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No "stinkin' thinkin' ........Is it really a good idea to blank your mind when you shoot?

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Post by mikemyers on 2/1/2020, 7:25 pm

I was going to post this here several times, and each time I convinced myself that would be silly.

I've read the saying "no stinkin' thinkin' " several times, but I always took it to mean don't overthink things, something that has always been an issue for me.  I always overthink everything.  But I got to wondering, what if took that saying literally?

For better or worse, in dry fire or live fire, I would go through all the motions of taking a shot, but NOT THINK.  A blank mind.  Just let it happen.


Dave Salyer made this easier - just keep the aim in the middle of the target as best I can, WITHOUT thinking about aim, or trigger, or whether the gun will fail, or whether I still need to do whatever....    just blank out my mind, and do.  I seem to be able to do that now, without consciously thinking about it.


I'm hoping that all the advice from this forum, and all the wonderful training videos from Brian Zins, and all the discussions we've had here, sank into my brain, and will help get me to do the right thing, with NO conscious thought on my part.

I can't yet say what the effects of doing this have been - it's way too early.  I can say though that most of the bad things I used to do, such as twitching my hand just as I fire, stopped.  I no longer "knew" when the gun would fire - at some point it always does, but watching my gun was almost like watching someone shoot on a video, or TV.  

I only thought about my grip as I picked up the gun and raised it, and if something was wrong, I stopped - but beyond that, it got to where either nothing was wrong, or if something was wrong, I didn't notice it.  

It's not easy for me to "not think".  I used to have a "mental check-list" that I was doing things correctly, and not forgetting anything.  Somehow, I managed to turn that off.  I thought this was just some silly thing that I would try out, then get back to what I thought was "normal", but maybe it's not so silly.
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Post by dronning on 2/1/2020, 7:38 pm

I suggest you read "With Winning In Mind" by Olympic Gold Medalist Lanny Bassham.
- Dave
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Post by mikemyers on 2/1/2020, 8:50 pm

https://www.amazon.com/Winning-Mind-3rd-Ed/dp/1934324264/ref=sr_1_1?keywords=with+winning+in+mind&qid=1580610913&sr=8-1

Dave, I bought the book last March, right before I left on a trip to India.  Obviously I forgot all about it, and I just found it in a pile of books that need to go "where they belong" on my bookshelf. I suspect you are the one who already suggested it.  So, I'll give it a go.  I don't see how it will have anything to do with me, as I'm not "trying to win", but I'll assume you know a lot more about this than I do.
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Post by chopper on 2/1/2020, 9:17 pm

Oh Boy. Mike don't you like to shoot and see if you can hit the 10 or X ring, I mean you are shooting some very fine pistols and using great equipment just to be satisfied with putting your shots within the outer ring.
 Lanny Basham has some very good books and With Winning in Mind is a dandy. If anybody is ever down on yourselves his book Freedom Flight is one of the best I ever read. I bought his CDs because I retain more info that way. For me his teachings give me a positive way of shooting or accomplishing anything I wish to.
 Stan

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Post by Sa-tevp on 2/1/2020, 9:25 pm

You may also find the Southeast Asian Forest monk tradition useful for concentration.
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Post by Mike38 on 2/1/2020, 9:29 pm

Keeping my mind on the task at hand, putting holes in the X-ring, and only thinking that has sure helped me. In slow fire, my mind runs through my shot process, and if it veers off, even for a split second, abort the shot and start over. If the thought of that damn 7 I shot previously enters my mind, abort the shot. Clear your mind, especially after one of those damn 7's, and focus on a hole in the X-ring.
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Post by mikemyers on 2/1/2020, 9:33 pm

'chopper', sure - maybe it will happen.  :-)

'Sa-tevp', maybe my idea is doomed to failure, but I'm not looking for "concentration".  I'm looking for zero concentration, at least not consciously.  Remember the old TV show, Kung Fu ?  Caine didn't have to think what to do, he just did it.  

