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Tilted Axes, Spirals, and Dynamic Balance

Brychanus

* Ace Member *
Joined
Oct 25, 2021
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TL;DR: If you're already an elite athlete and top 50 thrower on tour, you're probably doing this well enough. Congratulations! If not, maybe there's a nugget or two in here you will find instructive, but it's mostly a form theory thread. "Just do it" if you actually want to learn and Understand it.


Tilted Axes, Spirals, and Dynamic Balance
There are a few form concepts that commonly appear to challenge developing players. A subset of them are either (1) controversial or (2) so hard to learn that they eventually cause me to centralize some thoughts and examples.

In addition to the Swing Plane (and I would add, entire form) not Being Flat, the concepts of dynamic balance, tilted axes, and tilted spirals appear frequently on this forum and in my estimation, few other places in Disc Golf instruction or mechanics chatter. I think that one of the reasons is that like the "center of mass (CoM)" or "center of gravity," balance is a theoretical construct. We cannot observe it directly on camera. We can only observe its causes and effects. Even more deeply than the CoM, balance is an incredibly complex interaction between our brains and bodies, under the influence of gravity. Thus, dynamic balance is more fundamental, and the motion of the theoretical CoM is best understood in its context.

Learning proper dynamic balance is perhaps the most fundamental part of the entire move that almost no one talks about. I find this dichotomy fascinating, and after more than two years "knowing" it and just one or two months starting to "understand" part of it, I figured I would do my best again in pictures and words to say something about something you just have to learn, feel and do. If you already Understand it, you probably don't need to Know much more about it. But for the countless players who don't, you might Understand it better if you first Know it better.

I never want you to see form the same way again, and I always want it to encode the concept of dynamic balance just like every other advanced motion humans can learn. If I am wrong and somehow form doesn't involve dynamic balance like every other advanced motion humans perform, I will eat one tenth of my least favorite hat.

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Advanced baseball players Understand the tilted axis. So do skiiers, skaters, half pipe skateboarders, golfers, and Pro Tour disc golfers.

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Movement occurs in three primary dimensions (Vertical, North-South, and West-East) over the fouth dimension (time). Fortunately, the first one is "solved" if you are standing on the planet Earth.

Dynamic balance can be sketched in the second two dimensions in the context of the first (vertical) and fourth (time). Stillframes remove the fourth dimension, meaning that they isolate balance at a given moment. I will take the stillframe approach in this first post, and my hope is that this thread will expand to give people plenty of four-dimensional reference points. The head is always balanced relative to the feet in advanced movement and is a fundamental aspect of posture control [see e.g.: 1 2 3].

For simplicity I will start by talking about what happens between the drive step (X-step) and the plant step, because the move often becomes more varied and sophisticated before that as I will show later.



Vertical
Gravity pulls you down (and you pull with a much less significant but present force on the Earth). Yay! We're done with this dimension.
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The next two dimensions are expressed cardinally along the move and teepad in an idealized case where the target is directly ahead of the tee ("North") just because it's how it's frequently described around DGCR:

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North-South
I lead with this dimension because (1) it is more aligned with the overall commitment of motion and the "center of mass" down the tee and (2) I am increasingly convinced many players literally cannot perceive what someone like Sidewinder or I (and he still more than me) do in form critiques because they are missing the invisible concept of balance. Your perception improves by both Knowing and Understanding it. Moreover, I think moving in the South-to-North direction athletically in the backhand direction while throwing a thing easily distract the eye from the balance problem because there is so much going on in the X-step. Best shown in pictures and not in words. You aim to be in dynamic Tilted balance through backswing see Ezra and Sidewinder in the following image) to swing, whereas I think many people only notice the planted side (all players below).

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Exercise: these players are all in tilted balance head to foot. Can you draw the imaginary lines? Where do you think their balance is head-to-foot at this moment?
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Hints: here are examples of people in tilted dynamic balance versus people who are not (emphasizing the North-South direction, which is always correlated with West-East problems because you are either completely in dynamic balance or you are not). These errors come in many forms, but almost always involve moves that are (1) more vertically spinning without a tilted axis and therefore (2) trapping the CoM between the feet rather than flowing into follow through, and (3) often tipping into the plant from the "power" or "horse stance" or one of its variants. Please remember that my intent is never to personally criticize a person, but to point out instructive examples. I can point out or have had pointed out countless errors in my own movement. Bringing it all out into the open is how progress occurs.

