About the Blog

Educating fellow Jews about the sporting and defensive use of firearms. Especially Jews in North America, too many of whom are instilled with the belief that guns aren't for nice Jewish boys and girls.

If you know of notable Jewish shooters that should be documented on the blog, even if it is only at the local club level, I am happy to report and profile them. And don't be shy if that person to be documented is you! Please drop me a line at jewishmarksman at gmail dot com. Also follow me on twitter @JMarksmanship.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Mental Training Update 08/29/13

After my last match, I took about a week and a half off from actually shooting the rifle with the SCATT.  Instead, I focused solely on the mental training aspects in Basham's "With Winning in Mind" program.  This consisted of reading my Directive Affirmation often, and visualizing shots.  A couple days ago I picked up the rifle again.

Before I even began shooting, I noticed two things.  One, despite over a week off, the rifle did not feel the least bit foreign to me...I still felt sharp.  Visualization is indeed a means to maintain physical skills to some extent.  I also felt my Directive Affirmation kicking in, i.e. part of me really does start to expect 96%+ scores, but I cannot say that has reached 100% just yet.

Shooting-wise on day 1, I shot 3 sets of 10, each with an average score of 93%. That is a very good average considering the time off.  Usually with time off, my first day of training is pretty rough, as in sub-90%, but the next day I'm much better.  So I was shooting 4 10s on average, with 8s creeping in.  I have to admit that I sometimes forgot to run a Mental Program on each shot, and when I did, the chances of a 10 were lessened.  I also struggled with one of the concepts of Basham's Mental Program, a stage called "Intention" or "Aggression".  After visualizing a 10, then the steps to get a 10, the next step is to adopt a mentality of "Intention" or "Aggression".  I understand this intellectually, as over-holding is a common problem for shooters, as is "chicken-finger" and other mental barriers that keep a shooter from dropping the hammer on an otherwise acceptable sight picture.  But I come from a background of contact sports (ice hockey, jui jitsu) so "Aggression" means something different than what I think Basham is getting at.  Truth be told, when I heard him talk about it, I did not completely understand the idea.

Well as luck would have it, one of my readers pointed me to another book on Mental Training, called "Peak Performance" by Charles Garfield.  I have only read the first few chapters, but one of the early chapters talks about an athlete's "volition", as in the emotions he or she experiences when intentionally achieving a peak performance.  The athletes describe the emotion at that time as one of being in complete control, of absolute confidence.  So it occurs to me that this is what Basham means by "Intention" or "Aggression", not necessarily as something physically active, but instead an emotional state of absolute confidence and control over the situation.  I think a good term for it might be "swagger."  And yes, when I remember the feeling of shooting an X on demand in the past, it is something like that.  What Garfield and Basham are saying, I think, is that it's not about feeling that way after you randomly shoot an X.  Make yourself feel that way before you shoot the X, and the X is likely to follow.  And this makes sense, as the supremely confident athlete expects a certain result, he/she does not have to fight for it mentally.

So the next day of shooting, I did just that.  I ran the Mental Program, but this time during the "Intention" phase, I would tell myself things like, "I am in control of this rifle...it may move but I am controlling it", and "I have absolute confidence that my trigger will fire when it needs to," and "my trigger breaks are always clean"  If I had any emotional sense of doubt creeping in, I would put the rifle down and start over.  The result was a 10 shot string of 98% (eight 10s), with excellent releases on every shot.  I had some shots where the hold was unsteady, but my trigger release was quick when a 10 sight picture appeared.  I had some shots where the hold was steady, and the release was slightly more deliberate but a clean surprise break.  It was shooting that just felt great, both from a technical standpoint, but also from an emotional standpoint.  It seemed easy and effortless.

I'm especially happy with what happened on the last shot.  Obviously I could not ignore that I was shooting well.  The number 96 was sort of in the back of my mind, and of course an 8 on the last shot would give me a 96, but a 10 would give me a 98.  So I took some deep breaths and cleared my mind, and imagined that I had already shot the 10, and now a whole new match was starting and I have no score and am on my first shot.  I focused on fixing that feeling in my mind.  And bam, shot a 10.  Having done that, I am beginning to feel more confident that noticing I'm shooting well is not going to sabotage my scores as much.

Well the moral of the story is some things are beginning to click, and it's important I think in Mental Training to synthesize more than one program, because sometimes the way one author explains something might be misinterpreted, even though he is intending to say the same thing that reader understands correctly as put by another author.  And I have to emphasize, I don't think any of this is making me technically better.  For months or maybe even a year now I've seen on the SCATT that I have pretty darn close to a 10 ring off-hand hold.  But that's taken years of physical practice to achieve.  What's happening is more of a feeling that clouds are being lifted that were keeping me from capitalizing on making the most of those technical abilities.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Israeli Mauser Watch 8/26/13

There are a couple of very nice looking Israeli Mausers currently for sale on Gunbroker:

This one (click here) has a very cool Czech action, with the beautiful lion crest.  Now, unlike many of these Czech actions I've seen, this one actually has a Star of David stamp on the side, which I love.  It seems like someone did some restoration work on this one.  With matching numbers, I see this one selling over $1K, the starting ask is $750.  Too rich for my blood, but man I wish a stripped action like that one would go for sale sometime.

