Friday, February 20, 2015

Muscle Memory and Training

I took some of my kids to the range the other day. We shot for a while and as we were shooting they were loading magazines. They were having a difficult time and I was trying to show them how to do it so it wouldn’t be so hard. I picked up a magazine and loaded 16 rounds in about 10 seconds. I had to do it again slowly to see what I was doing. After I did that and watched myself carefully, I could then show and teach them. They also asked about my shooting accuracy. How did I keep the gun on target even with recoil. My answer to both questions is muscle memory. All of us have used, and use every day, muscle memory. If you ride a bike or type on a keyboard or do anything without really thinking about it, you are using muscle memory. Muscle memory, or motor learning, is a form of procedural memory that involves consolidating a specific motor task into memory through repetition. When a movement is repeated over time, a long-term muscle memory is created that for that task, eventually allowing it to be performed without conscience effort. This process decreases the need for attention and creates maximum efficiency within the motor and memory systems.
Long story short; this is how we learn to walk and chew gum at the same time. Or, better yet, how we learn to run, acquire the target, shoot, reload plus chew gum at the same time. And the number one way to getting there is through repetition.
An important part of training is to develop more advanced divided attention motor skills. For example, when a real life shooting situation starts; you want to reflexively draw you weapon, seek solid (protective) cover, decide upon a defensive and/or offensive firing solution, and then execute that solution.
As the situation progresses, you will have to constantly assess the need to move for better, safer cover, especially to maintain distance between you and the threat. You will need to maintain a mental inventory of weapon reloading necessities, at-hand ammunition resupplies, or the need for transitioning from a pistol to a rifle or shotgun, as necessity dictates; and maintaining a mental inventory of those ammunition levels and at-hand resupply.
From a hand / eye coordination point of view, we need to constantly access the threat and threat level. If you are drawn into a shooting event where you are one against multiple aggressors, you will need to determine which one(s) is / are presenting the highest level of threat and responding in a descending order. The individuals actively shooting and advancing on you must be dealt with first, as opposed to ones who hug cover, shoot less, or appear to be looking for a way out. We also have to be aware of who are innocent bystanders or human shields, known as no-shoot noncombatants.
As an example of very poor divided attention motor skills training; years ago many police firearms instructors were taught, and passed on to their students, the practice of reloading their revolvers by first dumping the spent brass into their free hand and then into a can or bucket, before loading fresh rounds; some “brilliant” idea to save picking spent brass off the floor or ground. The muscle memory became ingrained and on several occasions, police officers who were killed in shootouts were found with their revolvers (cylinders open) in one hand and six spent casings in the other hand. Quite simply, they couldn’t find a bucket to toss the spent brass into, which would have made their free hand open to perform the reloading function. In that few seconds of confusion for the officers, the bad guys seized the opportunity and came out the victor of the encounters.
Reaction is defined as a response to something that has already occurred. Studies have concluded that humans require about three seconds to see, analyse, recognize then react to even the most urgent of situations. Within that three second time frame, you can most assuredly come out the loser. So, how do we improve the odds in our favor? We train to overcome the static through enhanced muscle memory.
Train like you fight. Then you’ll be around to fight again. Make sure your training will give you good muscle memory and not memory that will waste time and action.
Semper Paratus
Check 6