Everyone has heard the saying “slow is smooth, smooth is fast”. Often from long-time but mediocre shooters. These shooters overemphasize the execution of a movement, creating a world of stagnation and unrealistic expectations of firearm use.
In reality, situations in which the firearm is used are far from allowing a slow, smooth, and always perfect execution of a movement. Rather, they require the highest possible speed of execution combined with sufficient precision. In this article, I will explain the concept of the three modes of training and describe how I use them in my training to build these well balanced shooting skills.
The Basic idea
The concept of the three modes of training is based on the realization that a strong suprathreshold stimulus must be applied to achieve an adaptation of the psychomotor abilities of a shooter. Furthermore, a fundamental insight is the fact that humans have only a limited processing capacity at their disposal.
They can concentrate only very limited on several things at the same time. To use this limited processing capacity in the best way possible, the concept of the three training modes (which does not apply to the early learning phase of a movement) aims to improve a shooting technique in either speed (in the push mode), precision (in the precision mode), or consistency (in the balance mode).
For the followers of “slow is smooth” the biggest hurdle to good performance is their overemphasis on execution quality. In their mind, a technically imperfect execution is per se a bad thing, and a miss is unacceptable. However, the concept of the push mode is to emphasize the execution speed and to shift our capabilities to the right. This means that the time aspect is more important than the precision of the shot and the movement. In push mode, errors in the execution are not desired but accepted to increase the limit of the speed of execution.
We constantly work at the edge of our capabilities for the chosen technique and regularly push over it. This leads to missed shots or imperfect technical execution. The limit in this mode is drawn at the observability of our actions. If we push and miss but have a plausible explanation for why this happens, we can adjust and set a stimulus. However, if we work so fast that we lose all control over our actions and have no chance of executing the used technique, we have left the zone. For a beginner, this regularly means that his/her movements seem slow from the outside but are on the edge of their individual perception, even in the push mode.
Precision mode plays an essential role in the training modes’ triad, but it always plays a subordinate role in the time spent. In precision mode, we usually work without any time limit. If a time limit is used, it should always be chosen in such a way that the shooter has enough time to perform everything perfectly. The main focus is the quality of movement and the precision of the shot. An example of an exercise in the precision mode is shooting a group of shots as tight as possible without a time limit. Here the shooter can focus on his sight picture or trigger pull and improve them in movement quality.
The Balance Mode is a part of the triad often ignored or over-represented in training. Here you try to achieve the perfect mixture of movement speed and quality. It is a good idea to conclude training sessions in balance mode or to conduct entire training sessions in this mode before important events such as combat operations or competitions. In balance mode, we work on the perfect balance of speed and precision. Misses are just as unacceptable as unnecessary bumbling. Here we find out and consolidate our current repeatable performance level.
Our ability to become faster and more precise simultaneously is very limited. The three modes of training are a guide to help you become aware of what you want to work on in your training and focus your limited attention. They alternate both within a training session and between training sessions. Once you have accepted that not everything can be trained at the same time and that imperfections are acceptable in training, new horizons open up.