Sunday, June 27, 2010

Genzu's shoe modifications worked to reduce pain...

Life is teaching me a lesson about pain.  How serious it is when someone is in constant pain, please take them seriously and try to make them comfortable.  It is mentally debilitating.  It effects my every moment.  I work hard, I play hard and I love every minute of it.  My intention is to perform my best at every moment, in every aspect of my life.  To lead by example.  Even in the best of situations, it is difficult to stay in the moment.  When pain like this is present, it makes its way to the foreground and hampers my best efforts at excellent performance.  It distracts me from my focus on performing well in the moment, and makes me just try to survive it.

I tried to take a short nap before the Argentina vs. Mexico world cup game today, and I thought about how the pain is amplified by landing on my right foot.  Really, it was the shoe constricting against the swollen toe that causes the pain.  I was in so much pain when I was at work this week, standing all day in tight fitting shoes.  I would wear sandals to work, but the new rules there technically keep me from that and I think it is unsafe to wear open toe shoes when riding a xootr anyway.  It occurred to me that regardless of how it looks, I need to relieve my pain at work so just standing there doesn't make me cringe in pain, I need to convert a pair of old Rod Laver shoes into Genzu modified Rod Lavers.  I looked up Daryl's blog and found the picture that changed my day.

Today I modified a pair of old blue Rod Laver's so the right toe is open like Daryl 'Genzu' Genz's.  It worked, an orthopedic success!  Especially since the only shoes I ever wear are Rod Laver tennis shoes.  I did a footbag demo at Taste of Chicago with Alex and Valeria, and I made it through the two hours with the microphone, and another hour kicking with the CIC guys by Buckingham Fountain.  I got some good footage and will publish a movie soon.  It was hard to set the footbag off of my right toe because of the intensity of effect caused by my toe curl, but I could figure that out if I had to.  My infection did get worse and the swelling went up, but I was able to bear it.  I hope this infection passes, because living with pain like this is unfathomable.  I can't imagine what it must be like for someone with real problems like Cancer, Diabetes or heart disease.  Ouch.


Shred notes: 6/27/10
Just glad to be shredding.  Infection still getting worse.  Little white dot showed up in the middle of the swollen part.  Playing on grass sucks, but when doing youth outreach, you can't be picky.  Not ideal, but probably less impact on my toe too.

Injury without honor...

Hangnails are my worst fear.  Every time I cut my toenails I am conscious of the possibility of a painful hangnail, and this one has been getting worse for 10 days now.  Doesn't seem to get better.  I refuse to be stopped.  I have been skooling every day for 1285 days in a row, and I won't be stopped by a freaking hangnail.  An injury without honor.  I could see that if I got injured by playing footbag freestyle, that there would be some solace in knowing that my own obsession with the sport is the reason for breaking a streak.  If this keeps up, I'm going to have to go to a doctor.  I hate doctors, I'm pretty sure they hate me too.  They seem to be a bunch of pill pushers, or knife wielding madpeople with some hidden agenda to save their insurance overlords money so they can get that bonus and go to the Bahamas.

Today I am studying Daryl Genzu Genz, and how he laces his shoe.  My solution is to Genzu a pair of Lavers and relieve the pressure that is caused by my shoes pushing up against my big toe every time I land.  I still have another 2 hour demo this afternoon at Taste of Chicago where we shred and teach kids about the basics of footbag.

Shred notes: 6/27/2010
Just trying to be productive and play through the pain. Lots of ice on the toe to keep swelling down, lots of neosporine too. Ouch

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Videotaping tips for footbag freestyle... and footbag net

I have had a videocamera since 1988, thanks to being inspired by Jay Moldenhauer, Greg Nelson, then later Steve Kremer and Josh Casey... also Dennis Jones.  I was at the beginning of my footbag career and I saw how Jay was videotaping the finals of events and the sideline shredding as well.  They were using it as an effective learning tool and accelerating their footbag game exponentially.  It was amazing.  I purchased the exact same camera that Jay had, it was a sony hi-8 camera (and I have TONS of footage to convert from the old days, just not enough room to store it, time to do it, or money to buy the thingy that converts it to digital) that served me well for many years.  I never get credited with this, but I MADE THE FIRST SHRED VIDEO EVER!  I put together the best footage I had of routines and side-shreds and made about fifty copies onto videotapes and I gave them away for free with labels on them that encouraged the recipients to make more copies and give them to their friends.  No copyrights, free distribution.  I was spreading the word.  I still am.

