Jot's Ultimate Guide


The goal of this document is to provide a single resource that can be used by players of all levels to learn the game, or to refine their game. Personally, I've only been playing Ultimate for a few years, so there are probably going to be things people disagree with me about. Additionally, on some of the advanced things, I'm going to lean fairly heavily on more experienced players for their ideas and comments. I'll honestly try to cite those people whenever possible.

The basic format will be the basic or beginning section, followed by more advanced concepts. Hopefully this will make it easy to use by everyone. Also, the sections within are setup in the order that I place them in priority. You should feel free to disagree with that priority. I'm still not going to change it. :)

One last thing. If you figure out a bunch of neat tricks from this document, and then you end up playing me, you are obligated to allow me to score on you, and are not allowed to use any of the tricks learned in this document on me. If you violate either of these rules, you'll be required by law to buy me a beer or two of my choosing. :)

Additionally, when I started this I did a net search and couldn't find anything similar. Naturally, just as I was finishing, someone said that The Ultimate Handbook was back up. This is a great reference and is a must read.

  1. Basic
    1. 10 Simple Rules to Ultimate Frisbee
    2. Full Rules to Ultimate Frisbee
    3. Catching
      1. Pancake
      2. Crab
      3. One Handed
    4. Throwing
      1. Backhand
      2. Forehand
    5. Defense
      1. Mark
      2. Force
        1. Middle
        2. Home
        3. Away
      3. Cutter
    6. Offense
      1. Cutting
      2. Pivot
      3. Clear
      4. Stack
  2. Advanced
    1. Catching
      1. Attacking the Disk
      2. Spin
      3. Bid
    2. Throwing
      1. Hammer
      2. Blade
      3. Scoober
      4. Thumber
      5. Push Pass
    3. Defense
      1. Mark
        1. Strike
        2. Distance
        3. Hand Position
        4. Counting
      2. Zone
        1. 3-2-2
        2. 3-3-1
        3. clamshell
        4. Sideline Trap
        5. 1-3-3
      3. Other
        1. Play the disk
        2. Catch
        3. Give and Go
        4. Endzone
    4. Offense
      1. Zone
        1. 3-2-2
        2. 3-3-1
        3. clamshell
        4. Sideline Trap
        5. 1-3-3
      2. Dominator
      3. Give and Go
      4. Break Mark
        1. Inside Out
        2. Stretch Backhand
        3. High Release
        4. Hammer/Blade
        5. Hammer Hold
      5. Rule of Thirds
      6. End Zone
        1. Moses
        2. Flood
      7. Cutting
        1. Head
        2. Pick
        3. Body Cut
  3. Strategy
    1. Field Position
    2. Choosing the force
    3. Out of Bounds Turnover
    4. Playing the Pick
  4. Sources
  5. Helpful Hints

1. Basic

This is the basic section. The goal here is to have all of the pieces of the puzzle that will allow you to move from the Novice player to the Average player. To start with, you'll never progress if you don't know the rules...

1.1 10 Simple Rules to Ultimate Frisbee [1]

  1. The Field -- A rectangular shape with end zones at each end. A regulation field is 70 yards by 40 yards, with end zones 25 yards deep.
  2. Initiate Play -- Each point begins with both teams lining up on the front of their respective end zone line. The defense throws ("pulls") the disc to the offense. A regulation game has seven players per team.
  3. Scoring -- Each time the offense completes a pass in the defense's end zone, the offense scores a point. Play is initiated after each score.
  4. Movement of the Disc -- The disc may be advanced in any direction by completing a pass to a teammate. Players may not run with the disc. The person with the disc ("thrower") has ten seconds to throw the disc. The defender guarding the thrower ("marker") counts out the stall count.
  5. Change of possession -- When a pass in not completed (e.g. out of bounds, drop, block, interception), the defense immediately takes possession of the disc and becomes the offense.
  6. Substitutions -- Players not in the game may replace players in the game after a score and during an injury timeout.
  7. Non-contact -- No physical contact is allowed between players. Picks and screens are also prohibited. A foul occurs when contact is made.
  8. Fouls -- When a player initiates contact on another player a foul occurs. When a foul disrupts possession, the play resumes as if the possession was retained. If the player committing the foul disagrees with the foul call, the play is redone.
  9. Self-Refereeing -- Players are responsible for their own foul and line calls. Players resolve their own disputes.
  10. Spirit of the Game -- Ultimate stresses sportsmanship and fair play. Competitive play is encouraged, but never at the expense of respect between players, adherence to the rules, and the basic joy of play.

1.2 Full Rules to Ultimate Frisbee [2]

I'm not going to try duplicate the full rules here. There is no reason to copy 19 pages of HTML when you can click on the little link yourself. The current copy of the Ninth Edition of the rules can be found in the Sources [2].

1.3 Basic Catching

If you don't know how to catch the disk, or you are consistently dropping the disk, your career as a highly compensated Ultimate Frisbee player will be cut tragically short. Endorsement deals, super-models, Nobel Peace Prizes will no longer be within your reach...

When I first started playing, I'd been playing about 6 months when I decided to try playing with the 'competitive' men. I was nervous, but eager. I was running making good cuts, and had a beautiful cut up the middle of the field. The thrower sent me a bullet, that I tried to pancake and then dropped. I ran for the next 30 minutes, still making open cuts, and did not even see the disk headed my way.

If you can't catch, no matter how open you are, you will not be thrown to.

Cardinal Rules:

These rules apply to every catch, no matter what the level.
  1. Catch the disk before you look up field or throw. If you forget this step, you will drop the disk when you take your eyes off it.
  2. Run to the disk in the air. Don't stop and wait for it to get to you, or your defender will run around you and make the D.

1.3.1 Pancake (or Alligator)
This is the most basic of all catches. Ideally it is made so that the disk is coming in towards your body, and one hand is on top of the disk, and one hand is on the bottom of the disk. I'm right handed, and for me the natural hand to have on the bottom is my right hand, and the one on the top is the left. I'll be checking with a left handed player to see if the opposite holds true for them.

