Recently at my forum, we had a discussion regarding an interview that had been done with none other than Wyatt Earp, back in the 1930s in the Saturday Evening Post. Earp said to his biographer –
“The most important lesson I learned from those proficient gunfighters was the winner of a gunplay usually was the man who took his time.”
Apparently realizing that a statement like that would be taken out of context, he continued –
“Perhaps I can best describe such time taking as going into action with the greatest speed of which a man’s muscles are capable, but mentally unflustered by an urge to hurry or the need for complicated nervous and muscular actions which trick-shooting involves. Mentally deliberate, but muscularly faster than thought, is what I mean.”
That last explanation is it right there…and still misunderstood to this day.
The dichotomy of speed – or taking one’s time quickly – is simply boiled down to “Being Deliberate”.
I recall my early days learning from some of the best police shooters of the day (in the sense of killing bad guys). Being “deliberate” was their mantra. Cold, calculated, albeit not slow in the sense of what we know as “s-l-o-w”.
Being quick, but not rushing.
Not being amped up…not being “spastic”.
Setting the tempo, not reacting to the tempo.
I recall years later when teaching with Chuck Taylor, and his insistence on the stop watch, and how that produced spastic, time-focused shooters, seeking to beat the clock, rather than deliberate shooters.
Everyone is fast enough…even the slowest guys, but not everyone has been taught to be deliberate in the act of killing.
It seems the English language is one of opposites…one can be slow or one can be fast. And the illiterate would say, “slow is fast”. Actually it isn’t. They are trying to use words in a way they do not understand, to convey a feeling…a physical sense of calmness under fire…of grace under pressure.
The killer gunman is not agitated, and certainly not slow. He is deliberate in the act of killing his adversary…and if there is any outward expression of his sentiments…he smiles.
Some will say the “slow is smooth, smooth is fast” is a commentary on practice method. Yes it is…”as a commentary on practice method”. The problem is most instructors could not explain, in an eloquent manner, the step by step process of wiping the drippings off their nasal orifice, much less explain the intricacies of what “smooth is fast” really means.So you end up with the opposite of the Taylor-Time-Freaks…shooters forcing themselves to be excessively slow.
“Deliberate” is too complicated a word to define, but we certainly know a deliberate action when we see it. The opposite of deliberate is a flinching, fear-driven, rushed action. A sentiment of “getting it over with”. An attack dog bites deliberately, whereas a frightened dog bites out of fear aggression.
Reflecting on the old life…far too many guys fired out of fear. And while they may have been marvelous competitors, they missed on the street. They were not deliberate…quite to the contrary. They fired out of fear.
They were afraid for their lives, afraid they were not up to the task, afraid of getting in trouble, afraid of missing, afraid of the criminal…in short…AFRAID.
Being deliberate has a basis in not being afraid, and contrary to the motivations of those other people.
The men that killed bad guys with more regularity than the others…they were different. They may not have said anything as the notion of keeping one’s opinions and feelings to themselves was very well entrenched by then, but “afraid” was hardly what would describe them. They were predators in their hearts and in their minds. And their deliberate actions reflected it.
The best mental picture is this – if animals could wield weapons – how would a Gazelle handle a weapon when a Tiger was coming after them? And then – visualize how would a Tiger handle a weapon when going after a Gazelle. One is a prey animal and afraid of the predator. The other is in fact a predator.
It is a vastly different attitude. Some men have this attitude naturally, yet others cultivate it through training. But if one is to be deliberate…the sort of “deliberate” Earp spoke about…action borne of fear will never develop it.