23 May 2014

Mille Viae

I recently spent several days with Kathy Jackson while she was in town to teach a few classes. While Kathy is a defensive shooting instructor and scholar and I have been focusing my time and mental energy on almost purely competitive shooting, we still find plenty of common ground. My heart is in shooting on a timer, but keeping my hand in with other shooting disciplines exposes me to broader thinking about what works and doesn't work behind the trigger. That's why I'll occasionally spend time on the line with concealed carry classes, show up at CMP-style matches and Project Appleseed, and even pick up a bow and arrow.

As an instructor, I've always known that it's helpful to be able to articulate and demonstrate different methods of accomplishing the same end even if I had a preference on which way was "best". If nothing else, knowing all of the other methods and their rationales help me to be able to tell someone why my way was a good way, without falling prey to one of a multitude of logical fallacies. As a student, it's as or more important to understand the many paths to the same goal of making accurate hits on target at speed. But I don't just blindly toss tools into my toolbox by indiscriminately adopting every new technique to cross my path, I don't rely on self-experimentation with all of those different techniques presented to me over time to try to puzzle out which one works "best", and I don't simply latch on to one or two techniques because some guy told me it was a good idea.

Instead, I insist on learning the "why" of each technique so that I can reject completely unsuitable techniques out of hand because they don't have reasonable underlying logic and theory, as well as evaluate the more plausible techniques more objectively and completely. This strategy lets me fill my toolbox with new, usable tools with uses I can specifically articulate and contextualize into the exact shooting problem I am trying to solve. In other words, I don't try to figure out the "best" way of doing anything, or try to arrive at the "best" overall technique for me. I find my favorite hammer that does 80% of what I need, then I keep some screwdrivers and wrenches my back pocket for the edge cases, and I'm able to pick the right tool quickly because I've already thought through when and why each one would make the most sense.

For instance, one of the major differences between what Kathy teaches and what I do and teach revolves around grip. Kathy defaults to a "thumbs locked down" grip; I'm very much a "thumbs forward" kind of woman. Unsurprisingly, it's been a topic of much discussion when we've gotten together. While I still strongly believe in "thumbs forward" for my own shooting, I've softened my views towards "thumbs locked down" now that I see its uses for shooting revolvers, for fitting hands to too-small guns (and occasionally too-large guns), for firearms retention, and other reasons. In fact, my husband's been shooting "thumbs locked down" for the last year or so, as he's been rocking a Chiappa Rhino, which can cause injuries with "thumbs forward" grips. Avoiding burns seems like a good reason to pick a new tool out of the toolbox! And while I still have a lot of trouble getting into a "thumbs locked down" grip because of the immense time I've put into "thumbs forward", you can now find me occasionally using a curled thumb for strong hand shooting with otherwise more difficult-to-control pistols. Plus it was the perfect grip to show one of my students with teeny hands who was having trouble hanging on to any handgun we tried. Is it the best overall tool for me? Nope. Not at all. But it is handy to have around? Yup. Absolutely.

Mille viae ducunt homines per saecula Romam. A thousand roads lead men forever to Rome. One way might be better for you today, but having a map for many ways means it will be a lot harder for you to get lost. And a full toolbox is a lot more beautiful than a lonely hammer rattling around a big, empty box...as long as you keep the manuals around so that you know how to best use every tool you have available.