Tuesday, December 23, 2014

A Kinematic Chain is You

Ignore the caboodle. 
First, if you don't like the deep end of technique discussion - stop here. This one is going deep. I am shooting to keep it readable, but this is stuff that I've talked about with a number of folks over a few different places and I wanted to get this out there.

A kinematic chain is something that gets talked about quite a bit in sports like tennis and ball-golf, where quite frankly there's big money and coaches who put their lives into improving the form of the best players in the world.

A kinematic chain is simply put - rigid bodies connected by joints. We could get very technical here, but I want this to be readable - so I'm going to try to keep this friendly enough that I could understand it (which is to say that a dim witted caveman could understand it).

The degrees of freedom (mobility) of the chain impose constraints on the system. The easy way to think of that, is that our joints (knees, hips, shoulders, elbows) all have a certain amount of flexibility and that effects how we throw a disc. We can bend to a point, then we have to stop because it doesn't bend anymore!

The first thing that is important to cover is how our body (our kinematic chain) is connected to the ground. Pushing off the ground is the first element of any motion. If you were standing on a slick ice rink, it would be nearly impossible to drive a disc in any powerful way. We're typically connected via a better surface than ice, so we have to take advantage of that by being smart.

The way the feet connect to the ground is critical for two reasons: first, because it's going to drive the force of your shot and second, it's going to transfer the force through your knee, starting the chain reaction of force. If you are setting your feet on the ground in a bad way - you might be able to get good force, but you can't transfer any of it into your knee! You may be able to put all the force into the knee, but not be able to generate enough force to be useful. You can see, it's gotta happen right!

Pretty similar? The kinematic chain in action.

Tennis is almost all torsion and less lateral movement because they have much less time to react, but it's a very similar kinematic chain. Disc golf's backhand is much more a combination lateral shifting that terminates in rotation. Because we have the time and space to setup our chain, we can get some huge force going.

The back foot can transfer weight two common ways:

1. You can get up on the ball of your foot with the heel off the ground. I prefer this and it's like a boxer driving a punch. (Paul McBeth does this quite often)
2. You can plant the foot flatter, and rock through the instep like a pitcher coming off a mound. (Feldberg is doing that above)

In both cases, you want to see your back foot leaving the ground heel first, not toes first. If your toes are leaving the ground before your heel, then you're not going to get the best weight shift and torsion that you can.

A very common issue is having your back foot's toes pointed too far backwards which stops any real transfer of power from the foot into the knee. We call this getting horse stanced (like you're sitting on a horse with your feet spread wide) and while it's very balanced, it's terrible for initiating the uncoiling of the torsion you create.

Torsion is the product of twisting our upper body against our lower body in the back-swing. Creating and unloading torsion is a huge part of the power generation of both a forehand and a backhand.

There's a feature of our biology as humans that is a big part of the backhand. A back-swing can twist our upper body to a physical constraint. We only have so much freedom of movement before our hips stop our upper body from turning anymore.

When you hit that constraint, the spring of your upper body is fully loaded. This is why it's so important to time your back-swing so that you're not reaching back before you're ready to use that torsion. 

As soon as you are hitting the limit of your back-swing, you want it to reverse and start coming back the other way. Reach back too early and leave the upper body sitting for a bit,  and everything relaxes.  The last thing you want is your muscles decide to chill out for a bit instead of remaining taught and explosive! Think of all the other sport motions that utilize a constraint to bounce back from: Baseball hitters, baseball pitchers, football quarterbacks, hockey shots, tennis shots... the list is long. 

When it's timed right, you're coiling to the constraint of your mobility - then immediately uncoiling as the plant foot is pushing back against the weight of your forward momentum. That combo is so forceful that your arm's job becomes to simply hold onto the disc, bringing it through the elbow extension.

It's something I reiterate all the time: there's no throwing the disc hard*. Throwing it hard implies that you're using arm muscle to try to force the disc forward. Once you've felt the power of torsion and a solid plant, there's a couple things that you notice: it's almost effortless and the disc will feel like it's violently ejecting from your hand.

The motion is going to happen so fast, that any idea of putting any real force into the extension of the forearm is pretty absurd.

* I definitely hesitate to get into the following, because it's hard to know what forces are truly greater - but it does seem like a powerful uncorking of the back swing is more powerful than the force of the brace. I know a number of guys who are throwing some big distance from the one-step and it's clear that the power is all rotation. I'm not saying that you don't need to brace, I'm saying that for distance over accuracy you can amplify the torsion by increasing the depth of the back swing and delaying it a bit so that the action has to happen faster. So you can probably get away with saying "uncork hard".

And since we're talking about crazy stuff, let's look at the following graph: (original thread here)

What it shows is that as the disc speed out of your hand increases - the RPMs of the disc itself DECREASES at a pretty specific speed. As you start really getting big hand speed (55mph+) things change a bit around the wrist and the ejection of the disc. I have had many conversations about this with people, but it was always conjecture. This was the first time I saw actual data on where the physical action of a throw changes. Higher speed distance shots, it appears to me, are more influenced by hand speed than the levering action of the disc out of the hit.

So most likely there's a good chunk of distance that is frustratingly, a wash. You can increase hand speed, decrease the spin of the disc, and end up with a shorter shot because the disc will be less stable. There's slower hand speeds, with higher spin, that will travel farther going slower because the spin rate is higher.... BUT (UHG!!!) there's also not any very high speed releases that have high spin rates.

