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Home > Columns > Paul Schweer > January, 2005 - Ignoring the Objective

Ignoring the Objective by Paul Schweer

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In 1993 I was a brand new Lance Corporal sent to Camp Lejeune for the Marine Corps Eastern Division shooting matches. There I met Sergeant Zins, a pistol shooter. (Zins is still around. I see his name, see his picture sometimes, in the reports from Camp Perry. He is a six-time National Pistol Champion.) Zins told me something that didn't make sense. He said, "With the pistol, there is no sight picture." He said to instead see sight alignment; to, in fact, ignore the target. I admit to wondering how that could work, but I believed him. And I did my best to do what he said.

I did a lot better at Eastern Division, and the Marine Corps Match that followed, than I had any right to hope for. I've thought a lot since then how this could have happened. What I think happened is this:

1) Define the objective.
2) Learn the method.
3) Fully invest in the method's execution. (This requires ignoring the objective.)

This is nowhere near easy as it sounds. It requires faith, focus, mental flexibility -- a test of character. Am I willing to act on what I believe? And nobody knows if I'm really doing it (It all happens inside my head.) except me. I must be honest with myself. Am I doing it? Do I even want to try?

It doesn't get easier as you get better.

Nice thing about shooting is the clear objective, leaving nothing more than the methods in doubt. Nothing more than an infinite number of tricks to try, principles to consider. A matter of faith when beginning, since I have no concept of how a method might relate to the objective. It's likely, in fact, to be counterintuitive. So I gotta do it, without understanding it.

But after a while I begin to understand just how ignoring the target helps -- let it float, let it jump, let it dance... WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING AT? LOOK AT THE SIGHTS! -- why shooting sight alignment really does work. Then I have a new problem, understanding isn't doing. I still gotta do it.

I assume that after a while one gains insight, and begins to develop or recognize methods -- what might help produce the objective? -- but I wouldn't expect any method to work without full investment, regardless of insight.

And yes, when it comes to my aikido training, I use the approach: "Define the objective; learn the method; fully invest in the method's execution." What makes aikido training so difficult for many to pursue in a coherent manner (if I can offer an inexpert and unsolicited opinion) is not only an unwillingness to invest in the methods without regard for outcome, but a constant questioning -- endless debate, renegotiation -- of their training's objective.

Even worse, certainly more hopeless, are those who fail to consider the objective. What might they hope to achieve? How might they recognize achievement if they cannot, won't even try to, define it?


This column was originally published in the Jiyushinkai Budo News.

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