View Full Version : Zen Pool

08-02-2002, 12:49 AM
I remember the first time I ever got advice from an insructor, the first thing this person told me to do was relax. "Relax what?" I thought. Be like Jello? It's been years since that day and still, I have problems relaxing.

You can feel it, too. After playing in a match or tournament, your head hurts or your arm aches a little. It doesn't matter how good you are or how good you've gotten, you can still get tense and perform well. Ask Jim Rempe, he accidentally broke his cue during the U.S. Open 2000 straight pool while he watched the cue-ball scratch. He got so tense, his cue literally snapped between his fingers. Even at the time, I knew this was a display of wasted emotion. Anger or frustration manifested physically cannot help your game in the long run. Evenso, Jim Rempe is one of the best players on the planet.

So recently, I started trying to grasp this aspect of relaxing. I knew that my most consistent game was found when I didn't need to try. I remember telling a friend of mine, don't be a person who plays pool. Be a poolplayer. Play as though you were made to play like a car was made to go.

Remembering this, I approached the table without any emotion, without any distracting thoughts. My brow relaxed and my eyes focused on the target without any effort. I stroked the cue a few times and fired without any conscious record of the number of practice strokes. I shot when it felt right to shoot. After pocketing the ball, my conscious mind reemerged to examine the next situation but the deduction was kept simple. What is the best route? Decision made. Now execute.

The time flew. I could feel the difference throughout my body. There was no need for deliberate deep breathes. I didn't feel the imprint my crunched brow made. Don't get me wrong, I missed but I felt more aware as to why I missed. The emotional stigma to pocketing or missing was gone and with every miss, I felt as though my game only got stronger. I viewed missing as an opportunity to correct a flaw. Watching Efren Reyes play, his reactions to success and failure only solidified my beliefs. After an incredible shot, he simply gets up and moves to the next with the same focus given to the last. After a miss, he simply stands up, smiles and scratches his head. The turn is over. It's time to sit.

He's like a cannon, built to shoot straight every single time. Calibrated. The only emotion that exists is trust. Present from the moment he examined the target on the object ball to the moment his tip made contact with the cue-ball. No steering the cue-ball by gripping his cue tight nor did he scrunch his brow in the hopes that maybe this would make his eye-sight better or his brain work more. When you're built to be a poolplayer, effort isn't required. He allows his game to flow with the same instinctual approach a child would have with running.

I guess, the most startling troubles that I've had with this approach have to do with reassigning responsibility. I no longer blame the table or the balls or my opponent's rude behaivor. My ability to focus remains within me and my ability to direct that focus to pool also remains within me. If a professional poolplayer can run 100 balls on the crappy table with the cheap balls with the music at full volume then he's proven that it can be done. There is no excuse to miss outside yourself. The cannon that was built to shoot straight will do so in practice and in competition. On good days and bad. When winning or losing.

I know that people are different but from this point on, I'm not a person when I play pool. I'm a poolplayer.

Jude M. Rosenstock

Voodoo Daddy
08-02-2002, 01:23 AM
Art of War, buy it tomorrow. Ask Kato......

08-02-2002, 02:26 AM
i have and i like the book,
interesting i might pull it off the shelf and flip thru it tomorrow,
on a different thought...
i dont see too many night owls out at night


08-02-2002, 02:28 AM
forgot to login on this note sorry

08-02-2002, 06:04 AM
<blockquote><font class="small">Quote: Jude Rosenstock:</font><hr> I remember the first time I ever got advice from an insructor, the first thing this person told me to do was relax. "Relax what?" I thought. Be like Jello? It's been years since that day and still, I have problems relaxing.

Zen saying:

Before enlightenment chopping wood
After enlightenment chopping wood.

I interpret this for pool to always work on the fundamentals, no longer how good you get.

May the force be with you &lt;G&gt;


08-02-2002, 06:56 AM
Another good book in addition to Art of War is "Zen in the Art of Archery." Many thoughts and comments contained in this book can be applied to Life and pool.

Let the nothingness into your (stroke) swing.
Shivas Irons - Golf in the Kingdom

08-02-2002, 07:03 AM

Great post! Nicely captures the mental attitude that most of us would love to be able to attain and maintain while playing or practicing. Your post reminds me of an article I just read in the August Billiards Digest. The article is by Tom Ross and is entitled, "Trying: It's worth the effort to give up." The paradox (aren't there always paradoxes that pop up regarding these topics?) of course, is how to "try not to try." Sort of like the Buddhist notion of giving up desires and attachments, but if you DESIRE to give up desire???? Anyway, enough of my drivle...let me just say I enjoyed your post.