Almost everyone calls this the Pancake, but I like to call it the Alligator because I like to have my elbows against my body, together, and then my hands about a foot apart. When done this way, it reminds me of an alligators jaws. I like this because if I miss the disk with my hands I have a good shot at trapping it in the 1.5 feet of my arms that follow to my body.

Pancake Grab

1.3.2 Crab
I've never actually heard a specific name for this catch, so I made one up.

This is the catch where you catch the disk with two hands side by side, normally about 3 or 4 inches apart. If the disk is above your shoulders your thumbs will be facing down with your fingers on top, and if it's below your shoulders your thumbs will be up with your fingers on the bottom.

I call this the crab because your hands sort of look like claws, and you're holding them in front of you like a crab would.

Crab above your shoulders A 'crab' above your shoulders

Crab below your shoulers A 'crab' below your shoulders

Under most circumstances this catch is a much worse choice than the Pancake. There are a few reasons:

  1. You have less vertical margin for error. You miss high or low and you've missed the disk and it's a turnover.
  2. If you haven't caught a lot and don't have soft hands, you'll 'bounce' the disk out of your hands.
  3. For almost all disks below your shoulders you can bend at your knees and Pancake it.
That being said, there are a few reasons that it can be better.
  1. With disks over your head, it can be more reliable than the one handed catch. (But not if you're good at the one hander)
  2. When you catch the disk, you have better hand position for the quick throw.

1.3.3 One Handed
This is the coup-de-grace of all the style catches. You want to look cool, you need to make the one handed grab. Of course, the way to look like the Ultimate Idiot is to go with the one handed grab when you could have had the nice safe easy Pancake and then drop it. Then you look like a complete heel. You'll find yourself immortalized on the UPA Idiots of the Decade Web site.

The key to the one handed grab is to have a 'soft' arm. Now, this doesn't mean you're a little 'light in your loafers', but it is key.

When most people start out, they try to catch one handed by putting their arm and hand out to the disk, and holding them like a bar of iron. The goal then becomes to snap your fingers closed in the .0001 seconds between the time the disk enters the 'claw' of your hand and the bounces out of your hand. (Ok, so it's a little longer than that, but it's still pretty fast) To combat this, you 'soften' your wrist and elbow. As the disk encounters your hand, it is moving backwards and absorbing the energy, and giving you more time to close your fingers. The really good players almost look like they're ripping the disk back towards themselves.

All of that being said, there are times where you don't get the chance to have the disk come to you nicely. It's thrown behind you, or well over your head. In those cases, it's pure practice and instinct. Make sure when you're throwing around you practice, at least some of the time, the one handed grab. Also make sure that you practice catching with your non-dominant hand.

1.4 Basic Throwing
After catching, throwing is the most important skill you can learn. Most people have thrown a frisbee before. The typical throw that you use is the most natural, and that is the backhand. However, in Ultimate, if you only have one throw, or you don't throw very well, you become pretty easy to defend.

The UPA has a pretty good page on the different grips that can be used for throws. I'm going to try to illustrate the grips I use, and that I see the most commonly with photographs, and brief explanations. The best way to figure it out is to have experienced players show you.

Things That Apply to All Throws:

The key to the stability of the disk in flight is aerodynamics. The shape of the frisbee is similar to an airplane wing, in that air passes over the top faster than the bottom, causing lift.

For a technical answer, check out The Flight of the Frisbee from Scientific American.

However, if you take a frisbee and just shove it, you'll notice there isn't much in the way of lift. The key is the rotation. Now, I'm not an Aerospace Engineer, so I can't cite the equations, but I believe the reason this is true is because the rotation adds stability and energy. The same reason that a bicycle is easier to keep upright when it's moving (because the wheels are spinning) keeps the disk stable. Additionally, when you get spin, you are utilitizing leverage to add energy past what your mere muscles can provide.

What does this all mean? You need to have the disk spinning quickly, almost all of the time, but especially in wind. This is accomplished by snapping your wrist at the end of the throw. This will impart a lot more spin, and your throws will be more accurate.

The second thing to keep in mind is that the disk will fly how you release it. Sounds easy, huh? What this means is that if you release the disk so that it is level, it will fly straight. However, if you release it with one side higher than the other, it will tend to curve in one direction or the other. As you throw more, you want to do this. But in the beginning it can be frustrating when you don't want it to.

And finally, if you throw the disk, perfectly straight, with a lot of spin you can still have it 'float' on you if you have the front edge of the disk higher than the back edge. Try to make sure the disk is level front to back and side to side. (Yes, as you play more, you may want it to float.)

1.4.1 Backhand
The back hand is the most basic of all of the throws.

This grip is a compromise for me between power and control.

  1. The Grip: Hold the disk so that the top (the part with the writing) is on top. Take ball of your hand (the palm side opposite of the knuckle of your index finger) and place it against the edge of the disk. Wrap the last three fingers (middle finger on down) around the edge of the disk. Take your index finger and place the edge of the first knuckle (ie the one closest to your fingernail) on the bottom lip of the disk and curl it under lightly. Finally, take your thumb and lay it on the top of the disk.
  2. Preparation: Bring your arm across your body so that your upper arm is against your body, and the disk is projecting away at about 30 degrees, and the back edge is up.
  3. Release: Step forward with your front leg and whip your arm out while releasing the disk level. Make sure to follow through.
Power top backhand Power bottom backhand

This is a 'power' backhand. You gain power by having all of the fingers under the disk, but it's harder to master, as your release has to be exactly right.

Compromise top backhand Compromise bottom backhand

This is a compromise backhand. You have 3 of the 4 fingers under the disk, for good power (probably good for 40 to 50 yards) with an easy to master release point.

1.4.2 Forehand
The forehand is a more advanced throw, but it is necessary even as a beginner so that people can't cheat and just take away your backhand.

The key to the forehand is rotation, and this is accomplished through snapping your wrist. For the forehand under 15 yards, there is really no need for anything but wrist.

