In different countries there are between 5% and 50% of left-handed people;
most of them living in Africa. Some say there are over 240 million
left-handed people around the World. Living in right-handed society do
they have to adapt? Because of spreading democracy and tolerance there
is a possibility of maintaining the peculiarity, i.e., of left-handiness. In
sport like in other spheres of life, the tolerance is an achievement. It
means in practice the possibility of taking part in training prepared
for right-handed people or its special version for left-handed people. The left-handed
person usually have to adjust to the training prepared for right-handed.
Realisation of a certain fragment of the training prepared for left-handed
is a great achievement. Usually it is a left-handed person initiative
and his own program. It is hard to define the percentage of left-handed
sportsmen using this kind of self perfection. In my many years studies
I have not found program of teaching or individualisation of training
adequate for left-handed people. Since the problem was non existing it
the theory of training, it was hard to expect a different situation in
practise. It was not mentioned neither in theory of movement learning,
antropokinetics (Szopa, 1992) nor in sport kinetics (Hirtz, et al., 1994).
One of the antropokinetics handbook (Celikowski, et al., 1979) mentioned
the problem but did not tried to solve it. Only one book (Osiński,
1993) took the effort to treat it seriously. The problem of different
sport training for the left-handed people is still unsolved, regardless
of the fact that it vital for the big part of the population. Basing on
own and others autos researches this work tries to bring a solution for
In different countries there are between 5% to 50% of the left-handed
people, most of whom live in Africa (Fig.1). It is estimated that there
is about 240 million left-handed people around the world. So far the reasons
for left-handiness have not been fully explained. There are various hypotheses
that have not yet been confirmed. One of them propounds that left-handiness
is innate and develops because of a dominant gene (Annett, 1981). Another
hypothesis gives priority left-handedness to the impact of the environment.
There are many facts that justify the third hypothesis according
to which right-handiness steeped in and approved by tradition, preserved
for hundreds of years and passed down from generation to generation, has
eventually become an inborn ability (Handelsman, Smirnov, 1960; Krestownikov,
1951; Starosta 1963; 1977). It is even more plausible because, as some
researchers claim (Ludwig, 1932), a human being in the course of many
centuries of evolution has gone through different stages. At the very
beginning he was left-handed, then ambidextrous and finally right-handed.
This hypothesis can be strengthened by the fact that the relics of ambidextrous
education can now be found in some societies for example in Japan.
Fig.1. Left-handed subjects to total ratio population
(%) of selected countries and according to several authors [Starosta 1995]
(click to enlarge)
This hypothesis seems also to be supported by studies of numerous authors
(Kreutz, et al., 1970; Passian, et al., 1969; Pocelujev, 1951; Storjohann,
1969; Suchenwirth, Gallenkamp, 1967; Szuman, 1957) which concerned the
domination of the upper limb in the ontogenetic motor development of man.
They show an increasing domination of the right hand in the grip of infants
between thr 4th and the 11th month (Fig.2). The decreasing number of the
left-handed and the both-handed with age amongst individuals of both sexes
is shown also by extensive studies of many authors (Fig.3,4). The results
of those studies seem to indicate a modifying role of the environment
in the shaping of the dominating upper limb in man.
Fig.2. Right hand catch to total catch ratio (%)
in new-born child in different months of life [Szuman 1957] (click to
Fig.3. Ratio of right- and left-handed and ambidextrous
childs in pre-school years [Pocelujev 1951] (click to enlarge)
Fig.4. Ratio of right- and left-handed and ambidextrous
persons in different years of life n=2935 [Starosta 1995] (click to enlarge)
Living in the right-handed society, do the left-handed have to adapt
to it? For centuries it was a necessity as left-handiness was considered
to be a freak of nature and left-handed people were treated as inferior.
This is why there are so many pejorative terms and expressions associated
with left-handedness such as a lefty, asouthpaw, a left-handed meaning
clumsy and awkward or immoral, or the Polish expression "to get out
of bed with the left leg first" meaning in English "to get out
of bed on the wrong side" and another Polish expression that employs
the term "left" - "to obtain something on the left"
meaning in English "to obtain something on the crook".
