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Recreational Figure Skating FAQ - Advanced Skills

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Recreational Figure Skating FAQ

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6. Figure skating skills

At the outset, it should be mentioned that each of the three disciplines
(dance, freestyle, and moves in the field(US) -- skating skills (CA)), (the
latter has replaced figures in North America), offers challenges that
contribute to improving the other two. A well rounded skating program offers
all three.

6.1 Dance

Skate dancing uses the same skills as other forms of skating, but has its
own emphasis and sequencing. You may also want to get the instructor to show
you the steps for the introductory dances to get a better feel for what's
involved. The introductory dances require only forward skating - no turns.
When you do get to the turns, they'll be Mohawks and then forward 3's.
You'll probably find them easier to learn in the dance context than in a
"figure" or random class context, particularly the Mohawks.

The main skills that you need to begin "dance skating" are an effective
forward stroke, the ability to hold inside and outside edges (meaning you
can glide around turns on one foot) and a reasonably good posture. If you
haven't mastered these yet, a lot of your "dance" time will be spent working
on basics.

6.2 Freestyle skating

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter silvered wings
-- from High Flight, by John Gillespie Magee Jr.

Jumps and spins cannot be mastered without good edges and upper body control
since it is this that sets the stage for what follows. The approach to a
jump is as important as the jump itself, since it is the approaching
footwork that gets your entire body into the right position to jump.

The main reason to jump and spin in the same direction is that you use the
spins to safely practice jumping technique. The back spin in particular is
used as a preliminary to the loop, which is in turn used as a preliminary to
the Axel. Ultimately the rotation, air-position, landing, and exit for all
the major jumps are the same, and are all developed from the backspin.

Several single jumps are described below, roughly in order of difficulty.
They are first defined in terms of the take-off edge, whether or not a
toepick is used, and the amount of rotation. For the sake of brevity, all
the jumps are explained for counter-clockwise rotation.

6.2.1 Waltz jump

The Waltz jump is done on the arc of a circle starting from a LFO edge and
landing on the RBO edge, with one half rotation. Here are some tips.
* Posture. You can't possibly do a Waltz jump if your body is leaning
forward from the waist. You must stand upright over your skating leg and
your knees should be bent.
* The biggest mistake most beginners make in the waltz jump is that they
think that all the rotation is in the air. A waltz jump is really a

ground is your left toepick. The first thing to touch the ground is your
right toe pick. The force of the landing and your free foot coming back
complete the rotation.
* Since you glide on your RBO edge after landing, practice gliding on this
edge. Get your coach to show you what a correct landing position looks
and feels like (arms below shoulder height, and slightly ahead of your
body so that you can see both hands out of the corners of your eyes,
your left leg extended out behind you, head up). Work really hard to
memorize that feeling while gliding on your RBO edge. This landing
position is the same for almost all the jumps.
* The sequence of the jump is a down-up-down movement. Down to prepare for
the jump, up to jump, and down on your landing leg.
* Stand holding the rink barrier and put your hands on the boards to
steady your self. Try just making little hops from your left foot to
your right foot just to get the feel of having both feet in the air at
the same time. Don't worry too much about take off position or landing
position to start with. Just get the feel of shifting your weight from
the left side to the right side.
* OK, got all that? Now try doing it away from the wall. Don't worry if
you can't get as high or far when you first leave the wall. It's a
little scary at first. But with practice, you'll have really nice waltz
jumps that you can do from some speed that will be even bigger than
anything you can do on the wall. Generally some speed will make the
whole take off and landing more predictable.
* Don't look down. The ice will be there when you need it whether you look
or not.
* Swing your free leg forward at the beginning of the jump. Because you
are on a curve, this will feel like jumping outside the curve. Think of
this as jumping OUT or AHEAD, but don't let yourself think of it as
jumping AROUND.
* If you jump straight ahead, and if you were on a FO edge when you took
off, your body WILL do the required half revolution all by itself, so
that when you land, you will be going backward.
* When you land, you should roll off your toepick onto an RBO edge.
Landing on the flat of the blade will make you skid.

6.2.2 Salchow

The Salchow starts from an "open" LFO 3-turn followed by a strong check on
the LBI edge. Leaving your hip open will extend your free leg behind you in
the direction of travel. As the skating leg rises after the check, the free
leg and shoulders are released (swung around) and the skater jumps, landing
on a RBO edge after one rotation. If you go back and look at the tracing you
left as you took off, you should see a pronounced curve, shallow coming out
of the 3-turn, and deeper just before takeoff with a toe pick mark at the
end (like a check mark) indicating that you were rotating forward on take
off. In this respect, a Salchow is not unlike a Waltz jump with a backward

The Salchow is an incredibly easy jump to cheat, and the easiest way to
cheat is not to have or hold any check following the introductory 3-turn.
Since cheating is bad, reduces power and control, and is hard to unlearn,
start out by learning the jump without the cheat.