08-02-2002, 07:53 AM
Nice post Jude.

When we play well, we are not thinking. We are relaxed and confident. If we try to approach the table in this manner, we will play well much more frequently. This mental attitude should not be the result of playing well, but instead, should be the conscious cause everytime we play.


08-02-2002, 07:57 AM

It was Mike Sigel, not Jim Rempe by the way. It was funny when Mike broke his cue, his wife was sitting right behind me and she yelled, "you've got another shaft honey, don't worry!"

That had to be the more embarrassing part of the situation for him. lol

08-02-2002, 09:18 AM
I am actually carrying The Art of War with me now. Without Voodoo I never would have known. Somebody asked me what I got from it's reading. Serenity, analyzing problems, not getting excited over situations. Doesn't make me a great pool player but helps me to understand my inner pool player. The table is the land or battlefield, the balls are the enemy soldiers, in your mind is your strategy for taking the necessary positions to capture the enemy. If you do not conquer the enemy then the opposing general will. Be prepared, the general who is better prepared will win. It's not personal. How's that Voodoo? By the way, there is soooo much more but it would take me too long to give my interpretations.

Kato~~~happy to have a small amount of Voodoo's knowledge and most of his own.

08-02-2002, 09:23 AM
here is another zen saying:

in the beginner's mind there are many questions
in the expert's mind there are few

that is how you can tell i am a beginner at pool ! i have lots of questions.


08-02-2002, 10:13 AM
Before I look at the rest of your responses, Jude, I can't imagine anyone disagreeing with you. There is considerable Zen in pool, and we all discover it in individual ways. For me, it was the device of following the cue ball, not the object ball, visually after object-ball contact. Cue-ball immersion soaked up an incredible quotient of the dreaded "mind chatter".

Another good helper: awareness that in pool, you have full control over your body and your cue, nothing else. You have some measure of INDIRECT control over the cue ball and, all the twists and pirouettes of body English aside, none whatsoever over the object ball. Focusing on body control is another good path to a Zen state. You're doing exactly what the Zen archer does when he turns his head from the target (and "Lookaway" indeed used to be a good hustler's proposition, back in the day): minimizing distractions. Posters here who have reported good results from shooting with their eyes closed are taking the same favorable steps, IMO. GF

08-02-2002, 10:48 AM
Honestly, I don't know why I wrote it. I was really thinking aloud. I guess there's a part of me that uses this board to verbalize my thoughts. I view feedback as a huge bonus and an opportunity to further explore what I'm trying to absorb. Someone said to me, "pool is easy" and he was right. Which is why I wonder how it could feel so tough sometimes.

Getting to that point of effortlessness seems to require a lot of effort!

08-02-2002, 11:11 AM
I watched CBS the other nite they had a story on people trying to make the golf tour. They were spending $40,000 a year to go to golf schools in Florida trying to learn how to make it on the golf tour. Both men and women,boys and girls. Fathers spending $100,000 to have his son qualify for a pro tourney and failing to qualify. The only thing they can't teach you is how to win, that is locked somewhere in the deep recesses of your mind.####


phil in sofla
08-02-2002, 03:23 PM
About dealing with missing: An opposing captain told me a couple of weeks ago that he was trying to get his team to react the way I do at the table, which is basically, to have no reaction. And that is true as to me and just normal missing. (If I miscue, or horribly miss, I take that a bit harder and with more visible reaction).

I think the fear of missing causes misses, and the confidence you'll make a shot helps you make it. How to have confidence BEFORE you're making most of these types of shots is the question.

If I'm facing a shot that worries me, one that I do not have confidence that I'll make, I try for a neutral mental attitude (at least), a suspension of disbelief, tell myself that if I do all my preshot routine and stroke well, I've got a good chance of it going. I've seen the advice to go into 'if' mode-- 'if' I make it, then I can... (whatever happens next). And that clears out my mind enough to allow me to get as good a line on the shot as I can, take the time I need to image the shot going in, and deliver as good a stroke as I can. And usually, that is sufficient to make the shot, and then it's on to the rest of the runout.

08-02-2002, 08:06 PM
Seen recently on a bumper sticker:

"That was Zen, this is Dao...)

08-04-2002, 08:22 PM
Sorry, that was not me...because what I was thinking I did not say out loud!You are be mistaken me for someone else!