3 Tricks to speed up your reaction time

In a recent survey that I conducted, one of the most common problems that shooters had was that they wanted to improve their reaction times.

Specifically, how to cut the time that it takes to respond to a stimulus and put an accurate round on target.

So, today, I’m going to share 3 tricks with you that will speed up your reaction time.

It’s worth pointing out that reaction times are different, depending on the sense being stimulated and the complexity of the signal.

If everything’s working correctly, you’ll probably react to touching a hot stove quicker than to a beep.

You’ll react to a beep quicker than to a blinking light.

And you’ll react to a blinking light quicker than a complex visual situation that you have to interpret.

These tips will work, regardless of the situation.

First is to decrease your cognitive load.  Try not to multi-task and try to expose yourself to as many novel features of the situation you’re preparing for as possible.  If you have to THINK about whether a gun is a threat and THINK about the fundamentals of shooting and THINK about where cover is, you’re probably not going to perform very well.

-Train until shooting is a conditioned response (we teach rapid shortcuts >HERE<

-Mentally rehearse what a threat looks like and what an appropriate response would be to that threat so that your response will be quicker and better when lives are on the line.

-A few times a day, make a point of looking around your environment for cover and concealment.

-You can help in the moment with breathing and setting specific triggers+actions.

On breathing, the easiest pattern to remember is “square” breathing or combat breathing.  What you do is breathe in for a 4 count, hold it for a 4 count, breathe out for a 4 count, and wait for a 4 count before breathing back in again.  It will help oxygenate your eyes & brain, calm the limbic system and calm the HPA (hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal) axis.

On triggers & actions, you want to say something like, “If he turns his gun towards me, I’ll shoot x number of rounds at the vertebrae even with his armpits, step to the side, and assess.”

Why shoot then step rather than step then shoot?  If you can step offline and draw at the same time, do it…but most people don’t move fast enough to matter and it slows and fumbles their draw if they haven’t been through our Praxis Dynamic Gunfight Training.

Second is take full advantage of the speed of your midbrain.

In a high stress situation, the reticular activating system prioritizes what you’ve got stored in your midbrain (skills) over what you have stored in your cortex (head knowledge).  That’s why your memory can *poof* disappear under stress and it’s why it can be SOOO hard to think your way through problems that you haven’t faced before when you’re stressed out.

One of the biggest things that you can do ahead of time that you can’t do in the moment is develop your reflexive or conditioned responses, like drawing and making a precise first shot from the holster.  Reflexive or conditioned responses are stored in the midbrain, so you’ll actually have access to them under stress.  These aren’t made after a 2, 3, or 5 day class…depending on the stress level of the situation and the speed that you want to perform, they will take 21-42 days to become “reflexive.”  Ironically, the total time invested will probably be less than what you’d spend on a 2 day class if you train correctly.

It’s important to remember that emotional, physical, and cognitive challenges all dip from the same pool of energy and bandwidth in the brain and doing something that you can do reflexively takes a fraction of the mental bandwidth as something you need to think about…that frees up your brain to deal with reacting and moving quickly.

This is another reason why it’s so important to do precise practice like what I teach in 21 Day Alpha Shooter and Draw Stroke Mastery.  If you can make precise shooting something that you can do automatically, it’s one less thing that you’ll need to struggle with in a self defense shooting situation, freeing up mental energy for other tasks.

Third is to see the whole picture…and slow down the game.  The more visual input your brain gets and the more accurate that input is, the less threatened it will feel.  The less threatened your brain feels, the more relaxed your muscles will be and the quicker (and more accurately) you’ll be able to react and move.

Vision plays another key role in reaction time.

The quicker and more precisely you can shift focus, the sooner you’ll be able to start the reaction process.

The wider your peripheral awareness and peripheral vision, the sooner you’ll be able to start the reaction process.

The quicker you’ve trained your mind to process visual input, the quicker you’ll be able to start the reaction process.

You see, pure reaction time is difficult to improve very much.  Improving reaction time by .1 seconds is phenomenal.

But if you see threats and opportunities further away, at wider fields of view, and process them quicker, you can improve reaction times by half a second, a second, or more. (A LOT more in some cases)  It’s like you’re existing on a different timeline than your opponent and you get to slow down the game…or the fight, as the case may be.

Because of the fact that the brain craves visual input, the visual aspects of reaction times are some of the easiest and quickest to work on.

And that’s one of the big benefits of the Automatic Aiming Vision Training Course…incredibly quick results that will not only help you shoot quicker and more accurately, but identify and react to threats and opportunities quicker as well.

If you haven’t gone through it, we’ve got a free training presentation tonight that will give you a taste of the full training.  I want to encourage you to click >HERE< and check it out.

Questions?  Comments?  Fire away by commenting below



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1 Comment

  • Sam W.

    Reply Reply April 18, 2018

    I practice by competing against two dogs to spot “prey”. Much of the time I can spot squirrels, rabbits, or other wildlife first. Sometimes they beat me.

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