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Exercise: how can Weck & Sidewinder's balance be the "same" from head to foot even though the posture of the move differs?
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Drills (seabas22):
-Turbo Encabulator
-Double Dragon/Can Can Drill
-Kick the Can or Ball.
-Tilted Twirl Star Burst


East-West
Somehow the basic concept of walking or running sideways in athletic posture and balance says it all, but this dimension is also just as easily misunderstood because it gets harder and harder with more momentum down the tee as the backswing elongates, and there are varying stride patterns that advanced players use going into the plant that distract curious eyes.

Notice in SW22 moving down the hall there is West (wall in front of him) to East (wall behind him) movement as his spine sways over his feet. The CoM moves more than some instructors suggest in the West direction. When he lands on the front foot (the crush), the CoM is stacked vertically over the plant foot. You do the equivalent action when walking forward, but it is much smaller than moving sideways and you do not have to think about it!

The balance point that is often missed: when he crosses behind, the CoM moves back but doesn't appear to stack vertically over the rear foot, but keep in mind that the backswing/X-/crossover step loads by allowing the rear hip to "cock" up and away from the target, setting up the torque force that you want to commit to the shot when you plant, and the pressure doesn't often land all the way into the back heel the way it does when you plant to swing. The imaginary line I drew on SW22 from head to foot represents the dynamic balance through the CoM in the backswing/crossover step.

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Exercise: can you "see" this balance pattern moving back and forth? What about the movement in the CoM?

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Drills:
-Run like above. Really! It's no joke. Run 100 yards down a line on a football field a few times in athletic posture. It will help you Understand. Get posture input if you're not an NFL linebacker.

Interim Conclusion:
When you combine these vertical, North-South, and West-East dynamics in a way your body can manage, you get something like these (diagonal camera angle chosen on purpose.

Exercise: basis of the Tilted Spiral- how do the combined North-South and West-East tilted axes in each player cause this similar movement pattern to emerge?).

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Exercise: find the balance as Jarvis moves foot to foot at this camera angle.

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Exercise:
What was wrong with my axis here? What did I have to change to fix it?


Exercise:
What is different about Bradley Williams' tilted axis here? Why does he "fall back" away from the shot in follow through? What is different about where his balance lines would be drawn compared to the others?


Exercise:
What does Williams' move have in common with this one?
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Exercise: how does shifting back diagonally relate to the West-East dynamics running sideways down the hall?
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In search of (solved! thanks @HyzerRoc !):
Sometimes when David Wiggins Jr. does practice swings with follow through, it makes it incredibly obvious where the tilted spiral/double helical motion is in his whole move. I'm trying to find a relevant round clip and make a gif.



Common Balance Errors:
Tipping Over vs. Shifting Underneath
 
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The Tilted Spiral (to be further developed and edited).

The goal of this post is to help you learn to "see" the dynamic balance involved in moving foot to foot combining North-South and West-East dynamically balanced tilts that, when swinging one or two arms, form the tilted spiral.

Contextual videos




Learning to "see" the tilted spiral and its dynamic balance
Golf swings are helpful to study "idealized" tilted spirals because they (1) usually involve narrow stances, (2) involve a relatively small weight shift, and (3) use two arms on a long lever. These features are necessarily adjusted in disc golf for (1) wider bases of movement, (2) generally much larger and multi-step weight shifts, and (3) using one arm on a small, light "lever" (the disc). Looking for the "purest" examples of tilted spirals is a bit of an art, but applying "forward engineering" principles suggests that some of them can be detected by eye.

Look at the two vs. one-armed move. How can you map between them and see dynamic balance? How do adjustments for the end goal of the move help explain the differences between them?

One of my favorite tilted spirals in all of golf and the "purest" I have seen so far belongs to Jamie Sadlowski, who Sidewinder recently brought to my awareness and can hit almost 1000 feet from his knees:
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See this link for some interesting mechanical points about how this small-framed man (with a large ape index) maximizes gravity.