First, practice the approach WITHOUT the jump. From a RBO edge, step forward
and turn a LFO 3. HOLD IT. HOLD IT. HOLD IT. Practice holding the entry edge
on the 3 turn, right leg extended back, body strongly checked. This is the
position that you want to have before the jump. Practice this a lot, until
you get familiar with what is involved in holding the edge ... where your
shoulders are, how open your free hip is, where your free leg is, etc. A LOT
of the power for the jump comes from creating momentary rotational tension
by initially checking the rotation of the 3 turn.

Remember that virtually all of skating is done as a series of down up down
up down up down movements. The introductory 3-turn requires a DOWN to
prepare, an UP to turn the 3, a DOWN to finish the 3, an UP to do the jump,
and a DOWN to land it. Don't forget any of the "downs", because if you don't
go down there is nothing to come up from.

The Salchow has a 1, 2, and 3 cadence. 1 - turn, 2 -check, and - let the
free leg and arm move from behind to inside the circle, 3 - jump.

There are two primary sources of rotation: the edge you are on (should be
deep), and having the arm in back come forward during takeoff (which rotates
your shoulders). The jump comes when you progressively deepen the back edge
by releasing the free side, closing the free hip, throwing/pulling the free
leg forward and up, and by scooping your arms in/down and up.

6.2.3 Toe-loop

A toe-loop is a toe-assisted jump done from a RBO edge (for CCW jumpers)-
usually after a RFI 3-turn. The free (left) leg is extended far behind and
the toepick is planted on the circle behind the direction of travel and used
as a pole vault. The skater rises, does one rotation in the air and lands on
a RBO edge.

When you put your pick in, put it in BEHIND you; make sure that your free
leg does not cross behind the skating leg before picking. Also, make sure
that both your torso and free leg are facing backwards to the direction of
travel as you pick. If you let your shoulders turn around before you pick or
turn out your free leg (so that your toepick is facing forwards as you pick)
you will do what is known as a TOE-WALTZ. Once you learn this "cheat" it is
hard to undo and it will make it harder to achieve a double toe-loop further
along the road.

If you are having trouble getting up the nerve to actually jump this jump,
try the following: do a RFI 3-turn, put your pick in the ice far behind you,
but don't jump, instead, use the pick to pivot around on the RBO edge about
one quarter of a turn; then push off the pick and do another RFI 3 turn,
pivot around the pick again, etc...This is basically a series of
"toe-assisted" RBO threes. One of these times, though, when you put in the
pick, don't to the 3 -- jump instead. The series of 3s will get you used to
how much rotation you need, and will serve as a stepping stone. for the

Here are a few tips to watch for:
* Make sure the check is strong. When you put your pick in, your left arm
should be well forward, and you should be sighting down the left arm
toward your hand.The right arm is slightly behind you and off to the
* Make sure that you point the toe-pick and drive the top picks into the
ice. This will not only make the take-off more secure, but it will make
it harder to turn out the picking foot.
* Although the toe-loop is nominally a full rotation jump, in the practice
you will be doing at least a quarter to a half rotation on the ice. This
is not bad technique, as long as your shoulders and picking leg turn
together as a unit and face the same direction throughout the take-off.

6.2.4 Loop jump

The loop jump is an "edge" jump, starting from a RBO edge and finishing on
an RBO edge after one rotation.

Here is an exercise that can help you get a feeling for what the jump feels
like. Start either from backward CCW crossovers or a RFI 3 turn (the 3 turn
is easier for most people). Either way, the position for entering the jump
is a RBO edge, left (free) leg in front, left arm strongly checked in front,
right arm strongly checked behind, head facing forward.

For the exercise, scoop a pot of gold up from the ice with your right hand
as you rotate crossing the free leg across the ankle. Do a single rotation
backspin on the ice and check out with the free leg in back.

The jump is the same, only at the same time that you scoop the pot of gold
up off the ice with the right hand, DEEPLY bend the right knee. Just before
you'd pop into your backspin for the exercise, pop into the air instead.

Things to remember are:
* Make sure that you have a strong RBO edge and a strong check. The
"launch" power comes from pushing up off of a strong edge. The rotation
comes from releasing the check.
* On the entry, avoid having your weight rock forward.
* Keep the free leg IN FRONT of the skating leg. It's very easy,
especially just at the moment of jump, to let it wander off sideways,
out of the circle.
* Keep your head looking inside the circle until just before you jump.
This will keep you from leaning outside the circle.
* Remember to jump through the entire foot, pointing the toe so that the
pick is the last thing to leave the ice

6.2.5 Flip jump

The flip jump is a toe-assisted jump starting from a shallow LBI edge
(usually after a LFO 3-turn). The toe-pick of the right (free) leg is
planted in the ice behind the direction of travel and the skater vaults from
the right leg, rotating one full rotation and landing on a RBO edge.

