifle. Its capabilities are completely based on your abilities." I was very green at the time, (I'm still pretty green in the competitive venue!) and I really didn't completely get it. But over the years I have come to grasp (slowly, I'll admit! I'm a little thick about stuff like this!) what he was trying to get at. I CAN IMPROVE. The rifle can't, short of correcting something broken, and even that requires me.

    So this year I have goals when it comes to shooting and I intend on working on them consistently. The main goal is to develop a habit of continual improvement, I can and will become better.

    I have subgoals based upon that, and I won't bore everyone with them, but I firmly believe that a systematic approach to improvement is all that will work for me, and those goals are necessary in order to do so.
    Last edited by bwaites; 03-20-2011 at 06:40 PM.

  7. #7
    mtn_shooter
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    I agree that mental is more important than physical, but not to that extreme, and the "luck" is dependant on how precise your weapon/ammo combo is.

    I think if flinching and impatience magically disappeared one day, groups would shrink dramatically.

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by mtn_shooter View Post
    I agree that mental is more important than physical, but not to that extreme, and the "luck" is dependant on how precise your weapon/ammo combo is. I think if flinching and impatience magically disappeared one day, groups would shrink dramatically.
    MS:

    Then how would you rate it? That saying is just a saying.

    I think what they are talking about is more that gust of wind you didn't see that tosses your bullet into the middle when you made the wrong wind call to begin with.

    Flinching and impatience are things we do consciously. If we do them, we sure can control them. That is part of the mental game as I see it.

    So, lets say someone comes up to you and says he is flinching and can't control it. He or she asks for your 'hep'.

    What would you do?

    Anyone? What would you do and how have you gotten a flinch under control in the past? I bet there are ten guys on the forum who think flinching is a major training issue with them.

    LR1955

  9. #9
    JASmith
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    Quote Originally Posted by LR1955 View Post
    ...What would you do and how have you gotten a flinch under control in the past? I bet there are ten guys on the forum who think flinching is a major training issue with them.

    LR1955
    Outstanding topic!

    I've had my ups and downs with 'flinchitis' and here;s what I learned. One is a fair bit of dry fire practice, the second is practice with a firearm that isn't as brutual on the shoulder or hand, third is practice with reduced loads in the firearm you've been having the trouble with.

    Most important of all: Make darn sure you're concentrating on sight alignment (or sight picture if not metallic sights) and trigger squeeze even after the shot breaks!

    I see very little physical or luck in that process. I would say that physical starts to become important about the time one realizes that the steadiness of hold and precise sight alignment are aided by better physical conditioning (again, the mental part is dominant). As for luck, yes there are random events beyond our control, but the right mental state enhances our luck!

    Cheers!

    Is there any real difference between top flight shooting and other champion sports activities? (Other than which ones we like to participate in!!)

  10. #10
    GrantMan
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    I have to agree mental has a lot with shooting. I find if I dry fire at the target and practice breathing and trigger control while doing so it carries over to the actual shooting.

    Another thing I have found is that I can psych myself when I am trying to shoot good groups, I might have a good group going and on the last shot I get nervous trying to keep it going and pull the last shot.

  11. #11
    mtn_shooter
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    To counteract flinching I tell myself, its going to recoil, it'll be loud, but it wont hurt, and force myself to take it steady, sort of a" let it happen" approach. Some people say the shot should surprise you-- once you become familiar with a weapon, you know exactly when its going to fire. I think its better training to deal with recoil than to psych yourself out of it. If I had to put numbers to it, 65% mental, 30% physical, 5% luck. Physical training is very important, imho. I like to tense my hand and try to move only my trigger finger, its also good practice to aim in and dry fire, and produce good muscle memory. That said, if you can't convince yourself that you don't need to counteract the recoil, all of that physical training is no good to you.

  12. #12
    louieprkr
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    This is an excellent thread! Its funny how much thought, effort, and money we will spend on our equipment, and overlook the most important variable... us! Patience has been one of my biggest enemies also. Funny enough, I would say the strongest correlation to group size for me is my schedule. If I have been busy, my focus is severely dampened in all tasks but shines through on targets. I just can't seem to take one task at a time. I will find myself behind the rifle not just thinking about the shot, but the following shots, the ammo I need to load, the drive home, how I need to get groceries, that guy that cut me off, etc... I just can't get them out of the back of my mind. This is a major mental weakness that should be easy to avoid. Matter of fact its just plain stupid. After going through the effort it takes to get out and shoot, I decide to let things that are 100% out of my control (at the moment) ruin my trip to the range.

