Training against the Flinch

I’ve been reading a lot of articles by Keith Code.  You cats might not know who he is… His subject is training Motorcycle Riders at his school  “California Superbike School”.   But this article I just read translates directly to Firearms Training.  Check this out.

One of the primary purposes of training is to help a rider ramp up acceptance of the unknown. Any breakthrough in riding has some physical sensation attached to it. It’s the delicious price we pay to approach the unknown.

What did it feel like when you let out the clutch that first time? Nervous but thrilling, right? Take that a step farther and imagine what it would feel like to be a stunt rider doing wheelies and stoppies or a MotoGP racer with his knee on the deck? Improvement begins once the rider can embrace those mysterious limits of riding.

Each barrier is based on the unknown. What will it feel like to go into that corner 2 mph faster; brake that much harder; lean that much further; roll on the gas that extra bit? Breaking through those barriers is the challenge, and on the other side is the confidence all riders desire.

When you see a rider falter, you are witnessing in him the fear of the unknown. You see him flinch. Anticipation of some imagined bad result keeps us from moving forward into that uncharted territory of new sensations. When we flinch, we waver from our purpose to execute the control inputs necessary to achieve the intended result.

Read the rest of that article here.  As I said, this translates very cleaning into Firearms Training, and I’ve seen this a bunch of times in students.  This is about pushing your limits… pushing yourself farther than you are comfortable.  Everyone has a comfort zone… a speed limit on time from draw to first shots fired, for example.  That’s one area that shooters have a hard time pushing.  In the last pistol class I had a couple shooters who were doing very well on accuracy.  I’d coach them “Your accuracy is good, but you have a larger area to work with… this means you can go faster!”  But pushing themselves faster was pushing them outside of the comfort zone.  One shooter, when he tried to push just a little faster than his normal speed went from shooter fist sized groups to not even hitting the target paper.  Another shooter actually got slower.  He “Flinched” according to Keith Code.

When you go to a Training Course, or you are Training with your Buddies and working on a Skill… you are not training to look cool and smooth.  You are not Steve McQueen, and because of that, the universe has dictated that you will never will be as smooth and cool as Steven McQueen… so give it up.  You need to push harder.  You shouldn’t be trying to impress your buddies or your Trainer.  Don’t worry about that.  You are the only person that matters here and if you know your not pushing your comfort zone marker… you know you are not really Training.  You’re just Practicing.  That’s fine… but you are not learning anything new when your Practicing.

It’s been said that “Amateurs train until they get it right.  Professionals train until they get it wrong.”  What they are talking about is pushing your limits past that comfort zone.  So what if you fumble that draw or forget to sweep the safety off.  Learn the mistake, file it away, and try it again.  Training is where you need to make those mistakes.  If you go to a training class and you are not pushing yourself to be faster and smoother and more accurate… then you are not really training.  Your Maintaining.  Your standing still and stagnating.  If you are not going forward your going backwards, is another way of putting it… your developing Training Scars and this is going to bite you very hard one day.  So what if you can do the Fast Drill in 5.9 Seconds every time.  When are you going to try to go faster?  Try for 5.6 next time!

When I push myself when I’m riding… even just a couple MPH faster through a curve… I get a visceral thrill through my whole body, like nothing else.  When I’m training… when I’m pushing it, I get a different feeling, but it too is a thrill… I know I’ve pushed it and I did it!  I can get out of breath from that feeling.  Normal shooting, I don’t get that thrill.  I don’t get that surge inside.  And I know I’m not pushing myself.  Ultimately I feel disappointed with myself if I’m honest about it.  Fear is what keeps us from exploring that void that’s on the other side of our comfort zone.  Fear of negative peer response.  That social pressure that makes us more comfortable in doing the same thing again and again as long as you’ve done it well enough.  Well enough isn’t good enough if we want to take things seriously.  Forget your buddies ribbing.  Just imagine yourself having done something, say that FAST Drill in 5.0 seconds. We are all very good at imagining the bad outcomes of failure.  This mental image of failure is what locks us out of achievement.  You need to lock into the mental image of success.

In riding a motorcycle fast, it’s absolutely critical that you look through your turn… if you look at the side of the road straight ahead of you, that’s where you are going to go and you are going to end up in that very ditch you are looking at and fear.  You go where your head goes.  Shooting is the same way.  You lock into what you are afraid of and just run straight into it.  Look past that.  Turn you head and look to that target and look at that spot on the target you want to hit.  Bring the weapon up to your eyes and mentally close that distance between you and that target – and you will hit that target!  You have to believe that you can do it.  Your three second draw and fire routine is a prime example of seeing the ditch and being afraid you are going to run into it.

8 thoughts on “Training against the Flinch”

  1. good piece, George- two things- one, I think you meant- “pro’s train till they cannot get it wrong”
    and two- to equate training with a bike and a gun, it would be like training against a live opponent who wants to shoot you- there are very real consequences to getting it wrong on a motorcycle. It would be like training in a combat zone- some get a chance to learn, and others get killed on their first patrol.

    1. No, I think he meant what he said. It’s about learning where your limits are. If you keep pushing til you screw up or miss, then you know what you need to improve. Then the professional would work on that until they are good at it, and then push a little more until they hit their limit again.

    2. Dave got me on this… Pro’s train till they find their limits, then push that limit further. Like training with a Gun and training on a bike – there are safe places to do so. Relatively safe. Both activities are dangerous from the start, but we limit those dangers with safety rules and good procedures.

  2. Being prior service myself, I whole heartedly agree. People use to scoff at the washer/dime technique, but it helps. … Now, if I could stop the flinching on my .454, Id be set.

  3. I read this yesterday….and then got on the bike last night and hit a few of the semi-twisties and angry corners around here on the Harley harder than normal. What a blast. It’d been a while since that surge was felt on two wheels! Thanks Ogre.

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