Technique Vs. Basic Motor Skills

Technique Vs. Basic Motor Skills

When asked how I came up with the core training principles behind AimSteady, I tell people that when I was training new soldiers to compete in a shooting competition against some of the best marksmen in the world, it only takes me 15 minutes to teach them the correct technique.

It takes them a couple of hours on the range getting used to the feel of shooting and getting over the jitters that come with adrenaline. At this stage, you can teach them the surprise break technique and they will hit the target accurately most of the time. But they cannot hit anything if there are any timed or moving elements to the course of fire. It will take them months to get over the mental errors and acquire the necessary motor skills to become a good shot. I wanted a tool that would allow people to continue to progress rapidly throughout this period.

In psychology there are 3 stages of learning new motor skills:

Stage 1: the cognitive stage – this is what I described above as the first few hours when people become accustomed to the proper technique.

Stage 2: the associative phase – this is the tricky part; this is when the brain is trying to learn the correct responses and timings to deal with each shooting event. It’s harder than you would think because the recoil of a gun is an unnaturally quick movement so we are not wired to deal with it. Also, it’s hard to learn because most of the time we won’t know if any of our shots were good or bad until we stop shooting and check our target. But it’s only possible for our brains to make the right corrections if it knows that it made a mistake at the moment it happened.

Stage 3: the autonomous phase – a competent shot; when you reach here your brain knows what to expect and has the timing to deal with it.

Unfortunately, even if you reach the autonomous phase and are pretty happy with yourself, you should be aware that shooting is a regressive skill. If you stop training on a constant basis you will lose those motor skills.

The core function of AimSteady is designed around giving you instantaneous feedback without looking away from the sights. It’s designed to accelerate people through the associative phase, a phase that most people don’t ever get past.

So how do you know which phase you are in? It’s simple:

Have you spent less than 5 hours shooting in total in your life or have never gotten any technique advice?

If so, you are probably in the cognitive stage but, on the upside, you are no more than 5 hours of proper training away from being in the next stage.

Are you capable of shooting some shots accurately but loose accuracy when you have to shoot quickly?

Then you are in the associative phase. Your technique is good enough to shoot accurately at a slow pace, but your motor skills can’t handle the timing involved when shooting quickly.

Are you capable of shooting accurately at least 99% of the time under all types of timing and movement pressure?

Congratulations, you are in the autonomous phase!

I would argue that most people are in the 2nd stage. The amount of time and ammunition required to remain in the 3rd stage consistently may not feasible for all but the most dedicated competitive shooters.

There are drills and training aids to help you through the associative phase, some more effective than others. My next post will be about the effectiveness of each training method and drill.

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