What is ‘Self-Image’?
“Self-image is how you see yourself in your mind.” And it is related to each and every activity that you do in life.
A self-image related to any activity can be very positive, giving a person confidence in their thoughts and actions, or negative, making a person doubtful of their capabilities and ideas.
For example, if you are asked to jump in the deep end of a swimming pool and if you do not know how to swim, the self-image which will flash through your mind and body is that of drowning, your self-image prevents you from jumping into the pool, thus risking your life.
However, if you are an expert swimmer, you will dive into the pool with confidence because your self-image is that of a strong swimmer.
If your self-image related to your shooting in a match is poor, then your result or performance will match your self-image, regardless of how many hours you may train and shoot brilliantly in your training sessions.
Can we change our self-image?
In Module No. 5 Mental Skills, I have introduced the systematic method for developing the match winning Self-Image. It is further developed and fleshed out in Module No. 6, The Mental Shot Program.
Just like you train hard in your home range, the same way, you have to put in systematic effort in developing your self-image.
Many shooters have asked me whether they can improve their practice matches scores in an actual match.
For example, if a shooter is shooting 565/600 in practice then can he improve his score to say 570/600 in a match after undergoing self-image training.
The answer is NO.
If you have never scored above 565/600 in your practice matches then you cannot realistically hope to score 570/600 in a match however superbly you may have mastered the self-image development exercises.
The expert swimmer dives into the pool with confidence because over the years, he has swum confidently in the deep end of the pool.
Therefore, he has developed a self-image of a confident swimmer, unlike a person who has never stepped into the pool, who does not have any images of himself swimming in the shallow end of the pool leave alone the deep end.
In shooting also, the Self-Image of a Match performance can never go beyond the practice matches performance.
In other words, you cannot reproduce the skills which you do not have, simply by imagining a match performance which demands skills which you do not possess.
With proper self-image training, a shooter who scores 565/600 in his practice match can reproduce the same score in his matches.
What is the method of developing your self-image?
This is explained in Mod 5 Mental skills, briefly I will discuss the steps as follows;
- Understand the different parts of our Mind – Conscious, subconscious and the unconscious.
- Understand how the body relates to each part of your mind.
- Understand how to relax your mind and body.
- Understand the steps of how to visualise correctly.
Please note, that haphazard practice without understanding any of the steps stated above can lead to failure. Systematic training of Mental Skills as explained in Mod 5 should be followed.
In the recently concluded National Championships in Bhopal, I had the opportunity of observing the World No. 1 Shooter in Air Pistol Ms Manu Bhaker, shooting during practise sessions and during the match. These are some of my observations;
1. Training Sessions:
There was no difference in her intensity of purpose and seriousness during practice sessions. She shoots her practice sessions exactly the way she shoots in matches.
This is precisely what I have advocated in my blog posts and Module No. 4 Advanced Training Methodology.
Compared to her, 99% of the shooters around her with a few exceptions were shooting their practice sessions in an undisciplined manner.
2. Composure and Poise:
While practising she was neither distracted nor unsettled in any manner, in fact her composure was almost monk like, calm. Cool and composed.
This poise came from the depth of visualisation which she practised before each and every shot.
In Module No. 4 Advanced Training Methodology, I have discussed this very important step (visualisation) and how it should be done to get into the zone.
3. Shot Cycle:
Each and every shot cycle was the same from shot to shot. (Shot Cycle explained in Mod. No. 1 Basic Training).
4. The Route:
The route is the path, which the sights of the shooter’s pistol follows, from Pt. A, which is the shooting platform to Pt. B, which is the point above the target where the pistol is raised and then lowered into Pt. C, which is the aiming area.
The time taken by Ms Manu Bhaker along the route was clockwork, precise and almost robot like in its sameness from shot to shot.
The Route is explained in Mod. No. 2 Technique for shooting a ‘10’.
5. Trigger timing:
Undoubtedly, she has worked thousands of hours mastering her trigger timing, but the key to her trigger timing lies not only in her extremely powerful visualisation before each and every shot but also the follow through of 3 to 4 seconds after the shot is fired.
6. Self Image:
Manu Bhaker’s Self Image is perhaps one of the most powerful and strongest that I have seen in any shooter. If you know what self-image means, then you have to only look into her eyes.
Hats off to her and I wish her the very best and pray that she shoots for many, many years to come.
Once you know how to shoot a ‘10’, then you must be able to repeat it ‘easily’. For this, you need to shoot dry and live for a minimum of 300 shots per day.
The present World No. 1 in Air pistol shooting, shoots anything between 300 to 500 shots (live & dry). When you watch them shoot, you feel they shoot ‘10’s so easily and marvel at their consistency. This is not achieved overnight but after years of working hard. Practising the same technique for shooting a ‘10’ again and again, hundreds and thousands times.
