'The true Soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because He loves what is behind him.' -G. K. Chesterton

14 May 2014

The Zen Of Competition. The Mind And Body Are One.

The other day I got asked why in the heck I chose to take up competition shooting in my mid 50's instead of taking my retirement easy. It's a fair question though I despise the thought processes behind it.

I'm smack in the middle of a total house remodel. I have 2 grandkids I adore and don't see near enough of. After a lifetime spent beating on my body the aches and pains have really caught up with me. I'm slower, weaker and don't recover as quick as I did even 5 or 10 years ago. I have a motorcycle I don't ride near enough. I have stuff I could be doing. Why USPSA and 3 Gun? Why now?

First off, at heart I am a planner and preparer. I tend toward the long view on most things, including aging. I consider the mind and body to be synonymous. Neglect one and you neglect both. I'm convinced that the only reason I'm still in decent physical and mental condition is because I started preparing for this stage of my life when I  was a young man and figured this day might well be coming (predictions from the skeptical notwithstanding). Education, reading, complex mind games, general physical activity and the gym. And don't forget a good dog. There's nothing like having your faithful mutt sit at your feet with that pitiful "please play with me" look on his face to get you up on your feet and moving about. That mindset hasn't (yet) left me. At nearly 55 I do see true old age rapidly approaching. There will be a time when I may no longer be capable of this level of activity no matter how hard I try (though in my heart I reject that. I plan on kicking ass right up until the very end). As long as I can I owe it to myself and my loving family to do all in my power to stave off the ravages of time. 

Second, I'm a shooter. Have been for a long time. But those are perishable skills and, as age creeps in, can be lost quicker than any of us might imagine.

For me new challenges are literally the staff of life. I must constantly push myself beyond both my comfort level and what I consider physically attainable to keep my mind and body firing on all cylinders. I may be packing a carbureted V-6 as opposed to a blown V-8 these days but keeping that little motor purring is a matter of will as much as anything else. Let me say that again. 'Mind over matter, if you don't mind it don't matter' isn't just a trite colloquialism, it's my motto. Along with 'If it ain't raining we ain't training'.  I'm such a simple guy.

So I compete. I challenge my mind to learn new skills and my body to master them. Do they transfer directly to things like self defense? Not completely but enough so that I'm also contributing to my SHTF tool box enough to make a difference when IF becomes REALITY. What they really affect is physical and mental health. Listen, age is largely a matter of choice and choices. Admittedly only to a certain degree but the more we do to positively influence that health the greater that degree becomes. I am absolutely convinced of this. Disease, extreme old age and accidents all take their tolls and win in the end but we have much more control over our aging process than we think.

Competition is way beyond the physical as I re-discovered recently when I took that 3 day, 1500 round pistol course from Ron Avery. Competition, and shooting in general, is as much mental as anything. All physical skills are first implanted in the mind which then teaches the rest of the body what you want it to do and how to get there. If the mind isn't kept as sharp as possible the acquisition of new physical skills becomes impossible. You can get even a broken down body to do things you might consider unattainable if your brain tells it to do so and doesn't take no for an answer.

The key isn't just training but smart training. Doing the same old stuff in the same old way over and over again leads to stagnation and entropy. Those things are a sure death sentence. Brigid told me that her father still challenges himself both mentally and physically each and every day and he's well into his 90s after a life at least as hard as mine (certainly harder). That gives me hope and renews my determination to go out kicking and clawing and screaming bloody murder. I love my couch and my TV but I refuse to allow them to become the vessel for my dissolution and early demise. Moderation.

USPSA was one thing but when I discovered 3 Gun the mental part of that V-6 got revved to it's limiter and my physical limits were pushed a little further back. Can't teach an old dog new tricks is pure, unadulterated BS. MUST teach an old dog new tricks is much closer to the truth and is something we need to keep in the forefront of our minds as we get further into middle and senior ages. Acquiring new skills and learning new things should end only after we've taken our last breath.

It can be anything. Going back to school, learning a new trade, taking up new hobbies, puzzles, athletic competitions, etc. With my background I simply chose competition shooting. It was logical. The mental challenges are complex and engrossing. The physical skill sets difficult and satisfying to acquire. I'm being pushed by other, younger shooters and in turn pushing myself to keep up with the pack. Yeah, there's certainly a little vanity involved. I'm trying to prove myself to both them and me but there's absolutely nothing wrong with that. Competition in the arena ultimately make us stronger and saner no matter the motivation. Besides, trying to run with the big dogs is what makes big dogs in the first place. Why do we keep forgetting that? No law exists that says what age the big dogs have to be either. The limitations set by your own mind. There's also little to compare with kicking the tail off someone much younger than yourself. Heh. A little ego and arrogance (in measured portions) used to be considered good things for anyone who desired to excel. They still are in my humble opinion.

Fear is our great limiter. Fear of failure and looking stupid amongst your peers among the worst for those looking at taking up new things. I think the most debilitating of all is that voice in the back of your head that constantly whispers at you to submit, give up. You're not good enough. You can't do this. Don't even try. Go lie down and wait to die. It's that voice you must slay. Without mercy, without compunction, without hesitation. Especially as the physical infirmities begin to set in. Kill it. Kill it with fire and chain it's ashen corpse to the pillar of your will, there to be the symbol of your mastery over yourself and in defiance of the forces of doubt and ignominious death.

Because I want to. Because I can. No other answer is required.

Now go kick someone's butt at something. Alive is alive. Act like it.
I'll see you all at the range!


Rev. Paul said...

There's very little in the way competitive shooting up here, as far as I know - but that's not an excuse to slack off. I'll be attending an Appleseed shoot at the end of June, just because.

Now I need to get to the range, too.

Brighid said...

Well said, Six.
Outlook and a lot of determination are pushing this wild blue eyed 67 yr old cowgirl, YeeHaw!

Monkeywrangler said...

If you ever make it to DFW, Six, we will take you out to the range for sure! And a bicycle ride or two.

Oh, I meant to ask you, why you left the barrel so long on the shotgun? I know you have the +6 extension on the mag tube, but the barrel looks on the long side, like you were going duck hunting, not 3-gunning. Wouldn't a shorter barrel be more maneuverable for you?

Six said...

Appleseed is the bomb Rev. It's one of those things I really want to get involved with. Go shoot 'em up my friend!

Thanks Brighid. You are an inspiration!!

I will get down there and take you up on that MW. You guys have some great 3 Gun matches! I'll bring my bike :)

The barrel on the Stoeger is a 28". Right now the only other option is a 26". I'm holding out for the aftermarket to catch up and offer either a 22 or a 24 (I'd prefer a 24). If that doesn't happen I'll probably go ahead and stick a 26 on it. That said the 28 does have an advantage. In that last 3 Gun match I noticed that a lot of the short barrels were having real issues knocking down the very small steel targets while my 28 was powdering them. Same with the flying clays. The longer sight radius plus the added velocity 6 extra inches of barrel added seemed to make a real difference. I don't know but I'm considering all the ramifications.

Old NFO said...

Well said, and damn good idea...