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 15, 2016

Taking to the Line

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

The ‘Oche’ line, where everyone throws the darts to the board. In previous articles I have mentioned the datsu-kamae and the datsu-no-kata, etc. but here is where I talk about taking root, assuming the kamae and the locking ‘almost’ the entire body into that position. When you assume the kamae the only parts of your body that move at the span of time for tossing the dart(s) is the arm. In this example and in my case that is the right arm.

The great part about this is once you find the most comfortable and efficient kamae, body position, you can practice to assume that position and stance for every single dart you throw be it in practice, in local darts and in tournaments. The most complicated part of this is the way to use the arm to throw darts effectively, efficiently and accurately.

In the beginning, while you practice over and over again, it will come across as and feel a bit mechanical. The goal is to find and keep that perfect toss of the arm and make that happen consistently, effectively, efficiently, accurately and with a certain rhythm and cadence. It is this last achievement of rhythm and cadence and fluidity that will make the arm, the only truly moving part, to get-r-done. No, this is not the only aspect of the whole but an important part when coupled with other efforts creates the ability to toss darts well.

When you assume the position at the oche line, when you lock the body into position then you have to set your shoulder girdle in its optimal position much like you would in performing the, ‘sanchin kata.’ Yes, as I explain for those who have no background in martial arts and karate and it will become clear later.

We all will experience stress especially when we leave practice and face off with a stranger in a match. The unknown tends to make fear and fear triggers the adrenal stress-conditions of a competitive environment. If you wish to throw well in darts it is imperative you expose yourself to that stress, overcome the fearful reactions of your body and mind and then compete/train to become a master of the darts. 

In martial arts as well as other stressful professions and disciplines you have to train and practice those things necessary to counter the adrenal dump, some call it the chemical dump, so you can act. Usually, the very first noticeable, if you are aware and you will be now that you know, tension you will feel from exposure of this stress is in your shoulders. Most people will tense and that will raise the shoulders up as if you were trying to pull your head into your neck like a turtle pulls its head into its shell. You have to train to relax those shoulder muscles and allow your shoulders to drop down and remain in a natural positively relaxed position. This is required even when you put your arm into motion and toss the darts. Any shoulder movement not directly tied to and beneficial to the arm in motion is not a good thing. I have tossed darts with my shoulders down and positively relaxed in practice and my throws have been better. 

This falls back on the concept that the arm must do most of the work to get that dart to the intended target. But the shoulder down is only the beginning. The next thing you must be aware of and relax is the face. When stresses our faces also take on tension, the muscle will tighten up so you have to feel your facial muscles and consciously relax them along with the shoulders. In tandem with these two you have to breathe properly.

Proper deep slow diaphragmatic breathing is the order of the day. You should be doing this at every moment you feel stress and the tensions of those muscles. As you relax the shoulders, chest comes along as well as the upper back, the face and along with that comes the neck and to follow will be the body including the arms. Any tension in that arm or the body will effect the throw. 

Know as well that stress and the chemical dump will have some adverse effects on you such as a loss of fine motor control. Fine motor control of that upper arm, elbow, forearm, wrist, hand and fingers will kill you throw and darts. This is how you take control back so that your body will follow your mind and achieve your goals in darts whatever those may be. 

For me, when I practice, I move up to the oche, assume my kamae, position my body, hold my darts in my left hand, look down and choose the first dart, set my grip, look up at the board and target, move my hand and dart up to aim it while I set my arm:
  • Forearm should be vertical.
  • Elbow down pointing to the ground.
  • Elbow and forearm aligned in sight line to the target.
  • Grip holding the dart with a comfortable yet firm grasp.
  • Aim and focus direct vision at the target.
  • Use peripheral vision to make sure the arm is set properly.
  • Pull back, flex the fingers and hands as trained and then flow forward to the release point.
  • Let loose the dart and make sure you always follow through, always.
  • Once the follow through is completed you lower the hand for the next dart while your direct vision is on that target until the dart sinks into the board.
  • Then make any adjustments, i.e., new target; new position on the oche if needed and then repeat the process till all three darts are in the board.
This example is only my thoughts as I write, it is imperative that you create your own kata and process to achieve the most efficient and accurate dart throw but my example can be used as a guide in finding your own darts. You need to work it out and fill in any holes to achieve that goal on your own. It is after all your darts and no one else can toss them for you and no one else can say how that is done in the end.

Lets step back a bit, the below graphic is not the one and only way to assume your stance to throw darts but it shows mine as an example. I have noted my feet positioning especially the distribution of my weight to include that I root by making sure both feet are firmly planted, not on my toes or leaning my weight over or forward of my right foot, seek the balance point shown to see what I mean. 

It is my belief that anything else puts to much instability into my dart throw. One of the teachings of karate as to punching and striking is how you apply appropriate power and force with proper energy generation and transference. The structure of the arm and its stability tends to both convey maximum energy, force and power while at the same time it also, if not properly aligned and structured, bleeds off that same energy, force and power.

In darts, the elbow movement, the ability of the wrist to move and all the alignment and so on can either get the dart to the target or if even a minuscule part of the entire arm is off the dart will end up in dev-null, a non-scoring part of the board, or even end up bouncing off to the floor, not a good thing in darts don’t you agree?

p.s. this is the kind of analysis and synthesis necessary to find your darts but unless you can apply it all to practice and playing the game it means nothing so work it out for yourself, find your darts and then get-r-done!

Note: I got and modified the graphic online through google image search. It is also used on the Darts501.com site in an article about throwing darts. I wish to tip my hand to “Darts501.com” as the inspiration for this graphic.

Click for larger view, see originals at darts501 by clicking
the link in the last paragraph above. 

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