Tom Simpson © November 2002 – All Rights Reserved – PoolClinics.com
Over time, I’ve accumulated a handful of strange-sounding but useful tips & techniques. I call them “woo woo techniques” because of the response they draw from players lacking an open mind (“Wooooo, that’s one of them New Age thangs, ain’t it?” “Hey look, he’s one with the ball – ha-ha.” “Wooooo, wooooo, check out that kung-fu tai-chi yoga granola energy technique.”).
My columns are usually pretty technical and objective, meaning I try to base them mostly on physics and effective body use. However, these tips are not objective – not based on stuff we know how to measure. They are simply tips & techniques I think are worth experimenting with. Sometimes, if you focus on an aspect of your form in a completely new way, you learn surprising things. You might even improve. Worst case – you have a woo woo story to laugh about with your buds.
1. Hanging From Space – This is a way to stand tall while you are sighting your shot and stepping into the ball address. The idea is to feel tall and well-balanced, so your sighting and the alignment of your body with the shot is as precise as possible. When you stand tall, with your joints “open,” the various clenches and stiffnesses that make up your posture tend to cause less stroke interference. Try this: Standing back from the shot, imagine you are suspended from high above through a hook sticking out the top of your head. Tilt your chin slightly down, so the hook comes out slightly toward the back of the head. The head angle we’re looking for is where, if you pull your hair straight up, your chin does not get pulled up or down. That’s where your head hook is. Let your body weight hang as if you are suspended from that hook. You are hanging with your feet just barely touching the floor. You should feel tall and very alive and aware. Try to maintain this open-joints feeling – this extension – as you step in and drop into position. Woooo.
2. Tongue Fu – I really like this one. In Chinese Chi Kung breathing practices aimed at improving the circulation of “chi” (life energy) in the body, a key point is to touch the tip of your tongue to the roof of your mouth to “complete the circuit.” They go so far as to identify a number of specific spots on the roof of the mouth to touch – we’re not going that far. I find that when I’m in the zone, my tongue is touching the roof of my mouth and my jaw is slightly open (teeth not touching). This should be pretty soft – no clench in the jaw, and just enough tongue pressure to know it’s there. If this is something my body does when I’m in the zone, maybe doing it will help put me in the zone more readily.
3. Drop & Deflate – As you make the move from standing, down into your final ball address position (I call this “the drop”), try this breathing and settling technique. When you get down to where your bridge hand is on the table, it’s time to settle deeply into position. Do this final settling by gently exhaling through your nose as you drop the last few inches or millimeters. The feeling should be one of deflating. You are sinking into the table with your hand and into the floor with your feet. Allow this exhalation to release your tensions and settle you fully down into position. Once you’re all the way down and settled, you should have an amazingly stable, solid, unwavering setup from which to shoot. You should have no part of you that wants to rise or jump up. Everything is all the way down.
4. Hanging Belly – Yes, I know, this is not very American. When you are down in your ball address position, let your belly hang – absolutely hang. No holding it in. Holding that belly in stiffens your body and interferes with your fluidity. Let it go. Make the shot. You’re the only one who cares about that gut anyway.
5. Sphincter Release – I’m sure this one got your attention. Yes, nothing is sacred. You can do your own jokes on this one. This may be the best physical performance tip of the bunch. We typically carry way more clench in our anuses than we need. We’re generally not aware of it though, because what we’ve always done feels normal to us. Give up some clench. Here’s the deal: The more clench you release, the more freely you can stroke. If you seriously work on this one, you’ll continue to find more ways to release. Over time, your overall, day-to-day clench level will decrease. This pays off in every physical activity.
All five of these techniques can be used together. In fact, I see #4 and #5 as the last steps to the drop. No joke intended.