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Foosball Instruction

Guide to Passing
Content from FAQ2 v 2.4
Guide to Passing (for beginners and intermediates)
(C) 1995 Robert Uyeyama
Permission granted to to publish in modified HTML format.


I will begin with a disclaimer. I am a rookie (i.e. beginning competitive level) player, so my knowledge of brush passing may not be entirely satisfactory to experts and pros but know the fundamentals well enough to relate the technique and the conceptual reasons behind them; if you have any suggestions or corrections, please don't hesitate to email me.

As I mentioned briefly in part I, the essence of the brush pass is that you can pass either a wall pass, or an off-the-wall pass (lane pass) from the SAME position; hence your opponent will not know which pass you are attempting until too late if the pass is fast enough. The method I will describe is only the basic "near-side brush pass beginning from a 2nd-man pin." Other variations exist, but I feel this method will bring the quickest results and knowledge enough to learn the other variations (e.g. far wall, off near-wall bounce, 2nd man brush-down, etc.)

Once you feel you understand the concepts, SKIP to "HOW TO PRACTICE THE BRUSH PASS" at the end of this section; this will give the real meat of "getting better". The beginning of this chapter will discuss the intellectual how and why of the pass, as well as the practical (i.e. actual game-usable and USTSA-legal) application of it. The "how and why" section is so detailed because I have observed many people who have tried to learn the brush pass but had great difficulty because they didn't understand what each element of the technique was really doing. Once the player understands "why brush the ball", and "why place the ball so far back", and so on, it is much easier to learn the pass.

First, a commonly used hand/arm posture for the left arm is with the palm facing up under the five-bar handle, and the elbow pointing out to your left. You should lean down slightly so that your upper arm is almost directly above, and parallel to, your lower arm. These techniques provide leverage for the quick push/pull motion required to "brush" the ball and put a spin on it. Make sure that when you flick the rod with this grip that the men follow through to end up at least 45 degrees forward or even parallel-forward to the table. Although you may not be able to swing the man backwards too much, you only need to lift it back enough to just barely clear the top of the ball-- any farther and you are revealing your intentions to the opponent as well as compromising the power of your pass. Try to avoid rolling the handle along your fingers with an opened-palm when you are passing. It will feel strange at first, but keep at it.

Rules: Since passing from a stationary ball is illegal, you must set the ball in motion. Since passing IMMEDIATELY w/the same man you set the ball in motion with is also illegal (like a pull-shot-pass), you must pass it (or at least touch it) with a different man. Hence, we will set the ball in motion pull-direction with the near 2nd man of the 5-bar, and pass it with the near man:

  1. ***First position your 3-bar on the near wall; make this a constant habit
  2. Then on your 5-bar back-pin the ball with the 2nd man from the near side, men slightly forward
  3. Adjust the pin (tapping the ball and rocking it slightly) until it is about to slip out with increased pressure
  4. Now roll it laterally and VERY SLOWLY toward your near man
  5. The near man will then pass the ball by putting a spin on it using a "brush" motion, to be described


  1. The ball is placed to the rear of the rod because this provides a better position to put spin on the ball once it is moved laterally to the passing man. It is the spin which will result in the angle in the ball's motion
  2. If the ball is rolled from a really solid back pin (i.e. ball too far back) the near man will not be able to put a spin on (the back of) the ball, and will most likely only pin (the top of) the ball again, or briefly pin then squeeze out the ball unpredictably; we want to pass it, not pin it again
  3. Make sure the pass to your 1st man is perfectly lateral, so that it reaches the 1st man at near the same almost-back-pin distance it started from
  4. The slowness of the lateral motion is OK, because this is NOT the part of the motion which is intended to deceive your opponent; great care in setting up the ball position with this motion, and the longer time-window to choose among your impending passes are the two reasons for the slow roll to your 1st man... keep it slow

Before I describe how to pass the ball with the 1st man, here is a paragraph of comments on the pass:

