Darts: a game where participants compete with one another by throwing small arrow like devices at a target that is round and has numbers and sections and an inner bull with an outer bull and so on. Darts now refer to the standard game with a specific bristle board design and a set of rules. Rules that are general to the game and rules that govern games like, “501,” “301,” and “Cricket.”

Darts is a traditional pub game that was and is commonly played in the United Kingdom as well as other places in Europe and across the pond here in the America’s.

Wikipedia tells hits history in a terse form, i.e., “The dartboard may have its origins in the cross-section of a tree. An old name for a dartboard is "butt"; the word comes from the French word but, meaning "target". In particular, the Yorkshire and Manchester Log End boards differ from the standard board in that they have no treble, only double and bullseye, the Manchester board being of a smaller diameter, with a playing area of only 25 cm across with double and bull areas measuring just 4 mm. The London Fives board is another variation. This has only 12 equal segments numbered 20, 5, 15, 10, 20, 5, 15, 10, 20, 5, 15, 10 with the doubles and triples being a quarter of an inch wide.”

There have been a variety of darts created over the years but the most common today is the tungsten dart. There are electronic darts but for this blog and for my efforts in tossing darts I remain a steel dart fan and enthusiast. I am recommending a book for novice darters but only because it appealed to me and my studies and rest assured most of the dart books out there are outstanding. In short, find one if this one does not fit your needs and get it. I can tell you when I started to play over twenty years ago, before I laid down my darts in 96, I tossed darts for several years without knowing some very important and critical mechanics, etc., of the dart game. As I take up once again my steel darts I have found a fountain of information to help make the game both enjoyable and competitive. Enjoy, diddle for the middle and let the darts fly!

Friday, July 29, 2016

Zen and the Tao

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

First, what is the “Tao?” Tao is about the principle that underlies the universe, combining within itself the sub-principles of yin and yang and it signifies the way, or code of behavior, that is in harmony with the natural order of life, the universe. Tao is often referred to as, “The Way.” The Way is often interpreted as a path one takes in life, especially in regard to martial arts practices. The Japanese translation is “Do []” and refers to a road-way; street; journey; course; moral; teachings, etc. Tao is Do (pronounced doh) and Do is Tao in martial arts. It deals with ethics, morality and virtue to say the least. 

Zen uses the following characters/ideograms to express what the speaker or writer means or wants to convey, i.e., , , , , . The first deals with both dhyana or profound meditation along with Buddhist Zen, the second deals with good; goodness; right; virtue, the fourth one deals with the last; previous; one-time; former; the fifth one is about all; whole; entire; complete; overall and the last one deals with meal; food; counter for bowlfuls of rice, etc. The character we are using here is the first one, i.e., , meaning dhyana (profound meditation); Zen (Buddhism). 

Zenmon [禅門] also means Zen and entering the path of Zen. Zen for martial arts is best explained, my explanation and interpretation, is as follows:

In Zen, one must direct the mind on the observation, the feel, of the breath; one must direct the mind on the observation of the mind; one must direct the mind in meditative practice toward insight, i.e., koan practice; one must direct the mind inward, to the self and then direct the mind to the moment letting everything approach, be perceived and then to leave without restriction, obstacles or to be attached to the past and future, distractions of thoughts and feelings from stimuli. 

The essence of the definition of Zen, as provided in the last paragraph, is the creation and use of a specific type of mind-set and mind-state. In Zen for martial arts as in dart arts there are expressions through terms used to describe how one achieves such a present moment immovable mind, i.e., mushin, mushotoku, hishiryo and fudoshin. 

Zen in the dart arts is manifested by disassociation from external distractions and thoughts where the practitioner remains singularly focused on the art of the dart. Nothing intrudes and distracts, it is an emptied mind often referred to as a state of mushin. To have a mind that has no mind and allows free flow creative primal, conditioned, response to stimuli. In the dart arts stimuli is about grasping, throwing and hitting an intended target with an empty and immovable mind.

An immovable empty mind is a mind-state of clarity produced by the suppression of one’s ego that empties the mind, not empty as in void or nothing but an empty mind that is present, in the moment and aware while being free from the bonds of emotionally immaturity and the needs and desires of the ego. 

When one achieves Zen state of mind in the dart arts, one has achieved the ability to empty the mind of distractions, preoccupations, pre-conceived perceptions and intent, fears, worries, i.e., all are absent, suppressed, and are no longer an issue for the mind while in a dart art mind. 

It is that state of mind that is symbolized by ‘water,’ a mental state that is as still as a pond of water without ripples, the surface is like a mirror and reflects clarity and the undistorted image of the dart arts, like reflecting back what you present like a mirror. 

Zen mushin is not something that can be experienced by any thing other than actual experience ergo why the theme of the dart arts is practice, practice and practice - like infinity, without end, constant, disciplined and consistent. Mushin of the dart arts is achieved when a darter has freed the mind from anger, fear, judgement, and the ego during the throw, each and every one. 

Mushin: Mushin is the essence of Zen and Japanese martial arts. Mushin literally means the "mind without mind", and it is commonly called "the state of no-mindedness". Mushin is the essence of Zen and Japanese martial arts. It is a state of mind where the mind is not fixed on or occupied by any thought or emotion. In Zen on in your daily life, if the impulse is expressed as conscious thought, it is not Zen.

Mushotoku: In Zen, the concept of Mushotoku [無所得] represents a state of mind where the spirit does not seek to obtain anything. This is the attitude of a mind that does not get attached to objects and that seeks no personal gain. It transcends dualities and limitations of the ego. When in mushotoku, even if you lose a match you are still free, content and moving ever forward toward enlightened dart arts. 

Mushotoku is a concept of acting without wanting to achieve a result, and giving without wanting something in return while still attaining that very thing. It is about no fear of either having something or losing that something, it is about being something regardless. It is not discarding the very nature of the discipline but embracing it without attaching one’s mind to it to the detriment of all else, it allows its presence in the moment. 

Mushotoku means getting rid of attachment on a mental level, that is, becoming unattached to personal achievements in all forms. Letting go of achievements means letting go of the inner self. In the end, giving up the self is the greatest achievement you can reach. Mushotoku is you, me and the entire Universe in pure sincerity.

