Monday, September 19, 2016

Mindset: Play to Win

When I was in high school I played soccer for two years.  During practice the coaches would tell us to give a 110% effort, to practice like we would play at the next game.  Going through the motions was not an option.  I took this advice to heart, so when I practiced, I gave it my all.  Then when I faced my opponent, I knew what I was made of.  Injuries, concussions and grass in my teeth were the metric of whether I sufficiently battled the other team for the winning goal.  Fast forward 20 years and I find myself teaching the same concept to new shooters.  Practice like you will play.  Unlike my former soccer schedule, we may never face our gun fighting opponent on the field.

There are so many memes and slogans online to help get us into the mindset of winning the fight. However after much discussion with a good friend of mine, who is a retired Sherriff Deputy, teaching someone resolve can be a difficult task.  Resolve when used as a verb, it is to settle or find a solution to a problem, dispute or contentious matter, to decide firmly on a course of action.  As a noun, resolve is the firm determination to do something.  Synonyms include a decision, resolution or commitment.  Keeping this in mind, you need all of the defined characteristics to win a fight.  One approach is to train for specific scenarios or those situations which would occur most often.  Another approach is to develop the determination to respond to every scenario or situation which could occur.  These two approaches differ in that one conditions your actions and the other conditions your thought process.

Resolve is more than simply knowing what to do when.  Resolve is a state of mental preparedness to take definitive action.  You must be dedicated to learning, training and practicing the skills needed to be flexible within your defensive strategy.  How does a shooter prepare her mind for the fight?  Practice like you play and play to win.

Decision, resolution and commitment are words that describe a steadfast choice. Having the resolve to win is a choice.  A choice that I believe needs to be made early in the game.  At first, this kind of thinking may seem difficult to focus on or seem easy to attain.  All I have to do is decide to act, right. In reality, it is a change to your internal monologue.  Whatever you normally think about during the day, you must make subtle adjustments to your thoughts and view your surroundings with caution.  Simply it can be called situational awareness, but I prefer the description as a change to your overall mindset.  I am aware of what is going on around me.  I am ready and able to handle myself in that situation.  It is difficult to maintain a heightened level of awareness for great length of time, particularly in your own home, which is considered a sanctuary from the outside world.  However you must make a conscious effort to remain alert to your environment, whatever it is.

Keep in mind the five levels of awareness -

Unaware – These are times when you are asleep, watching TV, occupied with a specific task and daydreaming.

Aware – You are conscious of your surroundings, cognizant of those around you, have mentally identified potential threats and where they may emanate from.

Alert – A specific potential threat or threats have been identified; this is a heightened state of awareness.

Alarm – Whatever action was planned in the alert level is now implemented.  Again, taking action does not necessarily mean using force.

How do I develop my resolve?

1.       Decide to prevail.

2.       Maintain an appropriate level of awareness.

3.       Create your self defense plan.

4.       Train for the skills needed in an emergency.

5.       If possible, participate in force on force training.

6.       Practice for your “game day”.

7.       Practice for your “game day”.

Understand that while you may have developed your resolve, both psychological and physical responses can be a battle to overcome in your practice.  Training for stress is crucial to prevail in an encounter.  Your goal is to acclimate yourself to performing well under stress.  This can be done through timing yourself while you shoot, raising your heartrate through exercise prior to shooting or entering a competitive match.

When I played soccer, I was a part of a team.  I was part of a team that had already made the decision before we stepped onto the field that we would win.  We wouldn’t give up, we would keep trying to score goals, and we would do what it took to get those goals.  Preparing for game day meant we already decided we would win.

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