The flip doesn't have quite as nice a stepping-stone as the loop jump, so
that might make them seem harder -- there's no easy way to get the feel for
them as a full-rotation jump. However, here are a few tips:
* Make the 3-turn pretty flat, almost on a straight line.
* Check strongly after the 3-turn, with the right arm behind and the left
arm across the front of the body (like the loop preparation). You should
feel a strong pull in your right shoulder blade. Think about keeping the
right arm slightly above parallel with the ice. Keep the shoulder open,
so when you swing the right arm, it comes around, not up.
* Keep the hips square to the "straight line" you're on after the 3-turn.
* Hold the LBI edge and bend your left knee a lot. Do not move your arms
and shoulders yet. Bend forwards so that your upper body is on the same
line as your right leg (Think of a rigid bar going from your right toe
to your head)
* Don't kick the ice when you pick. In this jump, you must transfer your
weight from the left to the right side. The right toepick has to be able
to support your weight and pull you into the air. To feel this, stand on
your left skate and reach back with your right leg, held straight and
with the toe extended. Hook the ice and pull your left skate backwards,
rising on your right leg.
* Jump on your left knee. Meanwhile release the check at your shoulders:
Move the right arm forwards alongside your body and bring in your left
arm towards you. Pull back with your upper body so that you are still on
a straight line with your right leg. If you want, kick upwards with your
left knee in order to put your centre of gravity on your right leg more
* Turn your head towards your left -- same sense you are jumping (this
will force your left shoulder back a bit, so it can be very useful if
you feel you are stopping yourself from rotating ). Keep arms folded
close to your body.
* In the air, cross legs at the ankles in a backspin position. For this
reason, working on backspins is a helpful exercise.
* You can use half-flips as a stepping stone, but they can easily become a
crutch. After the LFO 3-turn, pick with the free right leg, jump up, and
land again on the toe-pick of the right leg, stepping forward onto a LFO
edge. Go back and take a look at how much distance you covered doing the
above. Then do it again, this time making a conscious effort to use your
picking foot to pull yourself backwards. The distance should get longer.

6.2.6 Lutz jump

The Lutz is named after the Austrian skater Alois Lutz. The Lutz is similar
to the flip, but it takes off from a BO edge instead of a BI. This means
that the jump turns in the counter direction to the entry edge. This
"counter"character of the jump makes it one of the hardest single jumps,
since it is not possible to take advantage of the intrinsic rotation
provided by the edge to start turning.

One of the most common mistakes in the Lutz is doing a change before the
take off, so that the skater is technically doing a flip instead of a Lutz.
This is what is usually referred to as a "flutz". Although an incidental
change of edge just before the takeoff is tolerated, the best looking Lutzes
are achieved by taking off a pure outside edge

The standard preparation for the CCW Lutz consists in CW back crossovers
followed by a sustained shallow left back outside edge. The hips and
shoulders should be perfectly square while riding the edge.

After settling on a stable outside edge, pass the right arm back to get a
serious check on that shoulder. Look straight ahead down your left arm. Bend
the skating knee, extend back the right leg and plant the pick on a straight
line behind the left skating foot - it may feel like the pick is slightly
inside the BO circle described by the skating foot.

Make sure that you don't raise the free leg and kick the ice with the pick.
This is not only a waste of energy, but it also makes you bend too much at
the waist, which slows down the rotation (not to mention that it will hurt
your toe!)

During the picking, concentrate on holding that right shoulder check. If you
let the right shoulder come around before picking you will very likely

As you jump, draw the free arm into, not around, the body.

An alternative entry: Instead of riding the long back outside edge, some
skaters do CCW crossovers or a left foot mohawk, ride briefly on a right
back outside edge (or flat), cross the left foot over the right onto the
left outside back edge and then pick and jump. This entry is sometimes
recommended to get rid of a flutz, because the right shoulder tends to move
naturally backwards during the crossover step prior to the jump. The secret
is not to linger on the LBO edge and pick and jump immediately after the

6.2.7. Axel jump

The Axel jump takes off from a forwards outside edge is landed on the
backwards outside edge of the opposite leg, after one and a half

The usual approach to the Axel is a RBO edge (for counterclockwise jumpers).
On the approach, make sure that your body is very upright, your feet are
closer together and you are facing outside the circle. From this position,
push strongly onto a LFO edge on a deeply bent knee, leaving the free leg
far behind you. At the same time throw both arms behind you, with slightly
bent elbows. Your upper body should remain upright and over your hips. The
following bit of clip-art illustrates what you are supposed to look like on
the entry to the Axel:

The lift-off for the Axel comes both from pushing off the skating leg and
from swinging forwards the arms and the free leg. The more forceful the
swing, the higher the jump will be. As you raise on the jumping leg, roll
your weight forwards onto the toepick. The toepick will be the last thing to
leave the ice.

IMPORTANT: When the free leg overtakes the jumping leg, do not kick forwards
with the free foot, but instead drive the knee upwards. This is what some
people means by "stepping up" into the Axel. The movement of the free leg
resembles climbing up a steep staircase. The purpose of this "stepping up"
is to keep the free leg as close to your body as possible during the
lift-off stage. This facilitates the snap into a fast rotation and the
weight transfer from the left to the right leg, required for a stable
landing on a strong back edge.