Hishiryo: [非思慮] is a state of mind beyond thinking and non-thinking. During Zazen, it is the normal condition of the consciousness. Consciousness during Zen meditation is not the same as it is in daily life, it does not behave like the intellect. During zazen, we have thoughts that appear and disappears naturally; this is perfectly normal. If we let those thoughts come and go freely, without giving form to them, without wanting to chase them, the intellect becomes peaceful by itself and hishiryo consciousness appears, beyond thinking and non-thinking.

The more you think, the more afraid you become, and the more anxious you grow. When you think too much, conflicts and battles take hold of your mind, preventing you from achieving a zen mind in the dart arts. When you stop this internal activity, you return to the normal, simple, and peaceful condition of the mind, the immovable mind. 

Hishiryo, it is entirely connected with the present, never overthinking, to be eternally connected to the present moment. Hishiryo is the absolute ego-lessness consciousness, in full unity with the dart arts.

Fudoshin: [不動心] is the 'immovable mind', that is, the mind that has met all challenges of life, and has attained a state of complete composure and fearlessness. This state of equanimity is essential in the practice of the dart arts. Fudoshin represents a peaceful state of total determination and unshakable will. It is the state of a spirit that is determined to win, and that is filled with courage, endurance and determination to surmount every obstacle that comes in its way. Fudoshin is associated with a feeling of invincibility, of a mind that cannot be disturbed by confusion, hesitation, doubt, or fear.

All of this explanation is about our minds and how our minds lead the way for our bodies thus meaning that our bodies follow our minds and our minds, through appropriate training, practices and experiences, leads our bodies. It is tantamount to a physical moving profound form of meditation that leads to goodness, right or righteousness and virtue, etc.

Bibliography (Click the link)

“In order for any life to matter, we all have to matter.” - Marcus Luttrell, Navy Seal (ret)

Friday, July 22, 2016

Minute Changes

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

In the dart arts it benefits the darter to be aware of factors that will cause minute changes in the throwing process and that means being aware of our bodies and minds every single time we step up to the oche line to throw. 

I have to discipline myself to take time, to create a rhythm and cadence to how I approach the oche and how I assume my stance and posture to throw the darts. It must be such that it allows my mind to take stock of what I need to do to throw the best dart possible in that moment.

Breathing is critical because that is the method that will keep my stress low and allow me to approach and assume position at the oche line. It is a process that if any changes are allowed to creep in will change the way the dart flies and that is critical to a good and successful strategy in the dart arts. 

All of it brings about a Zen like state of mind and body that in this particular discipline must remain the same and static while allowing for movement and proper adjustments to throw properly, accurately and successfully. 

Examples: When I assume my stance and position my feet then root to the oche line any changes no matter how minute will change the flight pattern of the dart. If the foot shits; if the knee bends slightly more; if one slouches vs. standing tall with a straight spine - spinal alignment changes; if the shoulders shift; if the arm cants a degree or so in either direction; if the fingers grip at a different spot on the dart shaft; if your focus is wider than that of the actual intended target; if your mind shifts from the moment to some distracting thoughts; if you hesitate once the throw begins; if your aim point shifts forward or backward away from your, mine is the release point as an aiming point, aim point; if your hand shifts left or right especially if that is not a natural position for the hand; if your free floating fingers move; if your head turns or tilts changing the aiming perspective to the intended target and so on.

All of this is what makes serious dart arts - seriously complex and the goal is to find your darts and then condition that process so that procedural memory along with proper physiokinetics can create and adhere to a “Primal Conditioned Response or Action” that is the dart throw. Minute changes anywhere effect how that dart flies so awareness and attentive focus on assuring your darts and the processes involved don’t change - except when changes are necessary to throw your darts.

When are they necessary, when you need to make minute changes in your stance, posture and throw to change the destination of a dart to hit the intended target, i.e., move the back leg to zero in; move along the oche line and assume the dart position to put the dart around obstacles on the board to hit the intended target and so on. 

When I am asked about darts the person asking if not a darter will wonder why it is a difficult discipline especially when the see the distance from the oche line to the board. It is not perceivable because the distance and other perceptions of those who have not throw darts perceive it as, “Not that difficult.” In reality, the dart arts has a complexity and discipline that matches, in my view, other disciplines like martial arts or any other sport like football or golf.

One reason why I decided to “Take up the darts” again after so many years. I started to compare disciplines that can be solitary practices and found that darts, also a solitary discipline if you so choose, can be done and can be a complex way of darts, like the way of martial arts. As I began to study the dart arts again I found many connections that were fundamental to both disciplines. One is that both can be practiced and trained regardless of age or heath or fitness levels or many other concepts, traits or beliefs. It is also truly a way of life through the discipline of the dart arts, martial arts or other disciplines. 

If you are taking up the dart arts for the first time you will encounter frustrations unless you are aware of and understand the dart arts as to its complexities and disciplines such as how minute changes also affect the dart arts. You will have successes, you will have slumps and you will find frustration but determination, understanding, knowledge and a lot of practice, training and accumulation of experience and experiences will get you through every single time. Remain patience and determined and diligent in your efforts for that is how you become a professional expert in the dart arts. 

Happy Darting!!!

“In order for any life to matter, we all have to matter.” - Marcus Luttrell, Navy Seal (ret)

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Dart Art Fundamental Principles

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

Every discipline, especially those involving the physical, has fundamental principles that make for a mastery of that discipline and this is true of the dart arts. The Physiokinetic Fundamental Principles for the dart arts are, “Breathing, posture, centerline, spinal/body alignment, structure, relaxation, centeredness, body-mind, centrifugal forces, peripheral vision, tactile sensitivity, rooting, adrenal chemical cocktail, and the multiple methods of tossing/throwing darts, i.e., [shoulder, elbow, wrist, aiming, retraction process, acceleration, release and follow through; the darts and wobble.].”

Adhering and encoding these principles into a primal conditioned response will provide the darter a procedural memory sub-routine that will consistently work while tossing darts in practice, for training and in a competitive environment. 

Other fundamental principles that will contribute to your mastery of the dart arts will follow explanations of the physiokinetic principles involved with emphasis on those dart throwing principles or sub-principles (multiple physiokinetic methods of the toss of physiokinetics. 