What actually imparts spin on the disc, is the disc being held later into the hit. Once the hand speed is really high, it becomes really hard to hold the disc late enough to impart that same spin levels.

Just kill me now. I'm gonna be in the back yard putting.,. (slams door).... Okay, I'm back.

You can also increase the hand speed by coming into the right pec with more hand speed, assuming you can tolerate the force and truly hold through the hit - but the extension is where the forces multiply. The very VERY last bit you are holding the disc, is ultimately the most important for imparting acceleration with spin that will stabilize your disc.

It's the biggest reason of why your grip is so important. The violence of the redirection of your hand around the nose of the disc is going to be substantial. I've stopped squeezing the rim with my index finger in my power grip, instead focusing on keeping it in a very hook-like hold with my thumb. That way when the initial fingers blow off the rim, I still have some extra pull on the rim. 

Lastly, this kinetic chain is very dependent on something that I may never live down: staying loose.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Gateway Mystic & Warrior disc review

By: Kyle O'Neill (and a little bit from Jason)

I’m a big fan of Gateways stable of putters (who isn’t?). My main putters are Organic Warlocks, and I’ve got a Magic and Wizard in the bag as well. So when my buddy Jason posted a huge stack of Gateway plastic on Facebook that included a handful of mids and drivers, I was practically salivating. I’d been wanting to check out Gateways other offerings for some time, and the understable Mystic (mid-range) and the overstable Warrior (also a mid) jumped out at me immediately.
We threw a 180g Evolution Plastic
First up, the Mystic. To call it understable is a bit of an understatement. The first time throwing it was off the tee was when I needed a slight turn and then a bit of fade at the end. I released the Mystic flat and with a decent amount of power, and it definitely obliged on the turn. In fact, it turned over and never thought about coming back. I thought to myself "ok, maybe it needs less power and a hyzer release."

So, I tried that on the next launch. On a 250’ or so upshot I powered down and released with a degree of hyzer. The flip up to flat looked promising, but unfortunately it continued to flip and over it went again. Throughout the round I played with it, I had a difficult time dialing it in. I did find myself in a couple situations where I needed to just go right (I’m a RHBH thrower), and it performed admirably there. Jason also took it for a couple spins, and he seemed to have more luck with it (he also may just have better control of his release, as much as I hate to admit that). I throw a Buzzz SS when I need a slower drive to turn over, and a Latitude 64 Fuse when I REALLY need a shot to stay right.

The Mystic seemed to fall even further down the spectrum, at least for the throws I was attempting. I would have loved this disc when I first started my disc golf ‘career’ and didn’t have as much power (I’m not claiming any Herculean arm speed now), and I would recommend it for more novice players.
Jason's input: I had a somewhat different opinion from Kyle. As he mentioned, it's a disc that requires a really clean release on a slight hyzer and then it trucks and glides as far as any mid I've ever thrown. I love throwing hyzer flips and especially on up hill shots, a disc like the mystic is going to float up easier than my traditional go-to mid which is the Truth. I'm bagging the mystic as my turn over / hyzer flip disc especially as I like the way the inside of the rim feels on my fingers. It's rounded and relatively shallow which fits my hand really well.
That said, you really have to make sure you are getting appropriate spin on the disc to stable it out if you want this disc to fly 300-350'. Once you get a solid spin/acceleration it'll travel really nicely.
We tested a 177g Evolution. Pictured above is Sure Grip.
That brings us to the Warrior. After flipping the Mystic over a half dozen times, I was beginning to lose confidence in my ability to properly throw a mid-range disc. The Warrior, however, restored that faith in me once again.

The Warrior is definitely the bigger, more overstable brother in Gateway’s mid lineup. I was able to apply the power I needed to hold the disc on a big hyzer line and then some. Whereas my Roc3 will flip up, hold flat and then fade at the end, the Warrior only flirted with a horizontal position and then went right back to gliding on it’s beautiful and direct path to the basket. Colorado has no shortage of head winds, so when the opportunity presented itself I tested out that scenario as well.

I was able to apply a bit more power and the Warrior held fast, where the aforementioned Roc3 wouldn’t stand a chance. There’s definitely a place for this disc in my bag, for when there’s a sexy hyzer line to navigate or when I’m not quite willing to pull out my Gator. I very much appreciate the opportunity to toss the Mystic and Warrior for a couple rounds, and I’m equally excited to try more Gateway discs (maybe a driver!).

When you throw, throw with gusto Heavy Discers!

Jason's Input: I have always struggeled with headwind mid-range discs. I have a Z-Drone that feels too over-stable even in a pretty strong wind. The Z-Buzzz's that I have can handle up to a certain amount of wind, but then they go nose down hard. The Warrior is right in between those 2 discs and makes for a great option for throwing 250-300' mid range shots in wind with a predictability that I really like. It would also make a nice shorter approach forehand disc and like all Gateway Mids, the rim is the same, it's relatively shallow and rounded for a nice comfortable grip.
Evolution plastic is mandatory. The Sure Grip plastic beats in faster than any plastic I've run into yet. Sure Grip feels good out of the box, but it doesn't seem to stand up to wear and tear like I need discs to.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

The Long and Short with Brody Miller

Brody Miller putting the disc in the basket.
There was a video that caught my eye a couple months back from the Oregon DGC (what up Alex!?) that highlighted some truly amazing putts and throw-ins from Portland's Brody Miller. I wanted to hunt this fella down and pick his brain for thoughts on his short game. A little cyber-stalking later and he'd agreed to share some knowledge with us. Of course my work schedule (and his) slowed things down a bit, so I had HeavyDisc corespondent / bird lawyer / disc golf buddy Kyle O'Neill step in to ask some questions.

