Ambidexterity is the ability to use both the right and left hand equally well. When referring to objects, the term indicates that the object is equally suitable for right-handed and left-handed people. When referring to humans, it indicates that a person has no marked preference for the use of the right or left hand.
Only about one percent of people are naturally ambidextrous, which equals out to about 70,000,000 people out of the population of 7 billion. In modern times, it is common to find some people considered ambidextrous who were originally left-handed and who learned to be ambidextrous, either deliberately or as a result of training in schools or in jobs where right-handed habits are often emphasized or required. Since many everyday devices (such as can openers and scissors) are asymmetrical and designed for right-handed people, many left-handers learn to use them right-handedly due to the rarity or lack of left-handed models. Thus, left-handed people are more likely to develop motor skills in their non-dominant hand than right-handed people.
The word "ambidextrous" is derived from the Latin roots ambi-, meaning "both", and dexter, meaning "right" or "favorable". Thus, "ambidextrous" is literally "both right" or "both favorable". The term ambidexter in English was originally used in a legal sense of jurors who accepted bribes from both parties for their verdict.
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 more advantageous to him in that situation. Pete Rose, who had more hits than anyone else in the history of Major League Baseball, was a switch hitter.
Switch pitchers, comparatively rare in contrast to switch hitters, also exist. Tony Mullane won 284 games in the 19th century. Elton Chamberlain and Larry Corcoran were also notable ambidextrous pitchers. In the 20th century, Greg A. Harris was the only major league pitcher 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 was not allowed to throw left-handed in a regular-season game until September 1995 in the penultimate 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.
In the 21st century there is only one major league pitcher, Pat Venditte of the Seattle Mariners, who regularly pitches with both arms. Venditte became the 21st century's first switch pitcher in the major leagues with his debut on June 5, 2015 against the Boston Red Sox, pitching two innings, allowing only one hit and recording five outs right-handed and one out left-handed. During his career, an eponymous "Venditte Rule" was created restricting the ability of a pitcher to change arms in the middle of an at-bat.
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 1999 season, Wagner captured the National League Relief Man of the Year Award as a Houston Astro.
St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Brett Cecil is naturally right-handed, but starting from a very early age, threw with his left. As such, he writes and performs most tasks with the right side of his body, but throws with his left.
In basketball a player may choose to make a pass or shot with the weaker hand. NBA stars Kyrie Irving, Carlos Boozer, David Lee, John Wall, Derrick Rose, Chandler Parsons, Andrew Bogut, John Henson, Michael Beasley, and Jerryd Bayless are ambidextrous players, as was Kobe Bryant. Bogut and Henson are both stronger in the post with their left-handed hook shot than they are with their natural right hands. Brothers Marc and Pau Gasol can make hook shots with either hand while the right hand is dominant for each. Bob Cousy, a Boston Celtics legend was forced to play with left hand in high school when he injured his right hand, thus making him effectively ambidextrous. Mike Conley shoots left-handed, but has preferred to shoot floaters right handed, as he does everything else right-handed off the court. Ben Simmons and Luke Kennard are also natural right-handers shooting left-handed. Tristan Thompson is a natural left-hander, and was a left-handed shooter, but has shot right-handed since the 2013–2014 season. He does perform left-handed hook shots more often. Brooklyn Nets center DeAndre Jordan who is left-handed, shoots with his left hand but has been known to dunk with his right hand, spin clockwise in his 360 dunks, and shoot right handed hook shots more accurately and from further out. Charlotte Hornets small forward Miles Bridges is a left-handed shooter; however, he dunks the ball and blocks shots more frequently with his right hand. Los Angeles Lakers center Roy Hibbert shoots his hook shots equally well with either hand. Oklahoma City Thunder left-handed point guard Derek Fisher used to dunk with his right hand in his early years. Candace Parker, forward for the WNBA Sparks team, also has equal dominance with either hand. Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant shot with either hand, although his right hand was dominant: due to an injury to the right hand, he was forced to shoot with his left. Paul George, Tracy McGrady and Vince Carter are all noted to be right-handed, but rotates clockwise for dunks, but Carter is able to also spin anticlockwise, as he did during high school. McGrady also spins anti-clockwise for his baseline dunks. Larry Bird, LeBron James, Paul Millsap, Russell Westbrook, Danny Ainge and Gary Payton shoot right-handed, but do almost everything left-handed off the courts, but Bird once had a game in which he only shot left-handed running hook shots, cross passes and layups. Ronnie Price, however has a tendency to dunk with his left hand, but he is a right-handed shooter. Josh McRoberts is known to be a left handed shooter but does everything with his right hand such as his famous dunks. Ivica Zubac is a right handed shooter, but can shoot hook shots with both hands, and is more accurate with his left handed hooks.