Breathing: Stress is countered by several physical and psychological efforts but breathing is really the key. Breathing in a combat way works for combat as well as all other stress inducing conditions such as emotional, i.e., fear or anger, etc., and those tensions states of the body as a result of those stresses. Breathing deeply, slowly and rhythmically and from the diaphragm produce counter chemicals in the body and brain that at least reduce those adrenal chemicals and effects to a manageable level. It is best to breath in this fashion a few minutes before entering a competitive session or game. It is also a best practice to breathe like that as needed between each session at the oche line and if you feel undo tension and effects of adrenal stress-conditions you can take a moment to do a combat breathing moment to steady yourself and balance your mind and body just before the throws. 

Posture: Assuming the proper posture promotes the flow of your bodies energies such as blood flow and when coupled with breathing oxygenates the blood that feeds the muscles, tendons, and other body structures to maximize energy flow and feeding of the body. All things necessary for professionals to optimize their abilities, skills and resulting actions. You will couple your posture with your structure as explained in other aspects of dart art physiokinetics.

Centerline: This is a line that runs, metaphorically and symbolically, from the apex of your head/skull down through your body out the bottom of the spine toward the ground. Your structure and posture will ensure that the line is straight and balanced so that when you assume your stance at the oche line it is positioned properly for energy flow and efficiency so that when assumed you can lock that position steady for the throw(s) to come. All things in balance means efficient and proficient action and in the dart arts that means consistent throws of the dart to the intended targets of the board. 

Spinal/Body Alignment: Our bodies are built to work on the skeletal and muscular system and efficiency of movement, energy expenditures, flow, rhythm and cadence all rely on how efficient we are in the use of both in movement or a combination of movement and non-movement as played out in the dart arts. How our feet connect, see rooting, to the ground, how our legs are positioned for stability and support of the upper body, how our torso is set and positioned by the setting of the hip girdle, waist, upper body and shoulder girdle and finally into the arms, neck, head, etc. toward effective movement and energy transmission to throw the perfect dart consistently each time (a lofty goal in the dart arts). 

Structure: Refer to the above where our skeletal system supported and stabilized by our muscular system as fed by our circulatory system, etc., provides us not just the platform to launch our missiles, oh I mean darts, to the intended target. Other principles effect that process as well. Stabilization along with effective movement of the arm for the dart arts provides us the foundation that allows us to control and throw. We combine structure and posture and alignment, etc. and that all takes practice to master.

Relaxation, Positive Relaxation: No one body is ever completely relaxed or we would simply lie dormant on the ground in a bundle of bones, muscles and other chemical stuff. In order to combat stress tensions in our bodies and minds we need to keep our muscles, etc. as relaxed as humanly possible while maintaining our stance and other mobility functions to walk, run or throw darts. Positive relaxation is about keeping stress effects of the chemical dump from over tension our bodies and causing our minds to suffer from the chemical dumps effects as later described. 

Centeredness: This is not just about using and applying the physical from our body balance point, a point about two inches below our navel where the balance and stability of all human bodies resides, with slight variances dependent on gender of the human, so that we function in an every changing and moving environment of human existence including the practice and application of the dart arts. One of the mental and physical manifestations that help us achieve that immovable mind, a mind inured to common distractions of competition, etc., is to focus our minds on moving from our center and another way is to breathe the combat breathe with our minds focused on that center point of balance of the body that is how the mind remains balanced and immovable. 

Body-Mind: This is the connection, a darter as well as any other disciplined profession, that is based on how the mind leads the bodies actions and the bodies actions can and does lead the mind. It is a state of mind through practice, training and both training and real life practices that build the mind and the mind builds the body to react accordingly but at the same time the same process builds through its applications the body that influences the mind through feedback and experience supporting and supplementing the foundation that will support the profession, professional and dart arts (in this case and article).

Centrifugal Forces: This is better explained through the methods to be discussed later in this article but in short it is that force applied through the process of the throw that manifests in the ‘parabolic flying arc as the arm throws the dart to the board. 

Peripheral Vision: Critical aspect of tossing darts well, i.e., when we actually ‘throw a dart’ we will sight on the intended target with our direct vision and then apply peripheral vision to see our arm position, the dart aligned to the target, and to the process of the backward movement or cocking motion of the dart so we see it peripherally as it come in position adjacent to our facial cheek, etc. Again, more in the methods section to follow.  Peripheral vision is important because while remaining totally focused in the intended target that peripheral vision will maintain the entire process and phases of the dart throw from grasping the dart from the dart holding hand, to the aim point at the release point, to the cocking process and finally the the release and follow through. 

Tactile Sensitivity: Touch sense, some of us are dominant to the sense of touch. Most humans are sight sense dominant and that is good especially in regard to targeting through primary sight and then the use of peripheral vision. In the dart arts tactile sensitivity is about the feel of the dart throw, i.e., how it feels as we toss darts. I know that when my darts go astray I can tell that my movement, grip or lack of follow through or any combination is at the core of the bad throw because I can actually ‘feel it’ at the moment. You would think that feeling it would allow me to stop, get back on track and then complete the throw but another factor of mind-to-body/body-to-mind is involved. Our brains have this delay that is not apparent consciously, each sense takes a certain time-span to reach the cognitive parts of our brains, to extract past experiences to meet up with sense input, compare and the decide validity before actions are taken. This means if your tactile sense triggers a mind perception of a bad throw by the time you act on it, it is too late. But, it is great to tell you before throwing the second or third dart or before taking the oche line for the next three that you need to make some adjustments to correct and throw better darts. As you practice and train; as you practice in competitive environments you will create a greater tactile sensitivity and the best of all worlds is your body and mind will encode primal conditioned procedural memories well enough that your mind will remain mind-no-mind immovable mind state and the body will act in an autonomous way to throw good darts. 

Rooting: Read more in the methods section below, refer back to structure, stance, alignments, etc. and then consider how you currently walk up to the oche line, assume your position, ready your darts, aim, cock and fire the dart to the intended targeting. Rooting is connecting solidly with the ground to stabilize and lock your body so that your arm can perform a consistent and efficient throw to its intended target on the board. 