So thanks to Kyle and Brody for the following interview. First though, check out this insanity.

What do your putting practices consist of? Do you have a specific routine you follow, or just go out and start tossing your putters?
Typically when I practice putt I will have a handful of putters all exactly the same. I like to practice different styles from different distances. I straddle putt from 10, 15, 20 feet, etc; and putt standard stance from 10, 15, 20 feet, etc. I usually like to putt from one spot until I make 30 without missing.

Do you practice up shots as much as your putting (or even driving), and if so do you have a routine for that as well?
I'm glad you asked. My approach game is pretty strong. My home courses are very short, I will often "disc down" rather than throw a driver soft. I will throw a midrange or a putter, doing so gives me better control and accuracy. They typically have better control in windy conditions over drivers on short throws.

What types of discs are you using for both shorter approach shots and for putting? Do you change those discs based on the situation you find yourself in, or do you stick with the same few discs regardless? 
Playing for Latitude 64 I have great options for putters. I have a great relationship with my zero hard Pure for the majority of my putting needs inside of 50 feet. Outside of that I will typically use a zero medium Pure. Anytime I am outside of 40 feet I will use a modified jump putt for which a zero medium Pure allows me to apply extra spin. When throwing approaches or putter tee shots I use a zero medium Pure or opto Pure. These are not only very controllable but very durable as well. They all have the exact same feel in the hand, which I find to be very helpful with consistency. To compensate for wind I will typically change the angle of release rather than the disc.

Ridiculous things happening.
In the video I referenced above, you hit some long putts using some very interesting lines. What influences the lines you take during a jump putt? Do you always jump putt, and if not, inside what range are you comfortable with?
The wind, gaps in the trees, trouble or ob around greens, and distance all influence the lines and angles I use during a jump putt. On uphill or longer putts I tend to use a jump putt. On a downhill putt I won’t usually jump at all. On flat ground outside of 40 feet I will use a modified jump putt.

We know that the mental aspect of disc golf, like in all sports, is a huge part of the game. After a missed putt that you feel you should have made, or an errant up shot, how do you go about putting that unsavory shot out of your mind in order to execute the next? What goes through your mind during those instances?
We all miss. It is a game of minimizing our mistakes. If you go into a round knowing you will have misses, hopefully, when you do miss it will not affect your next shot. We would all love to make every shot, but the reality is even the best players in the world miss. Typically it's the recovery of that miss that makes them great. In my mind, when I miss, making the next shot is the most important thing.

What's the best piece of advice about the short game that you've received during your career? While learning the game, was there someone that you tried to emulate in order to improve your skills?
The best advice someone once gave me was about staying positive. If you can stay positive in the worst of situations or bad rounds then you cannot be defeated. You might not win the round or the event but you will have a better chance than the people hanging their heads in defeat. During the Ken Climo era I think everyone wanted to putt the way he did. I would watch videos and try to emulate his style. Growing up with a father that played great disc golf, as well, I certainly picked up some of his style. More than anything I have always tried to do what's most comfortable.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Tyler Liebman: Eagle drive form breakdown

I was hoping that Tyler would have some time to chime in on this post, but he (like most of us) has been very busy. Hopefully we can connect soon for an interview. I wanted to do a quick form break down, because he's got very solid form from footwork to extension.We got to play a practice round together and I was very impressed with his control.

Step 1. Eyes on the target. Visualizing the exact flight of the disc before starting the step is a fantastic habit to get into. If your mind isn't exactly sure where the disc is supposed to go, how can we expect to put it there?

Step 1
Step 2. First stride, head still on the target and now the shoulders are aimed at the target. Body has transitioned sideways to move down the teepad. Disc is held loosely in front of your chest.

Step 2
Step 3.  Tyler's x-step is really more of a x-hop. Dead vertical, shoulders still aimed at the target, no leaning backwards or forward and eyes still on the target. Notice how there's no leaning backwards or forwards - this is a huge key in keeping yourself balanced through the entire motion. Getting leaned back or forward here is going to cook your goose.

Also it's very important to note where the disc is. Still has not started the back-swing.

Step 3

Step 4. The back-swing is a counter motion to moving your plant foot forward. If the plant foot is not moving forward, then you are not initiating a back-swing! Back foot: heel never touched the ground. I preach this all the time: an easy way to get your posture more athletic is to stay on the ball of your back foot. Weight is transferring into the plant foot toes first and into the instep.

Step 4
Step 5:  Weight shifts into the plant leg. Look at the difference in the location of Tyler's hips from step 4 to 5. They've shifted into the brace. Loading the plant foot - you can see what the weight is doing to his plant shoe. He's braced hard against the instep.

Eyes/head perpendicular to line you're throwing on. Hand on the outside of the disc as the elbow is driven forward.

Step 5
Step 6: Hips open! I was excited to see that the video frame caught this moment. The wrist is being loaded, pulling towards his forearm.  I've been focusing on resisting the bending of the wrist, trying to keep the wrist from bending too deep.  His hips are driving the upper body around a rotational axis now - which along side the bracing of his forward momentum is going to be huge for the next step.
Step 6
Step 7: This was the next frame I could grab, which goes to show how much force you can generate with a solid plant and rotation. The momentum is going to blast your upper body around the axis. By shifting the hips into your plant leg, your momentum goes up your body into your arm instead of having your momentum carry your body forward off the end of the teepad.

