Train Fast to Get Fast

  • SumoMe

Watch this video and tell me if you think I was going “slow and smooth” or if I simply pushed and tried to go fast.   Triple Nickel

Now, I would guess most of you might guess that I was trying to go fast.  In addition, I had a shot I pushed slightly over the head because I pushing as hard as I could go and trying to find a speed where I could get hits and break the Triple Nickel record.   Granted, I have trained to the point where I can safely and successfully push to that speed, but I did not get it by simply trying to be smooth.   Being smooth (and subsequently fast) is a byproduct of training repetitions.   That said, the speed with which you train is the speed you will perform (does that make sense?).

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I posted a video on Instagram the other day which also gets linked automatically to Facebook.   The video was of a steel stage that I shot during a recent Chatanika, Alaska at a steel match.

View the stage here:  Chatanika Ironman Stage

My reason for posting was because I have continued to hear the same thing over and over again posted online, a phrase that goes something like this:   “slow is smooth and smooth is fast.”  I wanted to make the point that smooth was a byproduct of great skill, not something to be specifically practiced.   Meaning, when I practice I do not simply try to become smooth.   I work on mastering the skill, which in the end looks smooth and is likely very fast.

This particular article is an expanded list of the concepts of that I was trying to get across in my original post, which of course was way to short to actually get my point across.  The post was well received, but after posting I got multiple comments some in agreement and others in disagreement trying to argue a point.  It became obvious that those arguing might misunderstand my point, and I felt like I had something to offer for those that want to learn something.

While I am not one who is in the habit of getting into “internet” arguments (not worth my time), there are cases when I hope to be able to open someone’s mind to a different method of thinking and help them practice/shoot better.   It is my job, and in the case of this post, I hope to open some minds and guide those that might follow what I have to say.

First, in relation to performing any technique at speed, please understand this: there’s no argument with those of you that make the point that the basics must be practiced at a deliberate (some might say slow) pace first.  You are completely right, I agree.  As a full-time trainer now for almost 15 years, I, or anybody that instructs anything would be an idiot to say that the best way to practice is to perform the skill really fast before the technique is actually ingrained and learned.   That was not my point at all.  In addition, safety is key, so everything in this article falls within the normal safety guidelines, keep that in mind when you are trying to do anything fast.

My point is that after each of us get beyond that basic level with the technique, and it is somewhat ingrained

At some point we must simply begin to push our speed to the next level.   It will not come naturally.

At some point we must simply begin to push our speed to the next level. It will not come naturally.

correctly, we must strive to push ourselves to go faster if we choose to be able to perform the skill with any amount of speed.  Let me give you a little more background on this.   At one time some more midway in my career when I was already quite good I had another really good shooter give me some great advice.  This shooter who was considerably better than me at the time told me that I needed to push outside of my comfort zone and make myself go fast.  After his comment, I disagreed because I felt that control was everything, and being able to perform while completely in control meant everything to me.

But the reality was I never actually learned what my limits were!  I never pushed and reached my failure points.   I never actually tried to push the techniques that I was using (were talking about competitive context here) and perform them at my fastest speed.   So I decided to give it a shot in my practice sessions and at matches.   I worked hard and started to push myself.   What do you think happened?

I failed!!  But guess what, those failures and those mistakes started the learning process again! Remember I was already quite good at that time, but pushing and forcing myself to find my failure points caused me to find subtle areas that I could improve upon.

Failing caused me to design index points on key handgun manipulations like the draw process, were few small key index points allowed me to consistently draw my gun much faster than I had before.  After small changes, I could hit the gun as fast as I possibly could move my hands and arms and I still have a successful draw and first shot hit.

Pushing taught me to learn to operate as fast as I could go within the chaos of that speed.   It taught me to see faster.   It taught me to react faster.   It also taught me to adjust faster.   It simply made me faster!

Believe it or not your brain learns the pace and timing that you practice a technique.   I can’t tell you how many students I’ve had that heard and followed some old phrase like “smooth is fast” or something like that. When they come to my classes they’re incredibly smooth.  They’re very good shooters and can come out of the holster smoothly and present the gun to the target and get good hits, but guess what, they’re slow!