Trevor Booker is left handed for shooting a basketball but writes with his right hand. Ben Simmons shoots jumpers and free throws left-handed, but does everything else right-handed, including dunking, throwing long passes and writing. He also shoots more right-handed non-jumpers (layups, floaters and hook shots).
In skateboarding, being able to skate successfully with not only one's dominant foot forward but also the less dominant one is called "switch skating" and is a prized ability. Notable switch skateboarders include Rodney Mullen, Eric Koston, Guy Mariano, Paul Rodriguez Jr., Mike Mo Capaldi, and Bob Burnquist. Similarly, surfers who ride equally well in either stance are said to be surfing "switch”. Also, snowboarding at the advanced level requires the ability to ride equally well in either.
In combat sports fighters may choose to face their opponent with either the left shoulder forward in a right-handed stance ("orthodox") or the right shoulder forward in a left-handed stance ("south-paw"), thus a degree of cross dominance is useful. In boxing, Manny Pacquiao has a southpaw stance in the ring even though he is really ambidextrous outside the ring. Also, in mixed martial arts, many naturally left-handed strikers like Lyoto Machida and Anderson Silva will switch stances in order to counter opponent's strikes or takedown attempts to stay standing.
In cricket, it is also beneficial to be able to use both arms. Ambidextrous fielders can make one-handed catches or throws with either hand. Sachin Tendulkar uses his left hand for writing, but bats and bowls with his right hand, same with Kane Williamson. There are many players who are naturally right-handed but bat left and vice versa. Sourav Ganguly uses his right hand for writing and bowls with the right hand, too, but bats with his left hand. Players due to injuries may also switch arms for fielding. Phillip Hughes batted, bowled, and fielded left-handed before a shoulder injury. Australian batsman George Bailey also due to sustaining an injury, taught himself to throw with his weaker left arm. He is now often seen throughout matches switching between arms as he throws the ball. See also reverse sweep and switch hitting. David Warner has batted right-handed in high school, and has practiced right-handed as well, when he is normally a left-handed switch-hitter. Alastair Cook, Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Ben Dunk, Ben Stokes, Adam Gilchrist, Eoin Morgan and Kagiso Rabada are natural right-handers, but bat left-handed.
Akshay Karnewar is an ambidextrous bowler. Originally, he only bowled with his right hand, but since he does everything else with his left hand, he was taught to bowl left-handed as well but needs to signal to the umpire when he switches hands when bowling to allow for the field to change. He is a left-handed batsman. As an off-spinner and left-arm orthodox spin, the ball will always spin towards the batsman (OB vs. RHB; SLO vs. LHB), or away from opposite-handed batsmen, which is the predominant role of switch-handed spinners.
Sri Lankan Kusal Perera started his cricket as a right hand batsman, until he changed to left hand to mimic his favourite cricketer Sanath Jayasuriya. Another Sri Lankan Kamindu Mendis is also a handy ambidextrous bowler. He can bowl orthodox left-arm spin and he can bowl right-arm offspin as well. Yasir Jan, however is a fast bowler both right and left handed and tops over 140 km/h with both hands, with his right arm being faster.
In cue sports, players 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. English snooker player Ronnie O'Sullivan is a rarity 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 or the use of a rest. When he first displayed this ability in the 1996 World Championship against the Canadian 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. Many people think O'Sullivan had to play a match against former professional Rex Williams, but this never took place. On Eurosport's coverage of the 2014 International Championships, commentator David Hendon confirmed that O'Sullivan never played the match against Rex Williams.
In figure skating, most skaters who are right-handed spin and jump to the left, and vice versa for left-handed individuals, but it also down to habit for ballerinas. 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. Nobody can perform a jump sequence (because it requires change of edge, whereas a combo is maintained on the same edge) from clockwise to anti-clockwise, or vice versa.
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In association football, being able to kick with either foot provides more options for both passing and scoring, as well as the ability to play on either side of the pitch. Therefore, players with the ability to use their weaker foot with proficiency are valuable in any team. Examples of ambidextrous footballers include Johan Cruyff, Obafemi Martins, Santi Cazorla, Adam Lallana, Adriano Correia, Pedro Rodriguez, Glenn Hoddle, Alfredo Di Stéfano, Sócrates, Paolo Maldini, George Best, Michael Laudrup, Pelé, Marc Overmars, Michel Platini, Roberto Baggio, Carlos Valderrama, Bobby Charlton, Zico, Tom Finney, John Barnes, John Charles, Ousmane Dembélé, Mason Greenwood, Ronaldo Nazário, Cristiano Ronaldo, Zidane, Wayne Rooney. Most of them were actually left-footed ("lefties") or right-footed, but developed expertises on both sides of their main professional tool, which outlies the importance that relies on both lateralities improvement when training for sports such football, having thereby an advantage on becoming successful.Gianluca Pagliuca is cross-dominant. He punches and throws with his right, but kicks with his left.
