Quote of the day—Brian Enos

Awareness in shooting comes from observation without thought. Awareness leads to action without thought. Awareness exists only in the present tense, along with shooting. Although awareness happens actively, it’s perceived passively.

Brian Enos

Practical Shooting: Beyond Fundamentals Page 16.
[I know what Enos is saying. I sometimes experience this when shooting and am trying to get into “the zone” consistently. I think this is the major obstacle to my further improvement at this time.

I’m not certain this is the best way to say what Enos means.

I went looking for Yoda quotes to supplement Enos but I couldn’t find one that was a good match.

A year or so ago I read Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience to try and find out more about getting into this state of mind and body. It wasn’t as rewarding as I had hoped it would be.

Several decades ago, when I played a lot of tennis, I read The Inner Game of Tennis. This was when I first started understanding this state. I’m beginning to wonder if I should read it again and apply it to shooting.—Joe]


16 thoughts on “Quote of the day—Brian Enos

  1. I understand the idea he’s working on but the “without thought” is awkward wording because it can be taken to mean “unthinkingly”. I wonder if there is a clearer way of putting it. The idea is the rapid response of the well-trained person, able to react without the need to solve the situation as if it were a new problem.
    Driving a car, or making a skydive, are other examples of this, as soon as you get past the student novice stage. Or looking at it in the other direction, you’re no longer a student once you can do X without having to apply 100% of your intellectual ability to the process.
    (Hm, I wonder what that says about the climber in “Free Solo”. 🙂 )

  2. Try this one.

    With Winning in Mind 3rd. Ed. Paperback – September 3, 2012
    by Lanny Bassham (Author)

    Bassham is an Olympic and World champion shooter. I saw Julie Golab recommended it. It did help with some of the focus issues I had trap shooting

  3. “Too many ‘minds'” from The Last Samurai

    It’s No Mind
    Enos is trying to describe the concept of -in Japanese- Mushin No Shin.
    Either he’s unaware of the term, or he doesn’t want to inject the religious aspect of Zen Buddhism into the mix.

    He probably also uses the technique of ‘visualization’.

    These were coming into the training syllabus several decades ago within the military (or at least the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit and from there into the Special Operations Forces)

    The idea is to stop ‘thinking’ about what to do and let the properly trained brain control the properly conditioned and trained body, just like pkoning mentioning driving a car.
    No one really ‘thinks’ about the process of driving. It’s trained actions and reactions.

  4. “Auto Pilot” or “Muscle Memory” are terms I’ve heard used for this. The book On Combat by Dave Grossman discusses it extensively.

  5. Maybe you can find something on the issue by Fred Bear relating to archery? He was into instinctual shooting, if I recall correctly. The sights didn’t mean much to him. He would shoot birds out of the air with a recurve bow.

    Of course, they say that Ted Williams couldn’t teach you to hit – it was so easy for him because of his talent/ability/eyesight or whatever.

    • I just finished one book one shooting. I just started Enos’s book. I have two more on the shelf and one on the way from Amazon. I think I’ll finish those before I order any more.


    • Somewhat off topic: I recently read an article about an NBA player whose eyesight was seriously off and didn’t realize it. He recently got contacts which improved his game, but he was professional level even with his uncorrected sight. (See also the book “A sense of where you are”.)
      Professional baseball players, on the other hand, reportedly have on average 20/13 vision.

  6. Slow is smooth. Smooth is fast.

    If “smooth” is about the best you can train to do, you are doing pretty good.

  7. From the Book of Five Rings
    Miyamoto Musashi

    No Design, No Conception
    [Munen musou, when word and actions are spontaneously the same, is the ultimate state of consciousness in Buddhism. Musou is equivalent to the Sanskrit animitta]

    In this method, when the enemy attacks and you also decide to attack, your body and mind turn into a single striking movement and your hands strike out of the Void naturally, swiftly and strongly. This is the “No Design, No Conception” cut.

    This is the most important method of hitting. It is often used. You must train hard to understand it.

  8. Lots of good responses here already, but I’ll wax poetic on it anyway, being as it’s a fun topic and all.

    Input leading directly to action, without conscious processing.

    Like spontaneously catching something someone spontaneously throws to you. It just happens. Having learned it already, there’s no need for further problem solving or any thought.

