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Most players don’t realize it, but the cue ball actually leaves the table on almost every shot. Because pool tables have rails, the butt of the cue is always at least a little bit elevated. When the cue is elevated, you are hitting down into the ball. That downward force has to go somewhere, and the slate under the cloth is not going to move. The cue ball leaves the table at an angle equal to the angle it is struck at and since the cue ball is resilient (as is the cloth), it compresses a little and then springs upward and away.
The closer your stick is to flat, the lower the jump. The more elevated the stick angle, the higher the jump. The harder you shoot, the longer the jump. The resulting jump action comes from the combination of the stick angle, how hard the ball is hit, the quality of the stroke, and the "jumpability" of the stick. So, to jump high and short, elevate steeply. To jump even higher, shoot harder. For a lower trajectory, elevate less. For a longer low flight, shoot harder.
The easy way to understand how the ball jumps is to imagine you are throwing the cue ball onto the table. The angle and speed at which the ball hits the table determines the angle and distance of the bounce.
For very low trajectory jumps, you can use your normal "pendulum" stroke, with your forearm and grip hand hanging straight down from your elbow. Do not allow your swing to "tilt" as you elevate. You'll also need to choke down on the cue (move your grip toward the tip a little) as you elevate. And finally, when you can't elevate any further without tilting, you can get a bit more altitude by raising the heel of your rear foot. Taller players will find it easier to use the pendulum stroke at higher stick angles.
Most players prefer the pendulum
stroke for all but the steepest stick angles. The trick to success on
these pendulum shots is to bend the elbow of your bridge arm. This allows
you to elevate further without losing that vertical alignment. The
trade-off is that your eyes move to a point more directly over the top of
the cueball, making it harder to see your aim alignment down the table.
Most players find, after some practice, that the Bunjee Jumper is quite easy to use and produces reliable results at about a 45-degree angle. As you go steeper, the difficulty increases, requiring a better stroke and more finesse.
The first two photos below show a 45-degree dart stroke from head on and from the side. There are a few important differences between the dart stroke and the pendulum stroke (your normal shooting stroke):
1. In Figure 1, notice how the stick is perfectly vertical and aligned with the center of the cueball. Also notice the sighting alignment. The player has to be able to see down the line of the stick with his aiming eye, just like in the pendulum stroke. This is more difficult because, as the stick elevates, your body gets in the way. The overall best position to allow you to sight accurately is to align your chin and aiming eye directly over the stick. Try to stand in a balanced, comfortable manner.
Figure 1: 45-degree dart stroke Figure 2: 45-degree dart stroke
3. – Figures 1 & 2 show a typical dart grip. The stick is gripped lightly between the thumb and forefinger. Some players are more comfortable with two or more fingers in use, alongside the forefinger. There are two vitally important aspects to the grip: 1) that it be as light as possible, and 2) that you are able to stroke naturally and have the stick move forward through the ball without any swerves or dips. Generally, the lighter the grip, the better the jumping action.
4. – The bridge is important because it has to provide a solid foundation to accurately guide your stick. The bridge should not wobble. To make a stable bridge, spread your fingers as much as you can and put some weight on it. Try to curl the end of your thumb upward and point your whole thumb forward. See Figure 3 for a close-up of the bridge.
Figure 3: 3: Bridging for 45 degrees
5. – Some players find it helpful to align the shot by laying
the cue on the table about an inch from the cueball and lining up
through the contact point on the object ball from that position. Hold
the cue with the grip hand and step into the shot while raising the
cue. Another way to align with the shot to step back from the table
and then step in, on the line of the shot, with your stick already in
dart position. The first approach helps you see the aiming line, while
the second approach helps you see your stick alignment. Experiment and
see what helps you.
6. – On elevated shots, focus your gaze on the contact point on the cueball until you hit the shot. (Note: This is different from normal pool shots, where most good players are looking at the object ball during the hit stroke.) With an elevated cue, it’s critical that you strike the cueball exactly where you intend. If you contact the cueball to either the left or the right of center, the ball will curve (masse). If you hit too far below center, you might "scoop" the ball. This is a foul. If you hit too far above center, the cueball might be trapped between the tip and the table and not be able to jump (see Figures 4, 5, & 6). For the most control and reliability, strive to hit the center of the cueball or slightly below center. Figures 1, 2, & 3 all show a center ball aim. The stick is pointed at the true center of the ball (the ball is 2-1/4" in diameter, so the center is 1-1/8" straight in). As you progress, you will also want to practice using a little draw, follow, or sidespin, but to start and to quickly develop a useful jump shot, really focus on center ball.
