Sunday, January 31, 2010

Zen and the art of Balance

Sometimes I have to watch how things are flowing around me to determine how I am going to get through with the least waves.

For instance, I am shredding in my living room which is a very small area bordered by a life-sized 65" TV, a china cabinet, a couch and the xmas tree, just feeling good about rake and front-side progress I have been making lately. I stumble upon a new version of a trick for me, a toe-set whirling swirl on the same side. I hit it a couple of times, then this last time I hit it, I set it up as I was turning my head away, and I haven't seen that footbag since. Its like it went up, but didn't come down.

In this case, I feel the zen 'gods' of footbag are saying, enough for today. Something is telling me, it's time to stop for today and move on to the other great things in life, like family. I'm taking their advice, and I'm gonna blog for a minute, look for the footbag, go pick at the adhesive stuck to the in-soles of my new Lavers and get ready to go see Avatar again, this time taking public transit to Navy Pier to see it in 3D IMAX.

And the next adventure begins!

Shred notes: Jan 27-28, 09

I juggled a lot yesterday, and did a bunch of the sets that 'stream' fluidly. I came up with a name for the concept of setting into juggle fluidly, and now I have to go search for what it was... there, I found it... I called it "iJuggle", but now I realize how much I don't like that. I'm thinking of calling it 'Streaming Juggle' or 'Seamless'. I like Seamless now.
Today, I hit Phobic (fairy behind the back) (gyro) Blender. Yesterday I hit pixie same reverse swirl on both sides. Fairy twirl on both sides.

Shred notes: 1/31/10
Hit a few variants of xbody rake. Set from opp clipper, under support leg with a switch of support leg and xbody rake with original set foot. Hit toe set whirling swirl. Skooled tons of frontside stuff.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Ted Martin - Guinness World Record Holder

Ted Martin gives me a call last night out of the blue. Small world alert because his name came up in conversation at work, as one of my clients had been contacted by someone unknown about his agent services... anyway that very night, Ted gives me a call. What's up with that?

Ted Martin is the Guinness World Record Holder in the prestigious and coveted event of Singles Footbag Consecutives. Set at an event I organized back in 1997, the record still stands at 63,326 as the most number of kicks of a footbag that any human being has ever completed in a row. Ted has been featured in a special publication by Guinness called "The Top 100 Most Asked About Records" (paraphrased), and he still plays footbag net on a regular basis, along with many other sports. Ted is a true craftsman, and I consider it an honor to have been a part of his domination of the sport back in the day.

A major Trading Card manufacturer, Upper Deck, has created a card to celebrate Ted's accomplishment, and Ted is signing one for me, Valeria and Alex. We will for sure be framing that and adding it over my desk. I can't wait to see them, so I searched their site and found the image above! Awesome!

I am psyched to start shredding today, right now as I post, for the 1136th day in a row! Still, I don't think I would ever try to attempt a single string of over 63,326 kicks in a row... Ted kicks VERY fast compared to me, what took him just over 8.5 hours, would take me at least 12. That's a long session. Thanks Ted for continuing to inspire!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I've forgotten more tricks than I know...

"I've forgotten more tricks than I know!"
While this statement is not entirely true, I often struggle with keeping up with myself. I innovate all the time, and part of my process is to blog about it here. It makes my progress somehow seem more concrete and traceable. I can search to find all the instances of a certain trick, people can keep up with my progress even though I basically shred in seclusion, and I can get feedback from my peers. It is pretentious of me to think anyone would want to keep up with me, so my blogging has a dual purpose... I know there are people who do get inspired, and it is always a nice bonus to know I've inspired someone but mostly it is a 'concrete' summary of my accomplishments and failures, which is fully searchable in a way that I very much desire. It is really my diary. A review of my progress. What a great thing. Thank you google for this platform.

