“You don’t have to swing hard to hit a home run. If you got the timing, it’ll go.” – Yogi Berra
“Hitting is timing. Pitching is upsetting timing.” – Warren Spahn
Here at Zen, I am always looking for analogies to help me explain aspects of paintball and this months’ topic will certainly be no exception. This month we will discuss the importance of timing.
How many of you watch MMA (Mixed Martial Arts)? If you do, did you happen to see UFC 189 when current UFC Featherweight Champion Conor McGregor fought the #1 contender, Jose Aldo? Spoiler alert, McGregor knocked Aldo out in the first 13 seconds of the first round. How? McGregor had a great quote afterwards where he said, “Precision beats power and timing beats speed every time”.
In the world of boxing, timing is everything. Timing is everything when it comes to not only an effective offense but a solid defense (See two opening quotes from Berra and Spahn to see how timing is used on both sides of the baseball). The best boxers in the world, throughout history, have always had great timing, whether it was there counter punching, head movement, foot work, lead jab… Boxers like Muhammad Ali, Roy Jones Jr, and Oh! Sugar Ray and Mayweather, they all had great timing. And, of course, I would be totally remiss not to mention Bruce Lee. How many of you have heard me talk about his “broken Rhythm” technique? That’s right…timing.
But what is it? What is “timing”? I have given you examples of it from another sport(s), sure, but how does it translate to Paintball? Excellent question.
First, let’s define it. The dictionary will tell you it is the judgement or control of when something should be done. Remember those words, “judgement” and “control”. The best definition I can give in reference to paintball and how it is applied to our sport is this; Timing is a mixture of instinct and reflex. Now might be a good time to add to McGregor’s comment in the context of paintball. When you have timing, you don’t have to be fast. I am not a fast man (there was a time… but it has passed) but I have proven to be successful in scenarios where my timing gave me the upper hand.
Timing can be utilized in paintball by identifying the best/appropriate time to move, the best appropriate time to snap, the best/appropriate time to switch position in our bunker… you get the picture. We need to recognize elements and variables within the game and react swiftly and accordingly. I often use the analogy that our brains are computers, our eyes and ears give us data, we then take the data to develop a solution, and finally act.
Some people’s processors are much faster than others (better timing). So how do we speed up our processor (improve out timing)? Another excellent question.
The key to training and improving our timing is twofold. The first is individually and the second is team oriented. We will focus on the individual aspect. That means we need to focus on hand, eye, and feet coordination to start. We need to TRAIN THE BRAIN.
Training our brain to process quicker is different for everyone. Some will take a little longer than others and that’s okay. It doesn’t mean you can’t do it or are broken. It just means you need to work a little harder. So put in the work!
To increase timing, it helps to improve coordination. There is NO BETTER tool/way to improve footwork coordination than the speed ladder. You can pick up a speed ladder super cheap and the whole team can utilize it during a drill day or heck, make your own, it’s easy to do. If you have never worked with a speed ladder, you can search the internet for a plethora of drills. Here are my favorites performed in this order:
- Side step – with the ladder to you left (or right depending on which lead foot you choose), step in to ladder, followed by your other foot, repeat. Ways, left and right lead foot
- Hop/Run -5 hops with feet together followed by 5 quick steps down ladder, repeat
- In/Out – from the side of the ladder, step in with lead foot, followed by rear foot, back out, and repeat all the way down the ladder
- Doubles – two feet into one box, both out. In, in, out, out. Whole ladder. Repeat with different lead foot.
- Shuffle – one and two in the box, three is out. Repeat
Start slow. Develop the muscle memory and slowly build your speed over time.
Of course, if you have read my other blogs or watched some of my drill videos, we can also apply foot work to our drills. See if you can’t think of how to do this as well.
Drills for gun work are your standard drills; however, we can add some twists. Not all drills have to involve shooting paint. For instance, how many of you practice transitioning your gun from hand to hand? Just stand there and transition over and over again. Remember to move your marker around you not you around the marker. Work on trying to keep your barrel apexed (imagine a view over your head with your barrel being the tip of a triangle and your right and left shoulders the base points) and linear. You can actually train transitioning your gun from one hand to the next over and over again without ever shooting a ball, right? So why aren’t you doing it?
Next, I like to snap shoot left hand then quickly shift right hand and snap the same target. Do this from a mayan or a can or even a dorito bunker. One ball snap left, one ball snap right, over and over again. Go slow. Do this for an entire hopper. Focus on your fundamentals of course but recognize how the sight picture will change each time. Eventually you will train your brain to pull the trigger the moment your eyes realize A. you see the target and B. your barrel has cleared the edge of the bunker.
This would be a good time to mention eye dominance. Most right handed people are also right eye dominant. You will notice when they go to shoot left handed, they lean their head further over the marker to get their right eye in on the sight picture. We need to break that and train the brain to see sight pictures equally out of our weak eye. There is a great training tool for that. We will address that in our next video.
Another two drills I like to do are the corner to corner drill and the post drill (should probably have a video of the post drill… I will get on that). The corner drill is simply one where you stay in the pocket (exposed to shoot) and maintain dominance on your opponent even when paint is coming. This will teach you how to recognize trajectory of paint and help you know when to get out of the way and when to stay in the pocket. The post drill helps the timing of both participants but from different perspectives. One guy posts in a bunker and is not allowed to move. His only job is to recognize when he feels his opponent is about to snap out and hit him. The other participant’s job is to snap out and accurately place paint on the “post man” without getting shot.
Here are video examples of the corner to corner drill. Notice how I try to stay in the pocket gun up and rolling unless my opponent puts a ball right at me. I win both of these but only because I was able to stay in the pocket longer and time my shots.
Here is somewhat of a timing example as well as a read offense. When I shoot their aggressive player off the break I realize no gun can stop me AT THAT MOMENT so my slow butt uses the timing of my opponent’s settling into their bunkers to take the 50.
Back to the point
Ultimately, the more you experience, the more you practice, the more time you spend doing these things, the more you will begin to recognize specifics and the quicker you will get acting upon the data. In other words, you will improve. The more data we provide the brain, the quicker it processes. Does that make sense? The brain is a muscle. Work it.
Anyway, we need to understand timing. If I time my move where you drop your lane for a second, more times than not, I will make it safely. If I time my snap right, more times than not, I will get a ball down range before you put paint on me. So I don’t have to be fast. That isn’t to say speed doesn’t help… let’s clarify that now. However, timing can make or break a game, whether it is used to make an awesome move or used to stop one.
Timing within the team dynamic is a much more complicated process but one that can be improved and trained as well. We will address that soon.
Until then… be water my friends.