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!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Weight of It

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

In the dart arts the archer would need to find the ideal dart, a critical piece obviously. Some considerations to take in:

  • Barrel shape
  • Barrel material
  • Barrel texture
  • Point (static vs. hammerhead)
  • Dart weight
  • Shaft material
  • Shaft length 
  • Flights of various materials and shapes

Dart weights for steel darts 🎯 range from 18 grams up to about 30 grams.

Note: the heavier the dart the less bounce outs but as you get lighter, 22 grams, the more it leans to a bounce out.

Let's talk about weight, like the human body it's weight at optimal levels gives us health, fitness and a sense of well-being. Each dart'ist needs to find the weight that allows for the perfect throw by, first, finding the weight optimal for them.  Too heavy and after a time the trajectory drops resulting in scuds but too light you end up tossing a bag of nails or hit a B-n-B. It matters and like going on a diet where your optimal body weight effects your overall health including mind-set and mind-state.

Everything is intertwined into a whole that makes for perfect consistent darts.

Finding that best weight then allows you to forget the dart so it can simply fly true when all factors come collectively into the one wholeheartedly arrow flying to the intended target.

I went through 4 weights testing over a period of play until I found my dart weight class of 22 grams. In some cases I felt I might go below 20 grams until my arrows settled into a consistency almost true to a mastery or at least semi-expert. I also noted that when using 26 grams the dart never bounced off the wires but the 22, resulted in investing toward Bottelsen Hammerhead 90% tungsten steel tips for league and tournament challenges. 

To find the weight and density that flies true and straight to hit the target takes some time and a bit of expense. In the old days you could travel to a dart supplies place and they had all sorts with all weights to toss to you hearts content at the board until you found something that just, “Felt good.” Then you paid up and yet today, because of the loss of interest in the area I live, you have to spend a few dollars to find, test and decide. In the end, it is worth it or it is worth it to me in my drive to master - the Dart Arts. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

But for the Width of a Wire

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

In my recent exposure to those who have been actively in the dart arts for decades and along with my puzzlement to why American Darts is not as popular as the dart arts of Europe I finally found the article that explains why. This is a short article on that why as it pertains to a meme I have heard time and again while enjoying the tossing of arrows.

The article was written by Dick Allix and it was titled, “Kismet.” In a nutshell, the opportunity was there and two issues arose that would literally leave the future of professional darts in our country to the “Width of a Wire.” When you hear someone say this meme it is usually in a close contest where one player misses the target just to the wrong side of a board wire while the other player keeps the dart in the target, the true or scoring side of the wire. As you read his article; circumstances, perceptions and the distinctions either assigned due to perceptions or distinctions held already steered those with the power to boost the dart arts to higher levels were such that even the slightest of faults would kill the dart arts in America. 

Here Mr. Allix states emphatically, “In regard to the history of the dart arts, emphasis on North America, it’s not exactly an illustrious story of success, yet if certain things had turned out differently, the stature of the dart arts today might be totally different, changed by circumstance or the width of a wire - literally.” 

He goes on the give examples of situations that governed circumstances influencing those in position to promote the dart arts who already had incorrect and inaccurate perceptions of the game making the climb, higher and with more obstacles already in the environment. After all, the examples had the interest of network television - big time. One example, “We were playing a championship in the U.K., a team captained by one American top player who had the chance to play a perfect game when no one else had played a perfect game to date in darts history in competition.”

The American player stepped up to the oche line: scored 180, then scored another 180, then with the last three darts hit treble 20, treble 19 and was left with one dart and aimed at the double 12. His dart landed just outside of the double 12, just outside the wire that designated the double 12 target zone. As Mr. Allix says, if he had hit the double 12 it could have made a huge splash on TV and in the media back in America. He goes on to provide other examples similar to this one. 

In the end, it was not for the lack of talent but the inability to get past the width of a wire or the final hurdle like karma was just not on their side. Any dart’ist who is in this discipline already knows and understands, darts can be fickle even for the best of the best where that one dart slips to the outside of a target wire, the width of a wire, taking the game away from that player simply because, and many of the American media just didn’t know or understand, that one dart slips to the wrong side of a wire. 