Adrenal Chemical Cocktail: When the body or mind is stressed our bodies release adrenaline and other chemicals that are meant, by nature, to throw us into a state of ‘flight or fight’ and that means setting the body and mind in a state that best meets our human survival instincts or what we depended on in those early years as hunters-n-gatherers on the Serengeti plains hunting and gathering and protecting our families and tribes - survival. Not much in that department has evolved since those early days on the plains and our bodies don’t discern the difference of then to modern times. All stresses tend to send us down that road and that is the obstacle and problem you must solve to put those very things into use for the dart arts. When fear and other emotional triggers hit a lot of our physical ability along with dexterity, vision, heart rate, etc., go way out of their normal functioning ranges and our jobs through such knowledge and understanding supported through training and practice and experiences are meant to bring our body-minds down into a range where our actions and functions are appropriate to attain our goals, goals in the dart arts is to throw the best darts possible and to achieve our dart arts goals what ever they may be to each individual darter. 

Multiple Methods of Throwing Darts: The Shoulder; The Elbow; The Wrist; Aiming; Cocking or the Backward Movement; Acceleration, Release, and Follow-through [in addition the darts and the wobble]. These sets of methods are necessary to achieve mastery in proficient throwing of darts especially under the pressures and stress-conditions of adrenaline, fear and facing unpredictable obstacles in a competitive environment of dart arts. These that follow are from, i.e., “Hat tip to <Dart Base Web Site: http://www.dartbase.com/technics.htm> as the inspiration for this methods to follow.”

The shoulder: This is the only point in the whole process that doesn't change its position. So you must not move (that's a DON'T, yes!) your body when throwing. The only throwing action comes from your arm.

The elbow: It stays in position when moving the dart backward, and on some point in the acceleration phase starts to go up, the elbow must be raised in the later phase of throwing.

The wrist: Wrist action is an often discussed subject. In the animation there is not much of it, so you see it is not absolutely necessary. But most pro players use wrist snap because of one reason: It helps in acceleration. If you do wrist snap the tip of our 'whip' (which is, actually, uhm, the dart) will go faster, and therefore you will be able to move the other parts of the lever system slower, thus put less force in your throw, and this will improve accuracy. But there is one danger in wrist snap: It's one more thing that must be controlled, and so one more source for errors. While most experts and pros use it, I wouldn't recommend it to beginners that don't have the natural gift to control it.

Aiming: Put your eyes, the dart and the target you want to hit in one line. Focus the target, not the dart. Use aiming points on the target if you like, or aim in a different way, but: Aim!

Backward move: Do this, but don't do it too fast. If you find it comfortable, you can and should move back as far as possible. You can avoid slamming into your eyes or nose by pulling back beside your cheek, that depends on your personal technique. 

Acceleration: Not that crucial as you might think. Do it naturally, and don't do it too fast or with too much force. Do it smoothly in one move and all the way to the follow-through. Remember the elbow coming up. IF you do wrist-snap, then your hand goes forward in this phase until full extension of the whole arm in follow-through.

Release: As wrote above, with the right throwing this comes naturally and is no big problem. If you have troubles with the release point, then most probably you do a technical error, don't raise your elbow or don't do follow-through. This is the critical point for your wrist-snap. The hand must be in the correct angle to the forearm here.

Follow-through: A very important thing. Best way to follow-through is to end up with your hand aiming at the chosen target. A typical error is to let your arm 'fall down' after the release. Just keep your arm in the straight and slight upward position for a moment, just like in the above animation, and you will get the feeling for follow-through quite fast.

The dart: The real object of our desire is last here. Remember to guide the dart along the parabolic curve. In geometric language, your dart must always be in line with the throwing parabola's tangent in the point of intersection of your hand and the parabola. Keep your attention on the following things: The dart points up in the aiming position. This angle is increased in the backward movement, and it then decreases steadily in the acceleration part. When the dart is released it is nearly horizontally, but still points up a bit. In every circumstances a dart that points down in any of the throwing phases is bad, bad, bad! You got it? That's another DON'T!

Wobble: Almost every beginner's dart wobbles considerably. Pro's and expert's darts hardly ever wobble. Wobbling can have the following reasons:

  • The dart is accelerated in a curve that's rather anything else than parabolic.
  • The dart's flight-shaft system doesn't meet the aerodynamic requirements. Use standard form flights and middle length shafts for a first trouble-shooting.
  • Somewhere in your throw there is a noticeable 'yip' of the arm.
  • Most probable: The dart points downwards somewhere in your throw.
  • Highly unlikely: The dart points too much upwards.

Note: Dart Base dot com is a great site with great dart art information way beyond this article. I highly recommend reading the sites materials to enhance and expand on what I write herein, enjoy the site!

Next, other fundamental principles to enhance your already considerable skills in the dart arts:

Principles of Theory: Control, Efficiency, Natural Action, Reflexive action.

Control: Control in the dart arts is about self, our control of our mind and body along with the resulting darts as they are thrown. Control is transferred into that dart to achieve a parabolic arc to the intended target of the board.

Efficiency: Attaining an efficient body and mind where the body performs according the the physics of the position, rooting and the throw; efficient control of the fingers; the hand; the wrist; the forearm; the elbow; the upper arm; the shoulder girdle. This is the primary force behind the efficient throws proficiency in a physics sense while our minds must achieve an efficient mind-set and mind-state that does not detract from the goals of the physical body. 

Natural Action: How the body functions in relation to how one controls the body to throw and control the physical and psychological - all a collective mutually beneficial connection of all fundamental principles to achieve a single goal - to hit the intended target with a dart.

Reflexive Action: Training the mind and body to where the process of the dart arts is encoded into procedural memory that is triggered as a primal conditioned response to standing on the oche line, facing the board and beating ourselves to hit and win. 

Principles of Technique: economical motion, active movement, positioning, angling, speed, timing, rhythm, balance. natural and unnatural motion.

Economical Motion: In the dart arts that, for me, is about maintaining structure, posture, balance and the mechanical process of actually throwing the darts where any unnecessary deviations from the absolute minimal effort and process is maintained for efficiency and proficiency and consistency for every dart thrown. 

Active Movement: Focus on the movement of the throwing arm while maintaining a static position elsewhere unless movement becomes necessary to make adjustments in zeroing in on an intended target. I liken this to the sighting in used in marksmanship of the rifle where the front sight is fixed, i.e., the view down the arm to the intended target on the board while maintaining the darts in hand at the start point, that point for me where the release happens and before the cocking action back to my cheek, and moving the back foot in clicks, so to speak, to adjust the landing point of a dart. 

