Saturday, August 4, 2012

Men's Vault: What the H is a Kasamatsu?

Oh, to be a gym fan in the 70s. 

Had I been one, I probably would have made gymnasts out of Play-Doh while doing the Hustle in a nylon jogging suit. I probably would have asked my Magic 8-Ball about competition results, and I probably would have fantasized of toga parties with the likes of Mitsuo Tsukahara and Shigeru Kasamatsu.

Here's Tsukahara at the 1976 Olympics.

Here's Kasamatsu at the 1974 World Championships.

And to think that we complain about having to watch standard-definition videos nowadays... Talk about fuzzy!

Had I been a gym fan in the 1970s, I certainly would have been oblivious to the fact that Tsukahara and Kasamatsu would make our lives so stinkin' confusing.

I love the braces {} and arrows. Like those actually help us!

Sheesh! Why do the men have to be so difficult? As always, my goal is to help you understand our species a little better, and since the event finals on vault are coming up, I thought that I would explain the difference between a "Kasamatsu" and a "Tsukahara."(Or, if you want to sound cool, the difference between a "Kas" and a "Tsuk.")

Let's start with the Kas.

What the H is a Kasamatsu?

Even if you have never seen the Code of Points, you probably have been confused by a "Kasamatsu." For instance, if you saw Sam Mikulak's vault at Olympic Trials, you heard Tim Daggett say, "Actually, it's called a Kasamatsu."

Then, you watched the vault and thought to yourself, "Wow! That looks a lot like a triple-twisting Tsukahara. I mean, he kind of did a half-twist onto the vault. Is Tim Daggett making stuff up again?"

No, he's not. Sam Mikulak does a Kasamatsu vault, and it's called a "Kas" because of the way he twists.

Without visual aids, this is easier to understand if you did gymnastics. For the former gymnasts out there, here's a quick and easy explanation:

A Kasamatsu:
  • You do a right-handed approach (as if you were going to do a right-handed roundoff) onto the horse and then twist to your right off the horse.
  • You do a left-handed approach (as if you were going to do a left-handed round-off) onto the horse and then twist to your left off the horse.
In writing, that makes sense, but when you are trying to watch it on TV, it can get confusing. I often find myself thinking, "Did he just twist to his right or to his left?"

So, unless you are brilliant when it comes to spatial thinking, you might have to think about it differently. My suggestion is to pay attention to the first quarter twist. Does it look like he is going to do a back flip or a front flip?

You can thank the Gymnastics Gods that I am not the illustrator for the Code of Points. It would be even more of a mess.

If Mikulak were to stop twisting at this point, he would go into a front flip. (That's what the stick figure is supposed to represent.) That's a telltale sign that he is doing a Kasamatsu.

The front-flipping action is even easier to see in the original Kasamatsu video.

Like I said before, the originator of a skill does not have to perform it perfectly. LOOK at those legs.

The grainy film has decapitated Mr. Kasamatsu, so I took the liberty of photoshopping a head on his body. As you can see, it looks like he would do a front flip if he stopped twisting at this point, which is a sign that he is doing a Kasamatsu. (Duh. It's named after him.) And for those who like to think in terms of twisting directions: He does a left-handed roundoff onto the vault and twists to his left off the vault.

Fun fact: The first man to do a Kasamatsu was a southpaw--at least in the gym.

I'm not gonna lie: It isn't easy to see which direction a gymnast is twisting, and it's pretty difficult to see if a gymnast is going to do a front flip immediately after touching the vault. You have to train your eye.

Preach, Jessie! Preach! And figuring out which way the gymnast is twisting is only part of the battle. Try talking about the skill...

For the first time in her life, Jessie Spano is wrong. You have to remember that the Kasamatsu already has a twist built into it. Kasamatsu did not do a full-twisting Kasamatsu; he did a Kasamatsu. So, Sam Mikulak does a Kasamatsu with two extra twists. In the Code of Points, this is called a Lopez.

Then, what the H is a Tsukahara?

A Tsukahara can be two things. First, it can be used to describe the quarter-on flipping vaults. So, Tsukahara did a Tsukahara.

Bart Conner did a Tsukahara:

Kieran Behan was working on a Tsukahara double back (called a Yeo):

Second, it can be used to describe a twisting vault during which:
  • The gymnast does a right-handed round-off onto the horse and then twist to his left off the horse.
  • The gymnast does a left-handed round-off onto the horse and then twists to his right off the horse.

If you were a gymnast, you know that this sounds odd. You usually assume that lefties twist to the left and that righties twist to the right. But some gymnasts (e.g. Gervasio Deferr) like to mix things up.

