Saturday, November 12, 2011

Missapplication of Principles: Motor Skills and Hick's Law

Some things refuse to go away. The items in the title being used incorrectly to illustrate a point are the ones that are my biggest of pet peeves. It's not that they don't exist or aren't factors, it's that they are misapplied as descriptors and misunderstood. And much of the time, they are used as a basis for advocating one technique over another, giving a false picture.

Most often, the gross vs. fine motor skill argument is used to advocate slide grabbing a pistol rather than using the slide stop. Now, to be clear, I use, and as far back as I can remember, have always used, the slide stop to run the slide. However, I don't care what technique is used as long as one isn't getting chosen over the other on bad information. If you're gonna be a slide grabber, go ahead and be a slide grabber. Just don't tell me it's a "gross motor skill, which you'll revert to under pressure." That simple can't be true.

OK, so what's a gross motor skill? By definition, a gross motor skill is a movement that uses large muscle groups. In terms of using a gun, the easy definition to understand is that gross motor skills are everything that happens above the wrist. A fine motor skill, by contrast, is anything that happens below the wrist. The argument is that the ability to do fine motor skills deteriorates under pressure, and that is, of course, true. But examine that a little more closely, and you'll find that it doesn't hold up to scrutiny. Consider this: if you can't use your thumb to release the slide via the slide stop and must grab the slide over the top to do that job, how can you possibly use that same thumb to release an empty or faulty magazine, or control the trigger with the index finger from that same hand? I'm not saying that slide grabbing is wrong; it's a valid technique and it works. Just don't tell me the reason to choose it over running the slide stop is that I can't use that thumb and index finger. If that were true, nobody would ever be purposefully shot because the hands wouldn't work at all.

Incidentally, the reason I chose to run the slide stop is because I put both techniques on the timer, and running the slide stop is considerably faster. The timer is the way I've proven, or had proven, different ways of doing things with a gun. Except in terms of it's use by politicians, time doesn't lie.

Which leads us to Hick's Law. I won't bother going into the history of it, because the Internet doesn't care about that when they're misusing it anyway. In short form, Hick's Law says that it takes your mind too long to choose between two tactics. Worse with three! Therefore, I will show you one response." In terms of raw choices, that's true. If you give an untrained person choices, they'll struggle and make errors in attempting to complete the task as they try to pick a way to do it. No argument there, but this post is about arguments, so what's my beef with it? That beef is, once again, the Law being misapplied. 


Anyone who's been around shooting and training for any period of time has no doubt heard the phrase "another tool for the toolbox". But, just as it is with a mechanic, just having the tool doesn't mean much. In the hands of the professional mechanic, the right tool is the fast way to get a job done, and done correctly. It's really no different at the core of fighting with weapons. The tool doesn't really become a tool until you...pay close attention here, here's the difference maker...until you MASTER it. Obviously having a choice and not knowing exactly how to use it in a pressure situation won't help much. But master that skill, and combine it with other mastered skills, and you have the gunfighter that nobody wants to go against. One last example: consider Anderson Silva, UFC Middleweight Champion for quite some time now. He's got kicking skills from muay Thai and karate, a black belt in Brazilian Jui Jitsu for ground fighting, and has knocked out just about everybody he's faced with precision striking skills. Watch him fight, and you'll see a fighter who mixes techniques as he sees fit, and there's no lag time between them. Why is that? The skills have been MASTERED. 


For the Love of Pete, if you're going to make an argument for or against a particular technique, make sure the reasons you use are valid. I'd rather hear somebody say "I prefer to do it that way, I'm more confident and comfortable with it" than to misapply physiological or psychological principles in the process. That crap won't go away once it gets out there.

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

did you read that over at squidoo? because i saw a similar article there..anyhow well done writing non the less.

Haji said...

what's "squidoo"? Never heard of it.

CTone said...

" However, I don't care what technique is used as long as one isn't getting chosen over the other on bad information. If you're gonna be a slide grabber, go ahead and be a slide grabber. Just don't tell me it's a "gross motor skill, which you'll revert to under pressure." That simple can't be true."

Spot on. The whole post is spot on, actually. I think the problem with some of the arguements with different techniques is kind of like brand loyalty. People get their panties in a wad if someone doesn't use their brand/system/technique. A common theme I've heard from after action reports from good shooting schools is that the instructor teaches their method, but doesn't get defensive about their techniques and doesn't bash other instructors. If only it was like that everywhere.