Positioning: Where we place or lead and back feet to ground ourselves and any movement to adjust that posture and structure to adjust the darts landing point on the board. Once you gain a consistency the positioning will be mostly exact except for the need for minor adjustments. 

Angling: Using the front foot and leg as a balance point, moving the back foot/leg to adjust the angle or direction of the body, arm and darts so they move minutely at the strike point on the board to adjust that in zeroing in on your intended target. Since 501 is the main game played in a lot of tournaments once you achieve this goal your position and angle should remain static and true since the main target is the trip-20, at least until you get to 170 that is the first score where you can use just three darts to go out. 

Speed: It is less about speed and more about rhythm and a certain cadence that is applied to the throwing arm that should be consistently applied. Speed does allow for energy and power in the throw but often that is more about the wrist and fingers apply that enhancement necessary for the additional oomph necessary to send the dart along the appropriate parabolic arc to the target. The speed once found for each player should remain constant once the act of tossing the dart starts and should only change at the cheek when the forward motion is applied and coupled with wrist and finger assist to add or enhance energy and force to launch the dart effectively to the intended target. 

Timing: Cadence, taking the time to set the grip, set the body at the oche, bring focus on the intended target, bring up the arm into position and aim through the dart, begin the throw with proper speed and rhythm and finally to launch and release with follow through to hit the intended target. Each darter must find and maintain that timing, i.e., a rhythm along with cadence where, in my darts, I take milliseconds between each act to assure my eye and mind that I am applying my fundamental principles up to that point where the dart is in flight to the intended target. All to often darters tend to speed up their timing when hit with adrenal stress-conditions and hurry their throws, etc., often resulting in a bad throw with lower scores and a need to throw more darts and so on. 

Rhythm: Find a strong, not muscular but stable and correct structure, alignment, etc., regular repetitive pattern of movement and speed and cadence that will repeatedly and consistently hit the intended target each and every dart - a good, solid and lofty goal. 

Balance: Balance in rooting, balance in the body through structure and alignment along with other principles and maintaining a stable and solid position, etc. to allow the arm to accomplish its mission, to throw good darts. 

Natural and Unnatural Motion: To achieve a dart art where you can achieve the best model using the bodies natural motion, a motion most comfortable so that you are not straining and holding positions, etc., that are not natural to the human body except where absolutely necessary. Using the mind and bodies natural movement, i.e., hinge joints bend as designed, ball joints rotating and moving without undo strain on the skeletal and muscular system and position, structure and alignment that allows a freedom of movement of both the mechanical and the physical, i.e., blood, energy and other internal natural phenomena of human anatomy. It has been proven that the mind will encode and retain and use taught conditioned responses and actions if they closely mimic and follow natural motion of the body and limit unnatural motions unless necessary to attain goals like hitting the intended target. It must be understood any unnatural movement or motion is subject to naturally gravitating toward natural motions and movement thus resulting in changes that may not result in good darts. Unnatural means, no jerky motions; no hesitation; once committing to a throw follow through naturally and completely and without interruptions or changes or other movement outside the throw you developed. 

Principles of Philosophy: Mind [mind-set, mind-state, immovable mind, etc.], mushin, non-intention, yin-yang, oneness, zanshin, character, empty cup, inner peace.

Mind: Mind, our mental faculty and our ability to achieve an immovable mind is absolutely critical to any discipline, especially the dart arts. Our entire existence and world reside in the skull and through the activities and functions of our brains. In this sense I believe our world, actions and deeds are “Matrix” like. Even when we receive sensory stimuli our brains will first pull memories to compare and when the memories vary from the stimuli, the sensory input, the brain will choose your previous memories or a hybrid synthesized from both with dominance of memory in the brain holding dominance overall. This makes the process of analysis and synthesis critical to practice, training and applying the dart arts. The better you train and practice to encode conditional responses from procedural memories the better your darts over time. These things are what make for the need for a lot of practice, both in solo and in association with others, that will properly encode a synthesized process of throwing darts with the least of external and internal influences. As that process studying the fundamentals and principles of dart arts especially as taught by professional darters will go a long way to making that analysis and synthesis of dart arts abilities the best you can achieve - over time. In the end, whether you throw well and whether you defeat the board and as a side benefit beat all those other darters depends solely and exclusively on how you approach and perform training, practice and application of dart arts, no one else regardless of expertise or mastery can do it for you - it is all on you making the mind critical to the dart arts. The rest that follow expand and support this theory, hypothesis and belief. 

Mushin: All this is a matter of Mushin, the mind moves from one thing to another freely, like flowing water. You can adapt to any situation in any given moment because your mind is not affected, not attached and not reactive to anything. This mushin triggers the primal conditioned response of our procedural intuitive zombie mind of sub-routine and functions encoded by training, practice and experience not hindered or distracted by our conscious mind. When you can let the mind go free it will become mushin (no-mind) and you can hear, see, taste and feel what is necessary without delays or loss of rhythms and tempo. 

Non-Intention: Non-intention is about removing any circuitous intentions that may intrude to distract from throwing well. It is how I explained how our intent can effect how we throw and how stress is handles that effects our throw. To achieve non-intention is to achieve immovable mind. 

Yin-Yang: Complementary opposites that cycle and merge. In a short terse obvious example is good darts vs. the proverbial slump where darter’s tend to fall from time to time. Yang is good darts while yin is bad darts and one hopes that balance is achieve to steady the throw into a consistent accurate throw each and every time. 

Oneness: Ahhhh, said the ancient Sage; the elder who sits atop the mountain of enlightenment who tells the student that they must become ‘one’ with the dart, one with the board and once with the dart arts. Oneness in this case is the oneness that is achieved in the act of the perfect throw, i.e., where all the principles and processes meet at this one point, the point of release and follow through, that launches each dart to the intended target. It is a mind-body interconnectedness that is like ‘getting in the flow’ of athleticism. It truly covers more than athletic endeavors and transcends those into every facet of life but for the purpose of the dart arts, it is the perfect flow that results in the perfect throw. 

