Awareness Notes: Training for Blindness

In our quest to better ourselves and hone our necessary skills for staying alive in our field, we should be training often and hard. From time to time, in our efforts to train hard and often, we fall into shortcuts. It may be laziness, or simply zeal for returning to a more fun part of the training, but whatever the cause these shortcuts turn into shortcomings very quickly. When we shortcut part of our training we deny ourselves that experience, and any lessons that may come from it. Further, we deny ourselves one more repetition of doing it right, in favor of doing it easier/faster. When the time comes to draw against those regular deposits of training, you will find yourself doing exactly what you trained to do. Where you safely took shortcuts in training, you will find yourself punished in the fight. Shortcuts in training create gaps, rather than narrowing them, and leave us extremely vulnerable.
In seeking to improve our situational awareness, our training practices lay the foundation; But what if our practices are instilling poor awareness rather than cultivating it?
Beware of points in training where you act-out paying attention/using awareness, by mimicking the appropriate motions or stating the action, but do not actually engage in seeing and attending to things in the environment. If you look, you can find these points in training for almost any skill. Once found, you should replace the mimicry with actually seeing and attending.
One example is the common practice of doing a 180 to 360 degree visual scan, after shooting. This is common practice, and you can find numerous instructors teaching students to always perform a visual scan after finishing a shooting task. The idea is quite sound; Maintain awareness, break threat-focused tunnel vision and search the environment for other threats after having addressed the primary one. In practice however, something is often lost. Three things work against the student here; On the class firing line, or even solo at the range, most folks are there primarily to shoot and practice shooting; They are already engaging in other repetitive, good habit, behaviors to build muscle memory; They “know” they’re in a safe place and only expect to see fellow students on either side of them. The end result is that rather than actually performing a visual scan, many students simply perform a motor task of turning their head side to side after shooting. You will see shooters run their drill, bring the muzzle down and then whip their head first left, then right, and then stare back down rage, spending usually less than a second “looking” to either side. Most of these individuals are not seeing, they’re just turning their heads.
Slow down, complete your shooting task, assess your shots, then perform your visual scan and actually see something. Take note of things on either side and to the rear of you, and make a habit of doing this. Remember that you will not rise to the occasion, but rather default to your level of training, and train yourself to actually see, not just mimic seeing.

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