In American football, it is especially advantageous to be able to use either arm to perform various tasks. Ambidextrous receivers can make one-handed catches with either hand; 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. Naturally right-handed quarterbacks may have to perform left-handed passes to avoid sacks. Chris Jones is cross-dominant. Although he is a left-footed punter, he throws with his right. Chris Hanson was dual-footed, able to punt with either foot.
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. 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. Although not ambidextrous, Phil Mickelson and Mike Weir are both right-handers who golf left-handed; Ben Hogan was the opposite, being a natural left-hander who played golf right-handed, as is Cristie Kerr. This is known as cross-dominance or mixed-handedness.
Ice hockey players may shoot from the left or right side of the body. For the most part, 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, although this was at a time when the blade of the stick was not curved.
Another ice hockey goaltender Bill Durnan, had the ability to catch the puck with either hand. He won the Vezina Trophy, then for the National Hockey League's goalie with the fewest goals allowed six times out of only seven seasons. He had developed this ability playing for church-league teams in Toronto and Montreal to make up for his poor lateral movement. He wore custom gloves that permitted him to hold his stick with either hand. Most goaltenders nowadays choose to catch with their non-dominant hand.
Field hockey players are forced to play right-handed. The rules of the game denote that the ball can only be struck with the flat side of the stick. Only one player Laeeq Ahmed on Pakistan National Hockey team, played with unorthodox left hand below and right hand up side of stick grip with full command. He played from 1991 to 1992 for the national team. Perhaps to avoid confusing referees, there are no left-handed sticks. In floorball, like ice hockey, right-handed players shoot left and, likewise, most left-handed players shoot right as the player will often wield the stick one-handed. Floorball goalkeepers do not use a stick, so they have two glove hands, and act much like a soccer goalkeeper, but with an ice hockey helmet. When they venture out of the goal box, they act just like an outfield soccer player.
In field lacrosse, which is more popular in the United States, it is extremely advantageous to be able to use both hands, as players can play on both sides of the field and are harder to defend against. Usually in field lacrosse, all players except goalies, but especially offensive players, are expected to be able to catch and throw with their weak hand. However, in box lacrosse, which is more popular in Canada, players often only use their dominant hand, like in hockey.
The traditional martial arts tend to feature a larger number of practitioners who have intentionally developed ambidexterity to a high degree, compared to athletes in combat sports. This is because unlike sports, which have structured rules and common player preferences, traditional martial arts are intended for situations such as self-defense, in which a wider array of physical challenges may occur.
Some arts and schools practice all or most techniques and movements with both sides, while others emphasize that some techniques should only be trained on the right or the left (though both sides tend to eventually receive nearly equal attention). This may be for a number of reasons. Some of these arts rely on the tendency of right-handed people to move differently with the left side than with the right, and attempt to take advantage of this. Similarly, certain weapons are more often carried on one side. For instance, most weapons in ancient China were wielded primarily with the right hand and on the right side; this habit has carried on to the practice of those weapons in modern times. As an example, in Xing Yi Quan, most schools that teach spear-fighting only practice on the right side, although much of the rest of the art is ambidextrous in practice.
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 tennis, a player may be able to reach balls on the backhand side more easily if they're able to use the weaker hand. An example of a player who is ambidextrous is Luke Jensen. Due to a physical advantage on the space of time needed when matching the ball with the racket simultaneously with tagging the opponent's movement, being laterality-crossed on eyedness with handedness may be a decisive factor for outstanding performance, since the hand which strikes the ball can do it while the overriding eye, matching with this hand, can be tagging the opponent's movement-decisions. Such have the case of Rafael Nadal who uses his right hand for writing, but plays tennis with left. There are many players who are naturally right handed but play lefty and vice versa. Evgenia Kulikovskaya is also an ambidextrous player, Kulikovskaya played with two forehands and no backhand, switching her racket hand depending on where the ball was coming. Jan-Michael Gambill is the opposite case of Kulikovskaya, since he played with a two handed forehand and backhand, although he served with his right hand. Other famous examples of a two handed forehand are Fabrice Santoro and Monica Seles. Seles' playing style was unusual in that she hit with two hands on both sides and, at the same time, always kept her (dominant) left hand at the base of her racket. This meant that she hit her forehand cross-handed. Currently, Maria Sharapova is also known to be ambidextrous. Cheong-eui Kim is a truly ambidextrous player with no backhand, and can serve left-handed as well as right-handed.