Zanshin: It is interesting considering the perception of zanshin that when the characters/ideograms are defined it means, follow-through (e.g, in archery) in all probability in regards to Japanese art of archery. the first character means, "remainder; leftover; balance," and the second means, "heart; mind; spirit," another way to see this is that "Zanshin is the state of mind where one is able to proceed from the end of one movement to the next movement freely. It literally means being absolutely attentive to the next move right after the previous move. In zanshin the mind focuses completely on the body's movements. To be distracted by another's moves in a competitive situation is to lose zanshin; to stop one's mind from flowing from move to move while practicing is to lose zanshin.”

Character: In dart arts it is attitude and how well you relate to other darters. It is a form of etiquette that speaks to humility, confidence and ability especially as it relates to the social conventions and conditions of the dart arts, it is the honorable competitive spirit of the dart arts tribal socially connected culture. 

Empty cup: A phase necessary to achieve mastery, i.e., to discard preconceived notions and preconditioned responses allows one to take on a novice mind-set so that all the others don’t obstruct progress. In my personal situation that means emptying my mind of past practices and concepts in the dart arts so that I may improve and achieve higher levels of proficiency and, hopefully, mastery over my darts and the dart board. It is one of those Asian martial arts concepts that promotes enlightenment, unobstructed progress and the ability to dump the mechanical and allow for a more creative application of a discipline like the dart arts. 

Inner peace: A State of mind that becomes empty, unflappable and immovable, a place where your mind goes that floats and allows for creative instinctual action such as throwing consistently accurate darts. It means you are not subject to outside influences regardless and that allows a relaxed stress free mind that causes the body to follow in the stress free relaxed fluid rhythmic way of the dart arts. 

Principle of Chemical Cocktail: attacked mind, breathe it away, visualize it away, degradation of technique/skills, peripheral vision loss, tunnel vision, depth perception, loss of find motor skills, distorted perceptions, freeze, irrelevant thought intrusion, behavioral looping. 

Attacked Mind: When external stresses effect how the mind works to its detriment. Adrenal stress-conditions release chemicals under stress and distort the mind often considered a psychological and chemical attack of the mind. Proper training, practice and application with a good doze of experience goes a long way to control and avoid an attacked mind. 

Breathe It Away: Deep diaphragmatic slow combat breathing along with certain relaxation processes, i.e., consciously relaxing the facial muscles, the neck muscles and the shoulders triggers chemicals that will counter those of the adrenal dump. In the heat of competitive action such breathing will help the player become calmer and help keep their mind-state calm, collected and able. 

Visualization: In all things, all disciplines, where one has a goal of mastery the art of visualization becomes an intricate cog in the wheels of the discipline. There are not disciplines, especially in sport oriented ones, that visualization is not a a part of the practice and application. When you couple actual physical with visualization you get a type of cognitive encoding that can only be trumped by actual experience. In the dart arts that experience is in competition against the unknown of others playing against you. 

Degradation of Skills: This comes from two sources, first is the degradation of skills as a result of the adrenal stress-conditions of reality based emotionally driven chemical influences triggered by the brain from external stimuli like competition. Second, is the degradation of skills as a result of the practice and training undertaken. If you train, practice and experience darts as a hobbyist your going to find your expertise and mastery also subject to the sporadic practice. To achieve a state of constant and improving skills you have to devote the time and energy. The hours and days of consistent practice and training determine the degree and level of expertise and proficiency in the dart arts. Anything else means a degradation and stagnation of dart art skills. 

Peripheral Vision Degradation: When experiencing the adrenal stress-conditioned ramifications due to the chemical dump often our vision is effected and it often creates tunnel vision ergo making peripheral vision out of reach during a match, a game. There are practices one can use to counter the effects of the chemical dump that will lesson or completely bypass the effects on peripheral vision so necessary to toss good darts. 

Tunnel Vision: See peripheral vision degradation above. 

Depth Perception: When the chemical dump hits sometimes our depth perception goes awry, i.e., we see things closer or further away than in reality. If your depth perception is affected there is a good chance your perception of how far away, visually, the intended target could also affect the throw. 

Loss of Fine Motor Skills: When under the chemical dump effects all too often fine motor skills degrade to where you can perform just gross motor skills. If you toss darts then you need your fingers, hand and wrist to perform well and that movement is considered fine motor skills. Some darters find that they are unable to follow through, are unable to bend the wrist or flex the fingers that pull back and fly forward along the arc of the throw up to the release and follow through - all disruptive to the accuracy of the throw. 

Distorted Perceptions: Any time the mind is subjected to distortions of reality then the darts and what we perceive in that moment are affected. Say you toss the first dart and you perceive it hitting the intended target then on the second dart you throw again only to find at the end of your turn none of your darts hit where you were aiming. 

Freeze (dartitis): I call this freeze dartitis because this involves a condition where your arm, throwing arm, starts to fail to perform as trained. In many situations of fear or anger, etc., humans instinctually enter the flight-or-fight state of mind and body and in the dart arts you consistently fail to follow through or some other physical manifestation referred to as dartitis or what I would call, the freeze - an inability, out of your control, to perform the throw as practiced, etc.

Irrelevant Thought Intrusion: Stress can weaken the fortitude of the mind-set and mind-state leading to the monkey brain, that emotionally driven immature ego driven part of our minds, taking over driving the bus so that you end up running over things, leaving your lane of traffic and just making trouble for your darts and the throws you try to make. Thoughts of losing your darts, of losing the game and of how people will think you an idiot for missing the entire board when you throw tend to enter your mind becoming a major distraction. At these times that bad or cold coffee you had earlier in the day simply take hold and won’t let you focus. 

Behavior Looping: When you know you have thrown a bad dart; when you know why you threw that bad dart; when you know what you have to do to correct that on the next dart you throw and then you just keep throwing the same bad dart over and over and over again in this behavior infinite loop that you just can’t break for some unknown reason. 

Some other considerations a person might also consider and train to cøntrol are as follows: A key point to a good performance is awareness. This awareness has to be understood broadly, it means involvement, focus and being by sense, sensory ability to feel one's own throw, and so on.