Figure 6: 85-degree elevation
7. In a normal, medium speed pool shot, good players typically follow through about 4" to 6". Jump shots are different. The Bunjee is significantly lighter than a pool cue. Where a pool cue weighs about 3 times as much as a ball, the Bunjee weighs just slightly more than the ball. The idea, in jumping, is to feel as if you are throwing the stick, like a dart, into the cueball. Do not let go of the cue while shooting! The Bunjee is light, so it does not trap the ball, and bounces out of the way. This is also why it’s important to grip lightly. If you use a "death grip" or try to force a follow-through, you won’t have much success at jumping.
8. – There are two schools of thought on how to actually perform the hit stroke. One school says it’s a wrist stroke (the hand strokes by flexing at the wrist), while the other believes an elbow stroke works better (the forearm strokes by flexing at the elbow). To try the wrist stroke, focus on relaxing the wrist and allowing it to flick forward and back as the main moving part of the stroke. Wrist strokers use a little more forearm motion for longer jumps or for shots requiring more speed. To try the elbow stroke, cock your grip hand back so that your wrist is bent all the way backward. This takes the wrist out of the stroke. Now, leave your wrist in the cocked position and stroke with your forearm. Again, a helpful mental image is to imagine you want to throw the stick at the ball like you would throw a dart, and allow the stick to "bounce off" of the cueball. While bouncing the stick off the ball is not exactly what happens, shooting with this idea helps most players get the right feel for the shot. The above description applies to the dart stroke. Pendulum strokers may get better results with a mental image of "powering through the cueball," rather than the feeling of "throwing the stick." Try both techniques. You’ll probably find that, up to a certain angle, pendulum works better, and above that angle, dart works better.
If you have a small piece of billiard cloth, such as some rooms use for 9-ball breaks, you’ll find you can practice without marking up the cloth underneath. You’ll also find it is easier to jump with an additional cloth thickness. The thinner, faster cloths (such as Simonis 860) that are popular among better players are much more difficult to jump from than the thicker cloth often found on coin-op tables. The larger, heavier cueballs frequently used on coin-op tables are harder to jump than the normal size/weight balls. Also, coin-ops typically have thinner slate, which doesn’t facilitate jumping as well as thicker slate. The Bunjee Jumper performs quite well under all of these conditions.
Begin by trying modest jumps. Jump a coin, a pencil, or the edge of a ball. Place the item you’re jumping about 6" from the cueball. Next, you might try placing two balls less than one ball width apart, and jumping through the gap. Make the gap smaller as you get better. Eventually, you’ll be ready to jump a full ball.
If you are not getting the ball to jump, try lightening up on your grip if you are using the dart stroke, or firming up your grip if you are using the pendulum stroke. Try less elevation. Try more elevation. Focus on hitting toward or just below the true center of the cueball. Don’t hit so hard. Be patient with yourself, especially if this is a new skill for you. It will happen.
If you are jumping, but not jumping high enough, you need more elevation or more speed. As you shoot harder, it’s more difficult to stroke accurately. As you shoot the longer jumps, or jumps toward a close rail or pocket, you have to begin thinking about how far the cueball will be bouncing when it lands, since you probably don’t want it to bounce off the table. Sometimes you might want to jump into a cluster of balls or hit a ball while still airborne.
Once you’re able to make basic center-ball jumps, try this exercise to learn how to apply draw, follow, and sidespin: Place an object ball on the spot. Place the cueball about 6" behind the object ball, on a line toward the far end of the table. Jump the object ball and attempt to have the cueball travel to the far cushion and then come back and hit the spotted object ball. This will reveal whether you are hitting with any unintended sidespin. If you are always getting sidespin that you don’t intend, try closing your stance some more. Also, try stroking with a mirror. Maybe you’ll be able to spot the problem. Or – draw two parallel lines on thick paper, about ½" apart. Aim at the center of the two lines and stroke right into the paper. Your chalkmark tells you whether you stroked straight or not. Make adjustments until you figure out how to stroke straight.
When you can do the no-english part of the above exercise, try learning to apply sidespin to make the cueball curve after the jump. This will take some persistence and some practice, but it sure is fun when you can do it – and do it on purpose.
Draw works just like it does on a normal pool shot. Just hit the cueball slightly below center. Because of the elevation, you only need to hit the cueball about ½ of a tip width below center for draw. For follow, you must have less than a 45 degree hit to be able to hit above center and achieve true follow, without trapping the cueball.
Don’t be discouraged if you fail to master the jump shot in your first session. Just take it in small steps, and you’ll get a feel for it. With practice, you can make the jump shot a highly effective addition to your arsenal of shots.
The Bunjee Jumper is a quality instrument, but how well you jump with it ultimately comes down to how much (and how well) you practice, and how good your jump stroke technique becomes. Some players can clear a full ball from only one chalk-width away – consistently!
Figure 9: The jump shot in action!
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