Now you can let your shoulders pull your head through the follow-though. The plant toes come up to release pressure on your knee and allow the plant foot to pivot open.
Step 7
Step 8: Follow-though on the plane you released the disc on and watch your disc hum out to the basket for an eagle look!
Step 8
Watch the whole thing full speed here: youtube.com/watch?v=T04UwFneC8o

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Right Pec and Some Grip Answers

Video time! Direct link for the mobile users: youtube.com/watch?v=fEo754f7aKg

Some very interesting field work sessions (in between sub-arctic temps). Below are 3 very blurry screen caps from some video review.

What's been nagging at me to various levels of insanity, is why I can hold the disc later easier with the wide rail (More on the wide rail here). I do believe it is somewhat related to hand speed, but I think also there is something more under the covers.

The 3 screen caps:
Wide Average just trying to throw a regular wide rail shot. It just ends up holding to 4:00 nearly every time. Wasn't squeezing at all hard, just typical feeling grip.
Straight Bad was just a very normal shot, squeezing hard from start to finish and lose it right at 3:00.
Straight Better was a intended to be the same as the previous shot but  I would keep my grip loose until I started extending the disc forward and straightening the wrist, where I'd squeeze hard.

On the good news front, I have been able to stop the problem of slipping early with a straight pull. How I fixed it was by altering my grip pressure and timing, which was because of a great email from Joshua:
"Your grip strength is determined mainly by your forearm muscles. Your wrist extension and flexion is also determined by these muscles. If your wrist is flexed, your forearms are utilizing a portion of its strength, taking away from your grip strength."
So I grabbed a GripMaster hand strengthening thingy, and gave it a go. Squeeze with wrist straight - no problem. Bend your wrist like you're flexing your bicep, and there goes about 50-60% of your strength. Now extend your wrist open and squeeze, definitely losing some degree opening as well, but substantially less than when the wrist is closed.

Light bulb flickering for sure!

I would set my grip pressure during the back-swing. Then the wrist would bend at the right pec, and I would lose my grip strength.

Re-squeezing at that point was out of the question, I'd already set my squeezing limit and the gig was up because the pressure I had on the rim was too low to hold during the redirection of the disc.

But by focusing on squeezing after the wrist un-loads, all the sudden I was back to holding to 3-4:00 with the straight pull. The later squeeze seems to happens naturally during the wide-rail because of the redirection. You don't even try to squeeze hard because of the direction change.

I do believe that a straight pull backhand is a very useful shot, as is the wide rail - but as I am learning the wide-rail, it's nice to have know that I can be a little bit more accurate throwing on a line. I won't ever stop throwing a straight back-swing, as it seems to do certain things easier - and I'm just really happy that I've worked out why I was slipping off the rim!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

The Best Coast

Ian and Mini-Me plotting to overthrow the world.
Ian Anderson (ccdg.discgolf.io & youtube.com/user/CentralCoastDiscGolf) has become one of the most laid back voices associated with disc golf videos. Tournament video was once the realm of VHS & DVD's - edited & printed long after the winner's cash was spent. But with the advent of the longer format youtube videos, suddenly there was a new market: a guy with a camera could follow around any card, recording to his heart's delight, do a little editing and release coverage of the event within hours!

The problem: even a die-hard disc golf fan might glaze over without some commentary to spice things up, give some insight, and in true CCDG fashion, be honestly amazed at what the best players in the world can do with a disc. And that's what had me instantly hooked on Central Coast videos: it was two friends clearly mesmerized by 550' drives and players who seem to miss putts only from outside 80' (from a knee/blind/uphill/buried in a bush).

So without further pre-amble, I give you the greatest news I've had as a disc golfer: I got to do some commentary with Ian on a true super-card! Ian was kind enough to offer me a seat at the virtual announcer's booth for Round 1 of the Worlds: McBeth, Lizotte, Doss and Brinster.

"Enough talking, let's watch some disc golf!"

2014 Worlds MPO Round 1 Super Card

And, in true HeavyDisc fashion, I couldn't let Ian slip away without sitting him down for an interview!

Okay Ian, let's start off with a nice soft-ball question. How long have you been playing disc golf, who do you play rounds with most often, and how did you get hooked?

I've been playing since 2003. I play the most with my buddy Brett Camack, and my buddy Derek Kurtti (u/The_Warwolf). I met both of them going to college at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, CA. Funny enough I met Derek playing racquetball which I think has some decent crossover to disc golf with the whole snap thing. I play with a bunch of other awesome people on the Central Coast when I visit there. My partner in crime, the spokesman for the forehand shot, and the guy that helped me get this whole CCDG thing going Kevin Estrada being one. I'm hoping to record some more commentaries with him around Christmas time.

I got hooked the first time I played. My roommate in college Ben dragged me out, and it was love at first flight. It reminded me of growing up and throwing the aerobe around a soccer field with my cousins. It also reminds me of all the hiking I did as a kid with my family. My parents were big on backpacking, so we did a ton of that growing up.

You've shot a ton of footage of the best players in the game, what would a couple of the biggest lessons that you've learned bet (in terms of your own game)?

Things I've learned from watching the pros. A lot of form things. Reaching away on your back-swing, not opening up too early, staying in, and over the hit. I think those are some big ones. It's really amazing to watch them throw in person, they're on a whole nother level. Another thing you can see when you watch them play is their mental game, and how that affects how they play. The players that can forget that last not so awesome shot will have the best chance for future success.

