A jump-rope is about nine feet long, half-again as tall as we are. I've been having fun with a nine-foot rope with soft weights on the ends, holding it in the middle, spinning two pendulums against each other.
The most important reason I like it is that I think it's modifying my mind. Both sides of the body must make subtle sequenced movements, sometimes synchronously with each other, sometimes out of phase with each other, sometimes independently of each other. It's not a matter of muscle, but of quieting down and paying attention, using parallel processors. It feels really good afterwards.
How does spinning a rope compare with spinning a cane?
- My cane work has been affected by what I've learned on the rope. Puts things more in focus.
- The rope is straight only under tension, when pulled by weight, momentum, centrifugal force. Changes of direction become much more complex than with a stick.
- Rope needs to ease in to a shift, and so requires less muscle than stick. But timing, breathing and cardio seem to play a greater role.
- Rope is unobtrusively portable, and is quieter when dropped.
- Now it's easier to see the circles a cane must follow, after I've been trained by the rope.
There are precedents, but I haven't found anything else which is quite the same. Poi spinning is the closest right now, and Home of Poi is a great resource. These are a pair of three-foot socks, rope or chain with a three ounce weight on the end. Most of the action I've seen so far has been circles, in combination, across planes. There's a lot you can do with moving the axis of rotation, and Figure8s can be used in various planes too.
A nine-foot rope with weights on each end has similar geometry to poi, but with the addition of a flexible connection between the two sides. Japanese stick work uses a lot of sliding-hands technique, and this can be applied to the longer rope... the variable-length darting of the fifteen-foot Wushu Rope Dart can also apply to the nine-foot rope, and ambidextrously at that. A nine-foot rope is like poi, but you can change the length of the radius at will. A pair of light tethered weights, on a nine foot rope, that's what I'm working with here.
But atop that I'm gravitating more towards arcs and lines in additions to circles, mixing the movements up in rhythm and counterpoint, like a drummer with brushes and high-hat. It's a little different from what I've seen other people do... just makes sense for me. Here are some of the exercises I've been doing:
- Spin circles on your sides. Like you're jumping a rope: going down in front, and up in back. Keep the rotational planes even on each side; keep the synch steady. Try different arm positions, hand orientations.
- Vary it. Rotate the ropes the other way: up in front, over your head and down your back. Or put the two rope ends 180 degrees out of phase, one high when the other low. Or one spinning "backwards" to the other. Or changing the planes of rotation, so they intersect out-of-phase. Or arm positions high, low, opposed, extended, rear. Or singing to the beat.
- Stall them. Extend the arm in the direction of the ball's travel to deaden its momentum, stall it, and pull it back in the other direction. The arm moves, so the ball doesn't. You can go back and forth as pendulum, or switch back to circles, or loopty-loop in a fancy pendulum.
- Work at arm independence. Either ball can do pendulums, circles, stalls at will. Vary with arm position, angle of rotation, length of rope, speed.
- Move balls beyond a single plane of rotation. Figure 8s, in either hand, stalling to switch between overhand and underhand. Then both hands, blending between circles and figure8s. Then hands independently.
- Focus on footwork. Turn the body while maintaining basic circles. Advance, lunge, retreat, circle. It's possible to turn around when spinning circles and figure8s, as the hands shift between one or both sides of the body. Avoid obstacles, walk past obstructions.
- Catching and tossing a ball. Shooting an end forward like a rope dart. Disentangling. Sweeps around the body, like a katana. Wrapping around the hand to shorten. Doubling the rope for a two-ball bolo. Sinawali weaves.