Shooters learn Bullseye much the same way they do any other sport. They study, they experiment, they practice, they talk to others, they get coaching directly and indirectly. They commit things first to memory and then to body actions and, if everything goes well, they become as proficient at the sport as their abilities permit.
But it is also true that Bullseye is significantly less physical than some sports. In Bullseye, for example, there is no running. On the contrary, Bullseye shooters stand for relatively long periods of time nearly motionless. And when they do move, it is what appears to be a leisurely stroll down to the targets and back. But this is not because Bullseye shooters are lazy or laid-back. On the contrary, that leisurely pace is very intentional. Bullseye shooters do not want to elevate their heart rates. The sport requires it. When firing a string, Bullseye shooters want as motionless a stance as possible to minimize their wobble and, in turn, improve their accuracy on the target. Walking fast raises the heart rate, increases the wobble, and worsens the shots. No, Bullseye shooters walk slow for a reason. They take it easy for their next shot.
But, Bullseye is very much like other sports in one key way.
Consider a world champion tennis player. They are certainly very physical running left, right, forward and back, stretching and stooping for each shot. But consider also that player’s mental state while playing. Specifically, for a world-class player, how much self-talk are they doing once a volley begins?
Beginners do a lot of self-talk.
“Do this, do that, grip the gun tightly, focus on the front sight,” are among the common self-talk statements that beginners use to train themselves in Bullseye.
And no doubt beginning tennis players do the same. “Spot the place where I want the ball to go, loft the ball high and stretch up for the serve, now execute a smoothly increasing swing,” they might tell themselves.
But for the world-class tennis player, all of that is automatic. They’ve trained and practiced and everything they do has become completely unconscious. Indeed, it probably feels instinctive and the conscious mind simply watches as the ball is served and the volley played out.
In this, Bullseye is the same.
Indeed, many experts would probably agree that, as a given player’s skill rises, all sports become mental games.
“Attitude is everything,” some say.
“Visualize what you want,” others recommend.
“Focus on the goal.”
As the champion tennis player launches the ball up in the air to be served, his or her thinking has stopped. There is silence in the head. The body is on automatic. The eye sees; the body moves. It is a fully integrated machine.
The brain is only permitted to watch, not to act.
Think of sitting on the sofa and watching TV. The brain watches, it is entertained, but it does not participate.
Mindless entertainment, we call it.
At the upper skill levels, all sports have this in common.
In Bullseye, after the basics are learned, after shooters learn how to hold the gun, set their natural point of aim and move the trigger straight back to release the shot, an active, talkative, “do this, do that” brain is a hindrance. It messes up the shot.
The brain must be silenced.
“Please be quiet now. I’m going to shoot. Just watch. You’re going to like this. This is going to be good.”
It’s OK for the brain to watch. In fact, it’s good for the brain to watch. It likes to relax and be entertained. The brain enjoys the action and when the string ends, then it can become active and talk to the other shooters, score targets, notice that the body is thirsty and direct it to get a drink of water.
Bullseye must be intensely entertaining to the mind or we wouldn’t keep shooting for all the years it takes to become expert at this sport.
Think of anything non-essential that you have, nonetheless, voluntarily done for years. Why do you do it? Because you enjoy it. It is amusing. It is entertaining. It has to be or you would have abandoned it long ago.
In Bullseye, the brain’s recognition of improvement feels great. It likes it. And recognizing what caused some bad shots during a string can be amusing. I’ve had a lot of shots that made me laugh. I don’t particularly like them, but I do enjoy them when they happen.
And the brain talking with the other shooters is a vital part of the sport. We are, after all, social creatures. We find it enjoyable to talk with the other shooters when we’re not in the middle of a string, and I’m quite certain they do to.
But, when it comes time for the next string, the mind must again become quiet. It must not speak. It must not be active.
As with TV, the commercial is over and the program is starting again.
So, dim the lights and unmute the sound. Turn off the brain and watch the show.
Shooters to the line!
During a string, Bullseye must become mindless entertainment.
Maybe we should change the cadence:
- Shooters to the line.
- Brains, switch to silent mode. No talking inside or outside of the head.
- Bodies, this will be your first string of Rapid Fire.
- With five rounds, load.
- Brains, be silent on the line.
- Are the brains silent?
- The brains are silent.
- No thinking on the right.
- No thinking on the left.
- The line is not thinking.
- [Targets face, the string is fired, targets edge.]
- Make the line safe.
- Make the line noisy.
- Brains wake up, open mouths, start talking inside and outside of your heads.
- Is the line noisy?
- The line is noisy.
- Go down, talk as you walk, score your targets, make noise, visit with your neighbors, cover up that mess and stroll back talking all the way. Enjoy!
Bullseye done well is mindless entertainment.
Silence on the line!