eJournal: Or better at applying those skills to being a more effective human in any number of other situations in their daily lives.
Seeklander: Absolutely! I strongly believe in visualization.
eJournal: How did you come to be such a believer? What led you to this approach?
Seeklander: Mental preparation is very strong in professional athletics and Olympic-level athletes have been doing visualization since probably the 1970s and 1980s. I correlated that to shooting, because I knew that top shooters did stage visualization to get their plan down and then to memorize their plan. I expanded from there and started researching what visualization could do.
When we shoot an IDPA or IPSC stage, we shoot it cold. You don’t get to practice three or four times. When I visualize a stage, I’ll run it faster and then a little faster in my mind. Then I find that when I shoot the stage cold, I am faster if I have visualized it and programmed it and synched in.
eJournal: Conversely, if we are not at your high skill level, timing is really critical, because it is tempting to shoot faster than we can get our hits.
Seeklander: I call that a speed bump. If you have a tendency to go too fast to get the hits on hard targets, then setting the correct speed on those sure could be part of your visualization.
eJournal: What percentage of live practice should we balance against visualization?
It’s increasingly important to get more out of non-firing practice when ammunition is scarce!
Seeklander: I think you can combine dry fire with live fire practice and be at a very high skill level, but you will never be as good as you could be without live fire practice. You could get a lot of practice out of visualizing yourself reacting to the threat, communicating with family members, moving to cover, and combine it with dry fire practice and possibly Airsoft practice with targets in your garage.
At the top end of the competitive game, when we are trying to beat the top 2% of the guys, we have to use live fire. You have to shoot the matches and put in your practice time on the range. But for the person with a defensive pistol who wants to get to a very high level of proficiency, I think you can replace a large portion of live fire with dry fire, and then hit the live fire range routinely enough that you can continue to know what it feels like for your gun to recoil and you can control the recoil.
eJournal: That will help Network members without firing ranges readily accessible. I remember you mentioned having two teaching tracks – the competitive shooting and the self-defense side. How much of the mental training is in your self-defense classes?
Seeklander: About the same amount, though I don’t talk about how to visualize a stage. I talk a lot about how to mentally visualize their plan: literally visualizing things like which pocket is my phone in and visualizing what it is going to be like to dial that phone with one hand and those little factors. I also wrote about it.