Patron’s Choice: Routine Building Vol 1 | Of Forms and Purpose

Compliments of: Disc Dog Radio

Sneak Peek – Patrons Only… Public Release Dec 16th

Think Forms Not Drills

A drill is something an athlete does to get better. Drills help you build the skills you will need in the future. This focus on getting better and the future is putting the cart before the horse and values skill over knowledge. In a drill, athletes are focused on the future. 

A form is something an artists studies. Forms, as in martial arts, help you understand what the reality is within and around an activity or skill. Forms are about uncovering the essence and understanding of a skill or activity. It is much easier to be present, in the here and now, within a form than a drill.

Over the last couple years, I have focused on shifting from drills and skills to forms and actions, as both a teacher and an athlete, but it’s tough to change the Western mind – we’re programmed for progress and self improvement.

Drills express skills and forms uncover the art of skill. Shift your focus from the future to right now and uncover, for yourself, what is actually being done and how it actually works.

Flatwork Compass

The flatwork Compass is a form that can be purposed towards many key skills of Routine Building. Drop work, reading the dog, Intercepting the Release of the dog, Beating and meeting the dog to the set up.

Consisting of four throws in 3 directions, the Flatwork Compass exposes the team to the Clockwise Flank, the Counter Clock Flank, the Clockwise Pass, and the Counter Clock Pass, in 4 simple throws – clock flank, counter flank, clock pass, counter pass. It also separates all these Flanks and the Pass conceptually and builds a communication system that the team can use and rely on that the dog can read and respond to at great distance.

It is a key form for Routine Building that can be purposed to do anything you need in the game of disc dog freestyle.

Zig Zag

The Zig Zag is a great skill. Just doing one, accomplishing it, is a purpose. It is the only purpose for many rookies. It stays the purpose until the team gets good enough to try to leap with it or do a competition with it.

That is three purposes: do it, leap on it, compete with it. That is selling this amazing skill awful short.

The Zig Zag can and should be used to work most all the skills required of a disc dog. Like the Flatwork Compass, most anything can be worked within a Zig Zag pattern. Here are just a few:

  • Catch
  • Drop on cue
  • Increase drive
  • Decrease arousal
  • Slow the dog down
  • Speed the dog up
  • Reduce an outrun
  • Create interceptions
  • Develop throwing skills
  • Develop posing skills
  • Create connection
  • Reinforce communication
  • Establish a trigger


Dueling arounds; clock around … catch … drop… counter around… catch… drop… clock… repeat… The pendulum pattern is wonderful for creating and reinforcing round, arcing movements. These round arcing movements create time for the handler to breathe and creates interesting angles and dramatic, connected team movements.

The pendulum can and should be purposed as it is explored for team movement and disc management purposes.


Setting the flank and working the Flank should be purposed towards something other than running around out there. Vary the amount of time and the number of degrees you pull the dog around the circle. Gain the ability to grab the dog on flank for just a moment and let him go for a throw, or develop the skills and team patience to pull the dog around a bit longer than normal in case you have to make some adjustments on the fly in your routine.

Purpose your flatwork into ridiculous patterns, or wind management. Do something with it other than what you always do. That’s one of the ways to be creative, you know, simply doing something differently than you always do… Give it a try.

Repeating Rear Cross

A Repeating Rear Cross, like all the rest of these skills can be purposed towards just about anything. A key purpose for this form in addition to leaping and the drop, would be exploring the field to locate discs. It ties in with purposing the Flank above.

Don’t just do the rear cross to slow your dog down or line your dog up for the vault. Do the Rear Cross to set up a leap, use it to create “an Around” at a distance. Use it to flip the field or otherwise orient to the wind for wind management on the fly. Use it to make a throw into the 4 Way Play zone. Use it for something else other than that thing you always do with it.

Playing With Purpose Creates Purposeful Play

Take the things you always do, identify your common purpose or purposes, and change them to develop the kind of purposeful play required in a 2 minute round of disc dog freestyle.

Do the things you normally do and try to do different things with them. Learn to purpose your play and you will be able to play with purpose.

More From the Playing with Purpose Series

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    1. Ron Watson Post author

      The Pendulum has the dog going behind the handler each time. Coming in towards, going around, and leaving to go out to the side; back and forth, behind the handler.