Mike Yardley continues his series on Positive Shooting II
Last month we looked at the background to my Positive Shooting System and something of its development and history. This month, we get on with the practical business of turning you into a better, more consistent, more disciplined and more focused clay shot. As you may already note, I choose my words carefully. Positive Shooting II is a simple but sophisticated way to make you shoot better. Lest there is no doubt, my approach to instruction is to make you, the individual shooter, more aware of what you need to do to be successful. No BS. No pixie dust. Nothing, indeed, that has not been tested experimentally and proven to work well. There is an element of flexibility too – we are all different and Positive Shooting II takes note of that.
You’ll get detailed, prescriptive information, always working to the KISS principle – Keep it Simple Stupid – when possible. Here are a few things to get us going as we begin our journey towards your improved shooting performance. First, I ask you to make a contract with yourself. If you want to improve, you must be open minded to change – you will have to work hard and in a directed way (without being obsessive or metaphorically beating yourself up when it does not all go to plan initially).
As well as sound basic technique – the subject of the next few articles – self analysis, good preparation, and perfect focus are at the heart of Positive Shooting. So, let us begin my discussing the Positive Shooting triangle of fundamentals, as mentioned last month. They are universal principles of good shooting, part of my holistic approach, that allow you to assess your performance and progress.
Visual Contact, Balance, Rhythm
These things are still at the heart of the system, because they allow you to easily assess your shooting and that of others (and I always advise watching other shots, good and bad, if you want to understand shooting). Visual Contact is about sustaining hard/fine focus on the target for the duration of the shot. You have to ‘stare the target to death’ as one client put it. If you improve your visual discipline – and we will devote a whole article to it in due course – you will improve your shooting. Very few clay shooters are sufficiently disciplined in this regard. Vision in our context is not just a natural ability, but a skill to be learnt and developed.
Any distraction will tend cause your visual discipline to break down (good shooting psychology therefore is essentially about little more than maintaining good visual discipline and movement no matter what). It is something that must be constantly practised and developed. Most of all, and safety apart, you the shooter must realise its absolute importance to success. Sustain fine focus on the moving target and you will unlock your natural abilities. It sounds simple, but the reality is that it takes much effort.
Balance is applicable to many aspects of shooting, but let’s keep it simple as promised. The most important aspect of balance is being in balance, and free of unnecessary tension, at the moment the trigger is pulled – thus allowing a good swing, follow through, and a generally fluent, efficient movement. You will not be in balance if your stance or body position is poor, if you have failed to consider the break point, if your gun does not suit because it is ill fitting, over or underweight, or if you have not learnt to hold it efficiently (in a manner which promotes good movement, consistent mounting and muzzle/recoil control).
Rhythm, or as some might prefer to call it, timing, is our third universal. Good shots have great mounts and great timing. Their shooting appears effortless and easy (because consciously or unconsciously they have set themselves up well and operate with maximum biomechanical, visual, and mental efficiency. When shooting gun down at clays the shot is always conducted to three beats with the tempo changing depending on the speed, angle, and distance of the shot. It is always ONE, TWO, THREE. Gun up shooting is usually conducted to two beat time.
Watch people shoot – perhaps ask someone to video you as well. Are they/you mounting the gun prematurely then slashing at the target? Are you riding the clay? Are you hesitant? In any of these cases, it is likely that your rhythm is not what it might be. If shooting gun down, I do not advise mounting the gun prematurely on ‘ONE’. As you see the bird, move smoothly to it or with it (butt down, muzzles up to line) depending on technique of forward allowance. The gun mounts to the target or behind it on ‘TWO’, and the shot is taken on ‘THREE’. We won’t complicate the issue with considerations of maintained lead yet.
Now since the triangle concept was developed 20-odd years ago, there are some other things that have crept into my thinking more and more as I watch and teach. These new areas of interest, nevertheless, relate to the principles highlighted in the triangle. Watching someone (or indeed watching, sensing, or, feeling yourself) shoot, there are some other general principles worthy of mention and which I now consider routinely when making a general assessment of someone’s shooting.
Preparation was always part of the deal (though it is not mentioned in the triangle). I have a heightened awareness of body tension now during the shot (which is, of course, related to balance), and of core body function – whether or not the individual has good upper body rotation for example. There are other things too; whether or not they use the front arm well and whether they consider adjusting body position (and notably shoulders) to the line of the bird when required. On crossing targets, I am looking for a perpendicular relationship of the muzzles (assuming an over and under) to the LINE of the bird. Generally, I might note my increased awareness of line as well as lead in all forms of shooting.
Finally, my observation is that people who shoot tend to fall into two camps. Those that have a thinking approach, and those that might be described as ‘feelers’. Generally speaking, the thinkers need to learn to feel more, and the feelers to think and not just trust to instinct in all situations. Positive Shooting II develops both aspects of your shooting persona.