As you lift the ice your free knee will be pointing upwards, your arms
extended in front of you and your jumping leg fully stretched. Now comes the
tricky bit: To generate the fast rotation, quickly pull in your arms towards
your chest, point down the soon to be landing leg and cross the left over
the right leg. This will look as if you were doing a backspin in the
air.Although achieving this air backspin position quickly is not strictly
required to be able to do an Axel, it is the key to complete successfully
more advanced multi-revolution jumps and it is generally considered better
form than jumping with your legs hanging side to side ,so you might as well
learn it!

When you land, unwrap the legs by lifting the left knee and roll onto the
RBO edge in the usual landing position. Axel exercises

The Axel can be a difficult jump to learn. Although mastering this jump will
inevitably take some time and quite a few falls, there are several skills
and exercises which can be used as stepping stones for the Axel. Practicing
them will provide you with some ingrained knowledge of the correct technique
for the different phases of the jump and reduce the risk of injuries
resulting from clumsy attempts.
1. Waltz jump: Having a strong confident waltz jump is an important
requirement for the Axel. Practice waltz jumps making sure that you
adopt the proper Axel take off position.
2. Waltz-loop combination: Doing a loop (or better, a loop-loop) after the
Waltz jump practices control of the free leg and hip and also helps with
the concept of weight transfer to a new rotation axis.
3. Backspin: Practice as many backspins as possible. A particularly useful
exercise consists in snapping into a fast backspin from a standstill (by
quickly pulling in your arms and crossing your legs at the ankle. This
exercise simulates getting into the flight position and fast rotation in
the Axel and multi-revolution jumps. Doing the backspin off the landing
of a waltz jump is also a good exercise.
4. Step-up: From a standstill or a one-foot forwards glide, step onto the
take-off leg and practice the step-up into the Axel: swing your arms
forwards until they are extended in front of you and drive your free
knee upwards to hip height or higher and you roll up onto the toepick of
the jumping leg. When you are comfortable with the step-up, try adding a
fast backspin as you touch down with the landing leg.

6.2.8 Two foot spin

The hardest part about learning spins is to get the feel of it. It's a bit
like balancing a broom on your hand...

Do you work in an office with a swivel chair? Or can you find one? If so,
sit square on the seat and twist your upper body opposite to the direction
you want to spin. HOLD YOUR ARMS OUT UNTIL you have the chair turning just a
bit. Then pull them in SLOWLY.

You'll probably find you start whizzing around. If you don't, oil the chair
or keep fiddling until you get it. Once you've got it, practice it until you
get fired or you can do it every time.

As in the chair analogy, the preparation for a 2-foot spin is a wind-up and
release. Start by bending your left (skating) knee. Also bend the ankle, and
just sink your hip toward your heel, keeping your torso upright. Your
shoulders and hips should be lined up over your skating foot. In order to do
this, you have to allow the non-skating (right) foot to slide/glide a long
way out from your skating foot -- BUT without any weight on it. Your weight
should be ALL over the skating foot. "Wind up" your upper body. Your left
arm should be forward and a bit across your body and your right arm should
be well back. When you release this tension by bringing your upper body
(shoulders, torso, arms) to neutral, you create some rotational energy.

NOW, you are ready for the *real* trick: As you release the free side (i.e.:
release the wind-up), and begin to straighten the spinning leg, PULL IN with
your thighs. You don't just *let* your legs come together, you PULL them
together. Your inner thighs have very powerful muscles in them and you will
be amazed at the energy they can generate.

Keep your shoulders level. Don't bend at the waist. Don't look down at the

An alternative standing start is with a pivot. Cock your left knee to stick
the left toepick in the ice, and start your spin with the same windup you
would use if you were standing on both blades. Put your weight over the
pivoting toe. As you release the free side and straighten the skating knee,
roll the left skate back off the pick and onto the blade.

Try a moving start: glide forward on 2 feet held parallel. Wind up your
upper body. Cock your left knee to stick your pick in the ice and turn out
the left hip. Commit your weight to the left foot. By sticking the pick in
the ice, you translate your momentum, which was forward on BOTH feet to
forward only on one, but that one has to go in circles around the left toe,
which is now stationary. When the pick catches, release the windup, begin
straightening the left leg, rocking back from the pick, and pulling in with
your thighs. In other words, once you have begun the pivot, this is
identical to a standing start, but you have the added momentum from your
forward motion.

The crux of all spins is that you have more time than you think. Don't yank
your arms or legs in quickly; use the twist in your body to get a little bit
of rotation first, and then pull in. As you get faster you'll start to feel
the centrifugal force trying to pull your arms back out. Balance that pull
so that you keep on pulling in slowly, and you'll have joined the Scott
Hamiltons of the world!

Good luck. And remember -- spinning is like riding a bike. It's a knack, not
a talent.

6.2.9 Forward Scratch spin

On a 1-foot spin, both the arms and the free leg are drawn in to the body to
increase your speed. The slower and more controlled you bring in the leg and
arms the faster and more controlled the spin will be (and it will look
better!). A 1-foot spin is done standing up straight on the "sweet spot" of
the skate, just behind the picks. Learning how to spin is largely learning
how to get into and hold this position with no residual linear motion.

