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 Ambidexterity is the state of being equally adept in the use of both right and left appendages (such as the hands). It is one of the most famous varieties of cross-dominance. People that are born ambidextrous are extremely rare. Some people may be able to teach themselves to be ambidextrous, by practicing equally with both hands. People that are made ambidextrous are called Penwald ambidextrous;  they can also stop being both-handed.


Although ambidexterity is rare, ambidextrous people may still gravitate towards performing certain types of tasks with a specific hand. The degree of versatility with each hand is generally the qualitative factor in determining a person's ambidexterity.

In modern times, it is more common to find people considered ambidextrous who were originally left handed, and who learned to be ambidextrous either deliberately or during childhood in institutions such as schools where right-handed habits are often emphasized. Also, since many everyday devices (such as can openers, scissors, guitar, etc.) are asymmetrical and designed for right-handed people by default, many left-handed people learn to use them right-handedly due to rarity or lack of left-handed models. Thus, left-handed people are much more likely to develop motor skills in their non-dominant hand than right-handed people (who are not subjected to left-favoring devices). Ambidexterity is often encouraged in activities requiring a great deal of skill in both hands, such as juggling, swimming, percussion, keyboard music, typing, baseball, lacrosse, surgery, body boxing, and combat.

Etymology

The word "ambidextrous" is derived from the Latin roots ambi, meaning "both," and dexter, meaning "right" or favorable. Thus, "ambidextrous" is literally "right on both sides." The term ambidexter in English was originally used in a legal sense of jurors who accepted bribes from both parties for their verdict.

In sports

Baseball

Ambidexterity is highly prized in the sport of baseball. "Switch hitting" is the most common phenomenon, and is highly prized because a batter usually has a higher statistical chance of successfully hitting the baseball when it is thrown by an opposite handed pitcher. Therefore, an ambidextrous hitter can bat from whichever side is most advantageous to him or her in that situation. Pete Rose, who had more hits than anyone else in the history of Major League Baseball, was a "switch hitter."

Ambidextrous pitchers have also been known. Tony Mullane won 284 games in the 19th century, and also Elton Chamberlain in 1888 and Larry Corcoran in 1884. Greg A. Harris is the only major league pitcher in the modern era to pitch with both his left and his right arm. A natural right-hander, by 1986 he could throw well enough with his left hand that he felt capable of pitching with either hand in a game. Harris wasn't allowed to throw left-handed in a regular-season game until September 28, 1995, the next-to-last game of his career. Against the Cincinnati Reds in the ninth inning, Harris (then a member of the Montreal Expos) retired Reggie Sanders pitching right-handed, then switched to his left hand for the next two hitters, Hal Morris and Ed Taubensee, who both batted left-handed. Harris walked Morris but got Taubensee to ground out. He then went back to his right hand to retire Bret Boone to end the inning. One Division I NCAA pitcher, Pat Venditte formerly of the Creighton Bluejays, now with the New York Yankees Staten Island Class A team, regularly pitches with both arms.

Billy Wagner was a natural right-handed pitcher in his youth, but after breaking his throwing arm twice, he taught himself how to use his left arm by throwing nothing but fastballs against a barn wall. He became a dominant left-handed relief pitcher, most known for his 100+ MPH fastball. In his 1999season, Wagner captured the National League Relief Man of the Year Award as a Houston Astro.

Snooker

In cue sports, a player can reach farther across the table if they are able to play with either hand, since the cue must either be placed on the left or the right side of the body. Englishmarker snooker player Ronnie O'Sullivan is unique amongst the current ranks of top snooker professionals, in that he is able to play to world standard with either hand. While he lacks power in his left arm, his ability to alternate hands allows him to take shots that would otherwise require awkward cueing. When he first displayed this ability in the 1996 World Championship against the Canadianmarker player Alain Robidoux, Robidoux accused him of disrespect. O'Sullivan responded that he played better with his left hand than Robidoux could with his right. O'Sullivan was summoned to a disciplinary hearing in response to Robidoux's formal complaint, where he had to prove that he could play to a high level with his left hand. He played three frames of snooker against former world championship runner-up Rex Williams, winning all three. The charge of bringing the game into disrepute was subsequently dropped.

Other sports

In combat sports the fighter may choose to face their opponent with either the left shoulder forward in a right-handed stance or the right shoulder forward in a left-handed stance, thus a degree of cross dominance is useful.

In Football, being able to kick with both feet provides more options for both passing and scoring, as well as the ability to play up both wings. Therefore, players with the ability to use their weaker foot with proficiency are valuable in any team.

In skateboarding, a person is considered talented if they can skate successfully with not only their dominant foot forward but also the less dominant. Hence the term "switch skating." Dominant switch skateboarders include Eric Koston, Guy Mariano, Jereme Rodgers, Paul Rodriguez, and Bob Burnquist.