  1. The Grip: Take the first two fingers on your dominant hand and place them next to each other. Put them on the inside rim of the disk so that the first knuckle (closest to your fingernail) of your middle finger is on the inside edge of the rim. Your smallest two fingers are outside the rim. Place your thumb at about a 30 degree angle on the top of the disk.
  2. The Preparation: On this throw, the foot placement and movement is important. You want to have your forearm at a 90 degree angle to your body, but straight out from your side (does that make sense?). Step with your dominant leg straight out, and then release.
  3. The Release: The way I throw this is to keep my wrist flexible, and start my hips and shoulder torquing forwards. If you keep your hand stationary, your wrist has to flex back. Once this has happened (you've 'cocked it' so to speak) you snap it forward and release. This just takes practice.
Here are some photos of the grip, and throw so that you can get a better visual image. Top forehand Bottom forehand Top forehand Bottom forehand
1.5 Defense
To a large degree, defense is about effort. It is the piece of your game, that even when when you are just starting out at, you can be good at. As you progress, you may have times where for some reason, your throws just aren't going well. In those times, your defense can continue to make you a valued member of the team. (Of course I'm the kind of guy that roots for goalies, linebackers and safeties, so view this through the appropriate colored glasses. ;)
1.5.1 Mark
'The Mark' is the person who is on the thrower of the other team. You have 2 jobs as the Mark.
  1. Count to 10 in one second intervals to force the throw.
  2. Prevent the throw.
As you may have guessed, #1 is much easier. :)

When you count to ten, it has to be a full second a count. The standard is to say something like "stall one, stall two, ...". This forces you to actually do the full ten seconds. If you count like this (ie start with stall) if you get to the 't' in 'ten' before the thrower has released the disk, it is a turnover, and your team gets the disk at the spot of the mark. When this happens, yell 'stall' nice and loud.

As for preventing the throw, that is the hard part. You just want to get your body and arms between the thrower and the person he is throwing to. Some of this will be covered in the force section, and some will be covered in the Advanced Mark section. For now, don't worry too much about it.

1.5.2 Force
The 'Force' is the direction that you as the marker want to force the thrower to throw to, and as the defender, you want to prevent your man from cutting to. Force Middle
The middle force says that you're going to try to force the thrower to throw to the middle of the field. This means that if you are closer to one sideline than the other, you will force away from the sideline closest. As the defender in the Stack you need to prevent your man from getting the disk in the middle of the field. If you can do that, you've done your job. Here is the basic setup for how a middle force would look if you started out a little close to the 'away' line.

Middle force

The only thing that isn't covered, is if the person has the disk in the middle of the field. In that case, try to arrange a 'tie breaker' when you're on the line before the pull, and if there wasn't one, point and yell it out so your team knows where you are going to. Force Home
For both the 'Home' and the 'Away' force, the directions are determined by which sideline your team has all of their stuff (ie chairs, drinks, dogs, small rv's...) at. That is 'Home'. Away is the other sideline.

In the 'Home' force, you are always going to force the thrower to throw that direction, and the defenders will try to take that cut away.

Home force Force Away
This is exactly the same as the 'Home' force, only to the other side. As a matter of fact, if the two teams have their stuff on opposite sidelines, then their 'Home' is your 'Away' and vise-versa. Confusing enough?

Away force

1.5.3 Cutter
So, you know how to mark, and you understand the force, how do you defend the actual cutters? It's pretty easy, you just want to stay on the force side of the cutter. So, if the force is home, stay on the home side, and so on and so forth.

Now, are you in front of them, or behind them? The simple answer is that if you're in the front of the stack, be in front of them, and if you're in the back of the stack, be behind them. This is illustrated in the diagrams for the 'force'

1.6 Offense
Well, if there is no offense, we'll never have the chance to show off our great defense. :) Remember, every turnover, no matter how far you were from your man, is the result of your defense. ;)
1.6.1 Cutting
The keystone of Ultimate is what is called cutting. It is what makes Ultimate different than any other sport (ok, one of many things). Cutting is a sprint to a position that the thrower can get the disk to you. (The emphasis here is on sprint. If you jog, you are just helping the defense of your opponent). There are some key concepts that will make not only you more effective, but the rest of your teammates as well.
  1. Cut to the disk. This sounds really simple, but an amazing number of people don't do it. You want to be running towards the thrower, so that they can try to put the disk in your chest.

    Good Cut

    If you are running away from them, or perpendicular to them, it makes the throw much more difficult. There are a number of reasons.

    1. The throw is more difficult. I know I just said this, but the actual mechanics of throw, and the margin for error are harder and smaller respectively.

      Bad Cut 1

    2. You cut off other cuts. Because you're coming across the field, your teammates can't cut into the thrower because you're in their way. Additionally, the thrower can see less of the field.

      Bad Cut 2

    3. Your defender can 'poach'. This happens when, as you run across, you run into the area that the mark is preventing from being thrown. As a result, your defender will stop, and thus cut off a majority of the throws that were open to your thrower.

      Bad Cut 3

  2. Look at the thrower. This means even if you are running away from the thrower, look over your shoulder at them. It could be that your defender has stopped and you're wide open, and the thrower just wants eye contact.
  3. Cut to the open side. This is obvious, but hard, since your defender will be trying to take this away. You'll have to fake and try to get to the open.
  4. Cut opposite the last cutter. If the last cut was to the open side, cut to the non-open (or break mark) side. If your thrower has the throw, you should be open, and if not, you're leaving a lane for the person behind you. If the previous cut was to the non-open side, cut to the open side.

1.6.2 Pivot
Ultimate Frisbee steals rules from all sorts of sports. One of them is basketball. In basketball, once you have the ball, you must establish a 'pivot foot'. This gets done when you move a foot. The other automatically becomes the pivot. You typically want this to be your non-dominant foot (ie left foot for right handed players, right foot for left handed players).

Once you have the disk, and are getting ready to throw, you want to make sure you pivot. This is done by stepping back and forward on a line that is parallel to the goal line. This forces the mark to be more active and allows you to get an open throw to your cutter. Probably 90% of all hand blocks are because the thrower didn't bother to fake and pivot.

O.K., so why on the line? If you pivot backwards and forwards (ie perpendicular to the goal line) you end up with your back to half of the field. It also makes it fairly easy for the marker. By pivoting along a line (while staying balanced) you keep the whole field in front of you and get good vision.