I am pretty sure I have hit Phobic Twirl before, and now I can search my blog to see that it has not been mentioned since I started this on my 1000th day of shred. But I am pretty sure I have hit it, now I have to search my YouTube videos because I might have posted it there. This blog lets me tie the information together so I can retrieve it.

Shred notes: 2/1/10
Using new warm-up strings to get warm fast, and really energized from it. Lots of frontside stuff.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Training with mixed sets...

I have a new theory that I'll test on myself over the next several months. I'm going to step up my warm-up strings by mixing them up.

For the past 3 years I have been getting warm the same way, consistently doing 10 infinities, 10 osis, 10 whirl/osis combos in sequence, blurs, ripwalks, paradox whirls, at least 10 in a row and then I knew I was warm. Kind of boring, but it was a reliable way to quickly warm up. It also helps me when competing to know exactly what sequences I need to do to warm up properly.

My intention is to make my warm-up combos more challenging. Osis-Whirl and Barfly to Barfly are in. Newer combos haven't all been worked out, but I'll be experimenting with these and I'll let you know...

Whirl - blender - whirl - blender
Spinning BTR - Ripwalk - Spinning BTR - Ripwalk
Ducking BTR - PWRL - Ducking BTR - PWRL
Gyro Mirage - Fairy/Pixie BTR - repeat
Barrage - BTR - Barrage - BTR
Pixie Mirage - DLO - Pixie Mirage - DLO
Gotta think about these... Try them out on the 27th. I'll let you know.

I am thinking that by stepping up the difficulty and variety of my warm-up strings that I will then be stepping my game up to the next level, and improve my overall string length and variety.

Shred Notes: 1/26/10
I hit Diving (same) Blender. Still skooling opp pixie/fairy moves, atomic sets, still struggling with Quantum. Getting closer.
See ya!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Picking apart my game: Bails vs. Sets

When I think about my 'game,' there are so many aspects that go into the whole picture, that today I am just going to pick apart the concept of 'Bails', what tricks I Bail to, and my strategy for managing Bails in training.

A 'The' or 'Guiltless' trick is well-defined, but Bails are different for everyone. A Bail is a trick that a player uses as their go-to trick(s), for a sense of stabilization, to quickly get centered, and to set other tricks from. A Bail also 'happens' when you go to do a big trick and you "Bail" to another (usually easier) trick. Players sometimes 'revert' to these Bail tricks to get control of the footbag. They are necessary for performances because they give the player a way to stay with the beat, still accumulate Adds and keep their difficulty ratio high.

For some people, a Bail might be as advanced as Torque, Ripwalk or Spinning Butterfly. For most people a Bail ranges from a Toe Delay in the case of a newer player, or more commonly a Paradox Mirage, Butterfly, Osis or Whirl. I noticed that in competition, that many players bail to a Toe Pick-up.

In my case, my bails are mostly Butterflies and Osii... also Paradox Whirls, Torques, Ripwalks in some cases. It also depends on the level you hold yourself to. I now play at a Guiltless level, where every trick is worth 3 or more points. For a long time, about 10 years ago, I pushed myself to play at a Tripless level where every trick is worth 4 or more points. I am not sure when I went back to a Guiltless level, but it was mostly to improve my string-length which suffered when I went Tripless. Plus when I designed routines, I never planned a trick less than 3 adds except a few Unusual Surfaces.

The bigger your 'Bail' tricks are, the higher your Add Ratio will be, which is a big part of improving your game.

A Set can force a Bail. A big difference between a Bail and a Set is whether it is employed to recover from a potential drop, or if it was intentionally performed to get to another larger trick. When Sets are executed properly, they make the next trick possible. Since every trick is a Set for the next trick, Bails are inevitable.

Another way to look at it, is that I manage Sets everyday during training by finding the most comfortable sets for specific tricks, and I train them in combination. Bails are when I use those tricks to recover from a potentially uncontrollable moment.