Remember you want to have the option of either wall-passing or lane-passing. Ideally then, you want to start the pass exactly between the wall and the lane. So figure this area out by watching the near man's range of motion as you push and pull the rod all the way. The general center of this left-right distance is where you will begin your pass. Important note: Here, and on the far man, is the LARGEST distance guarded by only a single man on the entire five bar; there is no 6th man beyond the wall to come to the rescue to block a wall pass-- this is why passes are done near the wall; also the near wall is more easily visible, so we begin with this version, rather than the far wall. The path of the wall pass seems simple enough; angle the ball toward the wall, and if there is enough spin the ball will hug the wall all the way down to your three-bar. But where is the lane? Pull the opponent's five-bar to your near wall. See the opposing 2nd man? He can't go any further! The ideal lane pass is just out of his reach; the only man who can block it is the 1st man, who is also busy guarding the wall pass!

Okay, now the hard part. Remember approximately where you are going to pass the ball from (between the wall and lane). This is really only approximate, since you will wait for an opening, and then hit it, and the ball will be rolling slowly while you are deciding. CENTER your near man just behind the rolling ball and follow it. If you rolled it correctly from the 2nd man's tenuous-pin, your near man should look like it is about to pin the ball; it should not be obviously far up in the air away from the ball. Since the man is centered on the ball and following it, the opponent can't tell which pass you are preparing for, since at the center you are prepared for both! How so? From here, you "brush" the ball, either in the push (aka brush-up) or pull (aka brush-down) direction. Usually a few fakes are thrown in for good measure, but let's practice without fakes for now.

What does "brush" mean? Try to "scrape", or "brush" the BACK or BACK-TOP very edge of the ball with your man as hard as you can, while applying the LEAST amount of pressure possible to the ball, but maintaining contact and DO THE BRUSH MOTION FAST. Remember to follow-through after the brush; don't stop and let your 5-rod follow through all the way to the near (brush-down) or far (brush-up) wall. I repeat: always do the the brush motion fast; don't even practice it slowly just to "get the feel of it", because you won't. The brush will result in a SPIN on the ball, which angles the ball in the direction of your brush (i.e. a brush-down pulls it toward the wall, a brush-up pushes it toward the lane).

Finally, the two most common mistakes:

  • none of this will work unless at the time you brush the ball, the ball really is towards the back of the rod, i.e. just forward of the line at which you could back-pin balls securely. Really. So if you aren't getting this, try doing a brush-down to a stationary ball, and begin with trying a pinned ball. Then progressively move the ball forward and try it again; the best brush often works where many beginners think it will actually be pinned. The ball-positioning to that back position maximizes the spin resulting from the brush.
  • the other common mistake is to "swing" at the ball, as if to shoot it forward; the brush motion is mostly a sideways motion with very little forward swing-- at first try to err on the side of too little swing (i.e. no swing while maintaining contact for the brush), then adjust from there; the ball will move forward if you brush it right anyhow, and any swinging at the ball, or follow-through, is done near the very end of the brush motion-- but at first, don't even try to swing as a followthrough and just try to isolate the fast brushing motion.

Once you get the hang of it, it is VERY IMPORTANT to always be aware, especially with Tornado men (with subtly angled toes), of the exact area of the toe which is intended to brush the ball; it is usually along the subtle angle of the toe-- you probably didn't even notice this shape before did you? If your pass doesn't seem to be working, concentrate on the bottom of the two surfaces of the toe on either side of this edge. (The bottom one is gridded with horizontal and vertical hatches, and the top one has only vertical hatches-- these vertical hatches on the top side help impart spin upon brushing.)

If done correctly, the brush will result in a significant spin (good), causing it to whizz away at an angle; in the case of a brush-down/wall pass, the ball will angle into the wall and hug the wall all the way to your waiting three-bar. Practice the pull-brush wall-pass first and note: the first time you do it right, YOU WILL KNOW; the ball will move in a very counter-intuitive way, seemingly disobeying the laws of foosball Physics; it will seemingly be about to bounce off the wall, but instead it will hug the wall as described all the way to your 3-bar. When this happens the first time, remember how it feels like-- and try to reproduce it. Again, always do the sideways brush motion as fast as possible, and minimize forward swing. For now you can practice this by putting the opposing 5-man about a pencil-width from your near wall; remember this is in addition to the width of the bumper, which is nearly an entire ball-width.