Good Pivot

A good pivot with the lines of sight

Bad Pivot

A bad pivot with the lines of sight

1.6.3 Clear
So, you've just made a hard cut from the back of the stack and you didn't get the throw. Why? Who knows. Maybe the thrower doesn't like that throw (ie they're not sure they can complete it), or maybe your defender was right on you, or maybe someone poached. However, it doesn't really matter, you need to make sure you get out of the way, and get your defender out of the way so that someone else can cut in. If you don't do this, then you are clogging.

This is the 'Clear'.

The other time you need to clear is when you've just thrown the disk. Unless your throw was a real stinker, take off upfield as soon as you've let it go. If you do this you'll be extremely hard to cover. But, make sure you look back at the thrower.

So where do you clear to? Normally you want to loop out and around to the break mark side. Then you want get to the back of the stack so that you can cut again.

First Clear

However, if you know you have someone coming behind you to the break mark side, then cut hard back to the open side and get out.

Second Clear

The key to clearing is to run hard! Not just on the cut, but also on the clear. If you are lazy on the clear then you're going to prevent a lot of people from having open cuts.

1.6.4 Stack
The 'Stack' is a line of offensive players away from the thrower setup to make cuts. I've actually cheated and shown you diagrams for stacks when I did the diagrams for the force.

The reason for a straight line (mostly straight at least) away from the thrower is to try to allow for nice clean cuts, without 'clogging'.

The concept is that you normally want the front of the stack to be 15 to 20 yards away from the thrower, and the back of the stack to be 10 to 15 yards from the front of the stack. You also want to be at an angle to the thrower to the force side, as illustrated in the diagrams for the force.

Now, normally when you're on offense, you'll call positions. These positions are normally:

  • Short (or handle): These are the people who will be working the disk slowly up the field and will handle the disk most of the time. They are typically the best throwers on your team.
  • Middle: These people are the ones who work the middle of the field and are normally the 3rd and 4th cuts.
  • Longs: These are typically your speed daemons. People who you think can beat their defenders down the field.
Now, there are two common ways to line the stack up.
  1. Shorts, middles, longs: Here you line up in the order that it's been called, and the longs will break from the back of the stack, the middles from the middles, and the shorts from the fronts.

    Stack One

    Note that if the defense is setup right, several cuts are through defenders and the open cuts are to the break mark side. Also, the numbers that are the same are indicative of cuts being made at the same time.

  2. Shorts, longs, middles: Here, you line the longs into the middle of the stack, and the middles at the end. The goal is to have the middle defenders behind you, allowing the easy front cut, and the long defenders in front of the longs to allow the easy deep cut. Shorts still cut from the front and need to shake a defender.

    Stack Two

    Note here that if the defense stacks up normally, but the middles and the longs should get open on the defenders, as the defenders are hedged the wrong direction.

After that, there are endless variations.
2. Advanced
Wow. I have about 18 pages of html, and that is just the basic stuff. This means that the advanced stuff is going to take me way too long and be way too big. All this for a simple game! ;)
2.1 Advanced Catching
So you can catch the disk one handed, and you rarely drop. Why not add more difficulty?
2.1.1 Attacking the Disk
Even if you are running at the disk, a lot of time you are waiting for it to hit your hands or hand. The better way to do this is to 'attack' the disk. Not only do you run towards the disk, you reach out and try to aggressively grab the disk. This is critical for the times that you have a fast defender right on you. They only have to knock it out, you have to catch it, so attack. This is something you have to practice in the throw around. It makes an amazing difference in how hard it is to catch the disk. However, it will help to take you to the next level.
2.1.2 Spin
Which direction is the disk spinning when you catch it? Ever think about it? Backhands and forehands spin opposite, and when you're making the one handed catch, you want the disk to spin into your thumb so that the rim will get caught on your thumb. But, this means there is a difference between whether or not you hand is palm up or palm down, and whether or not you're catching right handed or left handed. Just try to start paying attention, and after a while, you'll just start instinctively using the correct hand and grip.
2.1.3 Bid (or Layout)
This is the advanced catching technique. Catch a disk that is at the limits of your reach while you're in the air and hold on for your impact into the ground. It is cool. It can also really hurt.

However, this is VERY IMPORTANT! You need to land on your chest, not on your side. The tendency is to reach out and rotate to your strong hand side. This rotation as opposed to be being straight out (ala Superman) is about 1/4". It's not worth it. The problem is the impact when you hit. When you land on your side the impact will whip your head around and give you whiplash. This is the best case scenario. The worst case scenario is that you will land on your shoulder and separate your shoulder, dislocate it, or break your collarbone.

I'm speaking from experience here. I broke my collarbone on a right handed defensive bid and was out for 2 months! I was in excruciating pain for 3-4 weeks and mild pain for another 3-4. Please land on your chest.

If you find you're trying and you're still landing on your side, try catching or defending the disk with your non-dominant hand. This should force you to level out.

Here are 2 pictures that show a good bid and a bad bid. These photos are from New Year Fest 2000, and were taken by Tom Polakis. The rest of the images, and more than just my cut out, can be found at: Tom's New Year Fest Page(, along with other great pictures.

Now, remember, ANYONE who does the layout, is a stud! I'm just trying to prevent injuries. The people who layout are the people I like to play with, because they play the game with passion and intensity.

Good Bid

Note here that both arms are level. When she hits the ground she'll probably touch it with her left hand first, and then bounce off of her stomach and chest.

Bad Bid

I'm guessing that this person is left handed. Notice how her left hand and arm are lower and her right arm is up in the air. When she hits the ground, the first thing to hit will probably be her left shoulder, followed by her side. If she slightly over rotates, trying to roll through the jump, she can land on the back of the shoulder and break the collarbone or scapula. The right side of her neck was probably sore the next day from her head being whipped towards the ground by the impact.

2.2 Advanced Throwing
So, you're throwing the backhand and forehand and you feel comfortable, why not start working on the wacky throws?
2.2.1 Hammer
The hammer is a throw where the disk leaves your hand over your head and goes from almost vertical to upside down as it gets to the receiver. So, why throw it?
  1. Since it's upside down at the end of it's flight, it drops very quickly and can get over the head of a defender and to a receiver.
  2. It is a good break mark throw, as the marker has a hard time defending a normal backhand and this throw.
  3. It's good for going over a zone.
  4. It's good for going across a defense, because it's so high as it passes the people it can't be easily blocked.
And when is it really stupid?
  1. In high wind, the aerodynamics make it extremely unreliable.
  2. It's tough to throw it a really short distance.
  3. When you have an open easy throw. :)
  1. The Grip: This uses the same grip as a forehand.
  2. Preparation: Your hand is directly over your head, so that the disk is actually on the non-dominant side of your head.

