ETI 046 | Gravity Motion


  • ETI 046 Gravity Motion
    ETI 046 Gravity Motion

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Agility = moving quickly and easily.  We know when we are gliding, we know when we are moving heavily.

Equally, when can see on the adjacent court who moves well and who does not.

But often more than strength training or explosive movement, the secret can be in a subtle unweighting where the body leads and the feet follow.

Sometimes called a drop step, a floating pivot, or a gravity turn – join me for a look into a different world.

25 Comments

  • jbc

    Reply Reply June 17, 2016

    Jim – I always enjoy your insightful thoughtful videos. I have to say that I’m one who tries not to get too bogged down in the technical aspects of movement and stroke production. I tend to think the best results mostly ‘happen’ when you are: on your toes, on balance, and loose and relaxed – in your movement and your strokes. When in doubt I find the best fix is almost always to RELAX and SIMPLIFY everything.

    Still – when I view your videos they almost always make me revisit my own strokes and/or movement and ask myself – “is that what I’m doing” … and if not why not etc.

    I tend to think of myself as a pretty good mover (for my age anyways) so after doing some shadow stroking and movement experiments – I found that – heck yes – that’s exactly what I’m doing when I really need to move quickly out wide or forward – i.e. – get my feet under me or slightly behind my center of gravity and lean forward so that I push off quickly and (never thought about it before, but yes) let gravity propel me forward. Andy Murray is the guy that I think best exemplifies the concept of ‘sprinting’ to wide and short balls – with Borg being an ‘older school’ example – though Borg falls perhaps more into the camp of guys like Fed, Djoker and Edberg that seem to move so effortlessly – almost ‘gliding’ – such that you don’t even notice the ‘dynamic aspect of their movement. The ‘Big Cat’ Miroslav Mecir’ being another great example from the late Lendl era. McEnroe and Sampras are 2 other guys that moved very ‘effortlessly’ – but sometimes only when they felt compelled to do so – usually on approaches to net.

    BTW – an area that I often have more trouble with than wide or short balls relates to balls that are coming right at me – especially to the FH side. I tend to get a bit lazy and think I can ‘lean back’ a bit and get a clean hit, but the ball is usually still coming towards me so I’m a bit crowded and off-balance – and maybe leaning backwards a bit. So many guys run around their FHs now that they are used to being dynamic in their movement to their BH side to get in position to hit an ‘off FH’ – but my FH is just as good if not better than my BH so my natural instint isn’t always to ‘run around’ it to try to hit a FH and my natural one-handed BH stroke (where the natural contact point and arm are in front of the body rather than to the side like with the FH stroke) makes it much more natural to hit BH ground strokes and volleys that are close to my body or even ones that are right at me.

    Anyway – I only bring this last point up, because your video made me think that what I need to do to be more DYNAMIC in moving away from balls coming into my body (or when moving to get in position to hit an ‘off FH’) is to do the reverse of what you suggest is optimal for sprinting forward or to the side. I.E. – to ‘backpedal’ most efficiently and quickly – it’s actually best to step forward and push off backwards while leaning back slightly so that GRAVITY’ helps propel you into your backpedal. Again – I did some shadow strokes/ movement to practice this scenario and noticed the difference between backpedaling dynamically (even if just one or 2 steps) as opposed to just ‘shuffling’ my feet to make the same movement.

    Certainly for me – and I think a lot of players – an underappreciated aspect of movement on the court relates to moving away from an incoming ball and re-establishing balance and space to be able to hit effective ground strokes and volleys. Would enjoy getting your thoughts (and perhaps a future video) on this topic.

    • jbc

      Reply Reply June 17, 2016

      Jim – I always enjoy your insightful thoughtful videos. I have to say that I’m one who tries not to get too bogged down in the technical aspects of movement and stroke production. I tend to think the best results mostly ‘happen’ when you are: on your toes, on balance, and loose and relaxed – in your movement and your strokes. When in doubt I find the best fix is almost always to RELAX and SIMPLIFY everything.

      Still – when I view your videos they almost always make me revisit my own strokes and/or movement and ask myself – “is that what I’m doing” … and if not why not etc.

