The Importance of Visualization in Training

The Importance of Visualization in Training

Posted by Hwansik Kim on Jan 10th 2022

In practical shooting, the process of successfully shooting a stage requires doing a walk through, coming up with a plan, and memorizing it so that you can execute it at the buzzer. However, the process of doing a walk through and memorizing it is often neglected in training. Let’s say shooting a match is like taking a math test and training is doing homework. Practicing and solving issues in homework greatly improves your test score. Although, if you don’t do homework and only take tests for a long time, you may improve, but it will take a longer time. First of all, matches, like tests, are not as frequent as training.. Additionally, you really don’t get a chance to fix the issues at the match since you only get one chance to run it. It must be done in your training where you can fix the issues as you go. So, continuously going through repetitions without visualization is like taking tests without doing the proper preparation.

In elementary school, when we learn addition and subtraction, we all use our fingers to physically see and calculate the math problems. However, as we grow up, after solving lots of different arithmetic problems, we no longer use physical cues like fingers to calculate basic arithmetic problems. At this point, our brain capacity and ability to come up with a solution is improved significantly. Similarly, preparing for a stage requires physical and mental visualization in order to come up with a stage plan and successfully execute it.

There are two types of visualization: physical visualization and mental visualization.

Physical visualization is whenever you are physically in the shooting area, physically seeing things and touching things. So, walk through is a big part of physical visualization.

There are more examples, like touching your beavertail of the grip from outside the shooting area, moving your arms around in transition without a gun, or even drawing at the safety table with a gun. This can be done anywhere whether you have a gun out of the holster or not and inside the stage or not.

Mental visualization often involves memorizing each step and cues you found in your walk through so that you may execute without hesitation. This is basically repeating the imagery of what you are going to do again and again either in 1st person view, 3rd person view, or both.

Other examples are: thinking of something to calm your mind to lower stress before shooting, like prayer or looking at a picture of your pet or watching a video of a top shooter destroying that stage (or similar stage) to ramp up the focus and aggression - I do this often the day before shooting,

What do we visualize?

Physical visualization


Visual spots (cues): Find out the aiming zone on the target, indexing spots for stopping with correct foot positioning (fault lines, target exposure, marks on the ground, etc)..

Vision speed: Program how fast your eyes move (and the head in wide transitions) to the next cue or target. You want your vision speed at maximum all the time when moving from cue to another.

Focal depth: Program how clear you will see those cues. This is where you should determine shooting target focus vs sight focus. Even if you are shooting target focus, depending on the distance of the target, you must change the focal depth to see the spot on the target clear. If you see blurry brown targets in your walk-thru, do it one more time and see the targets or cues as clear and fast as possible.

Touch sensation

Amount of pressure: In the walk through, the pressure you exert or relaxation have to be realistic to actual shooting. When you have your arms up, make the grip pressure real; properly lock the wrist with your firing hand and shoulders relaxed. When you kick out of position, actually try to feel that you are pushing off immediately without lifting your leg up (drop step) in cases where you shouldn’t. This really programs the amount of aggression and explosiveness in your movement.

Direction of pressure: If your grip is mainly front to back pressured, you should feel that pressure going to the right direction. When you exit the position, make sure you are not going around but moving straight path to the next direction.

Positions: Remember where your body parts have to go for the next movements like target transitions, draw, reloads, feet positioning, stance, grip, leaning angle, etc. Having your arms up in walk through is very important to position your body and the gun correctly, to check how much shake going on to your arms when shooting on the move or entering positions, tracking the target for movers or entering position with the gun properly up on the A zone, etc.

Mental visualization


This is essentially memorizing your plan until you remember all of the cues. When you do this, make sure to try mixing it with physical visualization to maximize and speed up the memorization process. I often start using a mixture of both visualization methods when I am 3 shooters behind to shoot. For me, that’s enough time to remember what I am going to do. However, it may take more time if you haven’t done this memorization process extensively.

How do we use this?

As mentioned, this must be also done in training, but it doesn’t mean you have to be shooting stages in your training.

For example, if you are doing a bill drill, there are 2 main components to visualize the vision and the touch sensations.Visually you have to pick where you are going to be looking at and how clear and small of an area you want to shoot. Physically, you want to hit the right spot on the gun, get a good grip and present the gun precisely to the spot you are looking at. In this case. You want to touch the index spots on the gun inside the holster then meet the support hand with correct hand/finger positions and finish up the grip pressure and wrist locking tension before the gun reaches the eye line, then shoot as soon as the gun is on your eye line with relaxed firing hand and pull the trigger 6 times instantly. This process can be done in dryfire, livefire, walk-through run, and even at the safety table.

The more you practice visualization and memorization in your training and at matches, the time it takes to come up with a strategy, find the cues, and memorize them will become shorter and simpler. Eventually, with hard training, you should be able to program and execute at a very high level in a short amount of time.

As you start practicing visualization on your own and get a better idea of it, you do not have to visualize every single time in between reps. However, it is very important to do a proper visualization before a cold run. Additionally, when you have a mistake in a previous run, make sure to visualize the section that you made a mistake on to correct any issues.

Hwansik Kim

Practical Shooting Training Group