The following definitive description of a forward scratch spin, covering the
basics of one foot spins, is included (with minor modifications) with
permission from Janet Swan-Hill.
1. Spinning is a matter of celestial mechanics. As you are doing your back
crossovers getting ready, you are describing a circle (a planet orbiting
the sun). You want to spin in the exact center of that circle (where the
sun is). BUT, just as you can't aim straight at the sun and hit it,
because you are moving backwards on a curve. You have to set off on a
curve that will get you to the center eventually. This means, that when
you step off for the spin, you step slightly forward (on a strong
outside edge), NOT backward, and not quite perpendicular to the skating
2. Don't hurry. You will never center the spin if you step off and
immediately release the free side. You should describe a full
half-circle before you get to the "sun" and release the free side to let
yourself spin. Practice on a hockey line: Stand with your feet crossed
as they would be before you step into the spin, with a strong check
(skating arm/shoulder well forward, free side well back). push off onto
a forward outside edge (left for most of us), and don't let the free
side release until you have finished a half circle and gotten back to
the line. People who are already very accomplished at spinning will
often not look as if they have "waited" to spin. Don't copy them. They
already have the kinesthetic memory of the spin completely ingrained,
and can telescope everything into less of an apparent sequence of
events. they can also compensate for an unorthodox or "off" approach.
Beginners don't do very well at compensating.
3. When you step into the spin, keep your shoulders level. Sweep the
skating arm around from its strong check to a neutral position,
imagining that you are sweeping across the top of a high table, trying
to clear it off. If you go in with your skating arm angled downward,
your spin will travel badly. And remember that your arm is not an
isolated body part. Think of the arms/shoulders/upper torso as a
(hinged) unit. As you sweep the arm across, you are also moving the
shoulders and upper torso, with the aim of getting them into "neutral"
position (faced forward, shoulders and hips facing straight ahead, arms
extended (at first) to the side, or rather, slightly in front of the
body, but equally in front)
4. When you are doing your backward crossovers getting ready to step into
the spin, imagine that you have a tail. Before you step into the spin,
your left foot is underslung -- behind and outside the skating foot, and
your hips are angled so that your "tail" is pointing outside the circle
instead of backward
5. Spend some time practicing stepping into the spin without pushing with
the toepick of the soon-to-be-free foot. If you step off from a toe pick
or a backward scrape, you will lose most of your momentum and "jar" your
position, making it more difficult to keep balance.
6. Imagine that someone has inserted a broomstick so that it runs up your
left leg and side and ending at your left shoulder. Imagine yourself
spinning forward around the broomstick. Lift your free hip slightly.
This will move the center of gravity directly over the skating foot ...
and whatever spin you do, whatever position you eventually assume, you
will always need the center of gravity over the skating foot. For
instance, in a layback, the hips are thrust forward to act as a counter
to the weight of the upper body. The arms are also used to adjust the
location of the center of gravity.
7. When you release the free side and allow the free foot to come forward,
bring the free leg as close to directly in front as you can. Ideally the
thigh should be parallel to the ice with the foot turned out (work
toward this as a goal ... it's a little scary). Fast spins are caused by
the momentum carried into the spin by the free leg swinging around. The
longer you spin with your free foot extended (especially if you have it
extended to the side) the more likely it will be to pull you off the
center or gravity and therefore the center of the spin. BUT, DON'T bring
the free foot in quickly, and do anything jerkily, because it will
disturb your position, and pull you off a centered spin. BUT NOTE: if
you are going to bend your free leg to cross it in front for a scratch
spin, it will need to be at least slightly to the side instead of
directly in front.
8. Don't forget the down-up-down. This is critical, and beginners rarely
remember it. (Many aren't told): As you are getting ready to step into
the spin, your skating leg should be deeply bent DOWN (the other leg is
slung under and outside the skating foot). Rise UP on the skating knee,
then as you step into the pre-spin edge, sink DOWN on the new skating
knee. As you reach the center, and release the free side, rise UP again,
but don't jerk. Each time you rise up, you reduce weight on the blade,
which is why the UP as you center the spin is critical. But in order to
have an UP, you have to have had a DOWN. Another advantage to this
little litany is that it puts a cadence to the spin entry.
9. Don't look down. Keep your eyes level and don't focus on anything. When
you are "winding up", look out ahead at the hand that is in front. This
does two things: It makes you keep the check, and it keeps you from
looking to the side or down. It also tends to keep the "sweep" of the
left arm horizontal, even though by the time you "sweep", you aren't
looking at that hand any more.
10. If you are spinning on your pick, THINK about the part of your foot just
behind the ball of your foot. Just thinking about it is usually enough
to make you unconsciously adjust where your weight is. It you actually
try to shift your weight, you will more than likely overdo it and find
yourself on the back of your blade (which is dangerous). Spinning with
your toepick grazing the ice is OK -- that's essentially the definition
of a scratch spin -- but you don't want to be too much on the pick,
because it slows you down, and it is inherently precariously balanced.
It also digs a hole in the ice.
11. The exit position for a spin is the same as that for a jump. If you are
spinning on your left foot, bring the right foot down to touch the ice
and put your weight on it. When the right foot touches the ice, bend
both knees, and simultaneously push yourself backward with the inside
edge of your left foot (as if you were doing a left foot back scull) to
push yourself onto a RBO edge. Extend the left foot (which is now your
free foot) backward and slightly outside so that the edge doesn't curl
too much, and keep your arms in "neutral" (i.e., don't let your left arm
and shoulder rotate around toward the back).