Videotaping has evolved since those days, youtube has made free distribution into a fun pastime.  Footbag has gotten more complicated, even faster action and still uses a very small ball that is sometimes hard to see.  Here are some tips for making videos of footbag:
1. Get a good camera.  HD quality and a wide angle lens is helpful.  See comparison of footage between a point and shoot and my new Smartest Phone from a built-in HD video camera (starts with an "i") below, just released into the wild 2 days ago.
2. Pay attention to lighting.  When shooting outdoors in direct sunlight, try to keep the sun behind you.  It is better to film on a cloudy day than in direct sunlight because the diffused light that the clouds let through is more evenly distributed across your subjects.  If you are shooting indoors there can be many shadows depending on your lighting style.  In a conference room, the fluorescent lights provide a good diffused light experience, but sometimes causes a kind of harmonic resonance when the frame rate of the camera exactly matches the flashing-cycle rates of the fluorescent lights, plus for reasons of cleanliness, conference rooms tend to have very busy patterns in the carpeting which make it bad for playing and filming.  In a garage, you are going to need lights coming from as many angles as possible to reduce the shadowing, but it can get pretty bad if you only have a few lights.  If you have a shadowing problem indoors, try to stay with your back to the best light.
3. Learn to stabilize your shots, limit movement if you don't have a self-stabilizing camera or use a tripod.
4. Get the right angle for the right shot.  Best is a straight on shot from just below hip level with the sun behind you, or good ambient diffused light indoors.  I use a lot of upward angles because I don't have a tripod with me most of the time and I balance the camera on the ground.  Angles from above are a nice novelty, but really don't give a good idea of what is going on.
5. Don't shoot from too far away.  If you use the optical zoom to 'get closer', be aware it will amplify any movements you make, so if I had to use optical zoom, I would always recommend a tripod.
6. Turn OFF digital zoom, it is useless.  Seriously, turn it off!  Now!
7. When I am taping, I keep recording until I get something worth keeping, then I stop and restart the recording.  This makes reviewing the footage go MUCH faster because rather than reviewing every second of footage, I go to the end of each clip and trim away everything before it to save space and get rid of unusable footage ASAP.
8. When using a tripod, I find that the mini ones are easy to carry around, but are hard to set up to get the right angle, only because I have to pretty much lay on the ground to see what my image frame is capturing.  So for the mini tripods, I prefer to set them up on a pedestal to make it easy to check the frame field.  Ideally, a medium size tripod puts the camera at the right height to get a good shot and be easy to set-up.  I prefer to set my tripod at about 2 feet high.
9. If you are putting your camera on the ground to film, I suggest a slight upward angle.  On my Canon point-and-shoot camera, I use the hand strap under the front of the camera which props it up at the right angle so I don't see a lot of ground in front of my feet.  On my new Phone4, I had to rest it in my extra shirt to angle it back, but I could not see through the viewing side, I had to guess at what my camera was capturing, but it turned out to be useable.
10.  Get the right distance from the player.  All cameras are different.  Think about how you are going to use your footage.  If you are doing a static tripod shot, the closer you are to the players the less range the players have to move around in, and you risk losing good footage when players drift out of frame.  On the other hand, if you put it too far away, you lose the necessary detail and sometimes can't see the footbag because it is so small.
11.  Choose a solid backdrop when possible.  If you have trees, or random objects in the background, the viewers may not be able to see the footbag as it travels across the foreground.  So if you are videotaping, and you have any 'say' in the process of picking a location, try to find something as close to a solid color for your background.