Mike38, who knows how it will work out, but I'm trying to do the exact opposite of what you wrote, other than "clear your mind".  That's what I'm trying, and that's what this thread is about. No idea how good an idea is, or how it will work out.    :-)
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Post by SingleActionAndrew on 2/1/2020, 10:00 pm

The local bullseye guys 'taught me' (I like how Ed Hall writes that the masters do give their secrets, we just don't hear what they're saying and that probably applies to me here too) this concept to mean both don't be thinking about what your wife wants you to get from the grocery store on your way home and only focus on the good shots. I'm currently executing this on the long line. If I start flinching, thinking about some emergency meeting I have to join in a couple hours, whether I'm going to get home before my wife gets frustrated, then I rest the gun and think about: I'm doing the thing I've been looking forward to all week/month. I'm surrounded by the sound of gunfire and my nose is filled with the smell of gun smoke. This is what it's all about. This is such an amazing opportunity, God has blessed America. Working so d*** hard has rewarded me with this moment. This is my time.

That really clears my mind. It gives me a little smile on my face. I'm still a newbie in my first season but I try not to shoot now without that little smile. I'd appreciate hearing from you all if I completely misinterpreted this concept or not.

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Post by Sa-tevp on 2/1/2020, 10:02 pm

mikemyers wrote:'Sa-tevp', maybe my idea is doomed to failure, but I'm not looking for "concentration".  I'm looking for zero concentration, at least not consciously.  Remember the old TV show, Kung Fu ?  Caine didn't have to think what to do, he just did it.  

Sin Loy, the only old TV show I ever watch is Columbo, where the detective character is always looking for the missing piece of information. Otherwise TV and movie writing gives me a headache.
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Post by Mike38 on 2/1/2020, 10:33 pm

mikemyers wrote:Mike38, who knows how it will work out, but I'm trying to do the exact opposite of what you wrote, other than "clear your mind".  That's what I'm trying, and that's what this thread is about. No idea how good an idea is, or how it will work out.    :-)

Completely clearing your mind of all thoughts may work, but not for me. I'm the type of person who's mind is going 100 mph, even when I'm standing still. Laughing   I have to focus hard on the task at hand.
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Post by mikemyers on 2/1/2020, 10:49 pm

Sa-tevp wrote:Sin Loy, the only old TV show I ever watch is Columbo, where the detective character is always looking for the missing piece of information. Otherwise TV and movie writing gives me a headache.
I completely, totally, 100% agree with your reference to Columbo, and my mind is constantly churning, looking for ways to improve what I can accomplish at the range, along with a LOT of reading === but what I'm trying to do is to stop that completely when I pick up the gun to shoot.  I figure I've done my homework, I've practiced what to do, I've saved and am reading http://www.saveourguns.com/Ar_Marks_Un_Pistol_Train_Guide.pdf  .....but when I pick up the gun for either dry-fire or live-fire, I turn off my "thinking", and just "do".
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Post by mikemyers on 2/1/2020, 10:55 pm

Mike38 wrote:Completely clearing your mind of all thoughts may work, but not for me. I'm the type of person who's mind is going 100 mph, even when I'm standing still. Laughing   I have to focus hard on the task at hand.
That's exactly what I'm trying to avoid.

Seems to me that maybe if I stop thinking, I've freed up a huge amount of my brain which can now "do".  

If you were a Formula-One racer, would you "think" your way around the course, or just trust yourself to do what's needed without thinking?

I dunno.
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Post by Stork on 2/1/2020, 10:57 pm

Mike, I still need to think about what I'm doing when dry firing. I honestly hope I never reach a point where I'm not thinking because that will signify I have lost the desire or ability to improve and or learn. Tonight I focused on my grip, sight alignment, and just simply sticking to my process. This way, when I shoot for score, I don't think. I just execute my training. You cannot perform any task without thinking unless you've done it over and over. Training and experience is how you get to the point of not thinking. I can't speak for everyone or tell you what to do, but training through dry fire and purposeful live fire is what allows me to shoot without thinking. If I think and try, I might as well pack up and leave. So... My point is to stop thinking about thinking and go train.

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Post by Stork on 2/1/2020, 11:10 pm

mikemyers, wrote:If you were a Formula-One racer, would you "think" your way around the course, or just trust yourself to do what's needed without thinking?

I dunno.