Notes on doing it wrong: 1) If the ball is too far back when rolling, you will pin the ball, and it may even squeeze out in an unpredictable direction, or simply stay pinned. 2) If the ball is too far forward, your brush motion is a) too transparent to the opponent and b) you will have to mostly swing at the ball and therefore the spin will only be mild resulting in a mild angle (perhaps missing the wall or lane and colliding with the opposing man) and little wall-hugging behavior.

Practical notes:

  • At first, you may not find it easy to center your near man behind the rolling ball, so remember to roll the ball slowly; at first if you are intending a brush-up, you may be inadvertently positioning your man slightly to the right (near side) of the ball, giving away your intentions to the opponent, and the mirror image also applies for the brush-down (pull-brush). Once you are well-practiced, you will be able to spin the ball w/your brush in both directions from directly behind the ball, or insert a series of fakes before you brush, for example fake up-down, up-down, in rapid succession, followed by "up", or "up-down" to really pass.
  • Experiment to find the best 2-man back-pin degree. The previous paragraph explains too-far-back, too-far-forward, and just-right. Again, always be aware of the brushing surface of the toe at whatever angle you choose
  • To catch a wall pass, just leave your three-bar on the wall in the front-angled position described in part I.
  • To catch a lane pass, begin with your 3-bar ON THE WALL, then move it off of the wall AS you pass; don't make a habit of leaving it in position to catch a lane-pass before you pass.
  • The lane pass is more forgiving if it has less spin; you may even be able to just "swing" at it with only medium brush/spin and get away with it if the opponent is adamantly guarding the wall; this is only a crutch, and will not work in the higher levels of tournament play; still it'll serve you well at first.
  • Experiment with a variety of fakes, especially doing an "up-down-up-down" motion behind the ball before you pass.
  • Use your brain; figure out which pass your opponent wants to guard, and shoot the OTHER pass!
  • Once you understand the concept by reading this, skip to "HOW TO PRACTICE THE BRUSH PASS" at the end of this section.

NOTES ON CATCHING THE BALL: Catching the ball using the simple front-angled position of the three-bar (described in Part I) is eventually going to be "not good enough". To catch a really fast, spinning, angled pass, you should begin with your men straight down, then flex them forward as you catch the ball, and here's one good way to do this:

  1. For the three bar (right hand), find the correct position on the handle, so that at the maximum end of flicking your wrist all the way (as if shooting), your men are positioned in the front-angled ready-to-catch position.
  2. Now keep your hand in this grip, & bring your men down so that they are standing straight again; now you are ready to flick your men forward as you catch a fast pass!
  3. On a Tornado, forget 1) & 2), and just put your thumb along the narrow part of the handle on the bevel one or two away counterclockwise from the top bevel (i.e. about 11 o'clock) when the men are standing straight-- keep the men standing straight, then as you catch a pass, flick your men forward (keeping your thumb on your chosen bevel). Your thumb here prevents your wrist from swinging the 3-bar too far forward.
This motion greatly enhances your chances of catching a fast pass on any table, so now make it a habit to assume this grip (relative to the rod's rotational position.) This type of catching will be absolutely essential once you begin to practice faster and faster passes; don't ignore!


The description above was about how to execute the pass in a real game, why the brush pass is good, and how it works. This section will help you develop the "brush-up" and "brush-down" motions themselves. The brushing exercises will all be upon a stationary ball (which in a real game would not be legal), and again remember it's important to set the ball up a little to the rear as described. The fakes included in these exercise are an essential part of what you actually do in a real game.

HOW TO PRACTICE THE BRUSH-DOWN (pull-brush) to the wall: First position your 3-bar on the wall, ready to catch a wall pass. Then, place the ball about three inches from the near wall (along your 5-bar, slightly to the rear of the rod, not quite so far that you would pin it). Finally, do the exercise: 1) Position your 1st man behind the ball, and do four rapid fake-brushes, just barely behind, but not touching the ball: down-up-down-up. 2) Continuing this, brush "down" and pass the ball along the wall.