For centuries the left-handed have been ignored and very often even,
persecuted by almost every human community. The right hand, as dominant
and most important, was encouraged and maintained by religious cults.
In the Middle Ages it was believed that the right hand was given by
God and the left hand was given by Devil. This is why the left-handed
people were persecuted by the Spanish Inquisition. There is a deep-rooted
belief prevailing in the social consciousness up till now that left-handedness
is a deviation from the norm, and the right-handedness is considered to
be this norm. Over centuries left-handedness has been thought to be
a defect, a disease and even a handicap. This is why, the whole environment
of the left-handers, including parents, teachers and coaches, aimed at
changing them in an attempt to develop a right hand ability in them. Thus,
under such pressure the left-handed tried to quickly adjust to the surrounding
environment. This kind of adaptation carried out in the atmosphere of
almost neurosis and without any didactic knowledge and experience led
to numerous disorders in the whole body of a left-hander (Fig.5). These
practises took place especially during the early childhood of the young
people. The attempts at those more or less successful adaptations of the
left handed resulted in different types of the left-handedness (Fig.6).
The effects of these alterations have become a serious social problem.
For example, in Germany, where there is about 8 million left-handers an
Advice and Information Centre for the Left-handed and Altered Left-handers
was established. Moreover a "Handbook for the Left-handed" was
then published (Meyer, 1991). Due to the greater tolerance there is now
a possibility of maintaining left-handedness.
Fig.5. The effects of transforming the left-handed
into the right handed, i.e. the change of the dominant limb in everyday
living [Starosta 1995] (click to enlarge)
Fig.6. The types of Left-Handedness in sport everyday
life [Starosta 1995] (click to enlarge)
The question is how the issue of the left-handed is approached in sport?
Similarly to other spheres of human life, tolerance has become in sport
one of the greatest achievements. What does that mean in practice?
Does that imply the possibility of taking part in training courses designed
for right-handed people or its special mode for the left-handed? The left-handed
person had usually adjust to the training prepared for the right-handed.
Rarely did it happen that a certain element of training was provided exclusively
for a left-handed person. If it happened it was the sportsman initiative
and programme to do so. It is hard to determine the percentage of the
left-handed who used this kind of self-improvement. In the studies
of lateralisation carried out over many years I have not encountered any
technique teaching programme or individualisation of training
adequate for a left-handed person.
Since the problem of the left-handed was non-existing in the theory
of training, it was hard to expect a different situation in practice.
It was recognised neither in the theory of motor learning, nor in anthropokinetics
(Szopa, 1992] nor in sport kinetics (Hirtz, et al., 1994). One of the
anthropokinetics handbooks (Celikowski, et al., 1979) mentioned the problem
but did not attempt at solving it. Only some publications (Fischer, 1988;
Oberbeck, 1989; Osiński, 1993) approached the issue more seriously.
The problem of individual sports training for the left-handed has not
been solved although it affects a greater part of the population.
This is why the aim of the present paper is :
1.Presenting the types and effects of adaptation (transformation) found
in those who practise different, according to the complexity, sports.
2.The search for more feasible ways of the left-handed training.
As there was no appropriate research material available I was forced
to analyse the individual cases of five distinguished sportsmen. I will
be dealing with only successful cases of motor adaptation because only
those were examined in the literature. The publications concerning a lateral
differentiation in fitness most often cite an example of right-handed
Takacs (Fig.7) – (Jokl, 1981). After losing his dominant hand he
earned, in the World Championship and the Olympic Games, two gold medals
for gun shooting with his left-hand. Taking into account the classification
of sport disciplines according to their co-ordination complexity, the
adaptation in question belongs to the first level, i.e. the easiest one
(Farfel, 1960). The example of a more complex modification can be found
in case of A.Grubba, top level competitor of the table tennis. It is
worth noticing that this naturally left-handed player scored his greatest
successes on the international arena while playing with the right hand.
He was not forced to the change in the use of his dominant hand. It was
rather a result of a coincidence he encountered in his childhood. The
effects of this were then strengthened by his sports achievements in a
discipline demanding the third and highest level of co-ordination.