    I like some of the methods that were previously stated and will do my best to employ them in the future. Great thread! Thanks to those with the experience and the willingness to share.

    haha just realized I pulled this up out of the catacombs... Its still just as relevant so I guess it wont hurt

  13. #13
    LRRPF52
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    If I find myself stressed out a little with my schedule, getting to the range, posting my targets, worrying about someone with a muzzle break nearby, and other range distractions....I just lay my head down on the gun and take a little nap, if just for 15 or 30 seconds, and let my heart rate and breathing slow way down.

    Then I go into my shooting sequence, where the focus on the sight picture throughout the shot is all I concentrate on, which I give credit to LR1955 for summing up the fundamentals with. I've also started to let my AR's free-recoil a bit more, and I'm shooting more consistently in the .5 MOA or less range that way with rifles that can do it.

  14. #14
    stokesrj
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    The mental aspects of shooting are more than any of us can comprehend. I've learned this the hard way with many tens of thousands of dollars spent on the match circuit. I began shooting High Power competitively in 2008, quickly moved from marksman, to sharpshooter, to expert, to master, and now I'm pushing into high master territory shooting my service rifle. The only thing keeping me from making high master with my service rifle is my mental control. The discipline to control my body when it counts, not taking that shot that would result in a nine.
    Along the way I began to notice that when I shot in important matches my scores dropped, not much, maybe .5% to 1% but that is all it take to keep you from winning leg points, or the rocker patch for Presidents 100. What I found was that I couldn't settle down to the fine level of muscular control required to perform at the levels required. The difference was 100% mental, and a friend helped me to understand this. His name is Sam Yarosh, a former CIA sniper, and multiple national record holder in high power rifle disciplines. Sam gave me some spooky material supplied to the CIA snipers to help them maintain mental control.
    I won't share specifics because I don't have permission from Sam to do so, but I will say that the tapes basically teach self hypnosis techniques, ones that work. I can now move to the firing line and slow my heart beat, gain a connection with my muscles that let me identify any muscle group that is not totally relaxed and relax them. This is all done with my mind, not with my muscles.
    This helped me move from the mid 180's in 200 yard slow fire off hand to the mid 190's. This means I'm hitting a six inch nine ring 100% of the time with 50% or better in the 3" ten ring. This is done from the unsupported off hand position with metallic sights.
    Almost any load will shoot 100% so it is very much mental control that determines the outcome.
    I used to spend countless hours making sure my loads were perfect, my rifle was tuned to perfection, all my equipment was the best that could be had. I've finally learned that my wisest use of time is in mentally training myself to shoot tens and X's.
    Larry Basham has a book that has helped many in this respect called "With Winning in Mind".
    Bob

  15. #15
    Chieftain txgunner00's Avatar
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    Great info. I've learned same thing about mental control in some of the challenges in my life but not nearly to the level you have taken it. It's amazing what your mind can make your body do. Thanks for sharing.

  16. #16
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    Stokes:

    Secret stuff only given to CIA Snipers? Ok.......... Since you disclosed that this type of thing even exists on an open forum, I expect a few black helicopters to pay a visit in the near future. He, he, he.

    Much of my current training involves mental skills / enhanced performance / psychological skills so I try to stay up on the current research and theories involving such improvement. For years, psychologists have tried to find ways where an athlete can control his heart rate, among other things, and do so on demand and in a very short period of time. So far, no such luck. And, for the most part, heart rate had little or nothing to do with success or failure. This includes shooting sports. You will not be able to change your heart rate significantly enough, on demand, in very short periods of time. And, if guys think heart rate is the key to successful shooting, go to the firing line sometime in a completely rested state; dry fire until you are very comfortable with your position; put on a blind fold and shoot your string for score.

    Before guys go out and get books on self-hypnosis, I recommend they talk with a clinical hypnotist. You will be surprised at how few times their professional attempts change behavior or intrusive thoughts. If they could do so, many mental illnesses would be cured, no one would fail in their attempts to quit smoking or drinking, etc. And, their protocols take months and even years before they see any significant change.

