One of the things that Jenna and I end up talking about with some of our other friends in the firearms and self-defense industries includes ways in which we are succeeding and ways we’re failing, as an industry. I’m fascinated by all of that.
We’ve certainly made our share of mistakes. And by “we,” I mean us personally and firearms trainers in general. But there’s a difference between screwing up and missing the boat completely – and when you’re talking about using a firearm as part of your self-defense plan, missing the boat is a very scary proposition that could have horrible implications.
One striking example of such a disservice is something that has morphed into what we’re now calling the Kevin Youkilis Principle.
But before I get into who this Youkilis guy is, I’ll highlight one area that I think the firearms training industry does very well – teaching people to shoot! And before you say “well duh, that’s why we pay you guys,” you need to understand how “teaching someone how to shoot” really works. There is a lot of this:
- This is a gun. Don’t be scared of it. Here are the parts of the gun and here’s a video about how it functions mechanically.
- Pick it up like this. Hold your right hand here and your left hand exactly like this.
- Keep your left thumb away from the back of the slide or it’ll hurt worse than your Catholic school grammar teacher and her ruler.
- Put your feet exactly like this.
- Keep both eyes open.
- Squeeze the trigger, don’t jerk the trigger.
- Focus on the front sight.
- Put the bulls-eye target at 7 yards and shoot until you’re out of ammo.
The steps above actually are a winning formula and they work for most people. If you do X, then Y, then Z, you’ll know how to shoot! Who doesn’t love that? (unfortunately for many, however, they think X + Y + Z = “self-defense” and that is NOT GOOD) Heck, it’s the exact same formula that people apparently love in every other area of their lives: eat this cereal and you’ll lose weight; drink this beer and the ladies will flock to you; wear this shoe and you can dunk like LeBron; “fire two blasts through your door” and the bad guys will go running. Newsflash: I eat that cereal, I drink that beer, and I wear those shoes – and Joe Biden is still an idiot.
You see, the big problem with that formula is that more-and-more people are seeking firearms training to learn how to defend themselves. That’s a different entering argument than wanting to know how to shoot. Our industry can teach you how to shoot – and we’re very good at it. Follow our formula and you’ll succeed.
But I could also teach you how to drive – and knowing how to steer and work the gas and brake pedals are important skills, but they don’t make you an Indianapolis 500 driver. Clearly, there’s more to it than that, just like there’s more to self-defense with a gun than knowing how to pull the trigger.
Enter the Kevin Youkilis Principle, a term I coined earlier this year. In a nutshell, it means that only results matter.
Here’s how it works: when up-and-coming and aspiring baseball stars are learning their craft, they’re taught things like “to hit the ball further, stand with your feet exactly like this.” On the surface, advice like that is not wrong – it’s just misguided. You see, the goal is to get the power, to hit the ball further… but in focusing on HOW to hit the ball further, the focus changes to how to properly position your feet. It’s a subtle shift, but it proves that most of us are missing the point when we try to swing for power.
Mathematically, here’s what I mean:
- If A + B = C, then you can only arrive at C by adding A plus B.
The goal here is to get to C. In fact, there may be an infinite number of ways to get to C. But since many of us are missing that C is indeed the goal, the new goal for the instructors becomes only teaching A PLUS B. We’re good at A and we’re good at B. Let’s make all of our students also good at A and B – and that will make them successful.
So instead of only teaching A and B, let’s analyze C (my apologies for all of you non-math people). I don’t know Kevin Youkilis personally, nor do I really care to. If you haven’t noticed, he’s one seriously creepy-looking dude.
And I have no idea if he solved this formula years ago or if Hannibal Lecter was his hitting coach in the 8th grade. But I’m absolutely willing to give Handsome Kevin the benefit of the doubt. At some point along the way, Handsome Kevin figured out that the goal isn’t learning how to stand, how to hold a bat, how to look less creepy when a camera guy is in your face… the goal is to get hits and to hit with power. So, what are the elements of hitting with power? I’m certainly not a baseball expert, but it seems to me that you could break it down into some common elements: solid hitting base, quick bat speed through the zone, fluid hips, etc.
Here’s what Handsome Kevin figured out: that he could accomplish all that without using the standard formula taught by every single hitting coach on Planet Earth.
And did it work for him? He’s a career .281 hitter with a .382 on-base percentage (OBP); he has 150 home runs, 618 runs batted in, has slugged .478 and his on-base-plus-slugging is .860. He’s been a MLB All-Star 3 times, won the World Series twice, has been named to the Sporting News list of the 50 greatest current players in baseball multiple times, and was the 2008 Hank Aaron Award winner for the top hitter in the American League. In short, I’d say “yeah it’s working.”
And he did it looking like this:
See where I’m coming from now? If your goal is to have a great-looking batting stance, you can absolutely accomplish that; but for most baseball players, how you look at the plate is not, in fact, the goal… or it shouldn’t be, anyway. Focus on the goal. Only results matter.
So how does this affect shooting? Most of us in this industry get too easily distracted by teaching people how to shoot. And in so doing, we miss the goal. Yes, there are certain foundational principles that affect how we shoot. There are hundreds of of variables that go into putting each shot downrange or on target – but if I could boil off all the fat, the two we’d be left with are:
- Stable shooting platform
- Trigger control
(yes, aiming is important – but many of us instinctively understand aiming, even if we frequently overlook it; so I’m sticking with the two above… maybe I’m wrong there)
The former is all about grip, stance, balance, etc. – those things are certainly important, but they’re not the goal; they’re some of the means by which we accomplish the goal. The trick is that if we start shooting from the move or if we start shooting with one hand, we’ve fundamentally altered everything we know about a stable shooting platform. In a nutshell, we’re screwed. So instead of learning a “proper 2-handed shooting grip,” let’s learn some common elements of a stable shooting platform. Then, we can change the elements of our grip or our stance and still (hopefully) arrive at the same goal – the stable shooting platform.
Still with me?
Mathematically, let’s keep C as the goal and find new ways to arrive at C – instead of getting stuck with “well, you have to first have A and then you have to add B.”
There are also many elements that make up “trigger control:”
- “Smooth roll the trigger” (as Massad Ayoob puts it)
- Making the gun as two-dimensional as possible (remove 3-dimensional forces like torque)
- Finger placement on the trigger
- Keeping the gun as stable as possible during the time you’re pulling the trigger (which takes us back to the stable shooting platform)
Physics plays a big part in this as well. All of this only really works if you understand how the gun works and which forces are at play (like how the gun will recoil to the area of least resistance).
As an instructor, it might seems like teaching the principles of “C” is a lot more difficult than teaching “A + B.” But I’m here to tell you that’s not the case. People are smart and they’ll get it – if you give them the opportunity.
All of this is not to say that current popular shooting grips and stances are useless – they’re not. In fact, my argument is that they were all developed after extensive research on how to arrive at C in ways that were being missed. They solved “C” in new ways. But don’t lose sight of the fact that C is the goal. Youk is the goal. Only results matter.
That’s the Kevin Youkilis Principle.