Shred notes: 1/25/09
Blurry Whirling Swirl to the left today. Why is it still easier to do Paradox Atom Smasher (nuclear style), than for me to do a simple Atom Smasher. Atomic tricks to the butterfly are more of a 'bail' for me because my brain thinks they are more reliable. Still not sure why Quantum still eludes me. Closer though. By using daily training of my flipside pixie and fairy, along with continuing to hit Atomic sets and Nuclear sets, and now Barrages, my game is evolving yet again.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Innovation is a natural process!

I love when innovation just happens. Those moments are priceless!
Today, I hit Pixie op Symposium Twirl. (and yes, on tape).. I have hit the fairy version going to its 'same' side, and I have been skooling twirls and fairy/pixie moves on a regular basis. Then there it was. I just thought, what if... and there it was. I wasn't looking to do a new trick, I was just exploring the tricks I knew and then melded them together.

Moments like this only happen because of extensive training of components (see previous posts about the importance of 'Components' in freestyle) and through the slow expansion of your game over many tries. I say slow, because for me it is a pretty deliberate process that is similar in how I train. At some point though, the proverbial peanut butter gets into the chocolate and a new trick is born.

I love when that happens. And sure, not always is it an entirely new trick, usually someone else has hit it. But sometimes it is truly unique and that is always a good feeling! However some of these tricks are just incremental add-ons to existing tricks, it is always exciting to hit one. Ultimately, while a handful of other people may have hit that trick, it is great to know I am one of the few. I also love it that I continue to innovate after all these years!

Shred notes: 1/23/10
So close to Quantum. So close. Gonna watch the video ToTT2 in slo-mo tonight to figure out what I'm missing.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Is injury lurking around every corner? Or is injury entirely avoidable?

When I was playing yesterday, I was so excited to be skooling my barfly to blizzard combos. Having fun. Feeling good. Then all the sudden, out of no where, I find myself laying on my back, staring up at the ceiling trying to figure out what went wrong.

One moment of inattention is all it took. It happened so fast and it wasn't on tape, but I think it happened because of slippery floors (see previous blog post). I didn't have the right grip on the ground when I launched and my ankle rolled.

I believe that injury is mostly avoidable. Taking risks is a necessary part of improving your skill level, but taking calculated risks after proper amounts of training is the way to reduce the risk of injury to 'somewhat under control'.

Shred notes: 1/20/10
The pain from yesterday is mostly in the inability to crank my left ankle fully inward and some pain on the left side of the left foot. The fall more seems to have hurt my hip and lower back. Should be ok, not terribly bad.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Shredding on Slippery Floors

I find myself playing on slippery floors quite frequently. Over the past 25 years of playing footbag freestyle, I have played on just about every possible surface. From grass, sand, polished concrete, blacktop, marble, glass, wood, and even gravel... I have become a 'surface snob' as a result of it. In all cases, the surface must be flat and level. It is best to have a 'predictable' place to land, so there are less variables that could cause injury, like uneven ground or slippery spots.

My favorite and preferred surface is concrete. Rough and grippy, concrete offers the best combination of benefits. Whenever possible, I will play on concrete. I feel I can spin more liberally, and more importantly spin the other direction better.

Hardwood floors, marble, glass and polished concrete all have the same down-side. They are slippery. To counteract this, I usually put down a wet towel, or pour water in an out-of-the-way spot and then I step in it periodically to get my feet damp so they stick to the floor better. Especially good for spinning, which I do a lot of.

Grass may be best for footbag net, but it is horrendous for footbag freestyle. It is naturally uneven, and slippery. Unpredictable and inconsistent landing spots cause additional variables to figure in, and when the variables can't be predicted, it can end in injury. I always hold back on the extreme shredding when playing in grass, which is usually at a festival or large even where an ideal surface is not available.

Concrete near the beach tends to be sandy. I always thought I would not be able to play in those conditions, but as long as it isn't a measurable amount of sand, it tends to be just fine. Keep a small broom in the car at all times and you'll never worry about dirty/sandy locations. One of my favorite places to shred is at the beach, but on the cement 'near' the sand.

