I wrote earlier this month regarding my two years of formal training in martial arts. Not much, I know. About 15 years later, I actively shot in I.P.S.C. – style competition for about a year. There is a similarity in these disciplines.
Most martial arts training (I’m speaking of Asian-based) begins with a set position. A formal stance from which one begins – either ‘sparring’ (usually play-acting as through striking one’s opponent), or kata (aka forms), going-through-the-motions as if encountering an opponent. Shadow boxing. Responding to an imaginary adversary.
And I.P.S.C. (and it’s later permutations) of active ‘combat’ shooting competition usual does the same thing. One starts in a particular place, with particular equipment, in a particular position. Then the whistle blows. (At least U.S.P.S.A. and I.D.P.A. have done some evolution!)
The problem in both these situations is muscle memory. We revert to that which we were trained to do. One responds to a fist to the face by an outward-extended block, trapping the arm and stepping in with a counter strike. One sees one’s adversary present a pistol in one’s direction, and the response is immediate – Grip, Clear, Click, Smack, Sight – or some variant, as one moves into Isosceles or Weaver – feet into the ‘correct’ position to respond.
WRONG. At least wrong in the real world.
Training is good. Dry practice, repetitive presentations, trigger control, sight alignment, the compressed-surprise break. Even practiced stances and grips. All good. Competition is good, especially active competition as opposed to just punching holes in paper, dueling-style. But, those are not enough, and can set in some dangerous muscle-memory habits!
Remember they used to say in malfunction clearance drills Tap, Rack, Bang? They changed it to Tap, Rack, Assess, because some folks had malfs, cleared their firearm and came out shooting. Reflexively.
The same thing applies in our training. If we train to respond with B follows A – bad things are happening, we must attain our proper stance and grip, and use both hands, and have our feet correct – we won’t have the time to find cover and respond appropriately. We will be dead.
The venerable Bruce Lee called kata vertical death – because it set a pattern of muscle memory and took unneeded time. Don’t just practice B follows A – try presenting and shooting weak handed, from prone and supine, and in a chair; and holding a heavy sack in your strong hand. If someone send a fist to your face, don’t automatically do a ‘standard’ response. Dodge the fist simultaneously doing a stop kick.
Think outside the box! Armed or unarmed.
On the street, no one will announce, “Shooter ready?!”