I have raced motorcycles at a professional level and I can assure you that very little thinking is going on. Racing at a high level is all about preparation. F1 drivers have been racing since they were children. Their fundamentals are sound from coaching and repetition. They practice their craft on a regular basis. Many visualize a perfect lap over and over. Heck, even video games are used to assist in learning new tracks. Drivers at that level only think when learning a new a track or during testing. Either way, they are just executing in response to what they seeing and feeling. Thinking is slow and dangerous at that level

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Post by dronning on 2/1/2020, 11:29 pm

mikemyers wrote:'Sa-tevp', maybe my idea is doomed to failure, but I'm not looking for "concentration".  I'm looking for zero concentration, at least not consciously.  Remember the old TV show, Kung Fu ?  Caine didn't have to think what to do, he just did it.  
Mike, don't get hung up on the title, YOU define what winning means and Lanny's book will teach you about training your subconscious which is exactly what you are seeking.  Remember you consciously can only concentrate/think about/focus on one thing at a time while your subconscious can literally process >1,000(s) of things simultaneously.  That's why when you train you should limit it to improve 1 thing in your process at a time (like trigger/grip/sight picture.....) and should always only reinforce the good results because that's what you want your subconscious to repeat. 

A couple of extreme example of this approach.  
1) When Brian Zins practiced trigger control (he already knew what a good release felt like) he use to sit in a chair, sometimes in the dark, he would practice pulling the trigger until he could feel every variation in the trigger and in his muscles.  He did this so there were no distractions like sight picture or target.

2) In many Korean archery schools (considered the best in the world), you may actually practice the basic technique of shooting a bow, for 3 months before you actually fire a live round. – THREE MONTHS!  What this hyper-focus on technique does, is insure you have properly wired into your brain (subconscious) the foundation for correctly shooting the bow and arrow. It also forces you to focus more on process and technique.
- Dave
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Post by mikemyers on 2/2/2020, 7:22 am

I suspect we're saying the same thing, just worded differently.

The title of this thread included "Is it really a good idea to blank your mind when you shoot?"   I wasn't thinking of "when you train"; I was thinking when you either want to see what you've learned, or perhaps if you're in a match".  Sort of like a test of some sort.

Dave, I'm up to page 15 in "With Winning in Mind", but so far he seems to be writing about someone who has already gotten VERY talented, describing how the person doesn't throw everything away in a competition, because of the way he thinks.  Page 5 has the author going from total beginner to a very capable shooter in one paragraph of the book, which he refers to as "training".  That's where I'm at now, and from what I've read here, a lot of people responding are "in training".  ALL the advice you guys have given me over the past several years refers to "training", as I see it.  Train to get better, and practice what you've learned.  .........Along the way, there will come a time when you want to test what you've learned, maybe at a match.  THAT is what I was thinking of when I created this thread.

Interesting information from the book - from page 13:  "....I have asked (World and Olympic Champions) what they were thinking about while performing at their best.  Interestingly, most say that they were thinking about nothing or very little while winning their event.  This makes sense when you consider that when the Conscious Mind is quiet the Subconscious can do its best work...."   That is exactly what this thread was intended to be about, seeing how well you can shoot.  It could be at a practice session, or it could be at a match, or it could be at a World Championship.

I'm guessing that when someone as talented as CR10X or Brian Zins starts to shoot, maybe to test their ability, maybe to compete at a match, THAT is what they do/feel/think.  (On the other hand, when you've gotten as good as they are, maybe they no longer need to do this - and they have become the type of person who could most benefit from that book.)
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Post by chopper on 2/2/2020, 8:40 am

Mike do you really think talent is what these excellent shooters have? Maybe about 1% do have a natural talent, but they all put in their time to be where they are at. Sure some probably made expert or master class in 1 year, but they probably were coached or mentored closely.
 Like Dave says, you can only concentrate on 1 thing at a time, especially when you get up to the line to shoot either in training, practice , or a match. So for me I have to train on the basic fundamentals. When I'm shooting great scores I'm consciously Visualizing on "that shot" going in the center, not fundamentals. I don't always shoot good scores and that happens when I don't regularly train.
 Does my mind fill up with other thoughts, sure does. I've caught myself griping about scores, weather, wishing this or that. I don't know if I have Attention Deficit Disorder, but there's times when I can't read a book account I start thinking about something else. If I'm reading and that happens, I usually have to start all over because I can't remember what I've read. That is why I have been buying CDs of some books by Lanny Bassham.
 I think you should read his book and re-read it when your on those long flights to India. He will teach you the how to's of conscious, subconscious, and your self image through examples.
 If my mind is racing and I can't concentrate at all, I practice relaxation techniques like breathing and some meditation. 
 Mike do what ever it takes, to work for you. I have a better self image of myself now, after practicing what I learned in his teachings. I'm trying to think only about positive stuff, good shots, did I called them good when I follow up, etc. It is mental and don't let it drag your self image down. Do that conscious training until it becomes subconscious, then work on your self image, this game can really be fun. Execute those fundamentals they are our foundation, like anything else in life we have building blocks to make us who we are.
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Post by mikemyers on 2/2/2020, 9:25 am

