Thursday, July 05, 2007

Hips and Head, Cool Paragliding trip

I'm on a "common sport themes" kick right now. I'm looking for a sort of unified feild theory for the physical side of sports, or at least pieces of them. Last night I was running (literally) a kayak shuttle and had some time to think. I had been watching people on the river all evening and seeing a lot of the same errors (and some fantastic paddling too). To keep it simple I'll focus on the roll, a basic move in kayaking that's not that hard to do well. Back in the day I taught kayaking a lot (thanks to Otter Bar for the education!), that was where I first learned to read a student's movements and teach them how to correct them. There are a lot of ways to roll a kayak, but they all flow from the hips and head position. Most novices pull their head above the water first (makes sense, that's where the air is), but the head is a heavy object on the end of a relatively long lever (neck and body). If the head comes out of the water first and is the high point then a roll will seldom be effective. The kayak has to be flipped right side up first, and the hips do that, then the head and body follow. I only saw one roll yesterday that I would use as a "good" example of a roll; in all the rest the head was high and off the shoulder, and the hips snapped well after the head came out of the water. This started me thinking about how the hips and head work in climbing, paragliding, skiing, mountain biking and most other sports.

I'm starting to think that the hips drive and the head controls almost every movement in the sports I do. To turn a paraglider you have to drop a hip bone lower than the other one; it's not about "lean" but putting weight on the inside of the turn and the inside riser. We do drill in kayaking where we sit on the ground and ask people to lean the boat; most of the time they lean over with their body, but the boat doesn't move. The boat only starts to move when they start to lift the opposite hip with the obliques and some other muscles, driving one hip lower. Drop the head in this position and the boat goes back to flat and upright, which is the end of a roll. Paragliders need to do this drill too, I've taught it on the grass. Many people who heave been "leaning" for years suddenly discover they weren't leaning at all, but just flopping sideways with their head still between the risers...

Skiing has the same component--the hips drive the motions of skiing, and the head's position often determines balance over the skis. Mountain biking too-- the hips determine the basic balance point, and the body follows the head, and we go where our head is pointed...

There's a unified "head and hips" theory in here somewhere. I love teaching these sports and understanding how students think and progress, teaching is how I've learned the most about the technical (and psycological) side of any sport. Hmmm....

And for something completely different, check this out.
That's one hell of a paragliding trip!

Keep yer head down and drive with yours hips,