When I wrote about how Mr. Allix referred to the perceptions of those with the power to boost the discipline of the dart arts was tainted due to ignorance he stated simply, “In 1985, all three networks (NBC, ABC, and CBS) who sent news crews to England to film the sport documentaries thought of the discipline of the dart arts as, Quaint, old pub game - but with big money,” in short, they were predisposed to thinking less of the discipline than it warranted. “They treated it in a whimsical, half-sarcastic way.” He quoted one network saying, “Hey folks, you are just not gonna believe what these weird folk in little old England are treating as a serious sport! Yes, darts, yuk yuk yuk. Boy, whacky, huh?”

Mr. Allix goes on to suggest, “Had they done it in a serious, informative way, maybe it would have triggered ABC Sports inot discussing coverage of, let us say, the North American Open. But they didn’t and it didn’t, and that time and opportunity passed on.” It put the dart arts in a category of a children’s game or the pub game after work while tossing down a few brews while socializing with buddies, etc. 

Add in broadcasting of tournaments at 2am in the morning, if they made it to television, the loss of any possibility of profitability to sponsoring businesses and the detrimental influences explained in the article from the media powers, the dart arts has slowly lost its possible positive momentum also exacerbated by the very top players themselves to attitudes not conducive to promoting the very discipline they achieved mastery within. 

Now, this will truly get you up and wondering, especially if you play steel tip dart arts, there is, or WAS, an effort and due diligent consideration of making the dart arts a … wait for it … An Olympic Sport, with gold, silver and bronze medals and all the trimmings of that great responsibility, The Olympics!

Now, even with the concerted effort to avoid giving the dart arts its due, there is a remote chance that if they actually allowed it into the Olympics then it just might change the attitudes and beliefs of the dart arts into something it deserves, An Olympic Sport!

For me, personally, I am saddened that things didn’t go as hoped in those days. In the eighties I took up the game for a couple of years and played really well. Our team, one year, won the local Bug Light Tournament and seemed to be attracting a huge following. I, don’t remember the exact reasons, dropped out until just the last year of the dart arts. When I came back in at the age of sixty-two, I was surprised to find that the dart arts and its participation by dart’ists, steel tip, was no longer as prominent as it was that twenty plus years ago. 

When back then you could go almost anywhere and find the dart arts being played, now I had a difficult time finding even a very few local efforts going on for steel tip dart arts. I was saddened to find that little is published on the discipline and even the American top players are not found even on the Internet and in social media except in very rate an singular ways not as available as the Internet makes other things. This is sad. 

Anyway, I finally found this article that explained where the meme, width of a wire, came from and why. It also answered my question of why the game is not as popular as it was in those earlier years, 80’s, and why we Americans are not seen in the European Dart World where the dart arts are embraced as a serious discipline and now makes really big money a possibility as can be seen by its current champion (Michael VanGerwin), who has earned millions just in the dart arts alone. You would think this huge rich country of ours would see the potential since the dart arts has move way out of UK and across most of Europe and make it more of a discipline and sport right here in our good ole U. S. of A.

We can all say, if we choose, that if not for the width of a wire, for karma or kismet if you will, we would be watching the dart arts on the sports network at a time all family members could watch but it goes deeper and wider than that width of a wire, it goes to how we assume and how we perceive and the distinctions we assign things with little or no real effort to dig down and discover the true nature of things. We all want it now, and it must give us instant gratification and if it takes any real effort and doesn’t come with its own app then we tend to discard it without giving it even a slight chance. That, my dear reader and dart’ist, is just plain old sad!

Game ON!

Friday, February 10, 2017

The Oche Line

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

The line from which the moment of truth arrives and tells us the story of the person who dares to stand tall at the oche. Is this person daring enough to expose themselves to, “Scud,” to hit not the target but something close by or are they willing to possibly end up in the, “Mad House?” 

Everything is about stepping up to the oche line, to stand up among their peers and then to step out into the world and toss arrows through what is perceived as a short distance in order to hit a target no bigger than the width of a pencil to score high and to close out a number or to double out. 

A point where the determination and due diligent practices against the natural odds of a dart board are exposed for all to see and where the dart’ist has to bring together their mind into their bodies thus allowing for the warrior’s spirit to be in and be the moment without distractions and finding their true self in the true dart, the perfect dart, to achieve great things in the dart arts. 

It is that small space standing at the oche that one finds their path, the way of the dart arts and the ability to connect and make whole the triad of the way, the melding of mind, body and spirit into one wholehearted moment in time when the dart flies to the moment the point lands smack dab center of the intended target - The Oche Line. 