Remember, a spin is just a 3-turn that you set free. Traveling spins

Problems with centering spins can be caused by lots of things, usually
during the spin entry. Don't step too wide. When you are going into a spin,
you will be transferring your weight from the right foot (for
counterclockwise spinners) to directly over the spinning (left) foot. If
your step into the spin (which is a Choctaw, by the way) is too wide, your
body weight has to bridge the distance between your feet and end up directly
over the left foot ... and it usually won't make it. Instead, your center of
gravity will be somewhere to the right of the skating foot, which will make
it impossible to center the spin ... if you don't fall out of the spin

Traveling refers to linear motion across the ice during the spin. Traveling
is the result of not having your upper body above your center of gravity.
There are 3 places in a spin from which you can start traveling:
1. right after the 3-turn. If you never get the center to begin with, it
can be difficult to pull it in later. Work on stopping your linear
momentum and bringing you right leg around into a spinning motion.
2. while you're spinning and before you bring your arms and legs in.
Dropping your leg or leaving it too far out to one side or the other can
cause you to travel. Make sure the leg is kept high, thigh parallel to
the ice.
3. when you bring the legs and arms in too fast. People often do this if
they feel themselves losing control of the spin. about dizziness

The three semicircular canals of the inner ear are primarily associated with
equilibrium. They are filled with fluid and operate on the principle of
inertia of fluid. Each canal has tiny hair-like sensors that relate to the
brain the motion of the fluid. Rotation of the body tends to move the fluid,
causing the displacement of the sensors which then transmit to the brain the
message of the direction of their displacement.

However, if the turn is a prolonged and constant one, the motion of the
fluid catches up to the canal walls, the sensors are no longer bent, and the
brain receives the incorrect message that the turning has stopped. If the
turn does then indeed stop, the movement of the fluid and the displacement
of the sensors will indicate a turn in the opposite direction (which is the
sensation of dizziness).

Problems with dizziness seem to be worse if the spin is not well centered or
travels, probably because the movement of the fluid in the inner ear canals
is not symmetrical. Looking down while spinning is a great way to get really

Mild dizziness after a spin can be quickly overcome if you skate off or do
one or two turns in the opposite direction. This is better than just
standing still because motion in a new direction will help redirect the flow
of the inner ear liquid.

If you get very, very dizzy, it helps to go to the boards and hang onto
something solid. Stand still, relax, and place your right index finger
between your eyebrows and press gently for about 10 seconds. Focus on
something still. Try not to throw up. The Zamboni driver will hate you!

The good news is that the longer you train spins, the more tolerant you
become to dizziness. The reason for this is that, as the brain continues to
receive contradictory sensory input over and over, it just learns to ignore
the confusing information. Therefore, practicing spins on the floor or with
a spin trainer can be beneficial if you have problems with dizziness on ice.

6.2.10 Backspin

This spin is done in the same direction as the forward scratch spin, but a
counter-clockwise forward spin is done on an LBI edge and a
counter-clockwise backspin on a RBO edge. Mentally the backspin can be
tough, tough because you are probably well used to spinning on the other leg
and your reflexes tell you to put your weight there.

The standard method to learning a backspin is starting from a standstill.
For the CCW backspin:
1. Stand with your feet parallel with legs straight but not locked. Anchor
your right toepick into the ice.
2. Wind up your upper body, with your left arm in front of you and right
arm pull back. You start the spin by bending your right knee a little
more (sinking on the right knee will ensure that you transfer the weight
to the right side), then rotating your shoulders CCW, sweeping your
right arm around along a wide arc towards the front. Your left foot will
describe a brief LBI pivot around your right foot during this entry. Try
not to pivot on the toepick, but roll back slightly behind to the
sweetspot of the blade, just where you are supposed to spin!
3. So far, what you are doing looks like the two-foot spin entry described
above. For the backspin, raise on the right leg and let your left leg
come off the ice as soon as your shoulders become parallel to your hips.
After perfecting the entry, you can try pushing off the LBI edge at this
stage, for more speed. It is critical at this point not to drop your
left hip, otherwise you will fall right off the spin or (even harder to
correct in the long term) start spinning on a RI edge instead of the RO
one. Also, keep pressing down on the sweetspot of the blade - do not
rock either towards the toepick or the back of the blade.
4. After raising your left leg off the ice, turn the hip out slightly and
wrap the leg around your right leg - yes, your mind say that this is
suicide. Your arms should be positioned as if you were hugging a giant
beach ball. You should be able to see your hands out of the corners of
your eyes. Now, bring your arms in slowly.