Use EXTREME CAUTION when kicking in dirt and gravel, on any kind of an incline, and especially in any combination of the above. Greg 'G-F-Smoothie' Nelson sprained his ankle in 1986 at World Footbag Championships at a campground, playing in less than ideal conditions.

Playing is necessary. Ideal conditions are great if you can get 'em, but be prepared to play on any surface and you'll be prepared to play anytime!

Shred notes: 01/16/10
7am shred time. 40 pushups so far. Amazed at how fast I got warmed up. Skooled flipside pixies and frontside dex's. Spinning Barflies.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Oh, that warmed-up feeling

For me, I start to feel warmed up after about 15 minutes of play. I have a system, a series of tricks and basic goals to accomplish just getting started. But there is a point during warm up where I just start to feel the pre-sweat, that is the turning point. That is when I make sure to do blur/blizzard drills, ripwalk and paradox whirl drills to get totally warm.

The point of 'first-sweat' is that moment where I can feel the sweat coming on. I am usually breathing pretty hard, and can feel my pulse in my forehead/temple area. I know at that point I can turn up the heat on the workout and really start to push it more. I suppose what I am saying is that I ease my way into my jam session every day. I stretch in small bits in the morning, and more deliberately in the afternoons.

It seems also, that when I have a clear goal to work on, one that I am mentally excited about, that it is easier to get warmed up fast.

Shred notes: 1/21/09
Paradox Torques both sides, Blurry Torques on left, unable on right. Lots of swirls, twirls, blenders and the like. Not so much noticeable pain from the other day. Thank my lucky stars.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Footbag Illustrates Life Lesson: "Believe it can be done"

I have observed such footbag greats as Ryan Mulroney, Vasek Klouda Kenny Shults and others over the years. One similarity they all have is their belief in themselves. A belief of 'possibilities.' A belief system that allows them not only conceive but achieve. Watching Vasek specifically, I think about the duality between physical ability and will to achieve, and I think maybe I missed the boat on the 'belief in myself' area.

Historically, my advancements have been based on the achievements of others. I see what can be done, and I make sure to learn it. It is how I built my footbag career over the years, with occasional bursts of creativity like Twirls that I can call my own. While I have been an innovator, my successes have been largely due to my incremental growth in the sport, based on components.

I generally work on components that build toward a larger trick, taking the careful approach When maybe I should be just believing in the possibility that just because it 'hasn't been done before' that maybe I can be the one who does it.

Moving forward, I want to keep this new revelation in the front of my mind. I want to ask my friends to keep me in check and to continue to challenge me with what they think I might be able to do. I really appreciate the feedback. Feedback is a gift. Thanks for all the gifts!


Shred Notes: 1/10/09 thru 1/13/10
Baroque (barraging torque) on both sides. More gyro barrages. I can see barraging mobius and sympobius in my future. So close. Crazy about barrages. They are opening up a whole new direction for variety in my game. Tons of new moves for me!

I hit Blurriest x3 today, which puts me in the ranks of Kenny Shults from 1993 at Xmas Jam in Michigan where he skooled us all on what freestyle was coming to. Glad to catch up to Kenny, even if it is 17 years later.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Doubles Footbag Freestyle is harder to train for...

I was thinking back over the years. I have played my share of doubles freestyle, and I think it is a harder event to train for than singles. Doubles Footbag Freestyle Routines are longer than singles, and there is no room for error at any point through it. In singles, if I have to take a detour, it is between me and the footbag. In doubles, if something unintended happens, both of us have to react in unison and no matter how hard I train, I always fear an unforced error that causes confusion.