Fig.7. The right-handed Takacs from Hungary win
with the left hand in pistol shootting in the World Championship and the
Stadler and Bucher (1986) refer to another interesting case. They mention
a left-handed M.Strupler who had played handball in a first Leage Swis
team for 15 years (Fig.8). Trying to adjust to his right-handed team colleagues
he worked out and perfected the techniques of all game elements using
both his hands. In this way he had an advantage over other players as
an ambidextrous player is much more dangerous opponent to face. His left-handed
throws were not always successful. The reason for that is he practised
them less as his coach was not satisfied with this way of throwing. Very
often the disagreement broke out between the player and his coach which
ended in the coach saying". If you make a left-handed throw to the
net once more you will leave the field" (Fig.9).
Fig.8. The left-handed handball player M.Strupler
remembered his coach telling him: "If you make a left-handed throw to
the net once more, you will leave the fild"
Fig.9. The left-handed handball player M.Strupler
remembered his coach telling him: "If you make a left-handed throw to
the net once more, you will leave the fild"
The left-handed sportsmen are very often forced to change the dominant
hand particularly in asymmetrical sports disciplines (Fig.10). For example,
K. Date a left-handed tennis player from Japan who under the pressure
of her family has to use the right hand during the play. Moreover, in
Japan it is unacceptable, especially, for a woman to be left-handed. It
has been noticed that Date takes the racket in the "forbidden"
left hand in the most critical situation during a play. Despite the modification
imposed on her by the closest environment she has succeeding in becoming
one of the leading tennis players in the world (6th place in ATP ranking
Fig.10. Classification of variants movement symmetry
and asymmetry in different sport disciplines [Starosta 1990] (click to
All human movements are adapted to the dominant hand. A higher efficiency
level of one upper limb is shifted to the lower limb and limits the direction
of turns in sports exercises. The right-handed perform this type of exercise
into the left and consider their right leg as dominant (Starosta, 1975;
1990). Only particularly talented people may achieve success in such complex
movements involving the whole body. For example, left-handed C. Colledge
won the European ice figure skating Championship. However, her further
achievements were hindered by her inability to perform jumps with many
turns, a complex task in terms of co-ordination. According to her new
coach the difficulties stemmed from the fact that she made turns in
jumps in the wrong direction. Although she had already held European
Championship she had to learn jumps with turns into the right direction.
This skaters modified her technical skills twice: in the early stage of
her career when she learnt to perform jumps in a way typical of the right
handed (turns to the left) and then adapted herself to make the jumps
characteristic for the left-handed (turns to the right). In both cases
the adaptation was successful. I provided the examples of those sportsmen
who were successful in the change of their dominant hand (or the direction)
due to different conditions, however, not all individuals show equally
positive modifications. Many left-handed people, unable to adjust to the
demands of the imposed training system (mainly technical-tactical preparation)
intended for the right-handed, give up practising the discipline liked
by them or definitely decided against exposing their left-handiness. This
problem affects almost all sports disciplines. Nevertheless, it becomes
more evident in these disciplines that are concerned with a lateral differentiation
in the fitness of the particular parts of the body (limbs) or of the whole
Moreover, many publications clearly focus their attention to preoccupied
with the problems of the right-handed by helping and suggesting how to
defeat the left-handed (Ogurenkow, 1989). I have not come across any such
publication that would give similar advice to the left-handed. Thus, it
may be considered paradoxical for the members of this social minority
to try to win the highest sports awards in various disciplines, for example
in boxing and fencing (Fig.11), tennis (Fig.12) and table tennis (Fig.13).
Taking into account the opinions of 16 specialists in table tennis I drew
up a psychomotor evaluation sheet for a left-handed sportsman who (Fig.14)
possess those specific abilities that are respected/and appreciated by
the right-handed. This gives rise to a situation which is conducive to
the achievement of sports success by left-handed tennis players.