    Hammer Preparation

  3. Release: Really snap your wrist, and get it out there. The spin is critical, and you just need to snap hard.

    Hammer Release

2.2.2 Blade
The blade is a throw where the disk stays vertical for it's entire flight path. This can also be called the 'taco maker' because if it hits the ground it does a pretty good job of warping a disk into a taco shape.

The only real time to throw it is when you have a cut coming right at the back of the 'mark'. You want it over the 'mark's head and arms but you want it to drop quickly for the person cutting in.

Other than that, don't throw it. The hammer is better in most cases.

  1. The Grip: Hold the disk just like a forehand.
  2. Preparation: Hold the disk vertical, directly above your head.

    Blade Preparation

  3. Release: Snap your wrist slightly and throw the disk so it is completely vertical.

    Blade Release

2.2.3 Scoober
This throw is essentially a high release, upside down, forehand to the backhand side. Make sense?

Why use it? It's sometimes useful for that break mark throw that you only want to get about 10 feet. It releases quickly, and drops quickly, giving the defense little time to get to it.

Why not? You can probably accomplish the same thing through a good pivots and fakes with a backhand.

  1. The Grip: Hold the disk just like a forehand.
  2. Preparation: Hold the disk upside down, with your arm parallel to your shoulder, across your body.

    Scoober Preparation

  3. Release: Snap your arm from the elbow to the hand, and then the wrist to get this to float out to the receiver.

    Scoober Release

    (This is a crappy picture of the release. It's tough to photo with my crappy digital camera.)

2.2.4 Thumber
I could imagine absolutely no time when this pass could be useful in a game. Then a veteran player used it on the goal line in a game to hit a person cutting across from the open side to the break mark side. The reason he used it, was because at the end of it's flight path, it would curve back into the receiver. Don't try this at home, boys and girls.
  1. The Grip: Hold the disk upside down. Place your thumb on the inside lip and your first two fingers on the opposite side of the disk. (What you would normally think of as the top of the disk if the disk weren't upside down). Place your two smallest fingers resting on the outer edge of the lip.

    Thumber Grip Bottom Thumber Grip Top

  2. Preparation: Hold the disk upside down, with your hand slightly above your shoulder arm outstretched on the forehand side.

    Thumber Preparation

  3. Release: Snap your wrist and with very little arm motion.

    Thumber Release

2.2.5 Push
This is the last of the passes that I know of that has even a tenuous possibility of being useful in a game. Even then, I question that for this throw.
  1. The Grip: Hold the disk just like a backhand.

    Push Bottom Grip Push Top Grip

  2. Preparation: Hold the disk with your elbow next to your body and your hand pointing straight out.

    Push Preparation

  3. Release: Push the disk straight forward, with no wrist. It will wobble like a dead duck, and then hit the ground.

    Push Release

2.3 Advanced Defense
Just when you thought it could keep going on, and on, and on.... We're back to defense. If I can keep this up I'll have this done by the time I'm 40.
2.3.1 Advanced Mark
Now that you've gotten the basics down, just enough to be a pain, now it's time to become unbeatable. Just remember, if your man completes a throw to the open side, it's your team mate's fault. Strike
The 'strike' call is something that should come from one of your teammates to you as the marker. It is a fast way of saying: "I've been beat, switch your mark for a 2 count, then switch back". That's it.

The most common problem is that the defender calls this after the thrower has released the disk. Nothing you can do here. Stay on defense and don't let it happen to you. Distance
How far away from the thrower are you? There are 3 ways to play this.
  1. Body up: Put your body right on the mark side of the thrower. Be physical, and make him worry about you. The problem with this, is that if you have a veteran thrower, he'll pivot into you on the break mark throw and call foul, because the rules state you have to have a disk width between your body and his.
  2. Stay a yard back: This is appealing because you can cut off more of the angle for the thrower. The problem here is that you've pretty much given up thebreak mark swing throw.
  3. Get barely more than 1 disk away: This is probably the best. It doesn't allow the wiley foul call, and doesn't give up the easy swing pass. Hand Position
And we're not talking about when you're standing on the sideline. :)

When you're marking, where exactly should your hands be?

When I mark, I want my back hand up, to prevent the hammer, and my forward hand parallel to the ground, about 18 inches off the ground. To get your front hand this far down, you need to bend at your knees and have most of your arm down there.

The reason I like my front arm that low, is because the really good players all seem to drop down and release the disk from fairly low. I can not count the number of times that I've come across to try to get the hand block and come over and down, just to watch the disk sail under my hand as it's coming down. If instead, you just come straight across, but low, you can get some hand blocks on some very good players. Counting
One final little thing. I've noticed that some people actually count louder as they get higher in the count. I prefer to get quieter. The thrower has to be able to hear you, but that's it. By being quiet, you can prevent the rest of the offense from knowing how high in the count they are. This forces the thrower to yell it, and means it's one more thing for him to be worried about.

Is this a small thing? Yes. Does it make a difference? I don't know, but it can't hurt.

2.3.2 Zone Defense
Up till now, every defense I've explained has been man-on-man. However, there are times that instead you want to go with something else, and that something else is typically some kind of zone.

These defenses are called a 'zone' because instead of being responsible for a person, you are now responsible for a section of the field or a particular responsibility. This means it is even more important than in a man-on-man defense, that you do the right thing, because if you don't it will fall apart quickly.

They times that you'll use a zone the most are:

  1. High Wind: This makes throws like hammers and other throws much more difficult and reduces the margin for error. Zones are typically trying to cause a lot of passes, and the more you cause, the better your chance is that they offense will make a mistake.
  2. An Inexperienced Opponent:An inexperienced opponent might not be used to seeing it, and this can lead to the quick turnover and score, and can really turn the momentum of a game around.
  3. Bad Match ups: If you don't match up with your opponent well on man-to-man, you'll go zone to try to limit that impact.
Zones have endless varieties, and I don't know them all. I expect that this section will grow the fastest as the veteran players offer me input on what can be added. 3-2-2 Zone Defense
Most zones are named by the number of people short, middle and deep. That's why this is a 3-2-2.

