Choosing A Method And
BY KENT TURNIPSEED
A discussion comparing standard shooting stances taught today with the Turnipseed stance developed by the author.
A former U.S. Army paratrooper and small arms instructor, the author is a long time student of martial arts who spent more than a dozen years developing his method of shooting, known as the Turnipseed stance, which he has been teaching for several years now to military and law enforcement personnel and the shooting public. This same method is used when firing handguns, rifles, shotguns or even submachine guns. From all types of positions. He maintains that anyone –male or female, small or large, strong or weak- can master his technique with equal results –fast, accurate shot placement under a variety of conditions, even with the most powerful firearms and without pain or injury. You may contact him at 610 N Alma School Rd. Suite 18-213 Chandler Az. 85224 (480) 802-0346 –The editors.
What makes one shooting method and one shooting instructor stand out over the others? The response to this question requires a rational and logical analysis of existing methodologies. This endeavor also requires complete objectivity.
It is readily understood that an "ego" is by definition based neither on rationale nor logic. Yet every instructor thinks that what he/she has is the best. With that said, I will attempt to show you, with as much objectivity as I can muster, how to determine which method and which teacher to be the best for you.
There used to be only two basic methods used in shooting and in the instruction of the art: the Isosceles stance and the Weaver stance. Several variations of these techniques have come into being. However, they are just different versions of the same application.
Now, there is a third method: the Turnipseed stance –my answer to what was missing in the others, balance and skeletal alignment. When one is in balance, one is automatically skeletally aligned. Thus, from this point on when I indicate one condition, I shall be referring to the other as well.
After having used both the Isosceles and the Weaver stances and every modified version thereof over many years, I still felt that something was not quite right. I was a skilled shot because my hand-eye coordination was good and because my muscle strength was more than adequate. However, my body was contorted and I felt unstable. What was missing, I later realized, was balance/skeletal alignment –pure and simple. This most important element is the basis of the Turnipseed stance as well as any other martial art.
Let’s explore this subject of balance/skeletal alignment.
No matter what endeavor you physically engage in, without balance you will not perform to the best of your ability. Try participating in tennis, golf, horseback riding, skiing, skating, running or even walking without balance. You will probably miss the ball, fall off the horse, hit the ice, land on the ground and most certainly suffer from stress to various parts of your anatomy.
Without realizing it, I had begun to apply the elements of the Alexander technique to the martial art of shooting.
The Alexander technique is an age old doctrine about how to keep the body balanced and the skeleton aligned in order to get the most out of the body without stressing it. Less than a year ago, one of my assistants introduced me to the wonderful concept of the Alexander technique which he felt paralleled what I was already teaching. Everything about the technique and the Turnipseed stance is designed to give fluidity of movement, speed of movement, accuracy on target, total control of the firearm and skeletal alignment, which means that recoil is dampened out to no longer be of consequence.
The Turnipseed stance uses one basic method for all firearms whether they be pistol, rifle, shotgun or submachine gun. Following is a synopsis of how the Turnipseed stance works.
Just as a boxer would be foolish to face his opponent at a 180-degree angle, so it is foolish for a shooter to address his target at a 180-degree angle. One should address the subject matter with feet at a 30 to 40-degree oblique which permits easier movement on the target. Using very little muscle strength makes the body fluid and quick to respond to a 360-degree movement.
The added benefit is that the body becomes a recoil dampener.
Without turning the body, turn just the head (like an owl). The spine and body remain is skeletal alignment. Raising the shooting arm while resting the non-shooting arm comfortably on the chest allows for a very smooth draw as well as subsequent acquisition of the non-shooting hand as it comes across the body. Thus, the non-shooting hand is never in a position to be injured from the firearm. Do not bend the head. Raise the firearm to eye level. Following these steps will result in rapid, accurate shot placement.
This method works whether walking up or down stairs, sitting or lying down, moving to the right or to the left, backwards or forwards as well as in quick shooting from carry position on the body –one method based on the principles of balance and skeletal alignment.
Weaver Stance And Variations--Peruse the various firearms magazines and you will see examples of the different styles of the Weaver stance. The shooters hunch their backs. They lean backwards either a little or a lot. I have personally observed shooters lean against the bench, bend their arms in a "push-pull" fashion and then, "kink" their head in order to catch up with their bent arms. To better understand the consequences of such improper balance/alignment, assume the stance of (an image of) someone in any one of the publications. Then drop your arms, keeping the body in the position assumed.
Maintaining this stance for any length of time would presumably require the services of a chiropractor. These enthusiasts begin by placing the body at a 30 to 40-degree oblique, which is perfect. Then, they proceed to take the body out of balance and out of alignment by contorting the body and adding a lean of some sort. Apply this method while shooting a longarm and the bad situation is just compounded –more recoil, more "kick," more discomfort.
Can one learn to shoot and shoot well using these stances? Absolutely! But why? Why stress the body? Why take it out of skeletal alignment where it is the most efficient, the most fluid, the most natural? Why cause a tremor in the arms by using a push-pull movement which will only fatigue you? Why bend your head to catch up with bent arms and thereby increase the pain of tension across your shoulders? And why place yourself in a position which aggravates and increases the effects of recoil as opposed to dampening it out to almost nothing?
The Isosceles stance and its variation--cause stress to the body which leads to pain, tension, fatigue as a result of imbalance and lack of skeletal alignment. Shooting positions of advocates of the Isosceles stance run the gamut from a very wide separation of the feet (called a horse stance in formal martial arts) to a lean-back-and-support-the-weight-of-the-firearm-with-the-body stance. The shooters either stand facing the target at a 180-degree angle or at a 30-degree (or more) oblique angle.
