The Hand/Eye Connection – The Second Transcendental Milepost
There is no more important discipline in the game. I maintain that players who successfully deviate from these basic principals are simply able to overcome their error with an uncanny talent for hand/eye coordination. For those of us who cannot defy gravity, the following exercises and visualizations will help improve the hand eye connection. It is the second transcendental point of the game. Here is what I want you to consider…the connection between your back hand and your eye is the source of your ability to aim. When I was young, I focused on the cue ball until I was told by my mentor that the last thing I should be aiming at was the object ball…it destroyed my game for several months. I couldn’t seem to make it work consistently…I found I would slip into the in-stroke condition most readily when I allowed myself to be guided by intuitive forces…however this was fleeting. A couple of years later, I decided my mentor was wrong and went back to aiming from the cueball. My game seemed to plateau without improvement until I went back and looked at the problem with a fresh attitude. I solved it in this manner…a visualization to mentally develop a set of cross hairs (reference to a rifle scope) in your back hand, to the extent that you are eliminating your cue, your stance, your front hand and sometimes the cue ball (simplifying) from consideration when you make a shot. Yes…this is a big step. To accomplish this you must have already ritualized basic body mechanics as described previously and be willing to trust yourself and your stroke. The idea is to place the cross hairs in your back hand directly on the point of contact on the cue ball or object ball. I tend to focus on the one that requires most attention. Using this technique will allow you to develop your own methods but will not be fully effective without developing a few eye disciplines based on decisions which consider distance, complexity, difficulty and conditionof the table, as follows:
Note that I did not mention deflection as I do not consider deflection a single value in itself. Deflection is a dynamic, physical characteristic of the game and cannot be appreciably controlled with one or even several variables. This will also be discussed later.
Either of these may be continued or reversed on the contract stroke depending on your personal decision.
Changing your height-of-eye (HE) controls the eye movement required to traverse the distance between the cue and object balls, such that, it has occurred to me that consistent control of the height-of-eye may also be an element of the first transcendental step. There is a very delicate interplay between the HE and the ability of the brain to accurately triangulate the apparent distance between the cue and object balls, to focus the eyes clearly on the balls and to present a clear line of sight between the balls.
I have found the crosshairs visualization a useful tool when a player understands that his cue is simply an extension of his back hand and a line of force which may be projected through his bridge hand (and sometimes through the cueball) to act upon the object ball. Eye techniques are most useful when clarifying the unique relationship of each shot between the cue and object ball and the line of force which will act upon them. Developing an understanding and intuitive link between your eye and you back hand is therefore presented here as the second transcendental step.
The game in a game
I enjoy playing a game with myself that goes like this: I try to predict as early as possible whether the ball is going. I play this game whether I am shooting or watching. I particularly enjoy predicting whether a banked (sometimes missed) ball will go and where. Try it…it will sharpen your game. I think most people who love the game actually do it. I can name you several stakehorses and sweaters who are very good at it even though they can’t play a drop. I have also found that this unspoken game is played almost everywhere I go. People who plug into the game can’t help it. I think this is part of the reason why we enjoy watching the game.
I have held this part of the discussion until now because it is my opinion that a player who has not transcended (times two) has bigger fish to fry. However at this point, I think we should cover a few of the nuances of the grip. I can’t help but refer to the game of golf and its seemingly inexhaustible avarice to study the grip. We could learn a lesson here…so here is my version of grip theory.
I have already stated that I believe in simplification and repeatability but that must be balanced against the complexity of the game. Bear in mind the crosshairs visualization.
I have never seen a pool player who would not benefit from a more consistent grip so I developed the “knock theory” (in reference to knocking an arrow)…meaning that the cue should find its home first in the “knock” of your hand (between the index finger and the thumb). The hand is then wrapped around the cue maintaining the knock contact with the appropriate pressure (depending on the shot requirements) as in the pictures below.
I come from a music family, I started out building/fixing musical instruments (mostly fiddles, mandolins, guitars and pianos). I have borrowed this concept from the bow-grip of the violin. This grip has been carefully studied for centuries and is considered extremely accurate (at the upper end of human capability). Notice that when you hold the cue as in the pictures below when you close your rear fingers around the cue, it tends to pull itself through a stroking motion (try this a few times until you feel it work). The fulcrum of the knock is levered against the back fingers exerting downward pressure on the shaft, assisting the pendulum motion of the lower arm and the downward gravity fall of the elbow with a slight adjustment of the wrist at contact with the cueball in the follow-thru. This is the motion we are looking for…this is not to say it is the only grip…only to say it is one of the grips necessary to learn and a darn good starting point. If you only learned one, this would be it…good to know several…you be the judge. Compare the figures below.
The strength of this grip is the ability to adjust your stroke when you change lead fingers yet keep the same origin (knock). Finer control comes from the fingers closest to the knock, while power and speed come from the finger farthest from the knock. The idea is to shift some of the burden of control from the larger muscles (bicep/tricep) to the smaller muscles of the hand…commonly called fine and gross motor skills. This grip can cause a slight twisting of the cue if the knock is not maintained and will cause all kinds of errors if the wrist is bent in any manner similar to the pictures below because the hand will not be located directly beneath the elbow and will set up a sideways arc in your stroke.
Try this grip and notice the difference between leading with the pinky finger as an additional snap to your break and leading with your tall finger for short soft shots that require spin and control. Obviously there is a no-lead method for the purest hit and a ring finger-lead for shots in between. Actually, I find that during warm-up, I can get in-stroke with this adjustment in only a few shots. We’ll come back to the warm-up exercise later.
The reason this was omitted until now is that command of this grip will allow you to complete the second transcendental shift using the crosshairs visualization through the development of a strong follow-thru that fully compensates for the upward swing of the second half of the contact stroke. It also sets up the third shift