Will you take the leap!?
Someone asked me the other day how if I had to start all over again I would minimize the amount of time it took me to reach the grandmaster ranking in USPSA., so I decided that subject would make a great blog post! In post title, I refer to the term Grandmaster because a shooter can make Grandmaster by shooting a classification score in USPSA (the United States Practical Shooting Association) wherein IDPA (International Defensive Pistol Association) Distinguished Master is only attained by winning the Division Champion title or scoring within 3% of the Division Champion score at the IDPA U.S. Nationals, IDPA U.S. Indoor Nationals, or the IDPA World Championship. The bottom line is that this post is for competitive shooters wishing to maximize their skill in a minimal amount of time, but to be specific, I am going to help you reach USPSA Grandmaster or IDPA Master (and possibly Distinguished Master) in one year.
The first question we have to ask is how many total hours will take someone that starts from the average rank of C or D (or Marksman/Novice in IDPA) class to actually reach the Grandmaster level? The current theory (I have read this in several books) indicates that mastery may around 10,000 hours of dedicated practice to reach for most individuals. The studies tend to look at skillsets like mastering a musical instrument or playing a sport. If that were true, and a shooter practiced (both live and dry fire) 10 hours per week, then it would take 1000 weeks, or about 19 years to reach the level we have defined.
Now, increasing the number of hours per week we practice might shorten the amount of time needed; however, with shooting, there’s a point of diminishing return. It is when you get to the point where your fingers, hands, and wrist tendons can no longer recover from the training stress placed on them. Additionally, mentally (and probably visually) you’re going to hit a point of diminishing returns after any more than about ten hours per week in my experience. You simply can not focus on what you need to in practice to continue to learn past two or so hours of intense practice.
Personally, I believe that you can reach the Grandmaster level in less time in the shooting sports. I think that we need to define what we mean by “Mastery” and if it is similar to reaching “Grandmaster” in practical shooting. I think they are different. For example, “Mastery” to me means that there is very little room to improve, that you have peaked out. And reaching Grandmaster in our sport is certainly not “peaked” out. I was ranked a USPSA Grandmaster many years ago through classifications, and I assure you I was not “peaked out” and had much room to improve.
So for the purpose of this article, let’s agree that we are attempting to reach Grandmaster or Master (or potentially Distinguished Master) in a practical shooting sport in a year, NOT “Master” the skill itself. I still have not “Mastered” my sport, and have in fact been training hard for about 20 years now (so maybe there is something to the 10,000 hours). So we have our goal set.
So how long will it take us? How many hours? The truth is the answer is unique to every individual and it depends on their physical skills and abilities, as well as their ability to improve when exposed to training stimulus. That said, I believe that someone that goes through around five hours per week total training (and this excludes mental training) could spend around 8-12 months and be very, very close to reaching the Master/Grandmaster level. Of course, if you are starting as a higher level shooter (like A class), there is no doubt in my mind we can reach that goal.
My goal for you in this particular post is to take you from wherever you are to the Master/Grandmaster class level in approximately one year or less! Depending on how many I get to completely go for it, we will find out if this is possible or not.
Here are the rules of the program (rules mean that they must be followed!):
- You must receive training either one-on-one or in a group setting with a coach or experienced instructor so we can ensure you understand the technique and how to train BEFORE the beginning of your path. Once again, I am not saying you have to train with me, but just make sure that as you launch on your endeavor, you are training correctly. You simply will not reach your goal if you do not understand the fundamental shooting skills you will be working on.
- You must train a minimum of five actual hours each week every week, this does not include your travel time, set-up time, and gear prep time. This is a minimum of five hours actually going to the repetitions in the drills you will do. I want you to live-fire practice at least three times weekly, or more if your situation allows. I want five days of DRYFIRE each week, for a minimum of twenty minutes. This is where you will refine your manipulation skills to a very high level.
- You must follow a training program that specific in nature and utilize techniques in that program that are valid techniques and will work. You can not simply “wing it” in your practices. Of course, I suggest my book: Your Competition Handgun Training Program and you can download the eBook for free. If you want the videos, there are several options on my website.
- You must utilize mental training in each and every practice session you go through.
- You must attend and compete in at least an average of one match per month.
Bonuses that will make it easier:
- Commit to improving your physical fitness and grip strength in order to reach the level where you can move efficiently.
- Commit to visual speed (eye speed) training as required by your visual deficiencies.
- Purchase all of your gear needed to complete your program in advance, if possible.
Your action steps are as follows:
- Select your start date: ________________________________
- Select your end date: _________________________________
- Inventory, Inspect, Order your Gear. This program assumes you are already a shooter, and that you are already classified. If you are a complete beginner, I strongly recommend you begin by taking a training class, and shooting a few matches (with borrowed gear if you have nothing).
- Schedule your practice sessions. Literally, add them to your calendar and plan to live by the plan.
- Dry Fire (when and where)
- Live Fire (when and where)
- Build your training plan (what will you do in each practice session?). If you are not sure, just grab my eBook above, and print the program out. Look at all three phases, the drills, and modify them if you choose. Or simply follow what I have already designed…
- Find and schedule the matches you will shoot each month (to test your skill under match conditions).
- Begin your training program. Now the work begins.
Can it really be this simple? Yes, potentially. But it will NOT be easy. Not at all. You are committing to an entire year of work, 5 days a week. I have had students follow the program and win state and national titles.
The stuff that really matters. As I stated in this post, it came from an online question about what I would do differently knowing what I now know. Here are those things:
- I would find the three best shooters that I could afford to train with, and take a class with them or pay them for a private instructional before I did anything else. By the way…I did this but wished that I had done it sooner. Most of you might be able to find the best local shooter and accomplish this.
- I would pay attention to every single repetition I did in practice, attempting to experience every shot visually and physically (we shoot by sight and feel) and learn from them. I would love to have all of the ammunition wasted by just shooting holes in paperback so I could instead learn from each shot.
- I would “chunk” small portions of each of the skillsets needed to reach my goals, and practice smaller, yet more effective shooting “drills” that focus on one-two key elements I wanted to perfect. I would do countless repetitions of those “chunks” until I could repeat them on demand.
- I would relentlessly investigate the small “failures” of these chunks of skill in my match performances so I could address them in future practice sessions.
- I would completely focus on ONE division, whichever is my strength, and AVOID switching guns and doing anything that would distract me from the primary goal.
I am not sure how many of you will take the leap and go for it as required in this post, but I hope some do. More importantly, I hope to hear from you and get an update on your progress. Drop me a line here. Please click the share button below and send it to the internet! Maybe we will see a bunch of new GM/M’s in about a year!
Until Then – Train Hard!