Playing the board vs. an opponent - it would seem to be competitive an impossible task and yet it is one of those abilities that many strive for just so they can win - against an opponent. So, how do you do this, well it is a matter of a mind-set that disgards an opponent while maintaining an awareness of his or her presence and to bring in those necessary experiences that are used to train and control the mind and the bodies reactions and actions when encountering the adrenal stress-conditions that a tournament and an opponent trigger by their mere presence let along scoring and dart mastery. 

It is creating through experience in exposure in stress filled competitive environments where your awareness becomes more of a unconscious, conditioned primal, action that ignores the opponent while accepting and embracing those triggered mental and physical manifestations that often destroy our game. It is like walking down the street and using both experience and gained knowledge of your environment so your mind detects things in a unconscious way triggering those reactive primal conditioned responses gained in training, practice and experiences so that you act and get inside the loop of orient, decide and action without the interruptions of the logical slower mind along with those emotions like fear or anger that also effect how you act in that same loop. 

When we allow distractions outside ourselves especially if you have not trained to lessen the distractions effects on mind and body you distract from proper application of the processes that make for masterful dart art tosses/throws, etc. I like to start training and practices with a mind-set and goal of throwing a perfect 01/cricket game therefore actually forcing my actions to compete with myself while creating an immovable mind that does not become disrupted by an opponents actions, words or darts. Too many times has it been experienced when an opponent tosses masterful set of three to blow away a persons mind so their efforts affected by the chemical dump from such things causes their darts to fly willy nilly and into the low score areas. 

Yes, you cannot truly and totally block out external sensory stimuli but you can control whether that distracts the mind from its primary goals in the game and make its detection merely a passing thought that you recognize, accept and then immediately discard without allowing emotional interferences so you can remain steadfast on your dart art processes of fundamental principles and so on. Your awareness remains steadfast with a critical awareness of those moments when the last darts are in play by you or your opponent therefore allowing, under your control, you to adjust to accelerate your darts to the win without being consumed by a need to win. 

Exposing ourselves to a competitive environment is a training tool that enhances your abilities and exposes you to a greater spectrum of obstacles that cannot be experienced in solo or socially connected known friendly playing environments. To truly achieve mastery you must expose yourself to the unknown and unpredictable just like in learning and applying self-fense of violent predatory attacks. 

It can be said that such goals of mind-set and mind-state cannot truly be achieved and in response it must be expressed that although it might seem to be the goal reality tells us the goal is not actually that end result but the path to that end, to achieve a state of mind that will allow us to reach not for the moon but out past toward the stars. In the process we achieve a Zen like state of mind that doesn’t truly remove the opponent or adversary completely and utterly from our minds but actually allows our mind to remain in a state of balance where effects of the adrenal chemical dump are limited to a level where experienced trained primal conditioned responses are implemented adequately to achieve your goals. The actions, reactions and effects are there but only to the extent of natural human responses from stress-conditions while maintaining an ability to act, mostly. 

If you accept blindly that something is unachievable then you limit your ability by limiting your mind and we should know and believe that when it comes to our mind there are no limits. I mean, if we allow limitations of our self and minds then how could we have created and achieved the agricultural, the industrial revolution, and the technological revolution that allow us to live, work and believe beyond what the mind sees, hears and feels?

“In order for any life to matter, we all have to matter.” - Marcus Luttrell, Navy Seal (ret)

It’s Harder than it Seems

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

In my recent articles I have presented for your review, analysis and disposition things martial as they would apply to the dart arts. As a long time martial artist, i.e., Karate, Tai Chi Chuan and Chi Gong, I have a good deal of experience in that discipline. My dart arts have been on hiatus for about twenty years so they are kind of out of play so to speak. 

The lesson to learn here, as taught all the time with martial artists who find themselves moving from one system or style to another that even with a good deal of experience it can be a bit discerning to find that you have to go back and go through the novice to student to practitioner levels all over again even to get those fundamental principles adjusted to the new way of doing things. Now, this can be a bit off-putting and yet it is how things work regardless so it means getting back to the basics of acceptance, embrace it and then practice, practice and more practice. 

In my current state of darts all that I have written to date is still true, relevant and beneficial to the dart arts. I find myself falling into old habits you would have thought were long gone but the old gray cells tend to hold on to things pretty much for ever and ever so when such things are triggered now they will still try to implement those old things until you train it away and the rub to that is this - IT takes a lot of practice; a lot of work; a lot of mindfulness to achieve that goal for reprogramming something like this takes, wait for it, LONGER!

Now, lets add another factor some of you won’t have experienced yet, your age and state of health and state of fitness. As a long time practitioner of the martial arts I am healthy, fit and yet in my winter years (meaning I am over sixty years of age). The first two tend to help a lot while the third one can present other obstacles necessary to overcome or work with to gain back a level of expertise necessary to be competitive. 

It takes even longer to reprogram so the advice is this, “Accept the facts as irrefutable; Embrace your age, health and fitness levels; slow yourself down and then implement a plan to reprogram to overcome and create, synthesize, a new model, method and conditioning that will allow you to consistently and accurately throw your darts. 

I have found over the last few weeks of practice that I tend to slide into old habits so now I need to program myself to stop, slow things down, focus back on the strategies and tactics to create, synthesize, a new “way of the dart arts” to be consistent and accurate in my efforts. It means catching myself when I slip, stopping, meditating on the new way, visualization of the new process then actively practicing that process until it becomes a primal like conditioned response every time I stand at the oche line. 

Good darts!

p.s. Since I am actually starting all over again I intend to write about my efforts with both successes and non-successes as I travel this path back to good darts for myself and writing about it just in the remote chance readers would find it helpful in perceiving ways to improve their dart arts. 

p.s.s. Oh, and as to my current status in dart arts, lets say that I have been in a really huge ’Slump’ these last twenty years and my efforts and changes are all about overcoming that slump and achieving even better dart arts. :-)

Bibliography (Click the link)

“In order for any life to matter, we all have to matter.” - Marcus Luttrell, Navy Seal (ret)

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Nirvana of Darts

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

The six dart 301 game and the nine dart 501; the absolute nirvana of the dart world. A goal to strive for in both practice and play. To achieve that goal or any one of those feats would be the epitome of a darter’s discipline. 

It has been twenty years or so since I tossed a few darts, steel, at a bristle board. I remember that I thought the ultimate goal of not just winning a dart tournament but to achieve a top hat, a trip twenty and a trip nineteen feat at a match would be the enlightened mastery nirvana of the dart game but even those today as a winter years man seems common to the six/nine dart awesomeness feat. 

