Shooting, relaxing, and having no mind

I was scheduled to participate in a handgun class today, AT-4 Extreme Pistol. However due to the heavy rains and flooding issues the class has been postponed until tomorrow. Heavy rains, shooting on the move, paper targets… just doesn’t mix well for a safe and productive class. Tomorrow should be better.

Some weeks ago when I was assisting with a class I mentioned to one of the instructors that I was signed up to take AT-4 as a student. He gave me a puzzled look and wondered why I would take the class, saying something to the effect of I shoot better than that and don’t really need the class. While I appreciated the complement, I’m still taking the class. I signed up for it a long time ago, back when I was still unsure of my skills. While I apparently underestimated myself, I know I can still learn a lot by taking the class. Plus it’s good to just take it as a “résumé” builder — the more formal training the better.

I’ve been thinking about how to approach the class. What do I want to get out of it, what do I want to focus on for myself apart from the class curriculum. I think I’m coming back to something I’ve spent a long time trying to improve about myself:

Being relaxed.

Some years ago I injured myself in some way and so I wasn’t sure how I could keep up my empty-hand martial arts training while I healed from the injury. My teacher at the time suggested to me to work on forms and utter relaxation. To use only those muscles that had to be used and nothing more. For instance, if you’re in a horse stance, your leg muscles certainly need to be at work… but all of them? Your quadriceps sure, but your hamstrings not so much so ensure they’re not tight. Certainly in a horse stance your shoulders aren’t involved so why should there be any tension in them? You’d be surprised how much we involve muscles that have no true reason to be involved, and all that does is consume energy and tire us out quicker. The more I worked on being relaxed, while that in and of itself was difficult, the end result was making things a lot easier. Endurance went up merely because I wasn’t wasting energy.

I still have to work on the physical aspects of this. I guess it’s in my genes to be a tense “type A” person, so it’s an effort to relax (ironic eh?). It’s even in little things, like noticing during a workout or even just sitting here right now at the computer as I type this and I furrow my brow. There’s no need. If the brow is furrowed, I’m not relaxed. The more relaxed I am, the better I move, the better I work. Plus, it telegraphs. Can’t have a relaxed poker-face.

So back to the handgun class. I think the key thing I want to focus on is being relaxed. The class is about pushing your skills further, so if I really want to shoot well the more relaxed I am the better I will perform, the faster I can perform. But that’s just the physical side of it. I need to be mentally (and emotionally) relaxed as well.

No Mind. The Japanese would call it mushin. Chinese, wu-hsin. In Kuk Sool’s hyung bup, “mind clear”. I don’t want to have a gazillion things racing through my head. Maybe “front sight front sight front sight” but I don’t even want that. I want my mind to just be. Just let things flow. Be one with the gun, the target, myself, everything. Harmony.

This will be my personal goal for the class. We’ll see how I do. 🙂

6 thoughts on “Shooting, relaxing, and having no mind

  1. I was in a similar place when I took Basic Pistol 2… and I benefitted from the class greatly.

    I tried to approach it from a “beginner mind, no mind” state too. Funny.

    • I think it’s a good thing. If we leave our preconceived notions, our prejudices, our ego and such at the door, we open ourselves to learning. If there’s anything I have learned it’s that the more I learn the less I truly know, so the more I do to leave myself open to learning the better off I end up being.

      For me it’s that, but it’s also just wanting to ensure I keep a calm mind. If I allow a lot of things to be racing through my head, I’m going to focus more on the stuff in my head than on the task I’m undertaking, which means the task will suffer. My mind tends to prefer being in a busy state, so I need to calm it down. 🙂

  2. I’ll share a thought on the empty mind thing as another Type “A++” personality. I have always approached shooting as a relaxation exercise. Non shooters do not understand the level of focus and concentration needed to be a top performer. When I shoot, it is me, the target and my gun. That is all!! The rest of the world no longer exists and that is so stress relieving that it is not even funny.

    My absolute best performance shooting, I remember clear as day the buzzer going off and I remember the RO saying “that was smokin” after I unloaded and showed clear. I really have no cognition of the actual stage yet I managed to shoot a master level performance back when I was a good solid “C”.

    I had just recently started a “ritual” at the start of each stage to relax and focus my mind on not the rest of the world. Turned out that made a huge difference.

    So, relaxing to shoot well and using shooting to relax and focus really is a key to higher level performance.

    • This is what I’m aiming for for myself at tomorrow’s AT-4. Being physically relaxed, mentally clear… just me, the gun, the target.

      FWIW, that one day we “beta tested” the DPS test… I know part of why I shot well was because I did this. I didn’t think about or care about anything, e.g. any sort of intimidation factor from shooting with you and Tom. Just me, the gun, the target… and the beep of the timer. 😉

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