    Lanny Basham is a motivational speaker. He won an Olympic gold in small bore in the 1970's because he changed how he viewed himself, his training, and his sport. His lectures and book are a story of this change and its successful results. The book and tapes intend to transfer his experienes into daily life. His information on goals setting and accomplishment, is very good. However, the rest of his information becomes pretty vague as he tries to transfer it towards all activities and all walks of life. And, a-lot has changed in the understanding of mental skills since the early 1970's.

    Take this one from Stokes to the bank. "I used to spend countless hours making sure my loads were perfect, my rifle was tuned to perfection, all my equipment was the best that could be had. I've finally learned that my wisest use of time is in mentally training myself to shoot tens and X's."

    From my work, the problem here is that most people do not know how to think / what thoughts to be put in their head, that they trust will work to some substantial degree, no matter the conditions. And it really isn't as simple as repeating a phrase when doing something. Basham likes using positive self-talk. My experiences show that positive self-talk is more positive self-lying unless you are at the very top end of the sport, and self-talk has meaning to that particular sport. Guys know if they are good or not and no matter how many times they may repeat some positive self-talk phrase, they sill know they suck if they really suck or are good if they are really good. When Basham started using positive self-talk, he was already a National champion and had competed at the Olympic level. He was not only good, but he knew he was as good as any Olympic level competitor. What self-talk does, though, is to shift attention from some sort of distractor and this is normally good. If it shifts you from attending to something significantly related to your success though, then such talk is probably not useful and may be adverse.

    If I told you guys anything more, I am sure that someone from the CIA would pay me a visit I would not like. He or she or it would probably have to cut off my head and lock it in a safe at night.

    Actually, there isn't a one size fits all with the performance enhancement stuff. Shot gun approaches to its use won't work out too well although they won't hurt anything, either. To really focus a mental skills program towards someone, it takes interviews and perhaps some testing. These days, attentional focus issues, controlling arousal levels, and what we know as situational awareness are things that are of importance. At least these are the things I deal with when I get involved in the training of folks.

    Good stuff, Bob. I am pretty sure this year you will make your High Master.


    LR1955

  17. #17
    stokesrj
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    I'm not so sure the tapes work as designed or work because they require you to concentrate on mental control, I don't really buy into the hocuspocus stuff, but I do buy into paying attention to mental control. However, my firend does buy into it, and I can't argue with his national records.
    Bob
    PS I have several of Larry Bashams books and video's. There is something there.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by stokesrj View Post
    I'm not so sure the tapes work as designed or work because they require you to concentrate on mental control, I don't really buy into the hocuspocus stuff, but I do buy into paying attention to mental control. However, my firend does buy into it, and I can't argue with his national records.
    Bob
    PS I have several of Larry Bashams books and video's. There is something there.
    Bob:

    Sounds like some sort of guided imagery script. Relaxation techniques, clear the mind, then focus on what is important. This type of thing can be very beneficial.

    LR155

  19. #19
    stokesrj
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    Yes, exactly what it is. But just listening to the guy is, well spooky, I can't imagine the process that approved funding this guy, it must not have had oversight.
    Bob

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by stokesrj View Post
    Yes, exactly what it is. But just listening to the guy is, well spooky, I can't imagine the process that approved funding this guy, it must not have had oversight.
    Bob
    Bob:

    I have written a couple of guided imagery scripts for some fellows. They are kind of nuanced as good ones are made specifically for the individual based on what ever things the performance psychologist / advisor / coach / etc., and the individual found to be most effective. Just note that not all of them are intended to relax although all I have seen or dealt with are intended to allow the person to give as much attention to one thing as possible.

    In the case of High Power where there is no need to physically exert yourself, the relaxation is more done allow you to focus your attention than anything else. And apparently, this one is doing what you need so no need to change it.

    Look up 'Centering' under some sort of sport psychology web site and it explains things a bit more than I have time. Nothing real complex.

    You may want to do some reading about visualization too as most athletes use imagery and visualization as part of their training program. It is a bit different than running a script while you are competing. This one is done at home and many use it in their training program. Although I am sure I have the abbreviation wrong, run a search using PTTLEP and you will find the latest on imagery.

    One reason why you will go places in High Power is because you are willing to spend the time on the mental side of that specific sport. You have to train the mental skill as thoroughly as you train the physical skill. Most guys try the mental stuff in practice but not while competing. The guys who use it during practice and in competition are not only the upper ten percent of those athletes who use mental skills, they are also probably in the top ten percent in their sport.

    LR1955

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