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Developing the Style of Bloughchi

By Laird Smith

Steve "Danceman" Blough created a style, dubbed by it's adherents: Bloughchi. This style's basic moves have been incorporated into various types of footbag kicking activity. Steve was watched by Stalberger, by Shults, by "Toes" Fitzgerald and other of the well known kickers. Stalberger introduced him as the "best freestyle kicker in the world." Another stated, "You are the best back kicker in the world." "Toes" recently stated, "A lot of the moves kickers are making now you created." These comments were based on kicking they saw Steve do in the Bloughchi style. Steve went on to train hundreds in this style, some of whom became world net champions. The style is useful for all types of footbag kicking even though Steve, himself, feels non-competitive footbag dancing® is the purest expression of Bloughchi.

The essence of Bloughchi is: development of a kicker's ability to insure control of the footbag within his/her personal foot reach in the 360° territory surrounding him/her. With this ability developed, the Bloughchi style kicker can rhymatically interact with the footbag which becomes a tool to create flowing movement within which leaps, spins, or other tricks can be performed. However, not everyone gets to the pinnacle of being able to control the footbag in that 360° territorial circle. Sometimes kickers stop developing that 360° ability and become more involved with tricks. That is fine if that is what they enjoy but the 360° ability to control the footbag insures even better tricks.

By continuing development in the Bloughchi style, a kicker comes to the point of being able to put the footbag anywhere desired when returning a pass. Proficiency in Bloughchi allows the kicker to literally meet the footbag if it is physically possible and to kick it anywhere the kicker wants the footbag put. Think of how an extraordinary tennis player can block the ball with the racket and return it anywhere he or she wants. Or how an extraordinary baseball player can block the ball with the bat and put that ball anywhere in the park or out of it. You can control a footbag just as well with your foot!

This style of kicking brings a footbag kicker to many plateaus. With persistence the kicker enters a whole new realm of physical and mental awareness and coordination. Once the 360° of control is achieved, done with special emphasis on back kicks and side kicks as opposed to front kicks, you can achieve a melding of minds within a cooperative kicking experience with another person(s). This level of kicking accomplishes an attitude among kickers whereby each one accepts responsibility for how he/she responds to each pass and how the volley builds upon itself.

To have a beautiful long running rally requires no grandstanding but a cooperative relationship and understanding among the kickers of what the footbag has done throughout the rally. This way the flow continues rather than being aborted. This is a group effort rather than an individual performance. The strongest kicker (e.g. whichever kicker controls the footbag best) in a circle becomes the leader and accepts the responsibility of receiving difficult passes to make sure the footbag keeps in the air and moving. The kickers will soon know who this is and will get the footbag back to the most accomplished kicker so that control of the footbag is maintained (i.e. it stays in the air and there is no drop). Conversely, the leader has the control to make sure that less accomplished kickers get their chances at the footbag by making sure they receive passes they can control.

In training you can challenge each other, one on one, by placing kicks to weak areas of your cohort kicker (not competitor) thus enabling him/her to develop even more control of the footbag and enabling you to become a better passer. Or you can simply enjoy the synergy developed by kicking together, creating a unity wherein both of you are in sync with each other and the footbag.

It is hard to put into words what this type of kicking is about but it is foremost an effort to keep the footbag in the air while making sure the least able kicker is included in a manner that they can handle while yet challenging everyone in the circle to greater heights. It is a cooperative rather than competitive experience, operating on concensus. The effort is to achieve a long-lasting, beautiful and exciting rally which includes all members of the kicking circle. All of this becomes more and more synergistic as the circle members develop their individual abilities to control the footbag in a 360° area around themselves.

This type of kicking requires a firm footbag, not a mushy one, so that it can be kicked hard enough and fast enough to provide time to accomplish spins, leaps, etc. Stalls are not advantageous to this type of kicking because stalling is basically an introverted activity rather than an extroverted one. If you stall the bag the rest of the circle will have no idea what you intend to do next and the bag is essentially out of play until you decide to do something different -- it stops the flow, the synergy. Stalling tricks are really an individual activity. Bloughchi style of 360° of control will enable better stalling but stalling will not lead to the synergistic movement and mind melding that occurs in a kicking circle dedicated to keeping the footbag in the air.

The word "freestyle" is too generic. There are many styles and the people who use them love them. The Bloughchi style is just one of many and designed to best assure a cooperative blending of abilities in a footbag circle or twosome that will accomplish the freestyle form known as "footbag dance"®. The basics about Bloughchi are taught in the book "Footbag Dance" written by Steve Blough in 1983 which can be read online or purchased online. The idea of cooperation instead of competition and the enormous benefits of eye-foot coordination are developed fully in a research paper written by Blough entitled "Bloughchi- a Renaissance of Modern Movement" which is published in this site.

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