Since we all have more time than we ought to (lockdown), this is the optimal time to share this. I know everyone is hitting the practice board hard right now with too much time to think. Here is what you should be thinking about while working on your game.
Now that we have covered what muscles we ask to work when getting into (and holding) our dart form on the oche, lets focus on the posture itself. What is it that we ask our body to do? What is dart form?
THE FACT OF THE MATTER IS, THE COMMON DARTS FORM IS NOT AN ATHLETIC STANCE AND IT IS NOT A POSTURE THAT IS SEEN ANYWHERE ELSE IN THE COMPETITIVE WORLD.
Much like golf, it is a skill-specific form and motion that is only applicable for the task at hand. Balance is involved, but it is an unbalanced balance. As a darts player you know what this means but it is challenging to maintain. We ask our body to get into a unique position. We do not need to exert a lot of energy in order to get the dart to the board accurately. We need to be still. As a result we have all surmised correctly that we don’t want extraneous motion.
The greater challenge with the posture is that it is hard to describe what we are doing and what must be done. Many of us have watched professional darts as a fan. By the end of this article I want you to watch from an entirely new perspective. If you are reading this, you are more than a fan of the game, you are a student; start watching like a student. Observe, breakdown, and learn. In being observant over the years it has been my goal to distill the essential from the extraneous. The following 4 keys are what has been distilled. They are easy to understand and employ. These are things that great players do. They may not know they do them, and if they do, they might not know how to best describe them as the foundation of their success.
“THOSE WHO KNOW, DO. THOSE THAT UNDERSTAND, TEACH.” – ARISTOTLE
I will outline what MUST be done with these 4 keys and give notes as to what you should experiment with based on your own preferences, comforts and body. In order to fully soak these up there is one mantra you must OWN:
Be willing to sacrifice a level of physical comfort and familiarity to improve.
80/20 Weight Distribution between front/back feet.
This is a guideline. You must feel it out for yourself. Your front, throwing-side leg should remain straight. The foot should be/stay flat-footed with 80% of your weight on it. Your back foot is simply a counter-balance to the action of your arm following through. Your back foot should have 20% of your weight and should NOT move with your arm action.
-Some players are not immediately comfortable with this much weight on the front foot repetitively like this. Many have been too comfortable in a posture where not enough weight has been on the front foot. The thing to remember when building this endurance and durability is that you do not have to hold the posture for that long. (As a reference point Phil Taylor gets his three darts out in about 10 seconds once he has approached to the oche).
-If you need extra time deciding what to number to throw on any particular turn, take the weight off your front foot to reassess so that you don’t get uncomfortable. Then lean back in when you are ready to throw.
-How you place your front foot at the oche is a personal choice.
-Your back foot can be on your toe or the ball of your foot. It is hard to imagine that you would be able to keep it completely flat on the ground with that distribution, but if by chance you can, so be it. The key is that it doesn’t move/come off of the ground with the action of your throw.
Torso should be leaned out over hip and oche.
The lean of your torso IS the stored energy of your throw. The energy does not come from your arm (This will make more sense when you see how it is connected to #3)
This sounds easier than it is. It is challenging to find the same lean repetitively as you fatigue. As you fatigue you will unconsciously relax your lean and become more upright, taking away your energy to the board.
-It takes experimentation to find the optimal lean. Too much and you are likely to throw yourself off balance. Too little and you ask the arm to do too much work.
-The lean is out “over” the hip and oche, not “into” the hip. “Into” the hip is less taxing and would actually push the torso slightly away from the oche.
Elbow height should start below the height of the shoulder.
This is crucial. The arm is a lever; the elbow is a fulcrum that CAN NOT move until full extension on the follow-through. Upon full extension on the follow-through the elbow has no choice but to meet the height of the shoulder as you finish fully extended, pointing at the target.
-If the elbow starts equal to, or higher than the shoulder, OR rises during drawback of the dart, all the stored energy from #1 and #2 gets transferred to the shoulder. If you feel like you are chopping at the board, the elbow is starting too high.
–We talk of “throwing” darts, when in fact it is more of a push.
-You don’t necessarily have to move the arm to change elbow height. You can help dictate elbow height with your torso lean.
Off-hand arm should be locked to your torso.
This is the easiest to do, and yet the easiest to forget and get lazy on. It seems like it shouldn’t do anything, but, humor me and do a quick experiment. Stand up. Take that empty off-hand and give yourself a pat on the side of the belly… Harder. What happened? (Don’t say, “It jiggled”) Even though it was your own hand, and you knew it was coming, your brain told your abs to contract. It sensed a threat (however minimal), and protected the organs inside. Locking your arm to your core for the duration of your three darts tightens your core, and allows for less extraneous motion. Believe it or not, this leads to tighter groupings. As an ancillary benefit, your throwing hand is able to retrieve the darts much easier from the same spot. Your off-hand should NOT move. It should NOT hand-off the dart to the throwing hand. The throwing hand should always retrieve the dart.
-Your anatomy will help determine what part of your arm (wrist, forearm, elbow) you want tethered to some part of your core. Experiment to figure out where it best suits you.
While there are other parts of a throw that are important, these 4 keys are the foundation of form that focus on the ability to keep that unbalanced balance through the repetition of the arm action.
Keys 1,2 and 3 are directly correlated. They will work in concert with each other. The weight distribution (1) helps dictate the lean. The lean (2) helps dictate starting elbow height (3). Key 4 is not tied to the others directly but it does help lock Keys 1-3 (your form and balance) in place.
Now, I want you to go to video of some stronger, more consistent professionals and watch them as a student. You will start to view their forms in a different manner. The one thing you will notice is, there are very few glimpses of Key 1. The profile camera angles don’t capture their lower bodies for very long. The best time to capture a good profile view of their postures is while they are taking their warm-ups on stage before a match begins. The roughly head-on view you get with the split screen does a good job of capturing Keys 2, 3 and 4. Sadly, in my search of still images there are no profile images that have head-to-toe coverage of a player’s form.
Players that do these things well: Michael Van Gerwen, Phil Taylor, and Raymond Van Barneveld. I didn’t choose these three because they are World Champions; they are World Champions (in part) because they do these things well. In studying what the best-of-the-best do, I distilled these keys as in-common traits (individualized to themselves). I also chose them because they have different physical profiles/ages/body types, and they do these things well despite the differences (proof-positive that YOU can do these things no matter your age or anatomical gifts).
There are others too. I want you watch it all anew. Send me a private message in Facebook if there is someone who you think displays these 4 keys well. I would love to learn from your observations as well. After all…
…The highest form of learning is teaching.
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