The oche is not just a line on the floor, it is the demarcation point of many things necessary to achieve mastery over the dart and in the art of darts. That boundary set to separate the dart’ist from the darts and the dart board. A division that must be spanned with a bridge of wholehearted mind-state and mind-set through the effort, training, practice and experiences to achieve a wholehearted whole made up of our minds, the efforts and disciplines of the physical self and the heart, the heart of a warrior; the heart of a competitor; the heart of a lion that steps past the natural and perceived obstacles that hinder mastery so that one can achieve dart enlightenment. 

Literally, “The oche /ˈɒki/, also the throw line or toe line, in the game of darts is the line behind which the throwing player must stand. For steel tipped darts, it is generally 7 ft 9 1⁄4 in (2.36855 m) from the face of the dartboard, measured horizontally. This is the recognized world standard as set by the World Darts Federation and is used in most areas. The diagonal distance from the bull's eye to the oche, 9 ft 7 3⁄8 in (2.931 m), may also be used (.0354in. short).” - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oche

Looking at the distance the oche line is set from the target, the dart board, you perceive a short distance while in truth once a person tosses an arrow for the first time can feel like a mile and a mile is a long, long way. There are some natural connections found in the board as related to the pies for score along with the distance to the oche and various specifications of the darts not to forget the aero-dynamics involved once the dart or arrow leaves the hand. A combination of principles, i.e., physiokinetics and technique as primary, along with theory used to analyze and synthesize one’s perfect throw. Add in the principle of philosophy and you find a great deal is involved in the dart arts and it is NOT just standing at the oche and throwing out small sharp pointed steel devices at some target. 

The Oche is where the rubber meets the road, where all the study, the analysis of self, dart and game and the synthesis of your personal way to throw is tested, trained, modified and blended into this “One” thing - the perfect dart throw, the perfect mind-state and mind-set and the perfection of the art of the dart as recognized by mastery through consistent tossing of the one perfect dart. 

When your toe nudges up against the oche line it triggers a tape that your practice and training along with a lot of experience in the dart arts where one encodes it in a primal conditioned response found in the lizard, that instinctual part of our brains, brain so when the toe nudges the tape begins and the “Ritual of the Throw” begins. All else pales to the purpose and meaning of the oche, the oche is that one point everyone, of every culture and of every gender has to step up too in order to become an elite member of the world of the dart arts. It is that very cornerstone to which all darts and all dart’ists have to face, step up to and then utilize to, “Get-r-done!” GAME ON!

Game on is the accepted statement all dart’ists and its officials use to let all dart’ists, all spectators and all officials know that the first dart is about to go downrange, i.e., “Ready on the right; ready on the left; all ready behind the oche; all ready to fire your arrows —— GAME ON!” (Note: Actually, they only say game on but I wanted to add a little drama to the statement)

The oche is where the dart’ist must achieve a present moment mind of no-mind where inner and outer awareness must focus to a point that excludes all internal and external distractions so the mind-state can set up the mind-set making for the perfection and mastery of the dart. The focus is tantamount to putting blinders on our senses, especially the visual sense - the eyes - while blocking out anything and everything not of the dart arts and not of the throw and especially of not of the targeting, etc. An awareness and focus that teaches us how to lesson the effects of the adrenal stress-conditions found in participating in the dart arts and that beings and ends - at the Oche-Line!

The Oche where our toes nudge that line is a place, a forge, where we layer the many metals of discipline, attitude and mind-set/state to create the ultimate individual way of darts that give us the perfect dart. We use that forge to temper our metal until it becomes a strong and flexible piece of steel much like choosing the 90-95% tungsten that makes our darts durable, lasting and dependable under circumstances that make the dart arts, an art. 

The oche-forge is where we make our awareness and focus narrow as to the perfect throw, the target and the strategies, tactics and goals that make for mastery in the dart arts, it is what constitutes the intestinal fortitude of the master dart’ist who had consistency, rhythm, cadence and the pattern unique to tossing consistently accurate darts. These symbolized as the various tempered metals folded countless times in and on themselves until they reach that state of tempered flexible steel that makes us masters of the dart arts. A state of being the dart; being the dart board; being the oche; being the perfect perfection of consistency, rhythm, cadenced and pattern cut to fit the uniqueness of the individual dart’ists, the master dart’ist. 