You have 3 people in the 'cup'. The cup is the group of defenders that will follow the disk to every thrower. These need to be people who can run hard and are in good shape.

One person in the cup starts the 'mark'. The rules say you can't have another person within 3 meters of the thrower, so make sure that you you don't double-team. The other two people are arrayed around to try to shut down the angles.

You have 2 people who are 'wings'. Their responsibility is to prevent the disk from moving up the sideline on a swing, and to try to prevent the 'poppers' from getting the disk in the middle.

The last 2 are the deeps. This is typically a 'short deep' and a 'deep deep'. The short deep is responsible for making sure that the two wings know where the offensive players are, and is also responsible for helping the 'deep deep' if they get 2 people back.

The 'deep deep' is the person responsible for the long throw. They should never let anyone behind them. This person is generally the tallest and faster person on the defense. If they end up with several offensive players back, they call for help from the 'short deep'.

3-2-2 Zone 3-3-1 Zone Defense
The 3-3-1 Zone is slightly different from the 3-2-2. Instead of having a 'short deep', this person comes in and is part of a second line with the 'wings'.

The 3 person cup is the same. Run until you heave.

The 3 person middle is now a little different. The 'middle middle' is now responsible for telling the cup where the 'poppers' are coming into so that they can try to shut it down.

The 'deep' still makes sure no one gets behind him, but also has to communicate with the 'middle' line on where the deeps are coming in and which way they need to go. And most importantly, this person needs to know when to scream for help.

3-3-1 Zone Clamshell
Ok, so the idea behind the clamshell is to put one person on the marker and the other six people to put 3 people on either side of the stack front to back. (I'll add a diagram later). What you then do is have the front people take the first cutters, and the backs take the deep cutters. It really works best off of a set up stack. You want to take the person coming in until they break it off, and then try to hold the zone for the next person coming in. Normally this is only good for 3-4 completions when you should transition to something else, probably Man.

Additionally, The Ultimate Handbook - The Clam description is really good and detailed. This is different than I've seen it played, but looks to be a good variation that should be effective. Sideline Trap
The goal of this Zone is to really put the hurt on the opposition if they take the disk to the sideline. A lot of times, it will start out as a 3-3-1 or a 3-2-2, but will switch to a sideline trap if the disk goes to the sideline. You can see, given the number of people crowding one side of the field, it would be tough to get a disk up field.

The only thing the offense can really try to do here is either thread a pass, which is risky, or try to go break mark across the field.

As the marker, you have to prevent the break mark. If they make it to the far side, they're going to run straight up the field because your team is so heavily weighted to the sideline side.

Sideline Trap Zone 1-3-3
This can also be run as a 1-3-2-1, in which case it's also called a 'Christmas Tree' due to its appearance when viewed from above. Here the goal is to make it so that the handlers have absolutely nothing down the field. The second row of three will play up a little tight (but not a cup) and try to flow with the disc. The hope is that they can jump a lazy floaty throw that tries to come all the way around the chaser. The number of defenders behind the chaser should mean that you'll see a lot of swing passes.
2.3.3 Other
This is for advanced defensive techniques that don't seem to fit anywhere else. Play The Disk
One of the classic beginning mistakes that people make is on the deep throw, or the floaty throw (who cares if floaty is a word :) is to play the person instead of the disk. This means you see the other guy slowing down, looking at the disk, you slow down, you end up body to body, and the disk ends of 5 yards away. The really experienced offensive players will sometimes bait you. Slow down, look like they're going to jump, and then sprint to where the disk is going to be. Catch The Disk
This is extremely simple, and extremely hard to do. Catch the disk.

A lot of times on defense you'll see a person swat a disk, or slap it down. Those must be caught. I guarantee that if you play any length of time at all you'll see a disk that is slapped, and the offensive person gets it off the hit.

The second part of this is to try to catch the disk all the time. Even on the layout bid, imagine you are on offense. It's your disk to catch. This allows you to gain possesion, and increases the chances you will get the turn. This is because there are times where you're diverting the disk at the last second. If it's almost in the offensive players hands, then that little diversion might not be enough to prevent the catch. But, if you catch it, you'll be pulling it straight out of where they can catch it. Defending the 'Give and Go'
There are two different varieties of 'Give and Go' offense, that derive from two different situations. The first is where the thrower is throwing to a covered man and immediately running. The second is where the defense has broken down and you have one person covering two people so they try to just "walk" it up the field by playing keep away from the one defender.

The first is defended by, as a marker, making sure that your first step after the throw is across the thrower's path. There is no reason, as a marker, you should be beaten like this twice in a row. After the first time, make sure you cover this. The reason this works is because you have an advantage. You are a yard ahead of where they want to be, so take away their angle and you've stopped that. To do this you must make sure as a mark you are in an "athletic position". This means knees bent, a low center of gravity and ready to move. When the disk is released, make your move. Don't stand up and look to see if it's completed. Assume it was and shut down the thrower.

The second is defended by covering the person without this disc. It's a hard thing to train yourself on, but when you are in this position your job is not to get the turnover, but to stop the offensive progression until the defense gets to the marker. Once you recognize it's a two on one, immediately jump the person without the disc. Focus your effort on stopping them from getting it, and now the thrower has to find someone else and you have effectively stalled easy offensive movement. Advanced endzone defense
There are two portions of endzone defense that are critical. One is strategic and the other tactical. The strategic is to defend the front cones, the tactical is to focus on your footwork.

Defending the front cones means that you want to prevent the score from happening by having an offensive player catching as they run towards the front cone. From either side, this is the easiest throw and catch to make. As a result, you need to shut it down. Cheat to the cone side. If your man breaks hard towards the cone and you shut it down, as he clears out, look around and make sure no one else is coming to that cone. Stay and poach it. The danger here is the swing pass that leaves you way out of position versus the other cone. What you need to do is balance the threat on the front cone versus the distance between you and your man. Once your man is far away or the threat to the cone seems to have diminished, bust tail to get to your man again.