A full speed concealed draw process will be faster if you learn proper technique, then make yourself try to push that skill to the next level (in terms of speed).

A full speed concealed draw process will be faster if you learn proper technique, then make yourself try to push that skill to the next level (in terms of speed).

When I tell them to simply do what they’re doing the exact same way but try to go faster they begin to push and often gain 25% in speed almost immediately by simply having someone push them.  Then I give them subtle hints to improve their techniques and they jump another 5-10%.

Recently I gave a student in Chatanika, Alaska recently my own personal performance statement which was “Grip the gun, see the sights, be aggressive.”  Previously the performance statement he had copied (which was my old one) was “Grip the gun, see the sights.”

After the match and class we had together he told me that the new statement had become an epiphany to him.   His comment was “it’s amazing.. why didn’t you tell me that before!”  He said he believed he gained a second on each of the stages just by being aggressive.   Remember aggressive translates to trying to go fast.    To make yourself move your body aggressively is fast.

You may wonder why I did not give him the modified statement earlier, but the reason I hadn’t given him that specific performance statement before was because I didn’t use it myself.   I myself change my old statement to the new one when I discovered this secret.

My epiphany was when someone told me “Mike go faster” and it worked.   This caused me to learn to be aggressive each time I trained and competed.   My performance statement reminds me to always be aggressive, yet I maintain a level of control in train and constantly remind myself not to be so aggressive I’m not using good technique.   The key is to push to the edge and find out where it is!

Those of you that read this article and choose to take what I’m saying and apply it and try it will gain speed.  I guarantee it.   Those that choose to continue to say some old saying like slow is smooth and smooth is fast as blah blah blah blah blah will get just that.    You’ll continue to be slower then you can be so if to learned to push to the next level.   Trust me on this, I had to trust someone and you’ve got to trust me.

Be Safe – Be Aggressive – Give fast a shot

Until Then – Train Hard

Mike S.

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6 Responses to Train Fast to Get Fast

  1. Absolutly right. Most guys talk in either or terms instead of both. The first time you go as fast as you can should not/better not be in a match. Easy way for the wheels to come off.

    • Chris says:

      “he first time you go as fast as you can should not/better not be in a match. Easy way for the wheels to come off.”

      +1…. My down fall in every Steel Match I shoot… As soon as the timer goes off, my fundamentals go out the door…Mental disciplines is my biggest challange in improving my competition skills.

  2. John says:

    Mike, I was a law enforcement officer (OBN Agent) for 30 years and a “High Master” PPC shooter. What you say is right and was a real wake-up call for me late one night in 1982 when I nearly got killed in a fight over my revolver. When I finally got control of my handgun from the bad guy, by gouging out his left eye as he was in full mount position, I was able to roll over and gain mount on him and immediately went into “PPC mode.” I had the gun in his chest already, in fact making contact with his sternum, but clearly remember looking at the front sight, and squeezing the trigger –even remember it the sound of the cylinder locking up twice as it rotated into position. Point being —I was trained to shoot slowly and deliberately (and, of course very accurately) when the situation demanded FAST and LETHAL. I survived, but changed my training after than to include more realistic scenarios and shooting. Later, I was the head firearms instructor for OBN and their range master, so I made sure to teach these concepts to my agents. Thanks for posting your valuable information! John Duncan

    • admin says:

      Wow John- Your story, comments, and you personal learning experience are incredible to read. I appreciate you posting! Thanks for reading.

  3. Mike Shapiro says:

    Hey Mike – great blog subject! Once upon a time, a pro was having me do one-shot draws and “encouraging” me to go faster. He started with gentle comments, but before long was screaming in my ear: “Get your ass moving!”, “You make this timer look like a freaking sundial!” etc. etc. I was actually getting a little hot under the collar when I suddenly heard him laughing, and he said: “See? I can speed you up almost 50% just by yelling at you!” Point made – you’ll never know what you can see and do unless you occasionally push ’til the wheels come off in practice.

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