As you get more comfortable with the spin, you can increase the number of
rotations by using linear motion. Step on a LFI edge. Wind up. Push on a RFI
edge with the skating leg deeply bent. Sweep your arms around until you are
forced to do a RFI 3 and rise on your right leg at the apex of the turn. The
left free leg remains in the same position as when you stepped on the RFI
edge, i.e., behind you and slightly turned out to the side. Do not try to
move the free leg across and over the right leg. Instead, leave it extended
to the side (do not drop the free hip!) and let your right spinning side to
"catch up" with it as you spin. This is probably the hardest bit in the
whole entry but once you will get it, it will cause a dramatic improvement
of the backspin!.

Like in the normal spin, you accelerate the rotation by bringing in your
free foot to the skating leg, and then pulling down your free foot as you
pull in your arms.

Now, to get out of the spin. Easier said than done! Start by pull out your
arms slightly and raising the free knee (this will slow down the spin).
Then, bend the skating (right) knee deeply, rocking back onto the center of
your skate. Unwrap the free leg, extending it behind you forcefully, making
sure that your upper body remains upright. This will translate your
rotational motion into backward motion on an RBO edge.

Here are a few more tips:
* It's a backspin so you are spinning on a RBO edge. Practice RBO edges
for awhile before spinning so you really get this "going backward" feel.
* Through the whole spin, including the exit, keep your back and head
upright and your shoulders level.
* Do not lock your skating leg while spinning. The leg should be fairly
straight, but do not push the knee all the way back. this helps keeping
your weight on the sweetspot.
* Stay off the inside edge. If you find you are on a shallow inside edge,
try pressing down on you pinky toe. Consistently spinning on a inside
edge most likely means that there is a major flaw in your entry. Having
said that, once you have mastered the backspin, it is OK to try spinning
on the inside edge on purpose, to add variety to your spins.
* Practice doing connecting three turns on your right foot. Start with a
RFI, then do an RBO. Try to get into the backspin position as you do
* Practice at home in your socks or buy a spin trainer.

6.2.11 Sit spin

The sit spin is done in the "shoot the duck" position, with the arms
extended in front of the body and the free leg in front and turned out (as
in ballet's rond de jambe). There are many variations on the entry and body
position, but here is one that works for many beginners.

Start the spin in the sit position. When stepping into the spin (on a LFO
edge), bend the knee deeply and lean forward trying to place your chest on
your thigh, only keeping your back straight and head up. This is to get you
to enter the spin in a lower than usual position, so that you don't start
spinning in a one foot spin and then have to bring your leg around AND lower
your body at the same time.

It has been suggested that you should try to look over your right shoulder
(left shoulder for CW spinners) and see the heel of your free leg as you
enter the spin. Get your balance in the spin before bring the free leg
around -- about 1/2 a revolution. Once in position, sweep the free leg
immediately around to the front. You want the right leg and right arm go
come around at the exact same time so timing is critical. Place your arms in
front as if you were water skiing.

Here are a few tips:
* Practice shoot the ducks (skating forward and then lowering yourself
into a sitting position, arms and free leg extended in front) in a
straight line and try to reach past your toes. This helps you to get
into a nice low position and gives you more of a feel for where your
weight should be in a sitspin.
* During the entry look out at a point beyond your hands and keep your
back straight.
* Keep your butt down and shoulders back. It's common to feel the need to
keep your weight forward so as not to fall back. This will only tip you
onto your toepick!
* Remember to turn out your free leg (the inside of your foot should face
the ceiling).

6.2.12 Camel spin

The Camel spin is done in the spiral position, with the free leg extended
straight behind, turned out and raised to a position parallel to the ice,
the back arched and the head raised, arms held out to the sides. The Camel
spin is the most demanding of the basic spins in terms of timing, the lack
of which causes a very slow spin and poor centering of the spin. Here are
the basics.

When stepping into the spin (on a strong LFO edge), bend the knee deeply and
lean forward trying to place your chest on your thigh, only keeping your
back straight and head up, as in the sit-spin. Don't step too wide. Then,
all at the same time, sweep your left arm as if clearing a table, rise up on
your skating leg while raising your free leg and ride the LFO edge until you
are in position. This is where the "snap" comes from to give you the
rotation. Maintain the stretch throughout the spin.

Here are a few tips:
* When you step onto the skating foot to enter the spin, be on a good edge
(LFO). If you on on the flat of your blade, you will probably skid.
* Ride that edge into a strong curve, until you've scribed a bit of a
U-turn, where you will enter the spin itself. If you try to spin too
soon you may just 3-turn.
* Bend your skating knee as you ride the edge, rising to a straight leg
position as you enter the actual spin.
* Don't release your wound up left arm too soon as you enter the spin, but
also don't wait too long so that you whip it madly around at the last
minute. The arm should unfold to generate momentum as you are rising up
from your bent knee (when you are at the apex of the curve, entering the
U part). The arm moves over a period of time, not at an instant.
* The upper body should be pushed, forced CCW as you are moving your arm.
The arm and upper body (with the free leg coming up and around) induce
the spin. You can get a fast spin without a lot of speed on entry if you
coordinate the body well, but speed on entry doesn't hurt either.
* Tricky part..You will get more control if you ride the entry edge on the
mid portion of the blade (feels like the back of the blade, but I don't
think it is). Then as you release the spin, rock forward to the sweet
spot to center the spin. This is not easy but it helps.