chopper wrote:......... Like Dave says, you can only concentrate on 1 thing at a time, especially when you get up to the line to shoot either in training, practice , or a match. ..........When I'm shooting great scores I'm consciously Visualizing on "that shot" going in the center, not fundamentals....
Stan, maybe we can separate "training" from "shooting"?  If there is anything I want to learn how to do, or do better, that's "training", and it includes almost everything I learn from you guys in this forum.  I might not have worded my original post as well as I should have, but I'm in no way thinking of "training", at least not in this thread.  

What you just wrote is part of my question.  Then I would ask is it better to "concentrate on any one thing at all", or to not concentrate, just "do".  I'm only on page 15 in "With Winning in Mind", but so far, it seems to me that the goal is clear your mind, relax, and do what you've been training to do, without thinking about it.    

Somebody here said it's best to "shoot matches as if it was practice", and to "shoot practice as if it was matches".  To me, it means do all your thinking and learning and trying things when you're practicing, but when you get to the range for a match, to forget all that and just "do" what you've learned.  I think it was Keith Sanderson who said that, but I'm not sure.  


When I used to race radio control cars, I did all the thinking during practice days, trying different things to see what worked.  When it came to a race though, I just "did", reacting to what was happening around me, but in no way thinking about it.  I didn't have time to think, as stuff was happening way too fast.  I also set my own pace, and drove at MY pace regardless of what anyone else was doing.  If I planned it right, at the end of the 45-minute race, I would be out front.  If I drove harder than that, I would likely crash.  The only "thinking" I was doing was trying to recognize things that were happening that I might be able to take advantage of, but there was no time for me to think about "how to drive".  I also recognized that I did best when I relaxed, and didn't actually "try" to go faster.  Oh well, long time ago.


I'm beginning to think that the time to do all that "thinking" is before a match, even if the "match" is simply testing yourself to see how well you're shooting.  Maybe I'm wrong.  I guess that's why I posted this thread, to get feedback.
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Post by chopper on 2/2/2020, 11:20 am

Mike, for me training is the learning period, a time when I'm using the tools to develop the skills to achieve my goals. My tools are basic fundamentals, reading, videos, and coaching to work on during training.    My training might be dry-fire and in some cases live repetitious exercises at the range. 
 Practice for me is shooting a 900 with a 22 or 45 and writing down how well I did and seeing what works. If I write stuff down it's easier than trying to remember stuff later. I like to think of this as proofing time before a match, so yes I can see where the "shoot practice like a match and a match like practice" you talked about.
 Shooting the match is the time when all the fun, skills, training, and practice come together.  
 When I shot my first matches I didn't have a shot plan and they would be a disaster sooner than later. I couldn't remember what to do or how I was to do stuff, my mind was full of thoughts, kinda like panic time and no clear mind. So that's when I wrote down a shot plan and it was a long one, I basically used it in training and through repetition some of it went to my subconscious. It's much shorter now, about 5 or 6 lines now. I still tape them to my box they go with me when I shoot. If I shooting poorly I look at it and it usually indicates where I need to go, generally trigger and grip.
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Post by mikemyers on 2/2/2020, 11:44 am

Stan, I think many people have it backwards.  When it's practice or training, it doesn't really "count", so they fire off whatever number of shots, and they're ready for a match.  When they get to a match, that's when "it counts", so they pay much more attention, and think, and concentrate, and get frustrated if things aren't working right.

What you wrote makes perfect sense to me, do all the "work" (practice, training, adjusting) on your own time - and that IS when it counts.  At the end of the session, you're ready.  Then, shoot the match as if it doesn't count, just "do" what you've learned.  


I could write up a long list of what I used to think about at a match, how I'm aligning the dot or the sights, how I'm working the trigger, how am I doing...?  I'm trying to not do any of that.  If I pick up the gun and it isn't where it belongs in my hand, just put the gun down and start over.  If I pick it up and it's not aligned with the target, put it down, relocate my feet, and start over.  No thinking required, it's a "yes" or "no".  Once I get past that, I'm paying attention to the range commands, but not how well I'd doing.  At the end of the day or match, I'll find out how I did.