Comparison of video camera footage for your review:
Canon Powershot SD630 (about 4 years old) with 640x480 frame size 24fps:

Video from my new phone camera which is HD 720p at 30fps (this popular camera phone was released on June 24, 2010):

(make sure to click on the HD version at bottom right) It seems that youtube knocks my videos down to half quality.  Not sure why.

Footbag Net match - Finals from last weekends Windy City Cup 2010 on old Canon camera:

For videotaping footbag net, you really need two cameras that are timestamped together. I would generally like to keep the camera from moving left to right, so a long shot from either end of the court would be great for most of the match, but use the camera that is along the net line to do close ups of the arial dog fights that are the 'meat' of the matches.

Shred notes: Week of June 25th, 2010
I have had a hangnail for the past week that is killing me.  Hurts like hell every time I step down on my right foot, but it hasn't stopped me from shredding every day.  It seems to be getting worse, which means that on Monday if it hasn't gotten better, I'll be going to the doctor, which are words rarely uttered from my mouth.  Either way, we have a Kick for Health youth outreach today and tomorrow at Taste of Chicago from 4-6 and plenty of time to shred then.  Been skooling routines a lot.  Jay Claffey and his daughter came by the other day to visit me during my lunch shred, that was awesome too.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Inspired by Tricks of the Trade II

EVERYONE in Chicago area should be at Windy City Cup at Navy Pier north entrance today, Sunday, June 20 whether you freestyle or play net, this is the place to be!  10-5... this is possibly the best location for a footbag tournament that footbag net has ever seen in Chicago!  Be there!

A huge storm came through, 100's of thousands of people without power, but our Comcast went out so we had power, but no internet or cable TV.  Why did the storm come through during World Cup?  Anyway, I was looking through my DVD collection, it was early in the morning, and I threw in the Tricks of the Trade II video (if you have VHS, you can get a copy for $5) from World Footbag Association and Kenny Shults.

I am so proud and motivated by the achievements of others.  I am grateful to have been around for many of these milestones.  Not many people watch old footbag videos from past World Championships performances and are brought to tears, but I'm one of them.  Watching the greats like Sam Conlon, Peter Irish and Rippin Rick Reese do the routines that I was busy judging is inspiring to say the least.  Watching Carol Weidemier (sp?) do effortless Blurry Drifters, just amazing.  I took 2nd place behind Rippin' in that Montreal dropless routine he did, and I'm pretty sure I took 2nd behind Peter Irish in that Satellite routine too.  I love this sport!

Watching all my friends do their tricks and having Kenny Shults describe the details is especially helpful to people like me who struggle to grasp the names of some advanced tricks.  It is like having Kenny Shults as my personal coach!  Also, with advanced tricks I can pick apart the technical sequence, but I always forget the street-names of tricks and this video helps me to get the names right.

I saw a bunch more tricks that I would like to perfect, it is such a great video that every mid level player should have it, and every advanced player should study it!  Get your copy of Tricks of the Trade II video today (if you have VHS, you can get a copy for $5) from World Footbag Association and Kenny Shults.  Novice and intermediates should be careful not to try to get to these tricks too quickly.  I firmly believe that part of my longevity has to do with the amount of time I spent on each component of the more advanced tricks and my organic approach toward bettering my game.

Side note: Hey WFA!  How hard would it be to get this video available for digital purchase through iTunes Movie store?  Could be a new revenue stream for you.

To wrap this up, I want to thank all my footbag friends for continuing on this journey of athletic challenges with me!

Shred hard and prosper!


Shred notes: June 19, 2010
It is frustrating to spend 15 minutes on a trick and not hit it.  Quantum is my 'nemesis' (excuse the freestyler pun) these days.  I can't seem to get close.  I need to watch that frame by frame because I am missing something.  I can't skool it too hard because I don't want to cause stress injuries from new movements, so I'll keep working on it periodically.  Been skooling routines and long strings lately, mostly at Mammoth Springs Training Center.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Being 'in the Zone' is really mastering the moment!