Here, at the oche line, as in life, is where man steps up and determines the remainder of their lives and in the dart arts, there mastery of the dart. It was once stated, “But for the width of the wire, it could have been a different story.” That story being either good or bad dependent on the wire and where the dart lands. This is the conundrum and fact of the dart arts that each person; each man, woman, and young adult faces not just at the oche, the microcosmic world representative of the real world, but in every day life itself. It is a symbolic representation that when connected in the conscious lights up things one may have never known existed and this is what happens when a dart’ist enters the forge, that box where one stands that butts up to the oche line where we face the board and its wires. Where one dart can drift with the winds and the currents into a scud zone or on target, to win or to miss that opportunity. Much like life where your actions ether put you on target or you miss that opportunity but know this - other opportunities will come and that scud will once again disappear into the realm of obscurity except for rare appearances as you build consistency and mastery - all at the oche line, the forge of the dart’ist. The width of the spider wires of the board are like that, a millimeter of space filled with a thin wire where one side or the other gives meaning to the dart, in that moment. One side or the other, it makes a difference just like the moment of any decision in life sends us to one side or the other of either success or missed opportunity. 

The oche line is where the dart’ist takes the bull by the horn and becomes proactive in lieu of reactive. This is where the dart’ist makes a decision that will lead to mastery or leave just another pub game participant. Both lofty and most excellent places to be but once you nudge up to the oche line you make the decision and take the steps to achieve that goal using the strategies and tactics appropriate but the mind game must be here, on the oche. 

Look, the fact of the matter is that darts, the dart arts, are about 98% mental and 2% physical, maybe 80% mental, 15% spirit and 5% physical. Make no mistake about it, the game is a real mind-bender and those who have never taken up the dart cannot begin to understand and perceive just how difficult the dart arts are, they are most difficult and this is why. 

To achieve, maintain and be consistent you have to master a lot but three things stand out - you must practice diligently and consistently, you must enhance your positive attitude and you have to know, understand and apply some mental muscles to make this work and guess where it all comes to fruition, on the oche line where you will forge that and other materials into a sword you will wield like a samurai warrior. Add  in when you step up to the oche line make sure you have no expectations, allow your attitude, experiences and practices along with those mental muscles achieve mastery in the dart arts. 

The Oche line is where you test your metal, i.e., where you find and replenish you feel for the dart you touch and return to proper timing, rhythm, cadence and consistency that is there waiting to be wakened and thereby achieve consistent accuracy as much as nature and your efforts produce and allow. 

I want to take a moment, much like you take time between tournaments and league participation, to discuss how one must balance out practice, training and competition along with time off to decompress from the rigors of standing at the Oche, we all need balance even in the dart arts. The crux of the issue is, rust, rusty in the dart arts means you will experience a slump where your darts will appear awfully inaccurate even tho you may have mastered them. This is normal, the norm, and to achieve mastery you have to accept the fact that even when in the heat of battle you will encounter scuds, a bag of nails and the ole bed-n-breakfast throws but persistence, dedication and a strong mental muscle will bring your darts back on the line soon enough and your darts will return. This too, is what the oche line presents to the dart’ist when they nudge the toes to the line. 

Something only the oche line teaches is that as a species sometimes our brains want one thing and our bodies tend to do another or just plain old forget the connection entirely. Your arm and hand and body are going to forget what your brain knows, that you throw most excellent darts. They will ignore that mind at times resulting in those scuds and so on but rest assured your efforts will bring that connection back on line and off we go to the races. It is teaching you to ignore the emotional side of the game, that of frustration. Part of the mind game that develops strong mental muscles is letting go of the emotional effects like frustration and by the way we can add anger to that one as well for both seem to like rearing their ugly heads at these moments. Rest assured the oche line experiences will expose you to those obstacles and whalla, here come your true darts!