Every dart I now toss, every game be it practice or competitive and my end goal is and will be that distant feat of completing and winning a 301 and 501 competitive game of six/nine dart wins. OhYeahhhhh!

It made me ask, can one throw a minimal dart toss in cricket and has it ben done? Some information on the game of cricket:

“The goal of cricket is to be the first player to open or close all the cricket numbers and have a higher or even point total.” Considering that your opponent can often achieve a score on his turn the perfect six dart cricket match may not be possible. It could be achieved in nine darts by closing out the numbers with three of the nine while the other three anywhere in the process scores enough points to match or exceed those of your opponent. 

“Hitting a number once is shown by placing a slash (/) beside the number, second hit by turning the slash to an X, and the third by a circle (O) around the X.”

“Once a player has opened or closed all the required numbers and bull and has equal or more points than his opponent, that player wins.”

What I found regarding a perfect cricket game, i.e., “It can be completed in eight darts; close all six triples (20 through 15) with the first six darts and then close the bull with two darts, i.e., bull’s eye and double bull or two double bulls.”

In truth then the nirvana of darts is a six dart 301, a nine dart 501 and an eight dart Cricket. Wow, what a feat and what a goal! Considering the strategies and tactics along with the playing level or mastery between contestants it may be close to impossible to have an eight dart Cricket perfect match. Regardless, it is still a lofty and attainable goal. Here is another question, “Has anyone tossed a perfect cricket game?” 

“In order for any life to matter, we all have to matter.” - Marcus Luttrell, Navy Seal (ret)

Monday, July 18, 2016

Datsu Reishiki or Dart Etiquette

Blog Article/Post Caveat (Read First Please: Click the Link)

In martial arts, as in almost every discipline and/or sport, there is a socially driven etiquette one follows to master the art. Reishiki is the term used to describe that etiquette in martial arts practices. Like many aspects of martial arts, reishiki is a part of the fundamental principles that support the entire discipline and are such they span all styles, systems or disciplines - this is true of the dart arts.

In Darts:
  • No Distractions
  • Score before pulling darts.
  • Appreciation for your darts and your opponents.
  • Respect: first and foremost toward yourself; second to all others both players and watchers; and finally toward your darts, the arena and the board.
  • Never a discouraging word.
  • Remain calm, cool, collected and respectful of all.
  • Be prompt, timely; remain ready.
  • Remain emotionally mature.
  • Everything in moderation.
  • Remain of good character and personality at all times.
  • Perform maintenance after each game. 
  • Know the rules, believe the rules, adhere to the rules at all times.
  • If scoring for yourself: score your darts before you pull them.
These rules of dart etiquette should require no explanation but in a world of many cultures and beliefs it is sometimes a necessity to explain a bit to make sure there are no mistakes so the following is a way to provide some hints that will allow all cultures and people of differing beliefs to come to the same conclusions regarding behavior in a dart arena. 
  1. Respect: first and foremost toward yourself; second to all others both players and watchers; and finally toward your darts, the arena and the board.
  2. Manners: firm handshake before and after a match; remain respectfully quiet and keep appropriate distance while one tosses their darts; no distractions of a physical and/or verbal nature; no unnecessary comments or conversation, etc. 
  3. Do not speak to the player who is shooting.
  4. Don't go "ooh" and "aah" with each dart that is thrown.
  5. Wait until all three darts have been thrown to say, "good darts" or "right there".
  6. Do not make sudden movements in front of the shooter. Scorekeepers should remain statue-still while a player is throwing.
  7. If the arena allows, try to always stand behind the shooter outside his or her line of sight.
  8. Spectators should try to keep movement and noise to a minimum while a player is shooting.
  9. No one but the scorekeeper or a teammate should tell the shooter what has been hit.
  10. What has been hit should only be announced if the shooter asks.
  11. No one except a teammate, not even the scorekeeper, should ever tell the player what to hit next.
  12. Clothing: be conservative; wear nothing that would distract or detract from the art, game or sport. 
Here is a meaning of martial arts reishiki and understand, like most things, you can replace references to the culture or the martial arts involved with almost any other discipline such as the “Dart Arts.” 

Reishiki [礼式]

The characters/ideograms mean "etiquette; manners." The first character means, "salute; bow; ceremony; thanks; remuneration," the second character means, "style; ceremony; rite; function; method; system; form; expression."

Reishiki deals with etiquette and manners. The first character/ideogram means, "salute; bow; ceremony; thanks; remuneration," and the second character/ideogram means, "style; ceremony; rite; function; method; system; form; expression."

"Reishiki" which to me means something like "courtesy, consideration, respect, etc." Reishiki is based on respect, restraint, and responsibility...to practice diligently leads to a person who has thoughtfulness, effective self-expression and communication, and a wider range of benign responses leading to tranquility and peace.

To truly understand "reishiki" one must take in fully and completely the customs, courtesies and beliefs of the society that this term is most important, Japan. The etiquette system of Japan and Okinawa is the same as yet different from its source, Chinese etiquette or court etiquette.

"The one life has not form and is empty by nature. If you become attached by any form, you should reject it. If you see an ego, a soul, births, or a death, reject them all." - Bodhidharma 

"Budo begins with proper etiquette, and ends with proper etiquette."

This is the ceremony performed in the dojo. It teaches respect, proper manners, and self-control, it also denotes a period of time that is separate from our everyday lives. This ritual used in opening and closing the training in a dojo sets off a special time. It tells us that the dojo is a place to recognize training and practice not normally considered in everyday life.

It is a code of conduct or ethical standards that train the mind and body of the practitioner so as to impart good judgment and compassion along with skill in the use of karate and kobudo.

Reishiki signals an atmosphere of mutual respect and trust in the dojo so all activities can proceed in safety and with spirit (Kokoro).

Reishiki also provides a feeling of honor within each person certain aspects of practice: to acknowledge the Kamidana, Soke, Sensei and the dojo.

Each reishiki is preceded by mokoso (quit meditation).This is a meditative state or mind set that allows for contemplation of life, death, and respect for the use of karate. It disciplines one's ego, which is of paramount importance.