In recent months there have been a fair few threads on the forum ( regarding the subject of mental training, visualisation and varying snippets of information from the likes of Phil Coley and Henry Hopking about their respective work, research and consequently development in their chosen directions within their chosen field of expertise.

The subject of mental training and it being of benefit to me as a shooter is one that I subscribe to as such have already invested time and money into. Some believe that mental training is of more benefit to shooters of higher technical ability and whilst I do not disagree entirely I am confident that there are techniques that even the most inexperienced of shooters can utilise to enhance how they perform when shooting. That said, these practises are far from a quick fix and their effects will ultimately be limited by the shooters technical ability.

So where to start? This isn’t a post designed to justify the need for mental training, nor is it intended to divulge everything that I have done, am doing or will be doing with regards to this subject matter in the future. It is intended to be a bit of an overview of what the subject is to me and how I feel that I have benefitted by integrating it into my shooting.

My interest in mental training started when I received an email flyer from Phil Coley early in 2012, advertising a series of “Master Class” days that he was running around the country. The price was affordable and the day in question was local to me at Manchester Clay Shooting Club and was being run in conjunction with Carl Bloxham to cover the technical aspects of the day.

Phil’s approach and ideas were new to me and I thoroughly enjoyed the day despite there being an abundance of liquid sunshine as seems to be the custom in Manchester. The information I learned that day proved useful and gave me a taste for what was possible, plus meeting and catching up with Carl again was a real bonus. The months after the “Master Class” saw a series of follow-ups from Phil checking on progress and discussing the next stage.

I think that Phil became a victim of his own success at this point as he’s marketed his classes well and experienced an influx of new clients. Ultimately this meant that follow up chats between us became less frequent as our respective enthusiasm in pursuing this new course regretfully waned. Although the expression is clichéd, it is fair to say that we grew apart at this point, and neither of us injected any significant effort to get things back on track.

Fast forward to the latter part of 2012 and I stumbled across a couple of posts on the forum (one thread in particular referred to Gebben Miles World FITASC victory) that referenced the services of Henry Hopking. Up until that point I had not heard of Henry or his work, but as luck would have it we shared mutual friends and making contact with him to discuss whether or not what I wanted and what he could offer was straightforward enough.

Henry and I conversed over email and by telephone for a couple of months, eventually culminating in me booking an Introduction Training Day with him coupled with a significant follow-up period. We settled on a mutually convenient date and location to meet up and have our preliminary session together. The date that we chose was 12th December 2012 (12/12/12); one that I am sure will stick in my mind for a very long time to come :)

The day with Henry was to be split into two parts; an office based session to discuss the work that we would be doing together in the morning near Cambridge, followed by an afternoon at Cambridge Gun Club to put into practice the techniques that Henry had begun to teach me.

The morning session was a real eye-opener in that it provided a very thorough explanation of what Henry could offer me all of which was backed up with facts; no smoke, no mirrors, just clear concise explanations that made very logical sense. The initial information presented immediately appealed to my inquisitive nature and peaked my interest even further.

Henry then took some time to carefully explain some of the techniques that we would be using; highlighting how (and when) to implement them and all the time remained mindful of answering any questions that I had about anything relating to them or the subject matter thus far.

The equipment used is very specific and designed for Henry by a company that he has a long standing relationship with. It is clear that the development process of this equipment is extensive and Henry explained that he could also load it with custom programs tailored to the individual user as well as detailing the best ways in which to use the set up and how to best prepare in the run up to using it.

Finally Henry then set about taking some readings of my brain waves so that he had an accurate picture of what was going on (and to my relief there was something going on!) and so that we both had a reference point of where I was at on day one of our work together.

A brief lunch break, albeit en route to Cambridge Gun Club, allowed me to mull over the mornings work and reflect not only on what information I had been presented with but also on Henry’s approach and infectious enthusiasm about his subject matter.

A quick cuppa and a chat in the clubhouse meant that Henry could run through what he wanted to do, then it was a case of kitting up and getting out on the course. Cambridge Gun Club is a fantastic facility with a wide variety of Sporting stands that we could utilise. Henry wanted me to shoot a selection of stands, with no input from himself.

We chatted after each of the stands and discussed what had occurred in terms of my analysis of the targets, my pre-shot routine, what i did between pairs etc. all the time allowing us to formulate a definitive plan of action for me to execute whilst shooting.

Utilising this throughout the session illustrated the difference in focus and awareness that could be achieved and I slowly began to appreciate the size of the task at hand; mastering this was going to take considerable time, effort, patience and persistence.

The session concluded with a run-through of the entire day, confirming the plan of action that we had begun to formulate together and defining “the” routine. Practice was discussed and agreed upon and I clearly remember feeling excited to get home and begin work on this very new and exciting challenge.

I cannot speak highly enough of the day with Henry; not only in terms of the sheer intellectual content of the session, but also in the way that Henry approaches the subject, the lengths that he goes to in order to explain everything and the undeniable thoroughness of the entire process that is tailored entirely to the individual in question.

Needless to say my work with Henry has continued and I will cover the next stage of the development in a separate post when time allows. As always if there are any specific questions that you would like me to answer then please get in touch.

In the meantime if anyone wants to find out more about Henry and his work, then they can do so via: http://www.thebraint…