Is there a tournament that stands out as work that you're really proud of (commentary or filming) and let's clue in some of the more green camera-ops with some hard-learned lessons in terms of shooting good coverage?

The tournament I'm most proud of the product is probably the Wintertime Open, or the Masters Cup. I feel like I covered those events really well. Hopefully that answer will change to 2014 Pro Worlds once I'm done with it! With the help of Juha Alkkomaki (lcgm8), Stu Dunn, Alex Olguin, Ben Baker, and Ran Szulczewski we covered that tournament like no one else has. We filmed close to 25 rounds, many of them dual camera, and filmed the final 9 for MPO, FPO, and the Masters division. The Masters division came down to the last shot, and we were the only one's to film it, so that's pretty cool.

Lessons learned. The big things I like are:
  • Film drives from behind the Tee
  • Film putts from the side, or at an angle so the viewer can gauge the distance
  • Bring lots of extra batteries and SD cards
  • Use a monopod, or some kind of shoulder mount

In the world of the MPO, there's a pretty wide swath of personalities and sometimes players go on full-tilt and lose their tempers. There's been quite a bit of conversation about the filmer's responsibility to edit out various amounts of ribald language (nice SAT word!) before publishing tournaments to the web. Any interest in putting your opinion out there?

I think it's nice to keep the vids clean. Kids watch them, and I don't want to be a bad influence. That said I think you can put some of the onus on the disc golfer that swears while he's being recorded. I've dropped some s bombs, so I'm not innocent either. I don't blame Marty at all for leaving it in. It's a lot of work to listen to the whole round for random swears, and he puts out those vid fast!

Let's talk about discs that you've known and loved. Any surprising discs that are in the bag?

Discs I've loved. I grew up (disc golf wise), as a one disc chucker, and that disc was a champ sidewinder. I loved that thing. I could bust out the most ridiculous hyzer-flips. I also loved my original barstamp buzzz. I got an ace with on my first drive with it(13A at Morley).

Surprising discs... My bag is pretty boring I think. Enforcer or Destroyer for my drivers. Teebird/River/Firebird for my fairway. Drone/Buzzz/Comet for my mids, and I putt/upshot with an Ion or Judge. I've got some other stuff in my bag, but that's the core.

Last question, and I saved this tough one for last: I know you have helped many players on r/discgolf with form requests. You know where I fall on form, as I have written probably more than I should have - but what would be the biggest break-through in your own form and what was it that helped it click?

O man backhand form is such a complex thing. To get it perfect is a serious accomplishment. My biggest aha moments were:
  • Weight transfer.
  • Reaching away from yourself on your back-swing (enables you to pull on a line)
  • Pulling on a line and not rounding (early or later releases are still mostly accurate)
  • Lead with a high elbow (helps you pull on a line and not round)
I think those are the biggest, and have helped my game the most. My form is far from perfect, but it's worlds better than a couple years ago!


Okay, Jason here again. So, that's that! I would definitely ask that if you like Ian's videos (and why wouldn't you!?) please subscribe and give his videos a "thumbs up" and you can do what I do, which is to buy Ian a virtual beer by actually clicking on his video advertisements during the lead in to his videos.

Those ad revenues can definitely help put a little extra coin into Ian's hands so he can pay for gas, camera equipment, buy his kid a stack of putters, or to just get out to a never-ending list of tournaments.

Happy Disc'n Amigos!

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Nate Sexton - A Player and a Gentleman

Photo: Stuart Mullenberg
Nate Sexton (PDGA # 18824) has been racking up wins against top level pros for over a decade. He just won his first A-Tier of the season at the Spike Hyzer Invitational, and if you haven't watched the footage yet - you're in for a real treat. (McFlySoHigh Coverage) He's sponsored by Innova, Discmania , huk lab, Grip EQ,  and Keen Footwear.

I'm a Nate fan. Flat out I'll say it, I'm a BIG FAN. I always love watching tournament coverage of Nate because I know I'm in for three things: sportsmanship, skill and a world class putting clinic that borders on the absurd!

Nate, thanks so much for taking the time to answer some questions. You've been cashing and winning in tournaments for a decade now (says my in-depth research of your PDGA page!) If you could hop in a time machine and have a conversation with the 2004 Nate Sexton, what would you tell him? Any advice that you know now that would have made the last 10 years easier?

This is a great question! (editor's note: yes, it is) I would probably tell the scrawny 19 year old me to practice his weaknesses (the backhand, versatility around the green) more than his strengths. I would tell him to enjoy the climb up through the ranks of professional disc golfers. Confidence is vital to success in a game as mentally difficult as disc golf and you have to work to be inwardly confident and outwardly humble. I don't think I would change much though, it has been a fun 10 years!

Typical fare for one of the sickest putters in the game.
To follow that, are there some discoveries that you're still making about your game? For those of us that are in the first years of disc golf, it feels like we're always on the cusp of a new discovery: proper form, gaining distance or accuracy, how to handle different wind, learning molds, or what disc weight to throw. It helps keep the hunger strong to stay out in the field working out new skills, but it's also a very slow process. I have to believe that after playing competitively for so long - discoveries come much more rarely?

I don't discover things about my game very often anymore, although I do work on adding new skills. To me at this stage in my disc golf career I feel like I find things to key in on that help me commit to my shots and execute consistently. Every type of shot has dozens of aspects you can key in on and it is impossible to focus on all of them at once. Each little thing (like breathing out on the release or picking up my chin on the follow through) only lasts so long before I have to move onto something else to keep me sharp. Hopefully focusing on one or two aspects for a few weeks or months ingrains them into my routine so that I won't have to think about them anymore.