Today is 1276 days in a row shredding.

In my most recent post, I focused on being 'in' the moment.  Mostly because upon further analysis, the moment is all we have.  In life and in footbag, being focused on the moment, while having an outline for the future and a fond recollection of the past is what makes a good person great!

When I can complete a trick that has 5 or 6 elements and follow it immediately with a series of other tricks that are similarly difficult, I know that I have mastered that moment, that I was in 'the Zone.'

To reiterate my recent postulation, I feel that my experience with footbag where I am constantly challenging myself to focus as many elements of difficulty into each moment, has helped me to realize that some of my greatest moments are when I'm just enjoying the beach with my family, eating dinner with my parents.  Different situations require varying types of mastery, but recognizing that it is the moment I am in, rather than the moment that is (in theory) coming up, which is truly valuable.

I ask myself as often as possible, how can I master 'this' moment?  I find myself going through this mental exercise more frequently during my conscious hours... In the morning, how can I be more efficient in getting things done around the kitchen while still preparing for work and enjoying it?  How do I get to work?  How can I out-perform at work?  How do I get the most value from my play time (shred sessions)?  What is the implications of my commuting decisions?  How can I be the best dad when I'm around the house in the evenings and weekends?

I think living in the moment, allows me to live without regrets.  So I find myself asking myself, "Self? How can I be 'in the Zone' in every aspect of my life?"


Shred notes: from Thurs, June 17th
Kicked at Mammoth Springs Training Center and worked mostly on routines for the past 2 days.  It has been fun.  Nothing new, but still hitting the barfly ending in cross body rake in many iterations daily.  Skool it baby!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

This moment is all we have...

If a footbag freestyle performance isn't a great example of 'living in the moment', then I don't know what is.    From a philosophical perspective all we really have this moment right now.  The past is a memory and the future is merely conjecture.  Time is really the passing of a series of moments in rapid succession.

A footbag freestyle trick takes place in about a second and for most people, that is the equivalent of a moment.  We cram as much action as we can into the moment that a trick takes place in.  Think about it, whether the footbag simply goes from one toe catch or another, or in between delays there were three distinctly unique leg dexterity motions, a half turn and a moving toe pickup like a rake, the same amount of time has passed.  The same moment could be a boring toe delay or it could be a blurriest barfly cross body rake, and then followed by another moment of brilliance, and another.  To achieve multiple motions in a single moment is to master that moment, and I get to do this every single day!

I believe that my life is enriched by this principle.  So many people worry about the future and regret the past.  It is important to make plans to conquer the future, and to fondly remember the past.  Through footbag freestyle, I have really improved my ability to really kick back and enjoy this moment, the only moment that I am guaranteed, the moment I am in right now!


Shred notes for June 2010:
Have been shredding at Great America, Brookfield Zoo, Mammoth Springs Shred Center, Rehm Pool, my double-secret hallway indoor location and at Oak Street Beach.  We've been having a nice summer so far.  Also hit some killer stuff recently...  I have been going through my routine obsessively every day at the end of my shred, but also on alternating days (mostly) I work exclusively on the routine.  What is it called when you do a barfly ending in a cross-body rake?  Well I hit that in blurriest, and spinning varieties.  And on film too. Spent a day just working on threading tricks... hit threading juggles and threaded blurs.  Hit Phobic spinning xross body rake, and a butterfly version of it too.  I have a hell of a video to put together with updates on what I've been working on for the entire spring.  I love this sport!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Threading - Thanks to Gary Lautt!