Doubles routines are mapped out more intricately, literally trick-by-trick. Singles routines are a bit more flexible in structure. Honestly, I train singles routines with the goal of a consistent end-product. The reality is that somewhere through a 2 minute performance will be an error, but getting back on track is something I can train for. My game-plan in singles is to keep moving forward, get back on track with the intended performance in cadence with the music. In doubles, this is so much harder to do. Getting on track without looking like motley fools.

I can play singles alone, but a good partner needs to live in the same general proximity as me, which has generally meant that my doubles pairings are cyclical based on the players that are strong on the scene at the time.

I can play singles any time I want, but to play doubles requires first having a nearby strong player willing to train, and juggling two schedules to make that happen.

Over the years, I have played doubles freestyle with many players you might recognize... Andy Linder, Kenny Shults, Keaton Halley, Steve Smith and Valeria Davidson. Forgive me if I forgot anyone, it has been many years.

This year I plan to pair up with Valeria for Mixed Doubles Freestyle at Worlds (if it is in the US this year, you can count on us being there.). What a better partner than my own wife, and with that, all the above criteria come together. I'll keep you posted on that.

See ya!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Results for 25th Annual Midwest Regional Footbag Championships & New Years Jam

It has been more than a week since we wrapped up the 25th Annual Midwest Regional Footbag Championships & New Years Jam. Thanks to everyone who attended, it was great to shred with you all! Thanks for coming out! We had a blast as usual, and are already planning for next year.

Thanks to our Sponsors - World Footbag Association, Freedom Footbags,, BRAT, Chicago's Mayors Office of Special Events, Kolo Sports, CIC and all the people who made this another event to remember!

Here is a video of day 1, Routines:
All the photos are at:

More video to follow.

We introduced footbag to hundreds of interested onlookers during this event!

Midwest Regional Footbag Championships Results:
Open Singles Footbag Freestyle Routines:
1st Place - Milan Benda
2nd Place - Scott Davidson
3rd Place - Ken Somolinos

Open Circle Contest:
1st Place - Ken Somolinos
2nd Place - Milan Benda
3rd Place - Matt Kemmer
4th Place - Reid Strellner

Novice Consecutive Contest:
Alex Davidson - 32 (and personal best of 102)

Intermediate Footbag Freestyle Routines:
1st Place - Joe Michels
2nd Place - Corey Allen

Intermediate Circle Contest:
1st Place - Joe Michels
2nd Place - Matt Mueller
3rd Place - Corey Allen
4th Place - Freddy Noinaj

We had tons of great prizes thanks to the sponsors!

See ya next year!

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Playing footbag at 'lunch' requires preparation

To optimize the amount of playtime I can squeeze out of a lunchbreak, I carefully prepare every morning before work. I wear my kicking shorts under my pants and carry with me a 'shred bundle' of extra clothes. The bundle has a shirt to play in (It will get sweaty), a change of socks and underclothes & a sweat towel. Always a footbag t-shirt and always a towel from a footbag tourney.

When I leave for lunch, my strategy is to get to my shred site as quickly as possible. Shed the outer layer so I am in kicking shorts, footbag shirt, short socks and my Adidas Rod Laver shoes. I start my warm up strings just as soon as I get the music started.

By the time I finish at :50 elapsed, I rush back to work and do a quick change/cleanup and back to work.

Doesn't leave room for eating time, that is why I always put 'lunch' in quotes. It only really takes 6-10 minutes to eat a light lunch, so I figure 'that's what breaks ate for!'

Skool hard everyday. Prepare properly and it is a breeze.

I have had many times where I didn't prepare properly and had to 'roll with it' to accomplish the goal of daily shred. I've had to buy shorts because I forgot to bring them. I've had to play in work shorts and in pants. Even once I had to play in skateboard shoes, that turned out to be less productive than it was educational. Every morning I prepare my backpack in an effort to guarantee I get my daily shred.

See ya!

