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epiglottis to seal off any air movement in my lungs all in a matter of a few seconds. And that’s only my breath- ing and core element of my position. This level of control is one of the many athletic skills that makes us elite. I can boldly say that the level of mental control over our bodies is one of the most impressive out of all sports. This skill is one that takes you from being good to be- ing great.” The real malady in shoot- ing, however, comes


competing against oneself. 6KRRWHUV DUH QRW GHÀQHG by their strength, speed or stamina, but by the way in which they conquer the demons within their own minds. Often times, it is the biggest separator in a sport in which perfection is de- manded. Shooters are continu-

ally looking for that zen-like VWDWH WU\LQJ WR ÀQG WKH SHU- fect balance between tuned in and not tuned up.


The exact state they are

trying to reach in their mind and thought processes is desribed in the Zen of Ar- chery, a short book by Ger- man philosophy professor Eugen Herrigel. Here’s a passage that represents the goal for any shooter: “The right art,” cried the

Master, “is purposeless, aimless!” The more obsti- nately you try to learn how to shoot the arrow for the sake of hitting the goal, the less you will succeed in the one and the further the other will recede. What stands in your way is that you have a much too willful will. You think that what you do not do yourself does not happen.” “What must I do, then?”

I asked thoughtfully. “You must learn to wait properly.” “And how does one learn that?” “By letting go of your- self, leaving yourself and ev- erything yours behind you so decisively that nothing more is left of you but a purpose- less

tension.” “So I must USA Shooting News | May 2016

become purposeless on pur- pose?” I heard myself say. “No pupil has ever asked me that, so I don’t know the right answer.” “And when do we begin these new exercis- es? “ “Wait until it is time.” Ise Tadatake says, “Train-

ing the mind is the most vital thing. If the mind is agitated the spirit is agitated; if the spirit is agitated the heart- beat is agitated; and if the heartbeat is agitated the whole body is agitated, so the target will not be struck.” It is for this very reason that most elite athletes in the sport spend almost as much time with the psycho- logical as they do the physi- cal. Mastery of both fun- damentals and mind is the ultimate objective. As the Kyodo (Japanese

archery) teacher and author Kaminaga Masakichi Han- shi once claimed, “Perfect shooting is proof of a perfect mind.”

The art of Olympic-style shooting comes in the in-

tricate fundamentals, the beauty of the equipment, the harmonious balance of the mind all within the atmo- sphere of solitude present at the range. Master all of that and you’ve executed one shot. But they don’t hand out gold medals for one shot and thus it’s trying to repli- cate perfection that makes this sport so damn hard. Or as a popular Zen saying goes: “Thousands of repeti- tions and out of one’s true self perfection emerges.” “I know that at least most


to being labelled

perfectionists,” concludes Beard. “The amount of time it takes to develop an insane attention to detail from so many different approaches is what distinguishes elite precision shooters from the rest.”

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