For those who are spatially gifted, he begins doing a right-handed round-off, and when he pushes off, he twists to his left.

His second vault is not a 1 1/2 twisting Kasamatsu. It is a 2 1/2 twisting Tsukahara. How can you tell? By his body in the air.

During the Kasamatsu, it looked like the gymnast was going to do a front flip after pushing off the horse. During a twisting Tsukahara, on the other hand, it looks like the gymnast will do a back flip after pushing off the horse.

I hope that this makes sense. If it doesn't, at least enjoy the photos in the next section...

Now, for a little fun...

The women do not distinguish between Tsukahara- and Kasamatsu-style vaults. Everything is a Tsukahara in the women's Code of Points, but that doesn't mean that the women don't twist in different directions.

For instance, had Mary Lou Retton been a man...

I'd like to introduce you to Mary Lou Conner.

...she would have done a full-twisting Tsukahara.

Since she does a half-on rather than a quarter-on, it's harder to see that the direction in which she twists. But her pre-flight twist is like that of a right-handed roundoff, and while she is flipping, she twists to the left.

In today's Code of Points (2009-2012), her D-score would be a 5.4.

If Oskana Chusovitina were a man...

Please meet Oksana Hambuechen

...she would do a Kasamatsu with a 1/2 twist.

On her second vault, she turns onto the vault as if she were going to do a right-handed roundoff, and she twists to the right going off the horse.

Since Oksana does not really do a half-on, you can see that, after she pushes off the vault, it looks like she is going to do a front somersault. That's a sign that she is doing a Kasamatsu, and in the men's Code of Points, her vault is valued at a 5.8.

And her form is just as beautiful as any man's. Cough. Cough.


  1. I think if we ripped off Oksana's leotard we really would see Fabi's body <3.

    Now I have to train my eyes for the vault final and see who does what :D.

  2. First of all, Uncle Tim, you are hilarious. I showed my kids at the gym Hungarian 'Stache vs. British 'Stache, and now they are convinced that they suck at pommel horse due to their inability to grow facial hair.

    However, I have to disagree with your analysis here. In a Kas, you actually twist in different directions on and off the table, whereas in a Tsuk you twist the same way the whole time. This is because a righty round-off is really a twist to the left. Think about it, when Chusovitina does her righty round-off onto the table you see her belly first from this perspective (which means she is twisting left), then she leaves the table twisting right. When Senor Deferr does his Tsuk 2.5 he also does a righty round-off on (again, look at his belly, he is twisting left) but continues to twist to the left during the post-flight. You can see in the slo-mo replay that young Gervasio is twisting the same direction the whole time, on and off the table.

    This is, of course, super confusing, and I have had many a debate about this. But this is why I tell the kids that a Barani is NOT a round-off with no hands. Most people who do righty round-offs twist right while flipping, and vice-versa, so a "round-off with no hands" would have them twisting the wrong way. These are the lucky ones that get to do the Kas. The bit about coming off the table doing a front flip is a great way to think about it!
    -Coach Dan

    1. Thanks, Dan, for your feedback, and I get what you're saying. I'll change the wording so that it is a little clearer.

    2. This description is not entirely correct. It is in fact possible (although extremely rare) to do a tsukahara by twisting in the opposite direction if you stand up the round off to face backwards before starting the twist. For example you could do a left handed roundoff, turn back to the horse, so that you have finished the roundoff and then do a full turn left, and it would be a tsukahara, because you have done a roundoff back layout full. So in this case the twisting direction method would be wrong. Also the same could apply to kas if you do a 1/4 on 1/4 off with your right hand first then twist left. This would be still be a kas, since you have not done a roundoff there is no way it could be called a tsuk. So, it is best to stick with the 'which direction do they face after coming off the table' since this is always correct.

  3. As far as i know;
    Kasamatsu; lateral entry + 3/4 forwards + extra twists (Driggs=3/2t,Lopez=2t)
    Tsukahara; lateral entry + 1/4 backwards + extra twists

  4. First of all, Uncle Tim, thank you soooo much for bringing the every-fascinating, but much less popular brother of WAG into the gymternet's life.
    I like this post explaining the differences between these two vaults, and I think that actually performing the vault for yourself really helps. We can't all be elite gymnasts, but this vaulting game really helps.
    I play this a lot and I got really good at the twisting vaults for the men. So now a tsuk and kas are easy for me to not only tell apart, but also perform on commmand! (with the computer of course...) I also stage mini-vault finals! That would be a great blog post!

  5. To be honest, I don't see any spectacular vaults(execution wise) being preformed in MAG right now except for Uchimura, but he doesn't count. Everyone is deciding to go for the higher difficulty instead.