Hence, the entire motion will be: down-up-down-up-DOWN, the last "down" being the real brush-down pass. The pace (of the d-u-d-u-d) should be leisure-rapid-- in other words, not so fast that you are concentrating on the rapidity, and definitely not slowly since these are supposed to be fakes. Remember to concentrate on putting spin on the ball and being aware of that angled-surface of the toe which is actually in contact with the ball, since your fakes can distract you from your technique. At first, just push the opposing 5-bar to the far-wall, but as you get more confident, bring it in closer and closer to your near wall as you practice your series.

HOW TO PRACTICE THE BRUSH-UP (push-brush) through the lane: Place your 3-bar on the wall as before, and place the ball in the same place along your 5-bar also as before. Now: 1) do the SAME four fake-brushes behind the ball: down-up-down-up. 2) Continue with down-UP, doing a real brush-up on the final "up". 3) As you brush up, move your 3-bar off of the wall to catch the pass through the lane.

Hence the motion will be down-up-down-up-down-UP, looking practically identical to the brush-down exercise's down-up-down-up-DOWN. The difficult part is catching the ball, so you really have to practice holding your thumb on that 11 o'clock bevel (on the narrow part of the handle) and flicking your men forward as you catch the ball-- and don't cheat: always begin with the 3-bar on the wall!

So, practice about 100 of each version, or at least 25 if you're not used to practicing yet. Once you have learned the techinque, you can practice 20 brush-ups followed by 20 brush-downs (or 10 and 10) until your series of 40 (or 20) passes are flawless; make sure you pass hard and completely catch each pass; don't get caught in the common mistake of practice the pass but not the catch. Experiment later with placing the ball at different distances from the wall; for example with the brush-up, if the ball is very close to the wall, you will need more "brush" and less "swing" to angle the ball into the lane, while if the ball is farther from the wall and more directly in front of the lane, you will not need as much "brush", but more "swing" to execute a fast pass. And the brush-down can be executed anywhere from near the wall to (eventually) the farthest reach of the near man away from the wall. So vary the position once you've learned the brush motion, and that way you'll have a larger "strike-zone" from which you will be a threat to brush pass in either direction.

PRACTICING THE SETUP: This will be two similar exercises-- Begin with the 2nd-man back pin. Then move the ball toward your first man. Execute a series of fakes, about six: down-up-down-up-down-up. Then intercept the ball before it hits the wall by moving the near man in the path of the ball. Return the ball by tapping it back to the 2nd-man and begin again. That's all. The other exercise is similar except, after d-u-d-u-d-u, tap the ball lightly into the wall with the right edge of the near man. As it slowly bounces off, execute another series of fakes: d-u-d-u-d-u. Then stop the ball with your second man, and begin again. In a real game situation, a common technique is to bounce the ball off of the wall then immediately do a very steep brush-up into the lane as the opponent hopefully slams his rod to block the wall pass. Also, these two exercises are useful in a real game so as to allow you to bring the ball into position repeatedly, waiting to find the perfect "open" pass.

PRACTICING TWO MORE OPTIONS: 1) Practice the steep brush-up immediately after a bounce off of the near wall. 2) Practice the 2nd-man brush-down through the lane to the wall. One way to do this is a variation on the exercise of the previous paragraph: after you use your near man to bounce the ball back to the 2nd man, the 2nd man can then brush-down. The ball should travel steeply through the lane (bring the opposing 5-rod to your near wall for practice) and end up on your 3-bar near-man on the wall. The other option from the 2nd man is a brush-up to your middle 3-bar man.

One final note: there are many passing options with brush and stick passes. Learning the near-wall brush-pass series is an essential first step, and even it alone can be extremely effective. Among other options are learning the same series on the far-wall, learning tic-tac stick passes, and learning a blindingly quick kickpass to the wall. Hopefully, the stick-pass series will be described in a later version of this file. All right, that is it for brush-passing! Practicing will give you a knowledge of spin that will be useful later on in other types of passes and shots, especially for tournament play on the hard surfaces of Tornado tables.

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