This is one of the "purest" tilted spirals in disc golf. It belongs to David Wiggins Jr.:
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Compare this move on a tilted spiral including a kick through carrying allt he momentum toward the target:
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Now look for the same properties in Isaac Robinson's form:
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Watch how Wiggins' full idealized 360 practice swing is pristinely balanced and unfurls like a double helix rising from the Earth...
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...and turns into his epic power when he commits the forces into the disc:
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another full power Wiggins practice swing at 2023 US Distance Championship
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(1:11:03)




Tilted spirals can be observed in a dance-like more horizontal form and a more vertical gymnast's form...
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Now watch a couple golf swings again. Do you see it? Why are McIlroy and Sadlowski's swings both within an acceptable mechanical range?
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Great post, thanks for the write-up as that is something I still struggle to understand.

In search of (please help):
Sometimes when David Wiggins Jr. does practice swings with follow through, it makes it incredibly obvious where the tilted spiral/double helical motion is in his whole move. I'm trying to find a relevant round clip and make a gif.

I looked around some and most of the footage cuts his practice swings, however I know exactly what you mean as he does quite an aggressive practice swing before drives but I also have no idea where I have seen it before.



This one has a practice swing (practice swings are not in the cut on the other holes) but the angle is not the best.



This one has practice swings for his 360 from directly behind him.



And another practice swing for a 360 from the side but feet are not in the video



And a casual 484 feet as an 11 year old.
 
Great post, thanks for the write-up as that is something I still struggle to understand.



I looked around some and most of the footage cuts his practice swings, however I know exactly what you mean as he does quite an aggressive practice swing before drives but I also have no idea where I have seen it before.



This one has a practice swing (practice swings are not in the cut on the other holes) but the angle is not the best.



This one has practice swings for his 360 from directly behind him.



And another practice swing for a 360 from the side but feet are not in the video



And a casual 484 feet as an 11 year old.

Nice, thanks, these are hard to find and that 11 year is something to behold! The rear view one is closest to what I am remembering.

There was one in a park I think near a river where he had to throw over it. On the other side of the river there was maybe a small parking lot and a small building. I think it was a practice round in the last year or two. There was something about the intended shot angle/trajectory that made his who practice swing look exactly like a double helix from the ground up that was beautiful. It was the most idealized image of a "tilted spiral" I can imagine so I will keep seeing if I get lucky and can find it again. It may have been on YouTube or Facebook vids...
 
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There was one in a park I think near a river where he had to throw over it. On the other side of the river there was maybe a small parking lot and a small building. I think it was a practice round in the last year or two. There was something about the intended shot angle/trajectory that made his who practice swing look exactly like a double helix from the ground up that was beautiful. It was the most idealized image of a "tilted spiral" I can imagine so I will keep seeing if I get lucky and can find it again. It may have been on YouTube or Facebook vids...


does this look like what you are looking for? He puts some force into it and gets pulled up into a spiral although an angle from the side would be preferable to show that I guess. I pulled it off of Facebook so noone needs to log in to that dreadful site :D

I also looked around some more on youtube sorting by date but didnt find anything that would fit your description.

Whole vid if you want to see the line he throws

 
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does this look like what you are looking for? He puts some force into it and gets pulled up into a spiral although an angle from the side would be preferable to show that I guess. I pulled it off of Facebook so noone needs to log in to that dreadful site :D

I also looked around some more on youtube sorting by date but didnt find anything that would fit your description.


Could be and thank you for your search prowess- it looks like it says "video has been removed by the uploader" at the moment though!
 
Cross-referencing for convenience/my forgetfulness.

A hypothesis about the fundamental relationship between tilted balance and grip mechanics:
 


Shawn Clements goes over a part of the Tilted Spiral here that I have at least not seen emphasised in that way in here yet. He points out how the shoulders relate to the spiral.
I think it is pretty visible in this move as well. The shoulder on the plant side takes a dive under the neck, then slightly goes above the neck in the follow-through. It is kinda obvious the shoulders would do that (in the same way most of this stuff probably looks obvious to a trained eye) however I think it is a neat detail to look for in form as well.

I have anecdotally seen some local guys who would get into good vertical form positions, but then pull their shoulders in a way that would leave them parallel to the ground. So this might be a good tell for some form issues.
 