No trees were harmed in the making of this birdie.

Third question and already I'm hitting with the hard stuff: the USDGC. You've been going there for a long time! A couple open players that I throw rounds with have described it as the hardest tournament they've ever played, by a wide margin. This year you really stepped up and played a fantastic tournament and ended up taking 5th place. Do you have a mental strategy during the tournament? I am always very impressed with how cool you stay during high pressure situations. It's a real breath of fresh air, especially when it's becoming more common to see very vocal melt-downs.

The USDGC is the most difficult tournament to play mentally. The Winthrop Gold course is so demanding and punishes mistakes brutally.

This year I focused on a detailed game plan making sure I knew exactly how I wanted to attack each hole. This included picking certain holes where I planned to play for par each round. I putted well and did not go out of bounds until the 31st hole of the event. Getting out to a fast start help my confidence and throughout the event I went from T3rd to T4th to 5th to T5th with each round so I stayed consistent and executed my plan. I had my dad, Jay, fly out to caddy for me for the 2nd time and that was a great asset to have him not only carrying my discs but making sure I was eating throughout each round and staying hydrated. He also helped me stick to the game plan even when I had a bad hole and was tempted to try to force the issue and get the strokes back with risky play.

Professionalism has always been important to me and I strive to stay calm even during a terrible hole (like hole 9 in the 3rd round when I took a quadruple bogey 8!) I certainly feel nervous in pressure situations and feel frustration when things don't go my way but I refuse to give up and allow that frustration or nervousness to ruin my round, or worse, the rounds of my card-mates or the image of the sport I love!

Alright, let's get to some practical advice. You're playing a tournament: walk us through your routine between waking up and throwing that first shot.

I like to get up and shower if I have not showered the night before, get some breakfast and get out to the course. I usually start with some putts and then a game of catch with my trusty R-pro Dart if I can find a willing partner. I then go out and play a few holes, usually preferring to play the holes where I will be starting the round so I can re-enforce my confidence in the game plan I have for those holes. Getting out to a good start is the easiest way to have a stress free solid round!

5. Putting. Holy smokes.

I'll just leave that there (Youtube Link) for folks to get some idea of what you can do with a putter. Can you talk about how you developed your putting game? I watch a metric ton of tourny footage, and your putting is such a strong suit and a treat to watch. Was there a point when you made it a real focus or has it just evolved with the rest of your game? Do you practice putting daily now, and if so how much/what kind of practice?

Putting is the place where most players lose obvious strokes during a round. I used a putting drill where I putt 2 putters starting at 5 paces from the basket. I move back a step if and only if I make both. If I make 1 I stay at the distance I was, if I miss both I move in a step. This drill allows me to spend the majority of my time at the edge of my consistent range.

Over time that range expands and you can get farther out on the drill. I used to practice putt more often when I had a basket, now I live in an apartment but I still try to get out to the course and use that drill to stay sharp. This off-season I plan to work more on my putting than I have in the past. I feel I am in my prime and coming off the best season of my career I am excited to see what I can do when I work harder than I have in the past 4 or 5 years.

Has there been some players that have had a big impact on your disc golf career? Any advice that has stuck with you?

I have learned from a lot of players over the years. I think everyone at the top level of the sport has some aspect of the game that they are better than me at, I try to learn from my competitors even to this day. I learned a lot from playing against elite players like Climo, Schultz, Feldberg, and Jenkins when I was starting out as a pro.

This is a question that I've asked before, but it is such a good one... The Rico brothers asked Ken Climo what he thought the biggest aspect of his mental game was and he said that over the long haul in his career it was to have patience.  Do you think you've had patience with your disc golf game? What does it mean to you to have patience with your career?

I think I do have that trait, I think I am patient both with my career and in my style of play. I pride myself on being able to manage a difficult course and play to my strengths. I think my career has been largely a very serious hobby up until this point and I am very happy with the success I have had. I know that I can take my career and my game to the next (and highest) level in coming years!

Last question, and since this is HeavyDisc and I write mostly about form - let's end it on a form question. Driving for distance - what were the biggest keys for you to start tapping into the really long drives? 

For me throwing long is about being explosive. To be explosive you have to be as loose and relaxed as possible in the back-swing and the follow through. I always try to make the moment of exertion as quick and powerful as it can be, only exerting maximum effort for a fraction of a second. Before and after exertion I try to stay loose and smooth.

Anything else you want to expound upon or ramble about? If there's one thing I'm good for... it's rambling.

Thank you for reading! Check out my facebook fan page if you would like to keep up with my disc golf career or ask me a question!  https://www.facebook.com/sextondiscgolf

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Reader's 400' Plateau and Spin Putting

Last week I got an email from Stevie, asking for a little help.

I am an avid golfer, every weekend at least and also from Colorado! If you're ever in the springs email me we can throw a round.
I have enclosed two slow-motion videos of me throwing. I throw the driver about 350 consistently and my roc 300. I have been playing two years and I can't seem to break the 400 mark, but only 1 or 2 times both in Wisconsin.
I want to see what part of my throw is killing my distance the most.
Thank you for your time!
And disc on brother!

So, Stevie has clearly put some effort into trying to do things correctly. Still, there's a few issues that will be almost insurmountable to push past 400' - at least until they're addressed. I'll break it down as painlessly as I can.

