Releases

I’m finally getting around to posting my instructional video from the Worlds held in Chicago, Oct. 2013. Unfortunately the audio quality is low, and some of my demonstrations are off camera. We’ll re-record it soon. At the end of the video (29:16) Ehab Shoukry discusses defense:

Below are my unedited personal notes from the presentation:

***

Today I’m going to talk about releases. I will cover the following 3 topics:

  1. Attributes of effective releases
  2. Release mechanics for cuts/right-walls and crosses/left-walls
  3. Shot combinations based on releases

But first, what is a release? A release is how you strike the puck with the mallet. It’s not a pump fake, drift, or time-delay. It’s the motion of mallet to puck. It’s your delivery. Releases make or break offenses.

Attributes of effective releases

Deception, accuracy, and speed:

  • Deception – good releases disguise which shot is coming. The best releases go a step further and manipulate the defense into moving out of the way by fooling the defense to think that a specific shot is coming. In a sense, perfect releases control the defense’s mallet movement
  • Accuracy – champion-level players have releases that result in shots that are about 50% accurate within a 1-inch margin of error to either side
  • Speed – effective releases produce shots that are 100% of table’s max speed, but releases should also alter the speed of shots to a fraction of that speed

These 3 attributes have an inverse relation: As 2 attributes go up, 1 attribute goes down. For example, if you want to have releases that result in both accurate and deceptive shots, your speed will suffer.

Release mechanics for cuts/right-walls and crosses/left-walls

My approach to air hockey offense is to base all releases off of under banks. With under banks I am primarily concerned with speed and accuracy. I’m not as concerned with deception. Why be concerned with only the speed and accuracy of unders?

A triangle defense must always be kept in check with under-banks. If you have a fast and accurate under, the defense cannot wander; in other words it makes it very risky for the defense to attempt to snag pucks. A fast under commands respect and opens up straights, overs, and it also keeps the defense on its heels. Without an under there is nothing that can score; all straights and both over-the-mallets can be blocked by a single out position on defense.

First let’s look at the cut, right-wall-under/over combination. Then I’ll discuss the cross, left-wall-under/over. I think of these shot groupings as two different combinations defined by release motion.

Cut, right-wall-under/over combination is based on the release of the right-wall-under

Right-wall-under (Table Demo)

  • No deception through release
  • Beat defense to goal
  • Accuracy and top-end speed are most important
  • Hitting the puck flush results in best accuracy and shot speed
  • Violent release
  • Transition weight
  • Lean over table
  • Whip puck (full body: legs, torso, 3 parts: shoulders, elbow, wrist)
  • Fold hand into shot/point to target

Cut (Table Demo)

  • Duplicate right-wall-under release for cut (deception through release)
  • Cut off front of mallet
  • Make cut look identical right-wall-under – the bulk of my time practicing offense is spent figuring out how to make my cut look like my right-wall-under (and my cross look like my left-wall-under)
  • 100% velocity of mallet movement on all shots
  • Pointing (as with right-wall-under) creates follow through (deception)
  • Speed rationale
  • Definition (not bizzaro)

Right-wall-over (Table Demo)

  • Duplicate right-wall-under release for right-wall-over (deception through release)
  • right-wall-over off back of mallet
  • Speed rationale

Cross, left-wall-under/over combination is based on the release of the left-wall-under

Left-wall-under (Table Demo)

  • No deception through release
  • Beat defense to goal
  • Accuracy and top-end speed are most important
  • Hitting the puck flush results in best accuracy and shot speed.
  • Violent release
  • Transition weight
  • Lean over table
  • Whip puck (full body: legs, torso, 3 parts: shoulders, elbow, wrist)
  • Fold hand into shot/point to target
  • Lead with elbow
  • Reposition body (not part of the release but I want to talk about this because I think it has a huge impact on making the release easier)

Cross (Table Demo)

  • Duplicate left-wall-under release for cross (deception through release)
  • Cross off back of mallet
  • Speed rationale
  • 100% all
  • Lead with elbow
  • Reposition body
  • Definition (not wolf-slayer)

left-wall-over (Table Demo)