Fig.11. Left-handed sportsmen and his achievements
in boxing and fencing [Starosta 1991] (click to enlarge)
Fig.12. Number of left-handed tennis players among
10 best competitors (according ATP ranking) in different years [Starosta
1991] (click to enlarge)
Fig.13. Number of left-handed table tennis players
among 10 world best women and men competitors (according ITTF ranking)
in different years n=25 [Starosta, Perek 1991] (click to enlarge)
Fig.14. Technical-tactical and psychological characteristics
of the left-handed table tennis players in the opinion of the table tennis
specialists [Starosta 1995] (click to enlarge)
In view of the facts presented above the important question is: it is
possible to consider and include, in the training programme, the aspects
of psychomotor differences found in the left-handed people. Definitely
"yes". The problem is still present because the training as
intended for the right-handed is not highly effective for the left-handers.
The solution to the problem may be fostered by the introduction of a
new concept aiming at teaching and improvement sports techniques (Starosta,
1990). The concept assumes movements symmetrization, namely equal efficiency
of both sides of the body while maintaining a dominant side of the individual
regardless of the sport discipline requirements (symmetrical or
asymmetrical). This is a new approach in the movement training
theory which offers equal opportunity for both left and right-handed without
regard to the range of their technical skills (Fig.15). In addition, greater
effectiveness of teaching is ensured due to the wider use of bilateral
transfer, namely a more intensive activation of the other hemisphere.
The use of the proposed concept depends on the mode chosen by the trainer.
He may employ the mode with a short-term and fragmented symmetrization
(see Fig.15 - B). Out of 8 variants presented in the concept, a teacher
may choose the one that is the most appropriate for a given sportsman
(individualisation). In this way the problem of differences in the teaching
of the left-handed can be solved within a training group without additional
expense of time and money. The symmetrization of many exercises is not
so easy simple especially in case of advanced sportsmen. Each of them
possesses a different range of technical skills which should be a starting
point for taking up an individualised process of symmetrization. The symmetrization
of complex co-ordination movements is particularly difficult and thus
it should be taught by those who know and comply with didactic principles
as well as are tactful especially in dealing with the left- handed. Only
then will the symmetrization of the technique be for a coach and a sportsman
an interesting process of improvement a sports techniques and developing
a movement co-ordination.
Fig.15. Variants of motor preparation and recommended
pedagogical schemes [Starosta 1975] (click to enlarge)
1. Left-handed individuals in various countries of the world constitute
from 5 to 50% of the whole population. As they usually live in a population
of right-handed people, they must become adapted to them. The effects
of such an adaptation depend on individual predisposition’s of an
individual and on the relation of the others towards left-handed people.
2. Depending on the progress of the adaptation process, its consequences
may be different. One of the frequently ascertained types of such adaptation
was assimilation of the left-handed with the surrounding population, i.e.
changing to right-handedness. As such changes were usually carried out
in an atmosphere of psychological pressure and without the necessary knowledge
of didactic principles, they caused numerous disturbances in the functioning
of the whole organism of a left-handed individual. The consequences of
such changing became a significant social problem.
3. Modern civilisation prefers right-handed individuals. Left-handed
ones demand a modification of that in such a way which would take into
consideration their functional distinct feature and manifestation of more
4. The current system of sports training had been prepared for right-handed
individuals. This system lacks a suitable programme of teaching or individualisation
of training for the left-handed. Therefore, the left-handed must adapt
to this system, as they have no other choice.
5. The adaptation of the left-handed to this system of sports training
has different types. It happens sometimes that left-handed individuals
have the most spectacular sports successes on an international arena while
using the right hand (e.g. A.Grubba in table tennis or K.Date in tennis),
or thanks to being both-handed (e.g. M.Strupler in handball).
6. The analysis of the progress in sports careers of the best competitors
indicated significant difficulties of the left-handed in adapting to schema
of training for the right-handed, and simultaneously showed incredible
adaptational possibilities of human organism. It also pointed to the existence
of unsolved problem of distinct feature of sports training for the left-handed,
which, after all, concerns a significant part of the population of the
majority of countries in the world.
7. In solving a fragment of this complex problem some help may be attained
from the original concept of teaching and improving of the sports technique
based on the symmetrization of movements (equalising the fitness of both
sides of the body), which enables the maintaining of a dominating side.
This is a new solution in the theory of teaching of movements, which establishes
equal opportunities to individuals which are left-handed and right-handed,
independently of the possessed technical knowledge. It ensures an increased
efficiency in teaching thanks to a fuller utilisation of the bilateral