The other (click here) is a Belgian with the IDF crest.  Other than the fact this one is clean looking, I'm not sure what justifies the $950 ask.  I've seen the Belgians in that condition go $600-$800, and at that high end only when super clean.  I see that the seller is the same for both rifles, perhaps he confused the two ask prices. 

As always, buyer beware!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Jewish Marksman's Directive Affirmation 08/21/2013

As I discussed in previous posts, according to Lanny Basham's Mental Management system, one of the keys to my shooting better in competition is going to be changing my Self Image circle.  In order to shoot 96+ standing in competition, I need to inherently believe and expect that is exactly what will happen, because "it's like me" to to shoot 96+ in competition.  Basham sets forth a technique to get there called the Directive Affirmation:

The Directive Affirmation is a paragraph written in the first person present tense that describes a person's goal, pay-value of the goal, plan to reach a goal and habits and attitudes affecting the goal.  It is rehearsed repetitively, causing the Self Image to change.
So following his steps to develop the Directive Affirmation:
Step 1. Define the goal.  To always shoot 96% or better in the standing stage at matches. [This is only 2 points higher than my personal best, lower than my bests in practice, and only 1 point higher than my practice average.  I think it is realistic and achievable.]
Step 2. Set the time limit.  March 31, 2014.  [I shoot 2 matches a month, so by that time, I'll have shot 16 matches, assuming none get rained out or other interference.  This is plenty of time.]
Step 3. List the personal pay-value of reaching the goal.  I have taken my next step toward earning High Master classification.  The personal pay-value of earning High Master is:
  • the great sense of personal achievement
  • inspire my blog readers to pursue shooting sports excellence
Step 4. Outline the plan to achieve the goal.
  • Run a Mental Program (more on this in a moment) on each shot.
  • Visualize taking 10 perfectly executed shots in the morning when I wake up, and before I go to bed.
  • During practice, visualize myself having shot several 10s in a row, and then shooting another unfazed or influenced by the prior shots.
  • Keep a written reminder to dryfire every 3rd shot in competition to ensure I am flinch-free and only the muscles in my trigger finger are activated in the shot.
  • Read and visualize my Directive Affirmations daily.
Step 5. Write a Directive Affirmation
March 31, 2014.  I always shoot at least 96% in the standing phase of competition.  I have taken my next step towards earning High Master classification.  I always run a Mental Program on each shot in practice and in competition.  I visualize taking 10 perfect shots when I wake up and when I go to bed.  When I practice, I visualize myself unfazed by the fact I am shooting 10s, because shooting 10s for me standing is as normal and like me as shooting 10s in prone.  In competition I dryfire after several shots and my body simply flows with the rifle's recoil.  The muscles in my trigger finger are the only muscles in my entire body that move during a shot.  I always shoot at least 96% in the standing phase of competition.
Step 6. Write down the Directive Affirmation in my own handwriting on cards, at least 5, and put them in key locations each day.  Every time I encounter a card, I read the Directive Affirmation.

That's it!  As for the Mental Program, that is basically a mini-mental rehearsal for each shot.  I have started using this technique but not consistently.  Sometimes my mind is just blank, which is OK I think.  When I find myself thinking about anything else, I run the Mental Program.  It is probably better to run the Mental Program every shot, so I will start keeping track.  Basham gives a Mental Program for shooting in his book, so I'll just use that.  Basically, you just visualize yourself and how you feel after making a perfect shot.  Then you visualize yourself doing it.  Then you focus your attention on what you need to do to shoot and shoot. 

Monday, August 19, 2013

Jewish Marksman's Mental Training Begins

Readers following the blog know that I have been struggling to get my off hand scores in competition to match my practice scores.  Put another way, I have not been shooting as well in competition as I do in practice.  This past weekend's match was a typical example.  My first two sighter shots standing were a 10 and an X.  I was calm and focused for my first record shot, a 10.  Then suddenly my pulse began racing, and I shot two 8s. Those two 8s were a sort of pressure relief valve, letting me be calm again.  My next 6 shots were 9-10-9-10-X-10.  So not withstanding the two 8's, my score is 84, with a potential 94, which would match my personal best in competition.  For my final shot I was not nervous, but somehow shot high with a 7, finishing with a 91.  In practice I am shooting 96+, and there is no logical reason I shouldn't be shooting at least that well in competition.  In fact, I have the SCATT set to make it harder to score in practice.

Enter Lanny Bassham and his "With Winning in Mind" book and Mental Management CD seminar.  Bassham is a former Olympic gold medalist in shooting, who developed a "mental management" system for training the brain for top performance.  I first read his book several years ago, and dismissed it as Tony Robbins-like feel-good nonsense.  But recently I read the autobiography of former Navy Seal sniper trainer Brandon Webb, and he wrote that initially he had the same doubts about Bassham, but sniper trainees were greatly benefiting from Bassham's books and CDs, setting new course records.  So I decided to give Bassham another shot, and was able to find his seminar CDs for sale used, from a very accomplished shooter who gave the CDs high marks.  It turns out that Bassham's CD seminar goes into much more detail than his book, and won me over to try it.

