Learning to stay in the fight, like when you're injured in one arm, requires practice. But, the most important aspect is the developing the proper mindset.
The mental aspects of responding to a violent attack are critical; ninety percent or more of your response occurs in the mind. Remember, we're talking about problem solving at high speed. Developing and practicing the proper mental attitude is an important part of dealing with a dangerous situation, and it's also the most difficult part of preparing for the fight. Below are a few tips to help you develop the proper mindset.
Always think about the positive aspects of your performance. For example consider this statement: Don't think about a soccer ball. Immediately your brain ignores the "don't" part of the statement and in your mind you "see" a black and white soccer ball. Thinking about what you don't want to do increases the chances you'll do exactly what you're trying so hard not to. Instead of thinking about the negative aspects of a task, what you don't want to do, you need to think about the positive, or what you want to do. So, if I don't want to jerk the trigger I need to think about pressing the trigger smoothly.
While performing a task you have to think about the actions necessary, either at a conscious or subconscious level. But, you can't think about how well you're performing during the action. "Too much concern about how well one is doing in a task," states Daniel Kahneman, in Thinking, Fast and Slow, "sometimes disrupts performance by loading short-term memory with pointless anxious thoughts." This applies to training and practice, and especially during a confrontation. Thinking about winning or losing distracts you from thinking about what and how you need to perform.
"I know I'm going to mess this up." This is a common statement we hear from students when introducing a new or more complicated drill. It's also a "self-fulfilling" prophecy, and practically guarantees you won't perform correctly. Your performance is always equal to your self-image, or how well you think you'll do. You must maintain a positive mindset. Lanny Bassham discusses this in detail in "With Winning In Mind," and states that "Changing your Self-Image is the most important skill you will ever learn."
Mistakes will occur, which means we have to learn to correct and compensate as necessary, continuing with your primary task. Our natural instinct is to stop, pause, or self criticize. In a confrontation there is no time for this. During practice, when you make a mistake, you fix it, ignoring the mistake, only focusing on the corrections necessary.
Learning an action begins at the conscious level, until enough repetitions have been performed that the sequence becomes a subconscious process. In the beginning it's important that you go slow, performing the actions step-by-step at a speed that allows you to consciously think about each step of the sequence. Speed should not even be a consideration, and is detrimental to the learning process. Doing it once correctly means you can do it again. Three successful performances and you can do it right thirty times. After about three thousand repetitions you've developed the confidence necessary to perform efficiently and at a subconscious level.
These are just a few tips to developing your mental skills. The key is knowing what to do, when to do it, and having the mental discipline to perform properly during a life and death confrontation.
Tiger McKee is director of Shootrite Firearms Academy, located in northern Alabama. He is the author of "The Book of Two Guns," writes for several firearms/tactical publications, and is featured on GunTalk's DVD, "Fighting With The 1911 - http://shootrite.org/dvd/dvd.html Website: www.shootrite.org