    The first time I nexperienced it was in football practice ion high school. At the snap of the ball, everyone went into super slow motion. I stood there, for some time, wondering why no one else was going after the ball carrier. Finally I decided that, although I wasn’t in the best position to tackle him, I’d do it anyway. The next thing I remembered was that I was getting up from the pile, with the coach whooping and hollering in approval, and I wondered what he was talking about. “What’d I do? All I did was go after that guy, who was practically standing still along with everyone else. I saw that no one was acting, I looked around for the proper actors, those closer to the ball carrier, to act, they didn’t, I then questioned them with eye-to-eye glances as if to ask them, ‘What are you waiting for, Man?’ and they still did not act, so I did. It was nothing.” It felt very uncomfortable for the coach to be so excited about nothing, he believing, wrongly, that I’d done some great thing.

    I’ve had that happen a few times in hunting deer, and referred to it then as “circumstances dictating action”. All the decisions and responses have been determined in advance, by practice, so when a target is presented, you’re “locked on”, or “locked in”, and the response, and its outcome, is at that point a total inevitability. Inexorable. A foregone conclusion.

    Experienced musicians and dancers, lecturers, etc., can all experience the same thing at some level, but it is possible in any endeavor. I’ve also experienced it in mechanical problem solving and mechanical fabrication, wherein all doubts and other worldly cares have been temporarily suspended. Observation leading directly to action, because the right solution is already there, waiting. that’s what you’ve been working toward with all that practice, and so, at some point you “get out of the way” and merely allow it to happen.

    Some people just call it “focus” but too often that word implies a strenuous application of will, which it certainly is not. The “will” has been applied by deciding to learn the trade, and then getting out there into the field, or onto the stage, etc., at which point the will is put aside in favor of observation and action (it’s all input, thus allowing circumstances to control action directly).

    Thought is for the purpose of generating output, but once there is no further need for thinking, thinking becomes a hindrance to the action.

    It might be termed “a total lack of self-awareness” (because at the moment you’re only aware of the situation in front of you, to be directly addressed), but “lack of self-awareness” tends to have other connotations besides, and so we must not conflate the other meanings.

    It’s also been described as being an observer rather than an actor. You watch yourself perform the task, as though watching from a comfortable position while “someone else” does it. (I’ve heard another person say how he experienced that and it really freaked him out, he got scared, and he quit being a musician because of it) .

    Again, there are no decisions to be made because they’ve all been made beforehand (even malf clearing, etc.). You already know what to do, so any further thought just gets in the way. There are no thoughts left to be had because they’ve already all been thought, re-thought, and decided.

    I woke up this morning in a similar state; observing the chirp of the birds, smelling the June morning air through the open window, seeing the early sunlight through the blinds, breathing, etc., thinking nothing whatsoever, at all, only observing. It was wonderful! For several seconds anyway. Then I “put on the cloak of worldly cares”, like getting dressed, remembering, piece by piece who, what and where I was, and what I “should do” and everything changed to my habitual state of stoicism. The process was palpable. It actually hurt in a way, but the remembrance during the day, of that perfect moment of pure observation, has been nice.

    Some people will think of all of this as “dangerous”, for who would want to “turn off their brain”, especially when wielding a gun? Who would actually want to stop thinking? But they’d have this all wrong in believing any such. It’s not that you’re turning off your brain and becoming a zombie or some dumb thing. It’s that you’re allowing your brain, your mind and body together, to work with peak efficiency by turning off the interference once the conscience, well-thought out decisions have been previously made.

  9. I think that what Keith Code wrote about in “The Soft Science of Road Racing Motorcycles” might apply to this subject. IIRC, that was his second book on learning how to effectively handle a bike in competition.

    He is very good at figuring out how to accomplish the difficult art of going fast, and explaining how to think about the subject. Approaching it from the thinking side was a dramatic change from others in the business of racing and teaching racing.

    Reading his books, and taking the basic class was an eye-opening experience. I had already been racing for several years prior to this, basically self-taught.

  10. Practice, practice, practice. Then pray its your day. some days your just in the “zone”. some days you can’t hit, your just “off”. So, “lots-o-luck”, Joe. Enjoy the competition. that way you never lose.
    I feel that’s one of the things wrong with this country, is we don’t appreciate the fight like we use to.

    • I disagree. One should be able to get “in the zone” at will. One needs to practice while being “in the zone”.

      You should always be able to “hit” whether “in the zone” or not. The difficulty is being able to do that at speed with no conscious thought given as you change between targets, positions, and magazines.

  11. Poor choice of words on my part. I used the word “:zone” for lack of a better one.
    I think what I’m trying to say is your “zone” is different from someone else’s “zone”. It’s not all just mechanics. It’s not all mental. Even if all those things are in there to make you a competitor. And the only way for me to make up for my lack of vocabulary is to say; “Lot-O-Luck”, Joe. Kick some ass!

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