I find it somewhat difficult to "clear my mind".  Habit, I guess.  Now I figure the time to improve is when I'm practicing, or training, or learning, and I can take all the time that I need.  The match itself is like a race, do what I've learned to do.  

(My "shot process" is still VERY long; I did print it out, and just knowing I have it with me is re-assuring, even if I'm not reading it.)


I'll go back to reading the book later today.  I'm not sure why he had to bring religion into the book, but it's his book.  I hope he spends some time on suggesting how to turn "practice/training" into "doing".  I should have taken the book with me to India - by now, I'd have read all of it, maybe more than once.
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Post by CR10X on 2/2/2020, 12:01 pm

I will give you my take on this subject.  You can take it or leave it. 

Sometimes thinking of nothing at all is the best option if you don't know what to think about.  

But seriously, "thinking of nothing" is not the point of this at all for me.  When performing, a clear mind or or focused one, is only the canvas for attaining the state of "observation" (seeing and feeling everything) throughout the shot process; from beginning to end. When performing and observing, the athlete allows themselves to simply monitor the process, trusting in the training, observe the actions and results, and mostly deciding to allow the flow to continue or start over.  Sometimes, even focusing on one thing distracts the mind from seeing everything.  The "blank mind" or "no thinking" can help the mind to take it all in as part of helping the athlete to preform effortlessly, consistent with their training.  And the observation memory is for later reflection, analysis and training. (Or as I've said before - "See what you need to see.")  

[ Note:  Some call this the "flow", "in the zone" or even "zen state", but it seems to be different names for the same condition of allowing the training and experience to handle the process while kinda being the "observer and monitor".]

Training is different in that the mental and physical focus should be on doing and observing that one thing. Then move on to another one. Repetition and feedback to ingrain the proper physical / mental response to complete the task(s) for your process.  (For example, sitting in a chair holding a gun, how long can you consistently grip the gun with the appropriate pressure without ANY variation?)

To read without comprehension, look without seeing, hear without listening and think without understanding will be the biggest detriment to learning and improvement. So we have to try many different ways to communicate some significant ideas with a limited amount of words.  

By the way, don't get tripped up on the words like "winning" and "competing".   My take on these are:

Competing is what you do against yourself to be better than what you were yesterday.  Winning is simply the outcome of successfully competing against yourself over time.  Neither of those two concepts (for me and shooting) have anything to do with any other person or where I placed. 

And quit "aiming" at something, try keeping the sights aligned instead.....

CR


Last edited by CR10X on 2/3/2020, 7:36 am; edited 2 times in total

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Post by mikemyers on 2/2/2020, 1:28 pm

CR10X wrote:............When performing and observing, the athlete allows themselves to simply monitor the process, trusting in the training, observe the actions and results, and mostly deciding to allow the flow to continue or start over..........

I read your post several times, until I was pretty sure I wasn't missing anything.  
I think that post sums things up perfectly.
The part that caught my attention the most about monitoring is what I will try to do from now on.
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Post by Jack H on 2/2/2020, 2:54 pm

CR just did one of the best write-ups ever.
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Post by mikemyers on 2/2/2020, 3:38 pm

(Suggestion - it should be moved to a "sticky", but without all the discussion leading up to it.)
(It should also be on the Bullseye Encyclopedia.)

(Maybe the forum could have a "post of the month", or whatever it's called, and it can be copied there?)
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Post by jmdavis on 2/6/2020, 9:59 am

Finish reading, "With winning in Mind." Remember to have and follow a shot process. 

A mental process can be part of that shot process and it serves to help when everything isn't going according to plan. Some people cannot "think of nothing" everytime they go to the line. But what Bassham says and many people have proven to themselves, is that the mind can only think of one thing at a time. That one thing should be something that helps the process. Does thinking of score help the process? Does thinking about an arguement at home help the process? Does thinking about a gun problem help the process? Does thinking about how the guy beside you is shooting help the process?

What you think about is going to be personal. It may be to feel that feeling that comes when you shoot at 10 or an X. Not thinking about the score but feeling the feeling and perhaps visualizing the shot. It may be something that quiets you mind without any vision (counting breaths as in meditation for example). If it can lower your heartrate and blood pressure, it may be able to help with calming one for the shot. The danger, I think is getting so caught up in the words of someone like Bassham that you lose the point.
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