Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Modeling, Observation and Mental Practice

Human beings learn through observation.

When I was a lad, I got hold of the book Combat Judo by Bernard Cosneck. I wanted to be able to defend myself against the bullies who tormented me. 

Most of the techniques in the book made no connection with me, but I found a couple that clicked. I studied the pictures of the rear naked strangle intently and said to myself, "I could do that." 

And, when the opportunity arose, lo and behold, I found that I could do that. My experience illustrates the effectiveness of something I've written about before: mental practice.

An email I received a few days ago from David Morris (Survive in Place and Urban Survival Guide) reminded me of the truth that mental practice can serve you well, even when you cannot practice physically. Here's a quote from that email:

When you watch someone do an activity with the intent to do it yourself, your brain will fire the same neurons that you'll fire as if you were actually doing it yourself!

Put another way, if you watch a firearms instructor perform a drill and you watch them perform it with the intent of immediately doing the same drill and copying their form, you'll actually be developing muscle memory both while you watch and when you do it yourself.

The more you watch perfect technique and copy it, the deeper, stronger, and more ingrained the neural pathways/muscle memory will become.

This can be good, if you're modeling perfect technique, or it can be very bad, if you're modeling Sabrina from "Charlie's Angels", The Lone Ranger, or other TV/Movie representations of gun handling.

If you're just watching passively, like you do with most firearms training videos, or if there's no opportunity to immediately practice the same drill that you're watching the instructor do, you don't get this benefit.  You just get head knowledge.

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