Sunday, April 8


As you learn to throw, you're also taught to fake.

Often, you're taught a specific series of fakes. Similar to a kata in martial arts, you can often tell where or from whom a player learned his fakes. The basic toolkit is a great idea (backhand fake into a flick, high fake to a low) but many players become locked into these motions. Fakes learned by repetition are perfectly replicated in game situations with the same pace and to the same location.

This works wonders when your opponent isn't dissecting your game.

On the other hand, when the other team is studying video of you, when your opponents have been playing against you over and over again for years, you're doing yourself a disservice.

Yes, you've got to learn how to fake, but that doesn't mean always faking the same way. It means building up a repertoire of fakes that serve to attack the weakness of the mark. Just like when you're cutting, your job is to reinforce the defender's fear. If you can successfully take whatever sliver of an opening he's giving you, you're in complete control. If your fakes and release points are always the same, you will have difficulty doing that.

The eventual endpoint of this thinking is the notion that in order to best attack a defense, you must be able to read and react at a very high level. That involves two steps. First, the ability to accurately read the defender and the defense as a whole. Second, the ability to throw whichever throw is necessary from whichever release point is necessary. As you progress down this path, the notion of playing with "soft vision" comes up.

The idea is that instead of focusing on a specific occurrence or space, you work to soften your focus to include your whole field of vision. In doing so, you release yourself from tunnel vision, and allow yourself to react to everything that you can see. Your decisions, ideally, are made based on evaluating not just one cutter and the mark, but by evaluating the motion of the other players both on O and D and reading the field as a whole instead of breaking it down into parts. This is similar to the first couple of seconds of every play for a QB in football, as he must assess the movement of the defense compared to both the pre-snap read and the play call.

One of the exercises that Donovan McNabb has done in the offseason is to have a pair of glasses that open for >1 second as he is dropping back, and based on that limited information (which cannot be consciously processed) he must make a decision about where to throw the ball. By applying this same notion to a continuous real-time decision making process, you can approximate the ideal method of playing offense: Process the field and the mark subconsciously and react immediately with the correct throw/fake combination. Instead of thinking "I need to throw an IO break flick, so I should throw a backhand fake and come back for the break" the goal is to see the cutter and put the disc there by instinct.

This is not a quick progression and you MUST have the basic skills in order to reach this goal, but it should be the aim of your practice. Move beyond a basic and regimented understanding of the method of attack and become unpredictable. The concept is an adaptation of Bruce Lee's notion of not having a fighting style. When asked, he coyly responded that it is "The art of fighting without fighting."

Perhaps it would be better explained by this altered Lee quote: "When the opponent expands, I contract. When he contracts, I expand. And when the opportunity presents itself, I do not [throw]. It [throws] all by itself."
Workout total:
Two games of HORSE
15 Minutes ankle rehab
10 minutes core work

1 comment:

Mackey said...

Man, I was all set to make a connection to Lee and then you went and slipped it in there at the end.

That's a spot-on assessment, though. I read a biography on Lee over spring break ("Fighting Spirit," I'd recommend it) and there's a continuoum of knowledge that one must progress through as one trains. The first stage, the beginner stage, is when you have an instinctive way of doing things, but the instinct is wrong, or not in line with one's goals--in ultimate, you could compare this to your backyard-variety tosser who follows through with their pivot foot on every throw. After this initial stage comes the intermediate stage, where there's a seemingly endless array of things to learn and apply and try to master--in fighting, you'd compare this to punches and kicks; forms would fall in here as well. In ultimate it'd be along the lines of the mechanical faking you talk about. Things are generally forced, not natural, which hinders performance. Finally, with dedicated practice things again return to being instinctive--only the generic, ineffective instinct has been replaced with efficient, effective ones.

In his school, Lee's ranks began with an empty circle, signifying nothingness, and progressed through variously-colored Yin-Yang symbols until the master level, again signified by an empty circle. That state of no-mind is the ideal state that Lee devoted himself to attaining (and did so rather handily).