Capture 1 :

Get the disc on the angle of release in the back-swing. You've lined up to throw a hyzer, but your shot is a flat release. Changing angles during the reach back is work for no benefit - and can add torque into your wrist that's off-angle from your release (wobble). Your stance is too wide. http://heavydisc.blogspot.com/2014/10/why-we-brace.html - Watch the video at the bottom of that post. Shortening your plant stride will allow you to add what's missing, which is your hips.

The disc is off still not flat, which means you're going to adjust that by straightening the wrist later which can screw up your release angle. Watch your video in slow motion and keep an eye on the back foot. It gets dragged forward, sliding with you, instead of driving your hips open. It slides forward about 6". 

Now you've slid the foot back up onto the toes, and you never engaged your back leg in a way to add any torque into your hips. This will make you fully reliant on just your weight moving forward into the plant - zero hips which means you are out of power. I'll add that your shoulders are off angle as well - they should be nice and flat. Tilting your entire spine and head forward will put you over your disc and into a better posture.

Spine tilted forward, over the disc.

This is a timing issue, called over-opening. Your shoulders and head are facing the target, which is a sign of putting the shoulders before the hips. You open your hips, it brings through the spine, the shoulders, the arm, finally the head.

See how I've got the shoulders aimed at the target there.

Because of the hips not driving the power of the shot, you're using your upper body to throw versus planting hard and opening the hips like a baseball player taking a cut. Your plant should end balanced and with the ability to just stand up straight.

... Alright, so that got Stevie headed down the right direction. He's going to check in later with some updates.

I wanted to also drop the following video about my never-ending battle with putting. I've currently adopted a version of the short arm spin putt that has worked pretty well for me.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Slow Down and Throw Far

It's one of the most difficult aspects of disc golf, because it's so utterly counter-intuitive.

This is what we call the 3:00 - 4:00 (on a clock) position.
To get the most out of your drive, you have to hold the disc as late as possible. A problem, with holding late - is that we mortal humans only have so much grip strength. It's easier to hold thinner rimmed discs for sure, in fact putters are the easiest to hold onto because the rim is deep and thin.

If you create a powerful amount of momentum with your hips, a solid arm extension that is getting boosted with a great plant and shifting of your weight... guess what?! You can very easily bring more hand speed through the extension, than you can actually use.

Case in point: me slipping the disc out of my hand. I shot some footage of my fieldwork to review, which I do religiously.

I'm supposed to be holding the disc!
Looking at that, I was immediately dismayed. I'd worked very hard on getting my form improved and what immediately caught my attention was the disc was NOT in my hand. This was a shot that used my standard back-swing guided to the right pec, hand on the outside and with a very slow and controlled x-step that ends with a balanced and upright stance.

So why is the freaking disc out of my hand?!

Now here's the clue that helped me out:

Now I'm holding it!
Hold the phone, what changed?! I'll tell you: I was working on throwing with this back-swing form called "the wide rail" that guys like Nate Doss, Barry Shultz and Mike C use with great results. I'd been messing with the wide rail and seeing some big shots that were adding 50' to my drives.

Click to see the full image of the wide rail.

The thing is, this wide rail pauses hand speed pretty drastically as the disc changes directions and loads up your wrist. That makes the disc substantially easier to hold later, because you slowed it down mid-motion.

Slowing down is GOOD? What has happened here people?


BWWWWHAT!? The easy way to understand it is this:

Straight line back-swing, it's very easy to over estimate what you can hold on to and the disc slips out early, before you get to the magic part of throwing the disc.

The magic part of throwing the disc happens at that last 2" of the disc rim getting held tight. HELD. You're fighting to keep the disc in your hand because at the end of the release, you're pulling the rim to the 3:00-4:00 position.

I believe that the loading wrist elbow extension (elbow smack) promotes a similar thing - in that you are bending the wrist pretty late in the process, which slows the hand speed down and often leads to some booming shots. Coming into the start of the disc arc, with very little speed is fantastic because it means we're giving ourselves the best shot of holding onto the last second - when all the velocity of the disc is going to transfer forward.

And at that point, it's like a monster rubber band unloading! PINGGGG!!!!!

The point though, is that slow hands are able to undergo that violent redirection and maintain grip on the rim. Fast hands will most likely blow off the rim when it comes time to pull back to 3-4:00.

"But you can't deny that the pros aren't coming into the extension with a metric ton of speed?!"

As your hands get stronger and stronger, you'll be able to take more speed into the extension and maintain grip on the rim. But if you're not holding onto the rim until 3:00-4:00 take the hand speed down until you can. You will 100% NO QUESTIONS ASKED get more distance by holding the disc later than you will be slipping out early with more hand speed. The difference between the first image of me slipping and the 2nd image of still holding was 50'. And it's that way every single time.

So each player will have to find the balance of how much momentum they can tolerate and balance with their grip strength so that they are not slipping early.

And that's just reason 103 that the disc golf backhand shot is so utterly confusing.

Paul McBeth throwing the wide rail hyzer.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Big News from Hyzerbomb

A couple weeks back, Matt Siri saw a post I put on Facebook trying to find some big arm players to answer questions. He put me in touch with a couple guys he knows that can throw the long bomb, and then we started chatting... and chatting...  and next thing you know, I feel like I know the guy! Well, my internet buddy has some very big news, so I decided to interview him. Enough preposition, let's get to the good news!

Matt Siri with the forehand at Brazos Park East in Waco, Tx.