You can observe people shooting sidearms in these positions throughout firearm magazines or pushing up against the bench at the range. Watch as these people address targets rapidly, from left to right and back again. You will see "over-swing" each and every time which results in either improper shot placement or wasted time trying to regain balance. Watch them try to address a target or a threat behind them –an event to behold! There is over-swing, a propensity to overcorrect and no balance at all.
On the ground it is even more clumsy. I challenge these shooters of the Isosceles to apply the stance using a 12 gauge shotgun with magnum BB loads!
Why even bother to learn a method when it cannot be applied to all firearms –longarms as well as sidearms?
Again, can one learn to shoot using the Isosceles? Yes! But, why tax the body? Why keep it out of skeletal alignment? Why stress the muscular system? Why suffer the consequences of all of this when it is not necessary?
Turnipseed Stance—Why not learn the Turnipseed stance and give yourself some pleasure? Forget the articles and video tapes which say you must "anchor" yourself to shoot the shotgun. Learn the Turnipseed stance and shoot your shotgun on the move, sitting, kneeling, walking up or sown stairs or lying on the ground. Shoot 150 to 200 rounds of 00 buckshot or shotgun slugs and suffer no heavy shoulder bruising –no pain. It’s a joy.
To be able to stand on one foot and shoot a 12 gauge with magnum loads is enlightening. Why would one want to learn to do such a stunt? So you learn that it is not necessary to "plant one’s feet" before shooting a shotgun.
The Turnipseed stance enables one to address targets with a rifle at pistol distances and places rounds on target in less than .30 of a second. This is a wake-up call. Draw a pistol from carry, address three targets in less than 2 seconds with the gun never leaving the shooter’s side. This is point shooting extraordinaire! Fall to the ground and address targets in a 360-degree circle. Shoot at night unable to see the sights and still make a center punch at 12 feet. Want more? Do it from right, left or about face. Still want more? Draw from carry and cut a ¼ inch lath in half. This is point shooting!
This in not just the instructor or his assistants shooting. This is you, the students, shooting. For the best part of the above is that it is all transferable. What the instructors can do, the students can do as well. Gender is not a factor. Size is not a factor. Muscle strength is not a factor. If you are intrigued, come and drink from my cup –which brings us to the second topic of this article: the selection of one instructor over another.
Choosing an Instructor--The most important element of any class whatsoever is the STUDENT. The purpose of any class is to impart information and instruction so that the student is, ultimately, able to perform in a manner approximating that of the teacher, or –in the best of all situations- better than the teacher.
It is paramount that an instructor be able to transfer his talent. It is not enough for the teacher to perform for the class if he/she is unable to help the students to do the same. Equally important, it is imperative that the instructor be able to demonstrate that which he/she is attempting to have the students do. Many instructors ask the class to follow directions, but either their inability to perform the task themselves or the fear that they may not perform well (Ego!) prevents them from actually demonstrating what they require from the class.
Is it a criterion of a good instructor that he/she have been in the military? No. Is it a criterion of a good instructor that he/she have been a member of law enforcement? No. Is it a criterion of a good shooting instructor that he/she has been a competitive shooter? No. Is it a prerequisite for an instructor, in order to be labeled as "good" to have been taught himself by his father, his brother, his friend or anyone in particular? No. Does it help if he/she has been in the military, been a member of law enforcement, been a competitive shooter, been taught by anyone in particular? Maybe yes, maybe no. Old ideas die hard; yet both the military and the police have occasion to go to the private sector when they, themselves, need but lack specific information, i.e., parachute design, rock climbing, protective clothing, etc.
Exploring different ideas and data is important. Reading new as well as old information is imperative. Testing new ideas and accepting them even though they refute your own well used ideas is courageous. It takes great inner strength and fortitude to change comfortable habits. However, they sometimes must be changed, for fact is fact.
The test of the best is the willingness to be open to new and better methods and methodologies, to join with other experts and share in order to impart the very best knowledge, tactics and instruction to one’s students. Remember what has already been said. The student is the most important element in a teaching situation. We, as instructors, are here only because there is a need to learn.
As a student you deserve the very best both in subject matter and instruction. Search until you find the method which seems to be the most universal, a method which you can apply to sidearms as well as longarms. Look for an instructor who understands that new and different may also mean better, an instructor who has the best interest of his students in mind, who wants to give them the best even if it means that all things are in a constant state of flux –even his subject matter. Make sure that this instructor is willing and able to demonstrate his expertise and does so on a regular basis. If he does not, perhaps he has something to hide? Lack of proficiency? Lack of confidence in his subject matter?
I have heard people say that if they knew of something better, they would learn it and teach it tomorrow. Well, the Turnipseed stance is here today. Why wait for tomorrow? Research the Alexander technique. See how logical it is when applied to the Turnipseed stance and vice versa. Then come and visit with us.
You will find instructors who understand balance and skeletal alignment. You will find instructors who will teach you one stance which you can use with pistol, rifle, shotgun. You will find instructors who will teach you to shoot a shotgun while standing on an A frame ladder. You will find instructors who will teach you to shoot a 12 gauge loaded with full powered 00 or slugs while walking, standing on one foot, lying or sitting down. You will find instructors who will teach you to shoot at a target at night and center punch it from a distance of 12 feet. You will find instructors who will teach you to address a target from carry and put a projectile it is in less than .40 of a second. You will find instructors who know that to be a good teacher one must have knowledge and be able to transfer that knowledge. You will find instructors who will teach you all of the above and who will demonstrate all of the above with ease.