      I tend to think of myself as a pretty good mover (for my age anyways) so after doing some shadow stroking and movement experiments – I found that – heck yes – that’s exactly what I’m doing when I really need to move quickly out wide or forward – i.e. – get my feet under me or slightly behind my center of gravity and lean forward so that I push off quickly and (never thought about it before, but yes) let gravity propel me forward. Andy Murray is the guy that I think best exemplifies the concept of ‘sprinting’ to wide and short balls – with Borg being an ‘older school’ example – though Borg falls perhaps more into the camp of guys like Fed, Djoker and Edberg that seem to move so effortlessly – almost ‘gliding’ – such that you don’t even notice the ‘dynamic aspect of their movement. The ‘Big Cat’ Miroslav Mecir’ being another great example from the late Lendl era. McEnroe and Sampras are 2 other guys that moved very ‘effortlessly’ – but sometimes only when they felt compelled to do so – usually on approaches to net.

      BTW – an area that I often have more trouble with than wide or short balls relates to balls that are coming right at me – especially to the FH side. I tend to get a bit lazy and think I can ‘lean back’ a bit and get a clean hit, but the ball is usually still coming towards me so I’m a bit crowded and off-balance – and maybe leaning backwards a bit. So many guys run around their FHs now that they are used to being dynamic in their movement to their BH side to get in position to hit an ‘off FH’ – but my BH is just as good if not better than my FH so my natural instinct isn’t always to ‘run around’ it to try to hit a FH and my natural one-handed BH stroke (where the natural contact point and arm are in front of the body rather than to the side like with the FH stroke) makes it much more natural to hit BH ground strokes and volleys that are close to my body or even ones that are right at me.

      Anyway – I only bring this last point up, because your video made me think that what I need to do to be more DYNAMIC in moving away from balls coming into my body (or when moving to get in position to hit an ‘off FH’) is to do the reverse of what you suggest is optimal for sprinting forward or to the side. I.E. – to ‘backpedal’ most efficiently and quickly – it’s actually best to step forward and push off backwards while leaning back slightly so that GRAVITY’ helps propel you into your backpedal. Again – I did some shadow strokes/ movement to practice this scenario and noticed the difference between backpedaling dynamically (even if just one or 2 steps) as opposed to just ‘shuffling’ my feet to make the same movement.

      Certainly for me – and I think a lot of players – an under appreciated aspect of movement on the court relates to moving away from an incoming ball and re-establishing balance and space to be able to hit effective ground strokes and volleys. Would enjoy getting your thoughts (and perhaps a future video) on this topic 🙂

      • Jim McLennan

        Reply Reply June 17, 2016

        JBC – you are very creative about a gravity step while backpedaling – but truly the same mechanics would apply even though truly I have never thought of this – now I want to experiment on court as well – lets keep in touch
        best
        Jim

      • Jim McLennan

        Reply Reply June 28, 2016

        JBC – well said about Borg and Miroslav Mecir – the dynamic aspect of moving away from a ball makes sense but is much trickier to learn as well as to do
        Jim

  • Malcolm

    Reply Reply June 16, 2016

    Loved the falling concept.
    As Oscar Wegner says “the feet come last” = just do the natural automatic way of moving (not special steps just because we are playing tennis).
    As Jack Broudy and the Bryan brothers say, the next trick is to “move diagonally” – Notice how much more difficult it can be to move directly forwards or sideways to approach a ball.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply June 16, 2016

      Malcolm – thanks for the notes and I do like Oscar’s concept that the feet follow
      best
      Jim

  • Brian Gillespie

    Reply Reply June 16, 2016

    This technique is similar to my preferred split step. Instead of coming down squarely with feet spread, I usually thrust the foot opposite the side I want to turn outward slightly and leave the other foot suspended with no weight on it so it makes me start to lean in the direction I want to turn or travel. As I lean I slide the unweighted foot under me so as I push off with it, it turns my falling motion into a running motion.

    I think telling a student to land after a split step with feet square is one of the biggest problems with truly understanding what a split step is for.