Some table tennis players have used their ability to hit with their non-dominant hand to return balls out of reach of their dominant hand's backhand, most notably Timo Boll, a former world #1 player.
Although it is quite uncommon, in badminton, ambidextrous players are able to switch the racquet between their hands, often to get to the awkward backhand corner quickly. As badminton can be a very fast sport, at professional levels of play, players might not have time to switch the racquet, as this disrupts their reaction time.
In rugby league and rugby union being ambidextrous is an advantage when it comes to passing the ball between teammates as well as being able to use both feet by the halves is an advantage in gaining field position by kicking the ball ahead. Jonny Wilkinson is a prime example of a union player who is good at kicking with both feet, he is left handed and normally place kicks using his left, but he dropped the goal that won the Rugby World Cup in 2003 with his right. Dan Carter is actually right handed, but kicks predominantly with his left, sometimes with his right.
A volleyball player has to be ambidextrous to control the ball to either direction and performing basic digs. On the other hand, the setter has to be proficient in performing dump sets with either hand to throw off blockers. Wing spikers that can spike with either hand can alter trajectories to throw off receivers' timing.
Although most artists have a favored hand, some artists use both of their hands for arts such as drawing and sculpting. It is believed that Leonardo da Vinci utilized both of his hands after an injury to his right hand during his early childhood.
Tribalogy is the artistic study of creating abstract lines and shapes on a surface using both hands at the same time. An artist who studies tribalogy is referred to as a tribalogist.
In drum and bugle corps (and drum and bell corps), snare drummers, quads (tenors), and bass drummers need to be somewhat ambidextrous. Since they have to abide by what the composer/arranger has written, they have to learn to play evenly in terms of dynamics and speed with their right and left hands. Former Beatles member Paul McCartney is left-handed (guitar and bass guitar) and played left handed when performing (as can be seen in many photos and videos throughout his musical career). The drummer of The Beatles, Ringo Starr, is left-handed as well, but he plays a right-handed drum kit. American instrumental guitarist Michael Angelo Batio is known for being able to play both right-handed and left-handed guitar proficiently. Irish guitar player Niall Horan, from boyband One Direction, applies on this case. He writes with the left hand but plays the guitar with the right one. The ambidexterity of Jimi Hendrix has been explored in a psychology, but he was known for playing a standard right-handed guitar with his left hand. The guitarist Duane Allman was the reverse of Hendrix, playing right-handed but left-handed in all other tasks. Shara Lin is naturally left-handed, but plays the violin and guitar right handed. She can also play the piano with her left hand while playing the zither with her right. Also, naturally left-handed musicians have to play with right-handed-only instruments (violin, viola, cello). BTS member Kim Taehyung is also known to be ambidextrous. He was originally left-handed, but was trained to use his right hand, with writing and other tasks. He writes with his right hand, but holds the microphone with his left hand (sometimes), plays sports with his left hand (sometimes), and plays instruments with both hands.
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 and locking 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. As an opposite example, some scissors are made specifically for use in one hand, and will not cut properly if used in the other hand. Left-handed as well as ambidextrous scissors are nowadays available.
Many modern small arms employ ambidextrous design to accommodate both the right- and left-handed operator. This is advantageous for marketing the firearm to military or law enforcement units because the firearms are distributed in a large scale. Ambidextrous firearms allows for an identical manual of arms regardless of which hand is being used as primary, which streamlines training (eliminates need to have separate training drill for left handed shooting).
Many right-handed people shoot rifles left-handed because they have a left dominant eye, and the opposite also applies. Generally, it is easier to adapt handedness than to retrain eye-gunsight tracking. Regardless, with training, eye dominance can be overridden.
Old West gunfighter Dallas Stoudenmire carried two pistols, and was noted for being equally accurate with either hand.
Medicine and surgeryEdit
A degree of ambidexterity is required in surgery because surgeons must be able to tie with their left and right hands in either single or double knots. This is usually due to factors like the positioning of the surgeon, whether they have an assistant and the angle required to throw and secure the knot.
Ambidexterity is also useful after surgery on a dominant hand or arm, as it allows the patient to use their non-dominant hand with equal facility as the limb which is recovering from surgery.
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