In our travels shooting, coaching and speaking about our passion for the smooth bore we still are amazed at the perceptions that each shooter brings to what they do when they shoot a shotgun. We’ve spent most of the last 30 years of our lives confused, constantly searching for a deeper understanding of how talent and skill is really developed and that definition has changed several times in our life so far and no doubt it will change again a few more times but like Vicki says, “Its not what you know that makes you better; its what you are willing to learn!” and “Unless you try something beyond what you have already mastered you will never grow!” We have learned that always playing at the edges of your ability, being willing to fail and by failing learn from it and move on is a lesson in skill development that we have been writing about for a long long time and science has now proven once again that what we have observed in our research is scientifically true. Keeping up with the science of skill development and the most recent developments in brain based research has kept us on our toes and has really influenced the way we teach and coach building skill with a shotgun, basket ball, golf clubs, fishing rod or in the business fields. It is all the same process just a different tool. All skill is stored in the subconscious brain and we live 90% of our lives in our habits and developing a habit is about three things; Cue, Response and Reward. Building skill is about creating habits and a habit is a neurological programed response.
As experienced coaches when we watch a shooter shoot we instantly pick up on certain things that they are doing and we can tell you for sure that when we began coaching, those things that we see as obvious now were not so obvious then. They were hidden behind the clutter due to our inexperience. As we became more experienced our brain began to understand what we were looking for or in scientific terms the brain began to suspend from your consciousness things that were not essential to the task at hand or were confusing to the task. They were still there but due to your experience level (skill development) you began to see past the clutter and things that once were confusing with many moving parts became simple and more obvious to us. This is what 30,000 plus hours each of coaching has done for us and our students are the beneficiaries of this experience and as a result we can get to the heart of the real problem and the fix will come so much quicker. This is also why we would encourage to look for a shooting coach with experience teaching not necessarily a great shot or current world champion.
What we see is that shooters are in different phases of learning how to shoot a shotgun and it is those different phases that carry different perceptions based on the shooters experience and skill level. This is what we feel creates most of the divergence in what people perceive when they shoot a shotgun. They all see the same thing but when you understand that the eyes don’t process the visual data it is the brain, then you begin to realize that you are not trying to get the persons eyes to see something different. You are actually trying the get their brain to interpret the same visual data in a different way. Just like if one of us were standing beside a novice instructor both watching the same shooter shoot the same shot we would both be getting the same visual data but would come to two basically different conclusions not because our eyes were seeing something different but because our brains due to our experience were able to see past the clutter in the shot and get to the real problem. The novice on the other hand can’t see past the clutter and then goes to the obvious which you know is not really the root cause of the problem.
So lets say we both saw the same thing but due to our skill and the novice’s lack there of, our brains came to two entirely different conclusions. We think shooters perceptions when they shoot evolve in the same way and this is why we think that 10 shooters can successfully shoot 10/10 and all perceive something different. They all saw the same thing but their brains due to different amounts of skill, perceived different things even though they all got the same result. This is what we think is causing the greatest amount of disparity when shooters compare notes after a shoot or hunting experience or even after shooting a difficult stand on a sporting course. Our research shows that one shooter will never be able to perceive what another perceives unless there is a similarity in their experience level and their background. This is why it is so hard for a shooter to take a lesson from a really great shot because the student sees the clutter and the great shot due to his skill and experience sees past it like the dashboard on your car. Shooters perceptions are real to them. Regardless of the shooters experience it is real and each and every shooter has worked hard to develop their skill and they have an emotional attachment to it, which is why they look at what others might say or perceive as wrong. To each and every person what they perceive is real whether their perceptions are close to reality or not to the person eyes they are real. We call these perceptions TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE and we see groups of shooters who perceive in similar ways group together and find comfort in being around others with similar perceptions.
Much like the monkey in the cage. Haven’t heard about the monkey in the cage? Well there is a big square cage with a bunch of bananas hanging in the middle from the ceiling with a ladder leading up to them. There are four monkeys placed in the cage and the first time a monkey climbs the ladder to get the bananas he is hit with water from a fire hose knocked off the ladder and the other three monkeys are hit with the fire hose as well. This process continues until, as you might guess, the monkeys stop trying to climb the ladder. Then one day one of the monkeys was replaced with another one, so what do you think happens? When the new guy tries to go up the ladder the other three beat the living @#$%^ out of him and keep doing so until he finally decides to stop trying for those bananas. Now the same response was obtained from two entirely different visual stimuli. The eyes don’t see, the brain interprets the data and the brain can be trained to interpret the same data any way you are patient enough to train it to do so.
I must tell you that what I perceive today when I shoot I did not even come close to understanding 20 years ago nor did I even know it even existed! It is this in great measure what fuels our passion and gives us the courage to continue this journey of seeking excellence and learning new things as science uncovers them. In a recent interview we were asked “off the record” what was the biggest discovery we have made in our 30,000 hours each of teaching experience. We each looked at each other and almost at the same time said, “THE EYES DO NOT SEE. THE BRAIN SEES AND SKILL IS AN INSULATED CIRCUIT IN THE BRAIN THAT IS DEVELOPED THROUGH A VISUAL PROCESS FIRST AND THEN THROUGH REPETITION AND FAILURE AND REPITITION and FAILURE AND REPITITION AND FAILURE AND EVENTUALLY IT TURNS INTO A SKILL! When you understand this then you can begin the journey of teaching your brain what you want it to do with the visual data from the eyes and you will see some dramatic improvements in your shooting soon!–Gil & Vicki Ash