WILTW Week 4 – Using your axes

What I learned this week – Week 4: Using your axes

Apologies for the lateness of this post, this term is racing away very quickly.

At Monday night practice we have been trying out a series of fast-paced warm-up drills, one of which includes an intense version of the three-man/break-force where the marker marks for 10 successive throws (rather than the normal version where you throw then mark the person you threw to). This has the advantage that it makes you more tired and also enables you to focus on each element of the drill for an extended period of time.

Faced with a nasty GB mark who kept getting hand blocks I had to innovate. After a couple of fakes he stepped off from me so I floated a break around him (some would call this cheating in the drill but it’s the best way to punish somebody who steps off you). Next time he came closer, I stepped and leaned backwards on the side-arm side, as if to throw the same loopy pass, drawing the mark toward me. This opened up a gap on the back-hand side that I could step forwards into, not just pivoting out of my marker’s reach but also putting my body between him and my hand, making getting a block impossible without committing a foul.

At the start of the year on Wednesdays we would regularly do a pivoting drill, with a mark for a full stall, trying to see whether and how much we could break them (but not releasing the disc). Demonstrations of the drill always involved making pivots along a horizontal axis, and the mark’s movement was mirroring this horizontal movement. And that’s how I think most people executed the drill (correct me if I’m wrong). But of course there’s no particular reason to be restricted in this way when pivoting – using a single axis in this way will make your mark cover a lot of ground, and will eventually allow you to get a break out but probably isn’t the most efficient way to do it, and may make you more vulnerable to getting blocked by somebody with a large wing-span or fast reactions. Using your axes will make the mark have to cover not just two release points (left or right) but infinitely many release points – anywhere in the full 360 degree reach of your pivot.

Seriously though, being able to get your body between your mark and where you’re releasing the disc is a cast-iron way to ensure that you don’t get point-blocked, and the easiest way to achieve this is to use your axes – varying where you pivot on an x- and y-axis will help you move the mark more effectively and allow you to wrest the initiative from an over-bearing mark and make them do what you want. So next time you’re in a break-force have a go at using your axes to move the mark and get your body between them and your release point.

See you at practice.

P.S. Week 5 I learned that snow sucks.


  • Meg

    Great post as always (damn you, and your raising of the bar!).

    Especially faced with a one-way force, stepping forward can actually be a great way to break marks using the inside-out channel.

    With my ‘throwing coach’ hat on, I would say it’s important to differentiate between having your ‘standard’ pivot as a forwards rather than horizontal move and the alternative of purposefully stepping forwards to take advantage of a mark’s positioning in specific situations.

    And lofting it round a mark isn’t cheating in that drill if they step off – that’s the cheating bit 🙂

  • Benjy

    Rich made the very same point to me on Monday; by standing face-to-face with your mark you get more space to pivot round behind, exactly like you pointed out here. Another excellent post.

  • Ashley

    And today we learned to use the z-axis.

    Nice blog John, I’m really enjoying your insightful views on ultimate and life.

  • Dude

    What’s your opinion on doing a 360* while pivoting Shim, or anyone who’s reading this? I find it risky/unnecessary since you lose view of the field for a sweet second or two but sometimes helps to open up the mark, and some people do it consistently.

    *: You pivot to throw a forehand, then move into a backhand stance, then instead of coming back to a forehand stance, you turn around on your pivot to come to a forehand position.

    1. ShimmyJohn

      I hate seeing that. Very few good players do it and it generally results in an out-of-control throw. As a general rule I say that if you don’t see top players doing it then you shouldn’t either.

    2. Therapist

      I have seen Waggle do this (on Saturday at mixed training) and Dougie did it once today – from backhand onto forehand. I’ve only ever done it in 3 man drill, to be cheeky when I’m struggling. I’ve never done it in a game, though

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