This hard work takes a heavy toll over their bodies leading to injuries. In order to minimise injuries, these shooters follow a strict physical fitness schedule which strengthens the specific muscle groups required for shooting longs spells.
In order to keep their mind and body fit, they also follow a proper diet and take breaks to mentally rejuvenate themselves. This aspect of their training is called as ‘recovery’. Recovery is crucial for improving performance in all sports.
Sometimes a coach plays the role of a physical fitness trainer, psychologist, nutritionist besides handling the technical aspect of training. However, it is not uncommon to find top level shooters having a support staff who specialise in psychology, nutrition, physical fitness, and motivation.
Merely shooting 300 to 500 shots with no proper planning and holistic training is a sure shot recipe for ‘burn out’. Burnout is a term used for athletes who have their careers ‘cut short’ due to physical or mental burn out.
While physical burn out is easy to understand since it is related to physical injuries, mental burnout results from a lack of motivation or ‘will’ to continue training. In a mental burnout situation, the athlete loses his desire for winning. This is where a motivational expert steps in to redress the situation.
From the above, you can see that reaching the top is hard work and when you reach the top, to continue staying on top is also hard work.
Here are some real life experiences;
1. One parent tracks the scores of each and every competitor in his child’s event, then ahead of the next competitions, comments as follows;
“ She has only scored +++/600, you can easily beat her and stand first”
Result: The child came under pressure and shot her worst score in the match.
2. Another parent continuously says:
“ Her IQ is low, she does not pick up things very fast “
I told the parent that henceforth, you will not comment on her IQ, she is a brilliant girl and IQ just measures one aspect of your child’s intelligence.
In addition to ticking off her father, I told the girl that she was really talented and brilliant.
Result: The Child won a Gold Medal in the National School Games Championships.
3. Yet another parent expects National Level Medal winning performance from her daughter who practises only for one and half hour.
I explained to her mother, that though her daughter was talented, expecting a medal with only an hour and a half training is not going to work, considering that the National Champions are putting in five to six hours of training each day!
4. An extremely talented 17 year old boy, who shoots 583/600 in practice was threatened by his grandfather that he would no longer support the boy’s shooting in future since his National Competition scores did not match his practice scores.
So, what should I say to him?
Undoubtedly, the role of parents in the development of a shooter’s career is critical.
The question is; How much should they be involved in the day to day training of their child?
Ninety nine percent of the parents have no shooting experience, hence my sincere advice to them is that they find a good coach and leave it to the coach to train their child.
If the progress is satisfactory, continue supporting the child financially and mentally. But they must be prepared to be PATIENT for FIVE YEARS at the very least!
In the Maharashtra State Government Sports Academy, parents were allowed to spend time with their children twice during the summer and Diwali vacations. During the training period, parent visits were restricted for just a few hours, once each month.
This government policy of keeping the parents at arm’s length was so effective that the Sports Academies produced many international medal winning sportspersons.
Trigger control separates the men from the boys, the international shooter from the also rans.
What is Trigger Control in the 10 M Air Pistol event?
- The shooter should be 100 % mentally focussed on trigger operation before, during and after the shot is fired (follow through)
- The trigger operation must be smooth and continuous before during and after the shot is fired – Trigger follow through.
- The shot should be fired with correct trigger timing.
In order to maintain 100 % mental focus on the trigger operation, the shooter must have 100% confidence in the aiming process, which is as follows;
10 M Air Pistol Aiming Process:
When the sights come into the aiming area, the shooter is confident that his sights will be steady and aligned, his arc of movement will be reduced to the minimum and his focus on front sight is locked.
Mastery over the aiming process enables the shooter to completely focus mentally on trigger operation follow through.
Module No. 3 Training Methodology provides the exercises (1 to 8B) which help the shooter attain mastery over the aiming process.
10 M Air Pistol Smooth trigger operation:
Smooth trigger operation is linked with mental focus and mastery over the aiming process. A shooter can achieve smooth trigger operation but to ensure that it is CONTINUOUS before, during and after the shot is fired (follow through) requires specific training which is explained in Module No. 4: Advanced Training Methodology.
10 M Air Pistol Trigger timing:
Trigger timing depends a lot on the shooters breathing technique, if the shooter is out of breath due to an over extended trigger operation, invariably he will loose control on his mental focus on keeping the trigger smooth and continuous. Correct breathing technique must be synchronised with mental focus on smooth continuous trigger follow through.
Modules 2 to 6 provide unique exercises based on yogic breathing techniques which enhance concentration and enables the shooter to exert more control on the trigger operation.
These 10 M Air Pistol Yogic Breathing techniques have been adapted to shooting and provide amazing results in trigger control. Members of Foresight Shooting have personally experienced these amazing jump in scores ( 15 to 20 pts)!
Finally, mastery and confidence over trigger control ensures that the shooter reaches new heights in his shooting career.