Eye exercises to improve your shooting: Part II

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Lee’s note: Here’s a the second column on how to improve your eyes from Peter Burlingame, AKA VIGunfighter,  president of the Self Defense Initiative on St. Thomas. Peter’s  work is highly recommended.

You can access his You Tube Channel here.

See what you’ve been missing: Part II

by Peter Burlingame

Saccades.

You are blind for close to an hour a day and you are totally unaware of it. Magicians and clever ne’er-do-wells exploit it for fun and profit. (Three Card Monte, or the Pea under the shell trick is an example) eyes peasMany a car accident is a result of this blindness.

Despite there being thirty different parts of the brain tasked with processing the information provided by your eyes, your brain can barely keep up. Ever watch a video online and it stops playing while the computer buffers the information until it can catch up and continue playing? Your brain has the same trouble.

And one of the times it has the most trouble is during saccades. Saccades are one of three types of eye movements. In the previous segment we talked about ‘vergence’ where the eyes move in and out, like when you are cross eyed. Saccades are rapid linear movements. Small ones are used in reading. Larger ones are like when you gaze around a room from one item to another. REM (Rapid Eye Movement) during dreaming are also saccades.

Want proof? Look in the mirror, look from one eye to the other and try to see your eyes moving. Yup. So why is it important, and what are these drills you are talking about, Peter?

It’s important that you know the limitations of your visual system so eyes mirroryou can take it into consideration and make accomidations to it. When you are driving, move your eyes slowly and/or pause when looking to do a lane change, or checking to see if you can pull out onto the road.

In the context of gunfighting, trainers (good ones, anyway) encourage their student to ‘scan’ for other threats after engaging their target. Makes good sense, considering that statistically there’s a better than even chance there will be a second or third attacker. But if you look to quickly, you might miss them. Knowing about saccade blindness, you will slow down your scan to give your brain a chance to keep up with the signals the eyes are sending it.

You can also improve your eye muscles in their ability to move your eyes smoothly and accurately during saccades. Often, you either over or under shoot while performing a saccade and then have to correct the error with another movement. That’s slow and inefficient.

One very good exercise for working the ocular muscles that control saccades is demonstrated in the video below. It’s a simple drill, with a bit of ‘loading’ in the middle, raising the difficulty, and is much easier to explain via video than writing it out, so give it a watch.

To do the exercise you need a piece of paper or cardboard, typical 8.5”x11” is a good size. Hold it in ‘landscape’ mode and write letters or numbers, vertically, along the left and right edges. A half to three quarters of an inch in size is good, or a font size of 60-70 if you are using a computer word processor to make it. The paper should be stiff, so use card stock or glue or tape your paper to a cardboard backer.

The other thing you need is a timer, something with a start and stop signal. A count down timer on your smart phone, or the ‘par’ function on your shot timer will both work. A simpler but still effective way to practice is to substitute your fingers for the piece of paper. Either stick up two fingers one on each hand, or all ten, splayed out, palms out, hands turned so the fingers are pointing at each other. Then, instead of moving from letter to letter, move from finger nail to finger nail. eyes test

As a starting point I recommend fifteen or twenty seconds. You can increase the time of each ‘set’ as your muscles get stronger. It’s easier and more fun to do it with a partner, but you can do it solo also. Keep it in you car and you can do a couple of sets while waiting in traffic for the light the change. Stash one in the library and do some more sets while on the throne. Beats reading the label on your wife’s shampoo bottles. (Or your husband’s ‘Just For Men’ container) The three sets can be done in about a minute. The number of saccades you perform is a measurement of you performance. Keep track of it and track the improvement in your ability.

Do the three sets of the exercise a couple, three times a day. In a week’s time you’ll notice a solid improvement in your hand eye coordintion. It’ll give you a winning edge whether it’s in that IDPA regional match, or fighting the miscreant that’s coming to realize that he made a serious error in the victim selection process.


Let me know what you think. I’m always interested in comments and questions, and would love to hear how this works for you.

Disciplina Remumenor Fidelis!*

Peter Burlingame

www.youtube.com/vigunfighter (please subscribe!)

*Training/Practice Rewards the Faithful

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About Author

Lee Williams can’t remember a time in his life when he wasn’t shooting. Before becoming a journalist, Lee served in the Army and worked as a police officer. He’s earned more than a dozen journalism awards as a reporter, and three medals of valor as a cop. He is an NRA-certified law enforcement firearms instructor, an avid tactical shooter and a training junkie. When he’s not busy as a senior investigative reporter, he is usually shooting his AKs, XDs and CZs. If you don’t run into him at a local gun range, you can reach him at 941.284.8553, by email, or by regular mail to 1777 Main St., Sarasota, FL 34236. You can follow him on Twitter: @HT_GunWriter and on Facebook @The Gun Writer.

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