Years ago I made a living jumping out of airplanes, and I love it! Racking up a pretty impressive jump log taught me a lot about what I wasn’t doing in the rest of the parts of my life.
Save Your Own Life
Prior to any jump, you had the jump-master brief then the walk to the bird. Once on the bird, you relaxed and waited for your heart rate to spike right before you jumped. As a new free fall jumper I paid attention to the veterans and their rituals. Many of them rubbed off on me and to this day I still follow a similar template. When I was jumping, my pre-jump procedure was the same. I would sit down and just breathe. Close my eyes and work to keep my heart rate as low as can be expected jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. Then I would review my emergency procedures starting with the most important and worse to have; a cutaway. I used the term as my ProWord to help front load the procedures to employ so when I’m plummeting to earth I don’t waste any time. Then I would visualize the procedure in my head. I would go over each detail from start to finish. Lastly, I would practice or what we called “dirt dive” the cutaway procedures. I can say it worked because I’m still here after having to cutaway my main parachute to deploy my reserve. That’s a crazy story for another time.
Understanding the Steps
How does this apply towards training and education for shooting. As I go from one class to another I’m constantly having to adapt my teaching techniques for the various learning styles we see in the classes. One tactic I share for how to work with a shooting error is our corrective strategy. This largely comes from the emergency procedures outlined above. The first thing you need to do is identify the important steps you are trying to perform. Learn them, understand them. Why is important you have to perform these steps to achieve the positive outcome. As a student you need to understand the why so when you have to work at correcting an error it makes more sense. Many times students with shooting errors know they are making them, they just have a hard time correcting them.
That’s where the ProWord comes into play. I encourage them to review their shooting errors. What step do they feel is the most important one, then pick a word to help remind them of the step. For instance, if you have a tendency to relax your grip then the last thing you should be thinking about is a ProWord to help remind you of the step. For example, right as your hand comes into contact with the frame, that would be a good time to exercise the ProWord. From there you want to invest time into visualizing the steps flawlessly. Play them out over and over. Each time you want to perform them perfectly. Since this is all visualization, there shouldn’t be a reason they are not perfect.
The Proof is in the Pudding
The last step is to practice. Dry fire practice is an invaluable tool. You can use it to smooth out the rough edges normal from the visualization step to the practical step. I encourage folks to dry practice often. It is much easier to keep the momentum going with dry fire. Try to perform frequent shorter sessions than one big session you can only do every now and then. At some point, you transition to live fire. The first three steps continue to be employed, but when we get to the practice step we are now getting to evaluate how well the previous steps have been performed. Since we are producing a result, the bullet hole, we get to evaluate how well our process worked.
There are days I miss standing in the door, looking down at the earth below. Those jumps helped create a reliable emergency plan that worked and it can work for you in this case as well.