A little teaching trick: memory, feelings, and getting the two to work together.

A little teaching trick: memory, feelings, and getting the two to work together.

One of the tasks of anyone who teaches physical techniques is helping the student physically coordinate the various inputs and actions that are necessary to shoot a handgun. For some this comes easily, but for others it can be a challenge (and I’m speaking of both the student and the teacher!)

The brain takes in a huge amount of information from the various sensors in our bodies to be able to performa and replicate a physical action. This is, by and large, kinesthetic information that is stored and associated with a desired outcome. If you’ve ever played a ball game, be it baseball, basketball, tennis, handball, or any other you’re familiar with this process.

In my experience, people who have an athletic background tend to have an easier time making the transition from thinking about what they’re doing to allowing the body to do so without cognitive input. They’re used to the learning procedure even if they aren’t accustomed to the specific actions.

While the specific tasks in shooting are different than those of a ball game, the principles are the same: the brain takes in information on how the body places itself; which muscles contract and how much; weight distribution; the sensation of the finger has as it touches and presses the trigger; and a whole lot more.

Helping those who are having trouble with the complexities of this process of controlling the gun is the subject of a recent blog article from Marcus Wynne. Wynne has been around the training business for a while, and this particular article talks about one his techniques for helping the student remember how to perform the task of shooting.

I’ve experimented independently with this technique for a few years and find it has merit with a certain percentage of students when dealing with the more complex parts of shooting. My implementation is slightly different than his, however, because I’ve found that paying attention to the feelings of a missed (unsuccessful) shot are of no value; the feelings the student memorizes need to be those of the successes.

Let’s say a student is having trouble in drills where he needs to use his sights to place a precise hit. What I’ll do is coach him through a successful shot or two: “line up your sights, let them move only inside the target area and at the same time apply steady pressure to the trigger until the gun fires.” Once that’s been done successfully (a proper hit) I’ll tell him to close his eyes and think about how that shot physically felt — from his knees to his elbows to his fingers. Then I have him open his eyes and fire one shot, without coaching, while replicating those feelings. Most of the time this non-coached shot is successful, as are successive iterations as long as he focuses on what it felt like (kinesthetically, not emotionally.)

It’s easy to forget a process detail, but those physical sensations seem to be easier to remember and to apply at will. After a number of repetitions the recall happens without the student’s need to think about it, which is the goal.

Have you had experience with this technique, either as a student or an instructor? How did it work for you?

-=[ Grant ]=-

  • Posted by Grant Cunningham
  • On November 18, 2013