Shred Notes: 1/6/09
Obsessed with Sympobius... Symposium mobius. Sooooo close. Did hit Gyro symposium mirage, or probably not really gyro with the plant so "Spyro Symposium Mirage" is more proper. Hit a bunch of nuclear stuff, Paradox atom smasher, reverse paradox torque done nuclear style on flipside. Blizzards still in daily routine, doing pushups too for upper body. Hit Gyrrage again. Seems Jani Walker is the same as a blender but done in the front with a totally different set of motions.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Getting warm in the cold

Part of playing everyday is learning to play in adverse conditions. Sometimes in small spaces, on slippery floors, less than ideal lighting conditions, or without my favorite footbag. The most recurring adverse condition, especially this time of year, is playing when it is cold. Half the battle is getting warm in the first place.

Playing Footbag freestyle in the cold is particularly challenging for a couple of reasons. First, it takes soooooooo long to get warm, even in medium temps around 50•. Second, it requires additional layers of clothes which compound the problem of getting warm.

It usually takes me 15-20 minutes playing alone to be fully warmed up, but the cold, at least a half hour. If I was playing in a circle I may never get warm, so I would for sure warm up alone, then join a circle.

As I get warm and start sweating profusely, I peel off the layers. First the sweater, then the thermal running tights, then the long sleeve shirt. I find that a nice thinsulate pair of liner gloves keeps the fingers warm and tricks the brain into thinking extremities are warm. The gloves look ridiculous unless I have a long sleeve shirt on. I have employed chemical hand warmers too, even under the toes to keep the feet warm. I notice that when I walk around outside in shorts in the cold that my knees get frozen first, but by flexing them they seem to be ok. This frozen knee thing is new this year as I don't remember this ever being a problem in the past.

I have shredded in sub-zero temps using these techniques, and when done right, I am literally steaming when I am done. Steam is good.

Today I'm working on frozen moves in a futilly symbolic attempt to pay homage to the cold that has blanketed our region. I am lucky to have found a hovel where they have so far tolerated my mad shredding each day, about 50 degrees but cold when the doors open.

Shred Notes: 01/04/09
Jani walker is easier now, and now that I have the magic hop in my barrages, they are being integrated into daily play now. Also hitting gyrrage regularly, and now attempting Barroque (barraging torque), paradox barrage (which I hit way back in '94 the first time I met Tuan Vu at Heart of Freestyle), and barraging toe pickup.

- enlightener

Friday, January 1, 2010

What keeps me going?

As 2010 rolls through (1108 days in a row as we start the new year), I think about the question... 'What motivates me? What keeps me playing everyday?'
There is no single element of footbag that keeps this childish exuberance alive. It is a combination of things, among them:
-The near-infinite variety of possible individual tricks and combinations
-The personal challenge of always pushing myself to do better, more difficult tricks and combos
-The friends I have made, the new people I meet, and the future players I might influence
-The knowledge that a very small percentage of people on the planet can do what I do, and I can and do innovate new tricks and combos that no other person on the planet has ever done before. Or at least 'very' few people.
-The meditative value of footbag cannot be overlooked. On a daily basis, I go from the distractions of daily life, into a deep somewhat-meditative state of challenge and possibility in just a matter of minutes as I get through my warmups. And for some reason, if I visualize footbag freestyle strings while I am laying down, I tend to fall asleep.
-To dip into my personal 'fountain of youth' on a daily basis
-To still be playing solidly when someone finally offers a Masters category for freestyle
-To be able to boast that I am 'the oldest shredder' and know that my game backs it up!
-To be able to pull out a footbag at any moment and show off for a camera, knowing that I am still at the top of my game.
-Because I know that while I can't 'give back' to the world from my pocketbook, but I can use as a way to position footbag as a healthy activity for kids, and to teach them to play.
-The way my family pulls together to play together, and for all the travel time we get when we go to tournaments
-All the great excuses to travel, when I would otherwise probably come up with excuses.
-For the weight I have taken off, and kept off because of the constant physical challenge footbag offers.
I play everyday because I love the way it makes me feel!

Have a great year!