Defining the mental game is a little like trying to define “shooting.” To make any sense of it, we first need to be a little more specific. Here’s one example from the mental game, an important component.
Tournament (performance) pressure is certainly real, an equal opportunity interrupter of performances, showing no leniency to whatever the task in front of us may be. Typically, under pressure in the tournament shooting box, time seems to speed up on us. You’ve likely experienced this. The resulting tension causes our now tentative swing to tighten even further. If we could just get everything to slow down a bit for us. Well, we can. How do we get our mind to calm down and so we can get our confidence back and swing freely? To do this, our attention and our physical sensations have to work together, in the same place, at the same time, so our swing can be trusted and not forced.
OK, in plain language please, what does that mean? Here, load 2 shells, safety on, walk with me. Watch Belle, the setter as she crisscrosses the field in front of us. OK, slow up now, Belle’s onto a bird. Easy now…stop. Stay here beside me. Watch now. Get ready. Muzzles up, take your safety off and look where Belle is pointing. Are you focused? Yes, you are. Can you feel it? Yes, you can. It’s like that. Mind and body are one. Focused. Ready. All thoughts are right here, right now. So how do we focus our attention like that in the competition box?
At the Paragon School, we use the term “centering,” which generally means deliberately pulling our attention back from all the emotional baggage and distractions that assault us in the shooting box. I learned the concept of centering during my 7 years of martial arts training. Centering intentionally finds, then retrieves our attention into the now, here, where we are standing. We accomplish this by moving our attention (consolidating our concentration) onto what we are about to do. Now, please. Away from what happened before. Away from what we hope will (or won’t) happen later. We need our attention to be here, now.
By slowing everything down, centering keeps us in the now—which is precisely where our gun, strategy, swing, target and sight pictures are. As we center ourselves, we’ll know if our attention is absent, running back to the past or ahead to the future. S-T-O-P. Breathe. Slow down. Start over. Bring it all…everything …back into this exact moment…this second…what you are about to do. Only then, call pull.
The Japanese term “Mushin” can be interpreted to mean a state of “no mind.” Basically, Mushin is a mental and physical place where all the judgmental remembering and speculating is suspended...creating a quieter, more focused mental state. Our best performance will come out of that state.
Mushin, no mind, should not be interpreted as a loose, or disorganized mind. On the contrary, it’s a mind that is clear, focused and very much in order. It is this same clear mind—focusing only on what we are doing right this moment—that allows our trusted practice swing, and our confidence, to find its way back into the competition box.
To avoid a sense of frenzy in the shooting box and move us closer to Mushin, starts with a better understanding of where “the jitters,” or tournament pressures actually do come from. Once those understandings are in place, we’ll have the tools to build what’s next in line, our Pre-Shot Routine. We’ll use that routine to strengthen our performance by stabilizing (centering) our thoughts and feelings before we call for the target. XXXX!
Daniel Schindler is a Paragon Master Sporting Clays and Wingshooting Instructor. . . and founder of Paragon School of Sporting, Inc. Over many decades . . . reinforcing the fundamentals and basics . . . Dan has developed and refined a totally reliable and repeatable shooting “system.” This system ensures that the student will not only learn “how” to break targets but how to “self-correct” their miss…and repeat their successful shot…on their own, after their lesson. Using proven, well-established methods, the system is specific, uncomplicated, and flat works! This not only removes the mysteries that surround shooting…but even more importantly builds consistency into the shooter’s game. Dan believes that every Sporting Clays and Wingshooting teacher is obligated to prepare his or her student to be successful in the box and in the field, after their lesson. When implemented correctly, the Paragon system is 100% trustworthy regardless of shooter age, gender or skill level.Daniel Schindler is the author of “Take Your Best Shot”(Book I) and “To The Target”(Book II). He is also the author of 140+ Sporting Clays magazine articles (1992 – 2015) and an audio CD on the mental game, currently sold out. Daniel Schindler’s landmark Book III is expected to be released early Summer 2017. Book III is a compilation of his life’s work as a Sporting Clays and Wingshooting Instructor and Coach from 1990 to date.