As for footwork, this is one of the first places that basketball footwork is more important that football footwork. The key is to square up on your man and make sure you don't cross your feet. The instant you cross your feet, you're dead, because you can't reverse course. Try to "shuffle" as fast as you can. Your advantage on defense is that the endzone is only 25 yards deep. That means the deep threat is much less, so you gain more advantage from fronting. Remember...if your man doesn't catch it in the endzone you have done your job.

2.4 Advanced Offense
So, someone throws a Zone on you, or has a hard mark, or just is playing great, how do you beat them individually, and how do you beat them as a team?
2.4.1 Zone Offense
The key to a good Zone Offense is patience. A lot of times it looks like the deep throw is open, but try to resist. Most zones are designed to get you to take that throw.

The joy of a Zone Offense, is if done right, you can punish the cup. If you have a long point where your handlers move it back and forth quickly, you have an opportunity to make the three fastest people on the defense dead tired. Make it a goal.

One of the real keys to being effective against the zone is recognizing it early, and getting your team set. The way I recognize it the most is when I see 3 people just hauling ass down the field. They'll have their heads down, and running as hard as they can. You almost never see this in man, and if you see that, recognize it, and call it out.

One strategy that you don't see used a lot, but is effectively if used sporadically is to simply flood the deeps. This works against just about every zone. Designate one person the deep thrower, and have the poppers and deeps watch. As it swings to that person, send them all deep. If your deep thrower is good you've just setup a 4 on 2, and if you don't score it will gain some big yardage. Make sure you set your deep thrower where he/she likes to throw from to maximize your possibility for success. 3-2-2 Zone Offense
Ok, the diagrams here are confusing. Here are the roles as I see them.
  1. Handlers: Their goal is to move the disk back and forth, hopefully getting a deep coming up the line right after a fast swing, and if not they should enjoy watching the cup run to them and away from them and by them, and around them.
  2. Poppers: These two people will work the middle of the field. They're trying to get into open areas in the zone. If need be, they will swap sides of the field. If the deep comes in, they can go out to be a deep.
  3. Deeps: Your job is not to just be deep. You need to be running up as the swing happens, hoping to get the up the line pass, and you need to make sure that the deep defender has to watch you all the time. Move up and back, side to side, try to get behind them and then run by. Keep them guessing.

    3-2-2 Offense 3-3-1 Zone Offense
    The roles of the various players are exactly the same as for the 3-2-2. You should have a little more in the middle of the field to work with and a little less deep. Still, you need to work.

    3-3-1 Offense Clamshell
    The easiest way to break a clamshell down is to take a few short throws. Get that first throw out as a dump, then get a swing or two, and then the clam will break down, then try to take advantage of the confusion. Sideline Trap
    For this offense, you need to simply try to avoid getting trapped on the sideline. If you do , you need to try to get it back to the middle of the field quickly. If you can, you should have a bunch of field to play with and an easy gain.

    The poppers and the near deep have to run, trying to get into holes. The middle handler needs to try to see a window to the thrower.

    Sideline Offense

    2.4.2 Dominator
    I'm sure this has other names, but this is what I know it as. The concept behind it is simple. It is a statement. It says, "I think the best 3 people on my team are better than the defenders you're going to put on them".

    So, what happens is those 3 players work the disk up the field, and the other 4 on offense just work in a weave to keep their people busy in a mess in the middle, but well away from the 3 handlers.

    Variations on this will have the dominator work the field halfway up, and then revert into a normal offense.

    2.4.3 Give and Go
    In this setup, you have two players who are handlers. Now, you were paying attention earlier when I said you should take off as soon as you release the throw, right? Well, this is all this is.

    The thrower normally hits his cutter on a fairly short pass. He immediately explodes out to the open side, behind the new marker. The thrower then throws it right to him, and continues the attack.

    This normally breaks down after about 3 or 4 passes at most, but it can eat a lot of field extremely quickly.

    2.4.4 Break Mark
    I had a hard time deciding whether or not this was a throwing technique or an offensive technique. I settled on offense. There are really 4 ways I can think of to break the mark, that aren't trick plays. I'll even include one of those. Inside Out
    This throw is accomplished by throwing just in front of the marker's hand and going inside out. This causes the disk to end up on the break mark side. This is really only effective on the forehand, as to get this on the backhand, you end up with your arm and release point too close to your body.

    In some cases, you may actually see people reach past the mark's arm for the release. This is legal, and has happened to me way too many times. Especially with those tall, skinny guys. Oh, I hate them...:)

    Inside Out Break Mark Stretch Backhand
    If you are being forced forehand, this is a great throw to have in the arsenal. You're throwing the backhand, and you stretch all the way out straight across on the backhand side. Holding the disk at about a 45 degree angle to the ground, you throw the backhand, so that it curves around the defender on your cutter, wide open on the break mark side.

    You must practice this at throw around. Otherwise you'll either throw it into the ground or float it 10 feet up.

    Stretch Backhand High Here's a break where you go over their arm.

    Stretch Backhand Low Here's a break where you go low. This is my preferred backhand breakmark High Release
    This works primarily to the backhand side, on a forehand force. Simply take the disk in a backhand grip, and fake low. Then, elevate up and release the disk softly from above your shoulder.

    Please note, you can't take your pivot foot off the ground, If you do, it's a travel. So, go up on your toe, but don't come off the ground.

    High Release 1

    High Release 21

    This is just two different shots of the same throw, showing the defender hand position and where you're going. Hammer/Blade
    This is the simplest of the break mark throws, if you have it. Simply throw it over your defenders. This isn't rocket science.

    A variation on this is to fake this convincingly, and get your defender in the air and then switch to the easy throw. Hammer Hold
    This is a 'veteran move'. (That means that you'll consider it sneaky and devious, but completely legal.)

    For this throw, fake the hammer hard. But, instead of pulling the disk back, hold it out there, over the head of your marker. If you do this right, he'll turn around to see where it's gone, and you now have the easy throw.

    This is only good for once or twice on a fairly inexperienced player.