The core of the system is Bassham's model of mental performance.  He identifies three "circles", the conscious, the subconscious, and the self-image, which need to be in balance.  The conscious and subconscious circles are fairly self-explanatory, i.e. the former is focus and concentration, the latter is the muscle-memory skills developed through hours of practice and repetition.  But the self image circle?  Bassham says that how you see yourself influences how well you will shoot, and that self image will propel you or pull you back.  Even if you have the conscious and subconscious ability to shoot 96+, if your mental image of yourself is that you typically shoot 92, you will typically shoot 92.  If you start shooting better than that, your nerves and subconscious will pull you back.  If you start shooting worse, you'll focus more and bring the score up to that average.  Your self-image basically anchors your performance, in that you will experience debilitating discomfort and distraction any time you are shooting worse, or motivating energy when shooting worse, than your expected performance.  Bassham says that shooters with my dilemma are very common, he calls them the "frustrated experts" who shoot outstanding in practice but not in competition.

The key, according to Bassham, is that I must change my self-image.  The practice data says I can shoot a High Master off hand score.  So why shouldn't I think of myself as High Master off hand shooter?  If I really saw myself as a High Master off hand shooter, then I wouldn't start to get nervous as soon as I start shooting well off hand in competition...after all, shooting 10 after 10 in competition is normal for a High Master.  I know I can shoot High Master scores in prone.  My first 9 shots prone this weekend at 600 yards were 10s and Xs, and I didn't get nervous or flustered...that's "like me" to shoot well prone...I finished this weekend at 96%, just shy of High Master.  I have to convince myself that it's "like me" to shoot well standing off hand.  In other words, make my self-image guide the scores, and not the other way around.

Bassham says the self image can be changed, and he sets forth a plan and techniques to change it.  The first step is to write down an "affirmation statement" that is sort of the goal to be achieved.  I want to re-read what he says about developing that statement before I write mine out.  More to follow...

Monday, August 5, 2013

Time to Train the Brain

This weekend was a turning point in my shooting development.  I am now convinced beyond any doubt that I have the technical skills to shoot at the High Master level.  What is lacking, and what I need to change, is my mental preparedness to shoot at that level.  This post I will illustrate the problems, and in subsequent posts I'll discuss my progress in training techniques, all coming from the "With Winning in Mind" books and tapes of Lanny Basham.

Readers know that I recently gained insight into my standing off-hand technique by watching video clip of Israeli shooter Sergey Richter.  My most recent match started very well.  As a reminder, I am using a .308 bolt action rifle with metallic sights.  My two sighting shots were both 10s, just a little left (this was a 100 yard reduced match, so the 10-ring is 3.35" and the X is 1.35") :
So I adjusted 4 clicks to the right for my record shots, and the first two were on the money:

Now it hits me.  For off hand shooting, both my sighters and record shots are super tight.  My zero is near perfect.  My hold today is super tight and slow.  I could shoot a perfect target if this keeps up....

My pulse starts to pick up a bit...but I use some of the relaxation techniques  know, and continue shooting, but I sense my hold is widening:
In the scope I wasn't sure if those shots to the left were 9s or 10s, but they would be good 9s.  I'm doing fine!  Until:
Ouch!  That shot was barely on paper, and counts as a miss.  My concentration was so intent on my new trigger technique, that I abandoned my prior mental shot plan which involved an anti-flinching step, as well as dry-firing my fifth shot, and as a result, flinched on the shot.  Ok, no biggie, I can recover, and my next four shots found the 9 and 10 ring:
Well that made me feel much better!  That's a target on pace to shoot a 85 or 86, which is still good shooting, and I think to myself, without the miss it would be 95 or 96, which is damn good.  So on my final shot what should happen but:
Yep, another off-target miss caused by flinching, because I forgot to dry-fire a couple shots to immunize myself.  Lesson learned.

But despite the rough start, I did fairly well in the sitting and rapid-fire prone stages of the match.  Then came prone, where I continue to get better and better each outing.  The first 17 shots, I did everything mentally right, had no thoughts of score, and shot all 10s and Xs.  Then I started to think about the fact that I might be about to shoot my first clean target.  I considered not checking the scope any more for the final 3 shots, but decided that would be a "cheap trick" and should just shoot as normal.  Shots 18 and 19 disappeared into the 10-shot hole I was building around the X-ring, and this is what I saw in my spotting scope:
Just 1 more shot...1 more and after years of competition I'll finally have a clean target!  And guess what I did:
Arrghhh!  Never mind that I haven't shot an 8 at 100 yards for months.  It's all a blur now, I can't even explain how it happened.

Anyhow, the point of the pictures above is to demonstrate my need to win the mental game--I've got the physical skills.  In future posts I'll talk about what I'm doing to get there.  Wish me mazal tov!