Before I get into this I do want to point out that I am not against replacing the dart head with a tennis ball or other modified object in the beginning stages of learning. I do, however, disagree with always using a modified version. This methodology is a slippery slope and I will do my best to articulate what this is all about.
When I first started practicing rope dart I had two rope darts. One was a classic conical rope dart, which I used most of the time. The other, a rope with a bag of rice at the end, which I rarely used. My practice sessions consisted of two components: the initial stages of practicing basics, accuracy and combinations with the dart and a switch to the rice bag only when trying to figure stuff out. Mind you, this was at a time when information on the rope dart was practically nonexistent, there was nobody to ask about technique. Either way, I would immediately switch back to the dart once I had a basic understanding of a new concept or technique. Weâ€™re not talking days, months or years with a rice bag, weâ€™re talking a few minutes then on to the real thing. I just knew, even back then, that there was something inherently wrong with always using a modified version of the dart. I could just feel it, that I would never get good if I babied myself.
Why permanently replacing/covering the dart for rope dart practice is a poor idea is that one never respects the weapon for what it is, a weapon. Also, a person who uses a tennis ball or sock never getâ€™s better because they donâ€™t have to get better. A person has to get good and be good when using a real dart.
Yes, one who uses a tennis ball may have a laymanâ€™s respect for the weapon, after all that is why one replaces/covers the dart in the first place. Unfortunately, one never gains a practitioners respect. To be clear I will define both terms as I understand them:
Laymanâ€™s respect: the respect one has for something simply because they donâ€™tÂ understand it. They know it is dangerous but donâ€™t know why. The respect comes from fear.
Practitioners respect: the respect one has for something because they doÂ understand it. They know itâ€™s dangerous and they know darn well why. The respect comes from knowledge.
Ask yourself, do you respect the rope dart out of fear or knowledge?
Always replacing/covering the dart will never allow one to gain a practitioners respect. These people never get good because they donâ€™t have to. Ultimately, you are developing a higher level of skill and body/space, body/implement, and hand/eye coordination with a real dart because YOU HAVE TO.
By not letting the dart teach these valuable lessons one will not reach their full ability. I mean, it is a weapon, right? I certainly would not fear (or, dare I say, respect) someone who had a tennis ball at the end of a rope.
While there is no reason to deliberately hurt yourself in the beginning just go slow and get an awareness. Personally, I have more respect for someone who uses the dart head and plays slow than someone going fast who uses a tennis ball. After all, the former is using a weapon, the latter, a toy.