Let's not bury the lead Matt: you got some big news to share?

Thanks Jason. I do, as of last week, I've been given the opportunity to become CEO of Hyzerbomb Discs. (HyzerBomb.com)

In collaboration with the current team and our continued partnership with Millennium, I will now be running Hyzerbomb Discs. It’s been a whirlwind of a year, and I've been beyond blessed to be given an opportunity to forge my own direction to the company, and do what I can to help grow the sport.

Congrats Matt, that's awesome! Tell us a bit about your background in disc golf. How long have you been playing and working in the DG world?

I unfortunately didn't discover the game of disc golf until 2011. At the time, I didn't think a whole lot of it, besides enjoying being outside. I switched jobs in February of 2012, and one of my bosses had been playing the game for years. He had an upcoming tournament he was playing in at a local course, and asked me if I wanted to spot at the event for some free merchandise.

That was the day that changed my life, so to speak. I watched a number of the top pros in Texas absolutely crush drives over my head on a 900' hole, and I was hooked from that moment on. I helped that Tour Director with an event or two in the area later in that year, and played my first tournament in October of 2012.

From April of 2012 - June of 2014 I was the assistant Tour Director for 4 the Chains DG, who were based out of Austin, TX. I was approached by Hyzerbomb after running the 4 The Chains DG Open A tier last year, and was presented with the opportunity to join Hyzerbomb to run events.

Matt Siri (middle) with the lead masters card at the Turner Twist tournament before the final round.
Donald 'Giggler' Ellsworth, JJ Munoz, Dennie Ortega, BIlly Sivils, me and Tony Shirley (left to right)
How did you end up owning a part of a HyzerBomb? Any sleepless nights on this decision? 

This is quite a story. I never anticipated this event happening.

Wes Briscoe, who started Hyzerbomb, is a youth pastor who wants to dedicate himself to the ministry. He's the one who brought this opportunity to me to increase my role with Hyzerbomb.  He saw the dedication I had to the sport and to pushing the brand.

I've honestly still been losing sleep over it, not because of the decision, but simply because of how excited I am for this opportunity. Hyzerbomb has a wonderful partnership with Millennium, and I'm excited to help grow both brands.

Will this mean any changes to the sponsored players or day-to-day business for the company? Do you have any ideas for the company's direction or are you more looking to join the team and keep the ship moving in the same direction?

I do not plan on initially changing much in the day-to-day operations of Hyzerbomb. I do hope that all sponsored players will stay on-board with the team, but knowing they've all worked with Wes previously, they will have the choice if they want to stay on-board or not.

The team will be expanding though. I have my eyes on a number of players from around the country who I hope I can have be brand ambassadors in other areas of the country we don't currently do as well. We have a great representation already here in Texas and this portion of the south, but that base will also be expanding.

I don't see the specific direction of the company changing, aside from being focused on gaining more of a spotlight nationally. I want to focus on expanding our disc line, as well as keeping the bag line moving in the right direction.

We have two new bags getting ready to hit the market, that we've worked closely with Millenium on and both of them are tour quality bags.

Any plans to travel more to big tournaments and promote the brand and will this mean you can make disc golf the full time gig? Hopefully you can come to Denver and buy me a beer?

I definitely plan on having Hyzerbomb making some appearances at larger events. It won't be an immediate move to make disc golf full time, but it is something that will definitely happen down the road. I plan on trying to be at USDGC and Worlds this next year, to give the brand some more exposure.

I'll definitely get through Denver.  And as long as we're talking Denver, how about Tommy's Thai? I miss that place like crazy. Absolutely delicious.

Is it all top secret or are you able to talk about any upcoming changes to the disc bag line?

We have two new bags actually getting ready to hit the market.

The Flak 4

The first one is co-branded with Millenium and called the Flak 4. For anyone who's familiar with the Flak 3, the bag has a similar look, but it's been modified in many ways. We've reinforced the structure, upgraded the straps and added padding, improved the comfort of the back padding with more breath-ability, added adjustable dividers to the main compartment and made a few more upgrades.

The Hyzerbomb Flak-X : Baby's got a brand new bag!
We have the new Flak-X in production now also. This is a brand new bag for us. It has some slight similarities to the previous Flak 3, but has undergone a complete redesign and is really a tour ready bag. It'll easily hold 25+ discs, with room for minis, snacks and all that good stuff.

When I came on-board with Hyzerbomb, I was blown away at how much more spacious the Flak is compared to the Ranger which I used to carry.

Any new molds in the works?

We have just recently released our newest disc, the Veteran, which has only come out in the Prototype run so far. It's a fairway driver, very reminiscent of the Eagle.

 We still have some stock on the Prototype run of 700 before we hit the production run. For anyone who’s an Eagle thrower, they’ll love the Veteran.

I have some thoughts on a few other discs I want to start, but those are going to take some time to get in the works down the road. The first major hole in the disc line to fill will be a high-speed driver.

Anything else you want add, perhaps about your undying love of HeavyDisc?! Hah, I do appreciate your time, especially as I know things are probably all over the place as you're making these final changes of ownership. Congrats man and I hope we hear more from you soon.

Jason, thank you for taking the time to talk with me and help let the world know about Hyzerbomb. You do a great job with your videos and tutorials, I’m gonna have to get you some of our stuff to review. Keep up the great work!

You're right there Matt! I do an awesome job. I'm the best and I'm glad we can agree on that.

Okay, gang that's that. I wish Matt the best and look forward to seeing what this next year has in store for him.