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Shawn Clements goes over a part of the Tilted Spiral here that I have at least not seen emphasised in that way in here yet. He points out how the shoulders relate to the spiral.

I think it is pretty visible in this move as well. The should on the plant side takes a dive under the neck, then slightly goes above the neck in the follow-through. It is kinda obvious the shoulders would do that (in the same way most of this stuff probably looks obvious to a trained eye) but I think it is a neat think to look for in form as well. I have anecdotally seen some local guys who would get into the position for more vertical form, but pull their shoulders to a horizontal position so they would be almost parallel to the ground during the move. I think with this visualisation by Shawn Clements stuff like that pops a bit more out.

Yeah, nice.

One benefit of working in narrow stance standstills (closer to a golf swing or like the Dingle arm) can be that it is easier to control the posture and find those nuggets in live motions.

That kind of work made it easier to see the motions in others including those with much more horizontal forms.
 
I disagree with that concept - sent Trebuchet a few DMs about it. A static front leg and dropping/rotating the trailside does absolutely nothing but pull you backwards off balance. Try it swinging something heavy like a kettlebell.

You need a point on the ground to establish a stable axis of rotation. We rotate around our center of mass/gravity, not the spine. It can get weird talking about some math concepts in the throw, we are not rigid bodies.
On the point of 'we are not riged bodies'... totally agree.

I think the discrepancy here is that we are both right. There is an axis of rotation how I'm seeing it where the spine and the rear leg are on the axis first. That starts to fade away very close to the hit (most pro's release the front toe just before the hit) and the front leg starts to rotate. Then there is a new axis of rotation that does include the front leg and does not include the rear leg. In my coaching I find it most useful to talk about how we line things up for the hit, so I worry about getting into that more than I tend to worry about the follow though.

The way I think about Axis, you are totally right it requires a point on the ground. But that point doesnt have to be the axis. If I wind some string around a stick, tie one end of the string to a pole, then drop the stick. the stick will spin as it rolls down the poll. The axis of rotation is the stick spinning as it yo-yo's down the pole. The pole is not the axis of rotation. Is that helpful to understand how I'm thinking?
Saw this in the "Repository" thread and it seemed on theme with axes and spirals, so I suggest discussing here if you guys feel like it.

I sort of understand what you are saying Trebuchet but wonder if a picture/sketch would help. I recall that previously there was some difference in perspective in the "Two lanes" thread some time ago, and I also attempted to make some points about dynamic balance at that time.
 
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On the point of 'we are not riged bodies'... totally agree.

I think the discrepancy here is that we are both right. There is an axis of rotation how I'm seeing it where the spine and the rear leg are on the axis first. That starts to fade away very close to the hit (most pro's release the front toe just before the hit) and the front leg starts to rotate. Then there is a new axis of rotation that does include the front leg and does not include the rear leg. In my coaching I find it most useful to talk about how we line things up for the hit, so I worry about getting into that more than I tend to worry about the follow though.

The way I think about Axis, you are totally right it requires a point on the ground. But that point doesnt have to be the axis. If I wind some string around a stick, tie one end of the string to a pole, then drop the stick. the stick will spin as it rolls down the poll. The axis of rotation is the stick spinning as it yo-yo's down the pole. The pole is not the axis of rotation. Is that helpful to understand how I'm thinking?
Like I've said before, it can get kind of weird applying some math concepts, so I understand the confusion.

I think the question you need to ask is, where are you are basing or anchoring or setting up your axis to rotate from most efficiently with a tight center like Simon, or catapulting the torso whip from like James Conrad?

If the rear leg is your axis of rotation then it's moving around during the throw which would kill rotational velocity.

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In another "maybe helps no one learn to move but is interesting to mechanics nerds:"

Precessions in balance - are they like other wiggles and wobbles in rotating axes in nature?

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Hypothesis: Fuzzy forces are ellipsoids of actions in the lower and upper body. The size, quality and orientation of the force cycles are related to power at the release.

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Maybe better to just ignore that if you said "huh"?

Maybe better: where are "real" rotational axes in biological motions?

 
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Sidewinder's take on balance and axis of rotation in one leg drill:


More interesting axis chatter starts at Timothy's question here:

 

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