The Search for My Perfect Swing — Part 13

It’s Debug Time

As the season is winding down, it’s time to review my progress and define a plan for the winter. I decided to begin to use the printed form that I developed to monitor the status of each shoe thrown. In addition, I critiqued my last tournament. A number of issues jumped to the forefront. So, I thought I would tackle each one, in no particular order.

Grip Changed
In my first match on Saturday I decided to use the Snyder EZ Flips as I had warmed up well with them before the matches began. I found the driest pits I could, for practice. When I flip with caulks up, my thumb rests on the angle of the caulk. This permits a 40 degree droop of the shoe at release, which I need in order to get the shoe flat and open to the stake. This requires a pretty sturdy pinch grip. Unfortunately, the majority of the pits were still wet from previous rains. In my first match I was having trouble maintaining my grip throughout the backswing and release due to wet slippery shoes and glove. Since Monday, I have turned the shoe over, i.e., Caulks Down, which permits me to have a much firmer hold on the shoe throughout the swing. See Part 7 for Grip with Caulks Up and Grip with Caulks Down. The Snyder EZ Flip shoe has a perfectly designed caulk for my short fingers. My index finger locks into the hook and my middle finger locks into the back of the caulk. This however, created an additional problem, no droop. The shoe was now only rotating 540 degrees instead of 580, thus, the shoe was over-rotating. I decided to experiment a little and ended up changing my stance.

Stance Changed
My normal stance had me standing on the approach with my right foot in the right hand corner of the approach at 27 feet. My left foot was behind the right and raised to permit a slight tilt to put me closer to the line of flight. However, I had to guard against the tendancy to lose my balance on the forward swing. I decided to switch my stance to the left foot forward, which allowed me to naturally brace myself against the forward swing. This puts me into a much more balanced stance and is in keeping with martial arts positions (I took Aikido classes when younger.) Normally, this stance places the left foot at 35 degrees and the right foot at 10 degrees. I kept experimenting until I ended up with the stance as pictured. With right foot forward the shoe was dangling 9 inches from the foul line when my arm was hanging straight down. With the new stance the shoe is 18 inches behind the foul line. The paragraph, “Tightened Line of Flight”, describes an added and welcomed bonus. The photo below shows my new stance. I know this looks odd, but, it works for me. It felt odd at first, however, that is precisely why it works. It significantly reduced any sloppiness in the swing.

Here is a little test that was revealing to me, and may explain why this swing alignment seems to work. If you stand facing forward and swing both arms up in front of you and touch the tips of your index fingers together, you will notice that your arms seem to naturally swing across in front of you and come together in the center of your chest. If you slowly rotate your body to the right (clockwise), continuing to swing to the front, you will reach a point where the arm would be swinging down the line of flight. As a matter of fact, if you simply face forward and raise your arms up and touch fingers, you can hold that position as you slowly rotate you body right. When your right arm points down the line of flight, stop. Check your feet. Now, next time you step on the approach place your feet into that final position. I think you’ll find it is very much like the photo of my feet below.

New Stance

New Stance

Tightened Line of Flight
Prior to my stance change, I recorded the status of every shoe thrown. My ringer average with both sets of Six Shooters was about 50%. However, my misses tended to be left with the medium weighted shoes and right with the heavier shoes. Secondly, my bounceback and bounceoff stat indicated 0 on the medium weighted shoes and 6 of the heavier shoes per 26 shoes. When I switched my stance and grip and began using the EZ Flips, my recorded ringer average jumped to 70%. Every shoe that I threw after the stance change was either a ringer or hit the stake a glancing blow. My only explanation for this is that this new stance seems to change the pendulum to act more like the pendulum on a grandfather clock instead of free swinging like the Foucault Pendulum.

The Foucault Pendulum, was on display at the History Museum at the Smithsonian Institution to show the effect of the earth’s rotation. However, the pendulum was free to move in any direction, and did. Normally, the shoulder acts more like the Foucault Pendulum over the locked hub of the grandfather clock. I have also discovered that I am much more accurate if I rehearse the swing prior to release. See paragraph “Pre-Release Rehearsal,” below. Perhaps if I were a kinesiologist I could explain why the backswing and forward swing seems to stay on line more accurately with this adjusted stance. IMPORTANT — After you take your stance, rotate your upper body as far to the left as possible. Perform your Pre-Release Rehearsal and concentrate on passing the shoe close to the right leg on the way back. In this swing it is imperative that only the arm swings and there is no body movement of any kind.

Pre-Release Rehearsal
I had noticed during the last tournament that when I brought the shoe up to eye level, prior to my backswing and release, the shoe was quivering. It was either from nerves or tension. Either way, it was not a visual I wanted everytime I went to drop the shoe into the backswing. With my new stance, I’ve also changed my Pre-Release Rehearsal. I start the final forward swing by swinging the shoe up to eye level with the left edge of the shoe passing up the stake to a point several inches above the top of the stake. I don’t allow it to hover, but, immediately drop it into the backswing. This permits me to monitor my swing speed and eliminate the tension caused by holding the shoe in a stationary position. I also try to pass the shoe fairly close to my right leg since the center of gravity of the shoe passes over the line of flight when close to my right leg. What is very interesting is that when the left edge of the shoe is too far to the left, the shoe will go left and vice versa to the right. I have decided that it would be better if I didn’t release the shoe on the forward swing when it is off line, but, go through another pre-release upswing until the alignment to the stake was correct. I’m finding that easier said, then done.

It Looks Like My Search May Be Over

I have been reluctant to put this title on this section. It has only been a week since I made the grip, stance and pre-swing adjustment. So, I’ve left a little fudge factor (May Be Over) in the title. My personal test has always been to see how long it takes when I first start, to get my release, distance and direction correct. So, I deliberately stop after about 1/2 hour, and come back later and practice again. So far I’ve not gone beyond 4 shoes before my first ringer. Sometimes it’s the first shoe. An added bonus is that my left hip, the reason for my switch to 30 feet, does not bother me, even after many hours of practice.

I still throw from 40 feet and stride forward during my Monday night league. After three games my hip is killing me. With the permission of the league, I should be able to move up to 30 feet, next year.

Future Plans

There are several areas that I wish to investigate when time and funds permit. I want to know when and why a shoe bounces back? Does a wobbling shoe have a better chance of a ringer? Should I sacrifice a little width of the shoe when it arrives at the stake, to reduce bounceback? What is the best angle of a dropping shoe? Is a concave ringer break better than a convex one? I want to see if I can modify a one-time use camera to flash when I release the shoe? I have my eye on a digital camera that has a 1,200 frame per second burst speed to capture the impact of the shoe at the stake. So, you can see that my search continues and the coming winter gives me lots of time to experiment.

Finally, I have one or two more tournaments coming up. If anything changes I’ll be adding a further Part 14 to this blog. I hope that something that I have mentioned can find it’s way into your personal search. Until then…Good Luck and keep chuckin’

E-mail me with any questions

Continue to Part 14

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