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply June 16, 2016

      Brian – they think Nastase used a version of this move – as he was so quick but moved so easily
      Jim

  • JimT

    Reply Reply June 16, 2016

    Works for me on the overhead too.

  • Tobin Endsley

    Reply Reply June 15, 2016

    Well done Jim, The “start” step is “essential”as you like to say. The polymetric move of bringing the quick little step inward from a wide base enhance the rhythem of arrival moving east or west . North and south directions are not really disimular . We learn this move from the shortstop in baseball . And as you know , Baseball knowledge is eons ahead of tennis .
    I will have to say though Jim , Thanks to you the gap is getting closer .

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply June 15, 2016

      Tobin – the split end does this move in football to get off the line of scrimmage, and some believe in basketball the player will slightly “slip” his pivot foot for an edge – though often the refs now how to spot it – thanks for your note
      Jim

  • Noushin

    Reply Reply June 15, 2016

    Many thanks for sharing your invaluable experience!

  • thomas mcnamara

    Reply Reply June 15, 2016

    Jim, how about a fourth way to move? As you come down from the split, you push off the inside of the inside leg and push off, using momentum, not gravity, to start. I move fairly well this way. Do you think the gravity motion is significantly better?–TMc

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply June 15, 2016

      Thomas – I cannot say really which is better or not – just that somehow many movers (even in baseball) use this particular footwork
      Jim

    • Robert

      Reply Reply June 15, 2016

      I am not sure these two movements are mutually exclusive. If we get the timing of the split step close to right, our weight is still off the ground as we read direction, giving us the opportunity to push off the inside foot in the direction of the ball. If the angle of extension of the knee of the outside leg does not exceed 90 degrees, we are still getting a gravity movement to propel us in that direction. This was shown pretty clearly in the clip of Kei Nishikori stepping toward his backhand which was displayed here a month or so back.

      • Jim McLennan

        Reply Reply June 16, 2016

        Robert – we are having good dialogue about this – to my mind it is not really about 90 degrees or anything that specific – just about creating “dynamic imbalance” and then having the feet follow
        Jim

  • Dan Le

    Reply Reply June 15, 2016

    Great lesson again Jim. How big or small of the first step after the gravitational fall?

    Thanks,
    Dan

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply June 15, 2016

      Dan – if you overtired on that next step you actually set up a “braking” motion whenever the footstrike lands past the center of gravity
      Jim

  • Carlos

    Reply Reply June 15, 2016

    Hey Jim ,

    what memories you brought back with this video …I can see Don today limping on the Tulane courts !…brought back great and treasured memories of you ,Juan ( topeeespin ! ) , Peter , Ed Gaskell at the Longview Garden courts . Great to see you are doing well…

    your friend always
    Picaso

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply June 15, 2016

      Picaso – great note – I was just in New Orleans for a long weekend and revisited many of the old haunts – even saw Juan’s apartment on Broadway while I was bicycling
      Jim

  • david lacey

    Reply Reply June 15, 2016

    Hi Jim brilliant video clip.I am a tennis coach,table-tennis coach ,and very keen runner.A massive amount of my work in those three disciplines is trying to use gravity to work for me and my pupils.The book that has transformed my teaching is called Chi running by Danny Dreyer.I will always be indebted to him!When u run use gravity.Fall!!!!!Thanks

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply June 15, 2016

      David – great note – thanks for the encouragement – every now and then I need a bit of it – and I will access the book – thanks for the lead
      Jim

  • Don Byk

    Reply Reply June 15, 2016

    Thanks for resurrecting an old concept. When I move well it is because I am moving as you suggest and I always get to the ball with my body in balance. When I do not, especially on my backhand, I am unbalanced and leaning and have little power.
    Don Byk

    • Jim McLennan

      Reply Reply June 15, 2016

      Don – I was back in New Orleans playing on clay courts and this move felt great – somehow the soft courts accentuated the cutting feel of the gravity step – best Jim

  • Michael

    Reply Reply June 15, 2016

    Jim ,
    great stuff !
    check out this you tube video , with an explanation of movement by a
    Sikh martial arts master on the same subject .

    Michael

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