João Costa: “Just Shoot Real Bullets and Real Pellets”

João Costa has always been one of the pistol shooters that I look up to. Mostly because of his demeanor and technique (I do admire all shooters I see though) and partly because of my age, which makes me dream of competing at a higher level at his…

This is the first interview of the series that I’ve managed to do via online calls and it was great to be able to talk with another pistol shooter about shooting, specially one with his experience (he has participated in 5 Olympic games and too many international championships to count) and skills, and who is so open and nice to talk to.

You can learn more about João on Facebook and Instagram (his username will tell you a lot about his shooting philosophy).

Joao Costa, Portuguese pistol champion answers questions about technique, training, progression…

Instead of transcribing the full interview I have summarized the questions below.

How and when did you start shooting? 

Officially in 1990, when I shot my first official competition in the air force. My first local competition was when I was 15, just for fun. In 1986 I started shooting in the air force team, stopped for a couple years… And started again seriously in 1997 in the air force. My first olympic games where in 2000, when I was 35.

What made you want to train and compete more seriously? What was your progression like?

In 1991 I was in an air force competition where I did really well in 9mm and I started thinking that I could really dedicate myself to shooting, and a year later I joined a local club with my military pistol.

What are you most proud of in your shooting? 

Well… all the medals of course XD. And like you can see behind me all the accreditation cards from the competitions it is all the travelling and making new friends… after the medals 🙂

Joao designed this tombstone to mourn the death of the free pistol discipline at the Olympics

What advice has had the biggest positive impact in your shooting? Who gave it?

Somebody in 1993 or 94 told me “you should try free pistol, it is what takes you to the Olympics. You have to try free pistol.” I still remember it, because up to that point I was shooting center fire and 9mm. From then on I started shooting free and air pistol and it makes all the difference.

What did you spend a lot of effort on and later discovered it wasn’t so important? 

Everything is important for shooting. We may change focus every couple of years, but everything is important.

How do you train and how often? What does a typical training day look like? Do you train with a coach or by yourself? 

My typical training day is just going to the range and shoot. That’s it.

I don’t have specific exercises or physical exercises for shooting. My training is just shooting, without any electronic tool like SCATT. Just shoot real bullets and real pellets.

Before big competitions I train a lot.

I’ve never had a coach to train with because I live too far away from Lisbon, so I have to train at home or at my shooting range. Some people and books have helped. I’ve filtered the best, what’s more important for me.

How do you stay motivated in training and competition?

In competition it’s easy, because we all want to get a medal. Training is harder but for me it has always been a hobby, something I do for fun.

What do you do before a match or training to get into the appropriate mind space? 

I’m quieter a couple days before a competition and I try not to hurt anything.

How do you manage nervousness through a competition? Can you give an example of inner talk you use when things are not going well? 

You can’t, you have to live with it. Now a days I don’t feel the nerves like in the beginning, shaking and all that. I’ve done a lot of competitions so I no longer get nervous. Starting with 9mm and center fire makes things easier because the 10 was bigger.

I don’t have any kind of inner talk, I just focus on the technique, on doing what I have to do for a good shot: trigger finger, aiming sights… that’s it.

What aspect of the shooting technique has brought you the biggest improvement? How would you recommend people to train it? 

The grip is very important. Then also the wind in free pistol. You have to adapt your shooting to different conditions in different ranges, to having people that distracts you… It changes from competition to competition. You have to compete and get a lot of experience. Experience is everything.

What would you recommend pistol shooters to focus on improving (technical, mental, physical…)? Can you share one exercise or routine for this? How do you think they should go about it? 

What is your shot routine like? 

Focus in the target, rise arm, focus on sights, pressure of grip, pressure of finger, follow through… The most important is to do exactly the same sequence for 60 shots. Keep your focus on the trigger and the sights every shot. It is a question of will. You must do it or you don’t get the results.

Which tool or equipment can’t you live without?

My suitcase with the right guns inside. Everything I need is inside: tools, glasses, shoes… A couple days before a competition I make sure to get it ready.

What question would you have liked me to ask and what’s your answer to it? 

Maybe what can you say to young shooters to keep shooting.

I think that young shooters get distracted with education, family problems, relationships… It happens a lot of times that in this moments of life they have to stop shooting. What I would like to tell them is that even if they have to stop they should get back, even after a couple years, keep on shooting.

A single air pistol shot during a Bundesliga match. This is the loudest shooting league on earth 🙂 You cannot see it in this video, but he shoots with both eyes open.
See João win a silver medal shooting 50m Free Pistol

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