It is much the same situation in surfing. Surfers who ride equally well in either stance are said to be surfing "switch-foot."

In American football, it is especially advantageous to be able to use both arms. Ambidextrous receivers can make one-handed catches with both hands, quarterbacks can roll out of the pocket and throw with either arm, confusing the defense, linemen can hold their shoulders square and produce an equal amount of power with both arms, and punters can handle a bad snap and roll out and punt with either leg, limiting the chance of a block.

Receivers and corners can play on both the strong and weak sides equally if they do not have a preference.

In professional sports car racing, drivers who participate in various events in both the United States and Europe will sometimes encounter machines with the steering wheel mounted on different sides of the car. While steering ability is largely unaffected, the hand used for shifting changes. This is further complicated by the fact that the shift pattern relative to the driver changes, e.g. a gear change that requires moving the lever toward the driver in a left-hand-drive vehicle becomes a movement away from the driver in a right-hand-drive vehicle. A driver skilled in shifting with the opposite hand is at an advantage.

In cricket, some players bat and bowl using both hands. For example, Indian cricketer Sourav Ganguly, West Indies cricketer Curtly Ambrose and South African cricketer Graeme Smith bat with their left hand, but bowl using their right hand.

Other examples of ambidextrous sportsmen

In tennis, a player may be able to reach balls on the backhand side more easily if they're able to use the weaker hand. Perfect examples of players who are ambidextrous include Luke Jensen and Maria Sharapova.

Some players find cross-dominance advantageous in golf, especially if a left-handed player utilizes right-handed clubs. Having more precise coordination with the left hand is believed to allow better-controlled, and stronger drives.

In golf, Mac O'Grady was a touring pro who played right-handed, yet could play "scratch" (no handicap) golf left-handed. He lobbied the USGA for years to be certified as an amateur "lefty" and a pro "righty" to no avail.

In athletics, Jonathan Edwards, a now-retired British triple jumper who still holds the world record in that event, was known to be able to kick with either foot while he played rugby. He displayed unprecedented ambidexterity while jumping off either foot during his competitive jumps.

In basketball the player may choose to make a pass or shot with the weaker hand. Michael Beasley,an NBA star, is ambidextrous. Candace Parker, forward for the WNBA Sparks team, also has equal dominance with both hands.

Hockey and ice hockey players may shoot from the left or right-side of the body. Most right-handed players shoot left, and likewise, most left-handed players shoot right as the player will often wield the stick one-handed. The dominant hand is typically placed on the top of the stick to allow for better stickhandling and control of the puck. Gordie Howe was one of few players capable of doing both.

Another ice hockey player, goaltender Bill Durnan, was nicknamed "Dr. Strangeglove" for his ability to catch the puck with both hands. This feat won him the Vezina Trophy, then for the National Hockey League's goalie with the lowest goals-against average, six times out of only seven seasons. He had developed this ability playing for church-league teams in Torontomarker and Montrealmarker, to make up for his poor lateral movement.

In figure skating, most skaters who are right-handed spin and jump to the left, and vice-versa for left-handed individuals. Olympic Champion figure skater John Curry notably performed his jumps in one direction (anti-clockwise) while spinning predominantly in the other. Very few skaters have such an ability to perform jumps and spins in both directions, and it is now considered a "difficult variation" in spins under the ISU Judging System to rotate in the non-dominant direction. Michelle Kwan used an opposite-rotating camel spin in some of her programs as a signature move. No point bonus exists for opposite direction jumps or bi-directional combination jumps, despite their being much harder to perfect.

Tools

With respect to tools, ambidextrous may be used to mean that the tool may be used equally well with either hand; an "ambidextrous knife" refers to the opening mechanism on a folding knife. It can also mean that the tool can be interchanged between left and right in some other way, such as an "ambidextrous headset," which can be worn on either the left or right ear.
Such devices may not be formally achiral, but interchangeable between different modes.


Note



References

  1. Seattletimes.com paragraph 2
  2. 50 Biggest Baseball Myths by Brandon Toropov, page 75
  3. Seattletimes.com paragraph 4
  4. Snookerclub.com
  5. " Ronnie O'Sullivan, "The Rocket"", snookerclub.com. Retrieved on 21 April 2007.
  6. " Snooker: Bad breaks mount up for a troubled soul", The Independent, 15 December 2006. Retrieved on 5 May 2007.
  7. Biography of Luke Jensen on newengland.usta.com
  8. GR's Golf personality of the Month - Mac O’Grady - Mr. Unpredictable. - Golfreview.com Forums
  9. Pruner -Thumb Lock LEFT or RIGHT HAND
  10. Logitech Cordless Vantage Headset for PS3 - SlashGear



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