I have been threading for years now.  It started literally at the VERY beginning of my footbag experience.  It is difficult to put into writing the magnitude of the effect that Gary Lautt had on my understanding of that a freestyle performance is.  Back in 1985, in the early days of VHS, it was rare to use videotape for learning purposes.  It was rare to see any valuable footage of any advanced footbag freestyle at all.  In fact, advanced freestyle at the time did not include the concept of "adds", and did not have any content beyond around-the-worlds and flying clippers.  I am not sure where I saw Gary play, probably at a WFA event associated with Worlds, but to see someone so confidently hit repeated rainbow outside kicks with effortless abandon, and spins ending in inside kicks for an NBA basketball crowd at halftime... it was awe-inspiring.  Everyone in the audience knew exactly what was happening in his performance, they related to it... I related to it.  In a big way!  

This is when I first saw Gary thread the footbag his encircled fingers in-between kicks.  I have to say, that with all of the advancement in footbag freestyle, I still see the value of what Gary's performances offer.  The simplicity of basic kicks with the added difficulty of threading it through his fingers.  It was amazing.  

It was after at least 20 solid years of shredding that I finally started applying the "Lautt-inspired" Threading concept to more advanced tricks.  I wanted to call it the "Lautt" to honor the great-one, but after years of trying, it is better known as "Threading".  I have applied the "Threading" concept to so many different tricks, I should make a list.  

Today I honored Gary by devoting my entire shred (except for the run-thru my worlds routine at the end) to Threading tricks.

Gary Lautt is a great footbag player and an amazing innovator for the sport, and although I don't know him well, I have the greatest respect for Gary.  I consider myself fortunate to be included alongside him in the Footbag Hall of Fame, and I am glad to offer an entire category of trick-modifiers called "Threading" that can be added to just about any trick, 100% inspired by Gary Lautt!


Example of Threading Concept

Shred notes: 6/8/10
It was all Threading, all day today!  I hit new Threading moves including Juggle-thread, which is further out front than comfortable.  It seems that if I do the comfy-thread then the threads are too close to the body, but if I do the comfy-juggle then the threads are more uncomfortable but because the juggle is tantamount, then it is more important to be uncomfortable with threading so far in front of the body to make the juggle more comfy.  Also hit both Gyro Threading Whirls in the same string and each individually several times with the right being ironically dominant.  Successful cross-training!
At the end of it all, I did a 3-drop version of my Worlds routine with about 75% accuracy vs. intent.

Footbag freestyle!  'This is not your fathers' Hacky Sack®"

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Footbag Freestyle keeps the mind fresh and the body young!

I suppose all the gray hair is a telling sign of the uncontrollable elements of the aging process.  While there may be some genetic certainties, I believe that I am living proof that footbag freestyle is like a fountain of youth in taking care of the variables not predetermined by genetics.  It is not only the vigorous exercise element of advanced footbag freestyle, which is comparable to the cardiovascular requirements of high-impact aerobics... but also the mental aspect that requires a high level of creativity to create new tricks and strings of tricks which is not a requirement of most other sports.  It is the combination of the constant challenge of improving my physical performance and the constant mental challenges that not only keep the body looking and feeling young, but keep my mind engaged in the creative aspect of trick creation and string building.  While other sports like running, cycling and other forms of vigorous exercise include the exercise part but lack in variety.  Runners and cyclists can take different routes, but it is still just the same motions over and over.  Footbag freestylers use their entire body in hundreds of different positions and on both sides of their bodies.  The whole-body requirements combined with the mental challenges of innovation are what set our sport apart from others.

It is a joy to play footbag everyday, I truly believe it is large part of my great appreciation of life. I wish I could play more with my shredding friends, but I am satisfied that I get to play alone on such a regular basis.  It is an honor and a pleasure to know so many great people who are involved in this sport.  Playing since 1984, I never would have thought I'd be where I am today, but without this sport...  well lets just say that "Footbag keeps the mind fresh and the body young!"


Shred Notes: 6/2/2010
I've hit some more fun stuff, new for me at least.  I have much on tape and will release a spring update video soon.  Today was fairy ducking mirage, fairy ducking butterfly, fairy ducking cross-body rake, fairy diving osis.  Other great stuff too, and a pretty good run through my routine.