6.3 Synchronized skating

Synchronized skating (also known as precision skating), when done well, can
be intensely exciting to watch. Once having been to a major synchronized
skating competition, you can find that singles may pall. As a participant,
it's an excellent way of honing your skating skills.

Synchronized skating is a choreographed routine of complex footwork and
formations, a lot like synchronized swimming (except that you are on top of
the ice and it's frozen), or like low flying jets doing acrobatics. It is an
intensely cooperative sport, with each skater skating an assigned spot, and
no substitutions allowed during the course of the routine. In the best
routines, no one skater "draws the eye". The aim is for exact
synchronization, and perfect formations performed at speed. The greater the
complexity, the greater the difficulty, and the greater the number of
skaters, the higher the score.

Examples of greater difficulty would include clockwise rotation and footwork
(against the natural rotation and using the "weak" side of 90% of skaters);
backwards work, especially involving blind or semi-blind intersections;
formations that rotate while also having the center of rotation travel from
one point to another on the rink; changes in direction; especially complex
footwork; changes in holds and orientation; effective and "invisible"
transitions from one formation to another (such that cause the spectator to
say "How did they get there?")

The number of skaters depends on the division in which they skate (Junior,
Senior, Masters etc.) and is usually from 12 to about 24. The divisions are
based on age and range from maximum 12 years for Juvenile to minimum 25
years for Masters.

Routines have a specified duration, depending on the division, and must
(except for technical programs) have at least two changes of music, with one
piece being in a distinctly different rhythm or style. Junior and Senior
divisions perform both a technical program, with a prescribed list of moves,
and a free skating program.

There is no featured or solo work permitted. Jumps of more than one rotation
are forbidden, and must be performed in formation. Spins of more than two
rotations are forbidden and must be performed in formation. Lifts and
carries of all sorts are prohibited.

Synchronized skating is a sport that can be pursued by (1) people who don't
particularly enjoy skating alone, (2) people who may never get a double
jump, (3) people who can't find a pair or dance partner. (4) people who
started skating late, (5) people returning to skating, (6) gold medalists
who never stopped skating, (7) people who can't get enough of various types
of skating, (8) people who are too nervous to compete alone, (9) anyone with
appropriate skating skills, and a willingness to work as part of a team.

Synchronized skating is a great spectator sport and a wonderful participant
sport for men and women of all ages. There are a few teams with waiting
lists and 50 people trying out for a single spot, but there are many more
teams that have room for qualified skaters ... if not immediately on the
line, then as alternates. Most will let you "try them out" to see if
synchronized skating suits your style and talents. Most are eager to see the
sport grow, and will welcome prospective skaters.

It is a great sport for kids! All skaters in a synchronized team have to
learn a lot about the obligations that an individual has to the group, and
of the consequences of not holding up your end of a bargain. They learn that
in order for the group to succeed, they must work for the success of every
individual in the group. And do they EVER learn about dealing with people!

Synchronized Figure Skating is a competitive discipline, recognized by the
National Governing associations, ISIA, and ISU. In 1994 the ISU formed a
Synchronized Skating Technical Committee, which is an important step toward
development of an official world championships. National championships have
been held for the last 11 years.

6.4 Figures

Figures is the oldest of the formal skating disciplines. Basic figures
consist of executing various predefined patterns, edges and turns on circles
grouped in a two-lobed (figure-8) or three-lobed (serpentine) patterns.
Practicing figures yields an understanding of how body and blade interact
that is difficult to learn at typical dance or freeskate speeds. Figures
helps teach body control, focus and the execution of clean turns and edges.
Figures can be a very relaxing and meditative activity.

While figures clearly addresses skating fundamentals, there was much
controversy about whether working on school figures is the best or most
expeditious way for the dance or freestyle skaters to learn these elements.
In the end, figures were officially abandoned (the high cost of figure
sessions probably also played a part) and few instructors teach them now
(although some will be pleased to if you want to learn them!)

In the US, the current "Moves in the Field" for freestyle skaters are an
attempt to combine the discipline and emphasis on quality of figures, with
moves and sequences more like those encountered in freestyle or dance
skating. In Canada, "Skating Skills", have replaced figures. Skating Skills
involves performing certain edges and turns to music (sort of a combination
of ice dancing and figures). Skating Skills tests correspond with the
figures so that those who have passed figure tests can skip the first few
Skating Skills.

Back to the Table of Contents

30 Aug 2006 04:16:51
Re: Recreational Figure Skating FAQ - Advanced Skills

Eye Injries are normal because of dust.It's common for a speck of dirt
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Eye injuries can be prevented by using protective eyewear. Wear safety
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