Monthly Archives: May 2004

blog-eyed, endgaining vs. means whereby, conscious/subconscious

In Alexander Technique, we talk about endgaining versus means whereby. If you are endgaining, you are streaking towards your goal regardless of how you get there. If, instead, you focus on the process of moving towards your goal, you are using means whereby. Since Alexander Technique deals with changing habits, it’s imperative to focus on the process.

But what approach should you take on the tennis court? During a point, you have to react, not think. If you are thinking, you are too slow to react. On the other hand, there are many adjustments you need to make during a match. So, I use a combination of endgaining and means whereby. Before a point I rehearse my strokes – the means whereby to my goal of winning the point. During a point, however, I follow the advice of Sean Brawley. When I hit a ball, I only think about where I want the ball to go, not how I’m going to get it there. I have to trust my body to get the ball where I need it to go once the point has started, at that point, it’s a little late to develop new strokes.

Lanny Bassham deals with this issue by talking about the conscious and subconscious. After practicing forehands and backhands consciously until they become automatic, the subconsious can execute these shots during a point without thinking. The conscious mind can only entertain one thought at a time, the subconscious can rapidly run through all of the calculations needed to land that ball just inside the baseline. This speaks to a useful approach to learning a shot or working on improving a shot. Let’s say you are practicing your serve and you want to work on your toss and keeping your eye on the ball as you hit it. It’s a good idea to choose one of these things only to think about as you practice.

Practice and Competition Report: played with Mojgan for two hours, two rally games and one set: 6-15, 8-15, 4-6, practiced my serve for one bag of balls.
Solutions Analysis: looking for a solution to the problem of getting tired. Likely solution: go to bed at 11:30pm instead of staying up until past midnight writing my blog. This way I can get to the court an hour early and practice my strokes. The idea here is to become a better tennis player not a blog-eyed blogger.
Success Analysis: I realize that I had reverted back to coming over the ball on my serve. If I brush my racket directly across the ball instead, I get more spin and and I can hit the ball harder.

ujjayi too much

I do a number of stretching exercises at the beginning of my workout and I treat them like a yoga asana. That is, I use ujjayi breathing and I stretch only on the exhale. I do ten stretches during my workout so I am essentially doing ten asanas. That’s too much for me, I’m good for four or five asanas and that’s it. Not because they are physically difficult, I run around the tennis court in 95 degree weather for two and a half hours, I should be able to manage nine asanas. It’s the breathing that exhausts me. That is the reason I don’t take yoga classes, instead I take periodic private lessons. That is also the reason I will modify my workout stretches to stop using the ujjayi breath and instead breath normally but continue to stretch only on the exhale.

Historically, yoga has not been taught in classes, it has been taught privately. Think about it, here you are in a yoga class with lots of other people all doing the same pose. Granted, a pose has many variations, but the poses that would benefit me are likely to be drastically different than the poses you might need. Also, my private lessons provide an opportunity to talk about difficulties I might be having and how yoga can help me. It might mean a particular choice of asanas or a particular breathing pattern or it might be the exercise of writing down my current projects so can I see how ridiculously overcommitted I am and I can throw out unimportant projects. Such as this blog.

Practice Report: worked out at the gym for 1 1/2 hrs.

1-2-3 return of serve

Today I played my first set since my latest bout with tennis elbow. I had a good opportunity to practice my return of serve. I use a 1-2-3 rhythm to return of serve. 1 is when the server hits the ball, 2 is when the ball bounces and 3 is when I hit it. This was very useful today because Daniel serves hard and I was able to return a number of his serves deep into his court.

Practice and Competition Report: hit with Daniel for 1 1/2 hrs., we played two rally games and one set: 15-10, 15-9, 6-4.
Success Analysis: I won both rally games and the set, I came back from 2-4 to win the set.

one thing at a time

Today my hitting partner and I practiced serving to each other for a while. I was trying to work with three things: see the ball when I hit it, bend my knees to get more pop on the serve and move back to the baseline after I serve. I wasn’t doing very well with any of these three things so I realized that I had to drop two of them. I concentrated on seeing the ball but that meant I was in a bit of trouble on a deep return because I wasn’t moving back after the serve. I had to give up worrying about that, do the best I could to get the ball back and just think about seeing the ball.

I came back from 6-9 to win the second rally game. I’m beginning to develop the confidence that comes from consistent strokes and a consistent mental approach. I don’t panic if I’m behind, I just keep executing as best I can. If my opponent is mentally strong and is a better player, I will probably lose but I know I will have played as well as I can.

Practice and Competition Report: hit with M. for 2 hrs., we played 2 rally games: 15-12, 15-13.

lunge and twist

Injury Report: today I realized that I have tendonitis in my knee from the combination of twisting and lunging. I have been doing lunges for a few years with no problem but as soon as we added twists, my knee started to hurt. My greatest love was taiji (taichi), especially fighting. But I had to stop because of the chronic tendonitis in my knee. Virtually every taiji movement requires a lunge and twist.

Practice Report: worked out at the gym for 1 1/2 hrs.