A couple of reminders when you hit the emotional wall:
  • DO NOT try harder, that means tensing and stress conditions all detrimental to good darts. Breathe, do the relaxation process with the face, neck, shoulders with chest and back - breathe slowly, deeply, diaphragmatically to counter the effects. Don’t let frustration, anger and finally panic take over - breathe!
  • Time on the line, the oche line. Remember that it took a lot of practice, training and competitive experiences to achieve the mastery of your darts so in the slump give yourself, your mind and your spirit a break. Take the time on the line at practice and in the game until things balance out and ride the river on an even keel. As you gain time and experience and master the dart arts this process will take less and less time even in the heat of a game when one dart scuds out so your next just hits, “ON-Target.”
  • Remember, you don’t have to re-learn the physiokinetics involved, you just have to dig down and raise them back up to the surface. They are, if you did your part well, just deeper down in our brains conditioned response storage where they go when not used regularly, natural for all of us, and when triggered the tape will run again and in far less time than it took to record that tape, “Click-n-whirr” off you go to most excellent darts. 
  • Know and understand the dart arts, then assign appropriate expectations and then live up to them. Allow reasonable and appropriate time to reestablish that connection, it’s there and will rise up when called. Maybe a tad slowly after time away or in that slump but rest assured it is there and will return. 
  • Work your own game, don’t compare yours to others regardless of their skill level. It is about you and you alone, in essence others have noting to do with how you master the dart arts but if you allow them influence they can definitely stall that progress. It ain’t about them, it is all on you, make it so. Stay within yourself regardless and let your game begin - game on!
  • Proper perspective is necessary to ensure proper attitude and mental state and mental set of mind so that you can circumvent or at least breeze by frustration, anger and panic when your darts fall from grace. 
  • Finally, similar to other professions and professionals always, I mean always, do a AAR or After Action Report where you analyze your dart arts, find mistakes and improvements, etc., then discuss your findings with others for input and then synthesize a new strategy, tactics and goals to achieve mastery. Remember, be realistic in your expectations and be patient in allowing enough time to get there, to regain your darts and to achieve mastery. 
  • Lastly, a reminder, it all comes down to and is about the oche line as this is where the rubber meets the road and how you manage this is how you get steel belted radial tires with tread that will handle all kinds of roadway with all kinds of side roads and intersections where things will engage you toward distraction and so on effecting your drive, make it so helmsman. 
  • Some hints for regaining mastery:
    • Use visual-imagery while practicing to simulate previous successful matches. This is a form of self-hypnosis that is used by all professionals to improve their game.
    • Use visual-imagery before every game and each time you step up to the oche line use it to see your game before you actually play your game. 
    • In the game, keep your mind in the hear and now, the present moment. Focus only on the dart in the throw hand as if it is the only dart you get. Focus and be aware of the dart in hand, your dart kamae, the board and the target. Feel your body for positive relaxation then see the dart, see the trajectory, see it hit the target then let it go. 
    • Be effortless when at the oche line until you step past to retrieve your darts. 
    • Once a dart hits the board, forget it and let it go no matter its final destination and score. Make a mental change for the next throw and focus only on that dart. All else fades instantly into the past where it belongs. This is how a scud can be transformed at the next throw into that perfect dart. 
    • Make the experience less about competition, more about just your throw in the moment and let go of everything else. It is likened to those practice sessions where we all seem to throw so well, let the match be like practice, practice and practice. Just another practice session to perfect your dart arts. 
  • Final recommendation, don’t take it so serious and let fun be a mainstay. Your seriousness must be balanced and tempered with having fun, fun makes things work and that means in all of life’s endeavors, master life at the oche line!
Click to enlarge for readiblity

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Dart-ist Way: Throwing the Lone Dart

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

“A dart-ist, when he is practicing the tossing of his or her dart, faces the target with two darts in his left or right hand. Observing this, the instructor said, ‘Beginners must not have two darts in the hand because, since they count on the second, they always become careless when they aim at the target with the first. Therefore, you ought to think every time you reach for an dart, to hit with it alone.’ This advice is applicable for all matters.” - Stolen from Sensei of the Art of Japanese Archery :-)

Yes, I stole this one because in the sense of it, it applies to the dart arts. Some even refer to a fourth dart because when throwing the last, third dart, the reverse applies as if this is the last chance to make up for the first two darts - assuming they didn’t hit as intended. This is all mind stuff, games we all play with our minds and the goal here is to recognize that, take time to accept and then use your training to change how the mind perceives both the actual and the tactile of it. 

Learn to ignore the darts not being aimed at the target as if they no longer exist, the dart in hand is the only dart and the goal is to throw it perfectly. Keep all thoughts out except the process of throwing that one dart. This will apply to the other two until all three are in the target. It is about getting to a place where the entire process is singular as if the only dart, the only stance and the only throw. It will end up being a surprise when the dart flies and when there are no more darts in your hand - A Zen-like throw in the dart arts.