    2.4.5 The Rule of Thirds (Courtesy of Jimmy Price)
    This is a simple rule, that is remarkably good at telling you when you shouldn't throw certain disks. Here is how it works.

    Divide the field into 3 equal parts, long ways. (So the endzone is now in 3 pieces).

    Now, never throw a pass that is in all 3 zones.

    Simple isn't it. :) So, in Zone 2, you can hit any zone. This makes sense, you're in the center of the field. However from either Zone 1 or 3, don't hit the other zone.

    The reason is simple. If you do try a 3 Zone pass you're probably throwing across all of the defenders, giving them a shot at either the disk, or a poach. If you only go with 1 or 2 Zones, the defenders should be much more spread out, and they shouldn't all be in your zone.

    2.4.6 End Zone Plays
    There are a lot of these. Off the top of my head, I've included the 2 that I'm the most familiar with. I'm sure I'll add more as I get input. Moses
    This play is so named, because the goal is to have the defenders part like the Red Sea, allowing the receiver to walk (ok, not really) up for an easy score.

    Here is how it works. Create the stack like normal. Then have every other player break to the same side. The last player makes a quick fake as everyone else is moving to the sides, and then comes right up the middle. The thrower puts the disk there, and you have an easy score.

    You'll notice in this diagram, everyone is moving on 1, except 'Moses' who needs just half a second to cause doubt and let everyone get out of the way, before he makes his cut.

    Moses Flood
    Ok, this is not named the 'Flood' because all End Zone plays have to be Biblical. ;) It's so named, because you flood the break mark side of the field just enough to cause the person you're trying to hit to be wide open to the open side.

    The way this works is to have a stack, and then have everyone but the person you called, all break to the break mark side at the same time.

    The called person, fakes with the rest, which should cause the defender to bite, because his peripheral vision is picking up everyone else too, and then goes to the open side. Ideally, he's wide open.


    2.4.7 Cutting
    Cutting is all about making a move that gets you open space between you and your defender.

    Now, I'm not particularly fast, so i can't just rely on speed to run away from my defender. Here are some techniques that I use that I've found that work. Head
    Watch the head of your defender. Start jogging down the field and watch their head. If they're not looking at you, they can't see your cut. They'll watch you, and then they'll peek back to see where the disk is. As soon as they do, make your cut. This should give you a at least 5 yards. Pick
    What?! The pick is illegal! Damn straight, and on top of that it's just a bad idea. But what about the fake pick? Run towards that big mass of people, that if you run through, is surely a pick. Your defender will anticipate the pick, and slow down. Then, cut out to the open side. It's pure evil. I'm glad I just thought of it. :) Body Cut
    Here the goal is to use the natural human reactions to your advantage. Run parallel to the goal line, with your defender right next to you. Make a fake towards the defender. Their first reaction is to pull up to avoid a collision you have no intention of causing. Immediately make your cut. This should be good for about 2 yards.

    3. Strategy

    So far, most of the things discussed have been tactical in nature. They address how to win the little battles, or how to have better technique. However, there are times when you want to think of the entire strategy of the game. What are things that you can do at a grand level to help your team win?
    3.1 Field Position
    This is a fairly basic concept. It says, "It is better to have your opponent turn the disk over short, as opposed to long". The opposite is clearly true for you, "It is better to turn the disk over long, than short".

    It's obvious, right? So what can you do to cause this to happen?

    The first thing is that if you're the thrower, and it's gotten to a 9 count, don't go for the dump pass. You're probably going to get forced into a crappy throw. Otherwise you wouldn't be at a 9 count. So, go with the longest down field throw you have, in the area of one of your teammates. If you don't get the completion, you've just forced your opposition to add another 20 or 30 yards (hopefully) to their offense for the score.

    When you're on defense, this means you want to force the team to turn it over short. The easiest way to do this is to make it so that the long pass doesn't look open! If they have someone they keep throwing to long, make sure you always have someone right with them, or right behind them. This will force more short throws, and hopefully cause the short turnover. Saving you 20 to 30 yards on offense.

    3.1 Choosing the Mark
    So, you're standing on the line, getting ready to throw off, and you call a mark. Why do people choose what they do? Here is how I do it.

    If it's an inexperienced team I'm facing, I want to force them forehand. The forehand is the throw that most beginners lack, so force them to throw it, and hopefully you can get the turn.

    If it's an experienced team, I've found that most experienced players are more versatile on their forehands, so I like to force them backhand.

    The last thing to consider is other field considerations. The fields I play on have a lot have trees lining the side. The field tends to be close to the trees, so I like to force that side because if the thrower throws the curving disk that side, it may very well hit the trees. Consider it your 8th man.

    3.3 Out of Bounds Turnover
    This is a case on choosing what to do with a disk in the air.

    The offense throws a disk that is supposed to be a curving disk, and it starts out and is supposed to curve back in. But in this case, it never curves back in.

    In this case, it is better, on defense NOT to catch the disk out of bounds, but instead, let it hit the ground. If you catch it, you then bring the disk in on the sideline where you caught it. However, if you let it hit the ground, you get to take it on the sideline where it went out! This could make a huge difference in your field position, as well as the ability of your offense to get setup.

    3.4 Pick
    Ok, so the unthinkable has happened, and you ran through the stack and caused a pick. Your man called it. There are two things you can do.
    1. Let him catch up to you
    2. Walk back to him
    Choose #2. This is a veteran move. The rules state that the defender is allowed to catch up, but if you've already cleared the stack, you are probably now in an open area of the field. This means you are now clogging, and your first move really needs to be to clear. But, if you walk back to him in the stack you leave that area clear for either you to resume the cut on the disk in, or for someone else to cut to it immeditately.


    1. Simple Rules to Ultimate
    2. Full Rules to Ultimate
    3. Different Grips for Different Throws
    4. Ultimate Frisbee Testosterone Page
    5. Beginner's Notes -- The Stack
    6. How to Teach a Forehand
    7. Throws

    Helpful Hints

    1. Trim your fingernails. Otherwise, the disk will happily rip them back for you.
    2. Run to the disk. Don't wait for it.
    3. Catch it before you look where to throw it.
    4. Take your time on the throw. You have 9 seconds. (Punt at 9).