  • Duplicate left-wall-under release for cut (deception through release)
  • Left-wall-over off front of mallet
  • Speed rationale
  • Lead with elbow
  • Reposition body

Will repositioning your body give away whether a cut/right-wall v cross/left-wall is coming? Yes…maybe, but so what. By and large defenses won’t notice, and if they do, they can only narrow it down to three complimentary shots. And that’s totally fine. Your offense will still work. But, if you want to keep the defense completely at bay, occasionally you can use cut/right-wall releases out of a cross/left-wall stance or cross/left-wall releases out of a cut/right-wall stance. 1 out of 5 or so will keep the defense confused. It depends on my opponent, but these are plays that I normally do not use unless it is particularly effective because using cuts/right-wall releases out of a cross/left-wall stance and vice versa is complex and difficult because the body weight is running counter to the banks.

Shot Combinations

To develop combinations you should have a logical framework of how releases work together to construct offensive attacks.

As we have discussed:

Right-wall-under/cut/right-wall-over use one release (Table Demo) and the left-wall-under/cross/left-wall-over use one release (Table Demo)

Thinking of how to attack based on these combinations should be the first way to organize attacks in your mind. However, there are other effective and useful ways to think about combining shots. Such as drifts, mallet contact point, complimentary straights etc.), but these should not be the primary ways to organize shots. For the best attacks think of combinations in terms of cut/right-walls and crosses/left-walls because of 2 reasons 1) releases are the most deceptive weapon in your arsenal and 2) these combinations are simple to think about (and a simplicity is good – I could give an entire clinic on why simplicity applied to offense is the best approach), but within these shot combinations there are an infinite amount of ways to construct an attack. For example a right-wall-under with time delay out of a diagonal drift, followed by a right-wall-over with no time delay out of vertical drift and on and on.

Cross v cut (Table Demo)

Key differences: Mallet contact location and release motion (Table Demo)

Versus a good out defense we are not trying to fool a defense between cut and cross, but between straight and bank. This is an important distinction and I think that most players overlook this. Against a back rail defense, the approach that I am advocating for straights does not necessarily work, but I am most concerned with developing an attack that scores on good defenses, and good defenses play out from the goal and do not move when they think a straight is coming. Constructing releases and attacks to beat defenses that are against the goal or false rail defenses is an easy assignment.

Bizarro cuts and wolf slayers (Table Demo)

Definition – a Bizarro cut is a term that I use to define a straight shot to the right side of the goal that uses a right-wall-under release. A Wolf Slayer is a shot to the left side of the goal that uses a left-wall-under release. Cuts release is like X, Cross release like X. (Table Demo) Bizarro cut goes right. Wolf Slayer goes left.

Why these shots should not be used. For a Bizarro cut we’re using a right-wall-under release, so the defense pulls to here, or stays here if it thinks a straight is coming. In none of these scenarios is a Bizarro cut open. This will only score if the defense correctly reads the release as a Cut release and moves to the cut side. If you think about offense the way that I do, this means that ultimately your attack has failed (unless you are specifically trying to take advantage of a defense not recenetering correctly) because the defense should have been fooled into thinking that the release indicated a right-wall-under or possible cut.

Why these shots can be good in small doses and if done correctly (Table Demo). Double flinch. Wolf should be off-speed. And shots should not typically follow this approach.

Wolf is more effective v right-handed defense because it attacks the opponent’s weak side.

Recap and questions

Effective releases result in deception, accuracy and speed. Base all your releases off of unders. Think of your attacks as combinations based on releases: one release for cuts/right-walls and on release for crosses/left-walls.

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3 thoughts on “Releases

  1. Great video. It really helped me a lot.

    I actually just bought my first air hockey table a few months ago and I still kind of trying things out. Your video about releases was a great help for me to improve my skills.

    However, I have a question if that’s okay.

    I wanna know which is the best place to get some big strikers that can be used without getting hit by the puck every time ?

    Thanks in advance.

    John

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