Many years ago I was given some books on figure skating, one written by the renowned coach, the late Carlo Fassi, and the other by John Misha Petkevich, who could bring a crowd to its feet by simply lifting one arm in a very elegant manner (I saw this happen!)
I’ve been looking up advice on brackets, which both of them cover in a section on school figures (yes, I am that old!) So while all the illustrations have the skaters looking down, there is useful advice and diagrams galore. One idea in particular seems like it will be really helpful for me. I’ll just share some of what Mr. Fassi says.
It is a good idea to imagine yourself completely surrounded by a plastic tube, which establishes a vertical alignment of the body over the skate. The tube moves with you throughout the figure and insures that the action for the bracket can only be done straight up and down with the foot, as the tube prevents the shoulders and hips from moving at all, away from the center of gravity.
(So old that I remember when “totally tubular” was actually a phrase people used! )
Mr. Fassi provides a list of basic theoretical principles for figures; some of these are quite useful as well. Here’s my favorites (boldfaced emphasis is mine):
- Always keep the weight of the body directly on the skating hip and over the skating foot.
- Keep the hips motionless, as this will result in no movement that can interrupt and disturb the running of the blade. The hip is one of the heaviest parts of the body, and every movement of the hip causes another action of the body someplace else–most likely the foot. It is similar to artists whose shoulder is bumped while delicately holding a brush to a painting.
- Always lean into the center of the circle–remember the cone. Proper lean aids the smooth running of the blade by reducing friction. if you suddenly release the free hip, the body will lose its lean, forcing the edge of the blade into the ice and creating friction.
- Keep the weight balanced on the center of the blade, except of course through the turns. If you stand on the center of the blades they will run through the ice much faster and more cleanly than if the weight is forward or back. Imagine a boat slicing its way through the water. If the keel is too far back in the water it will increase its friction and slow down.
- Remember the image of the plastic tube–the body should move up and down through the figures, letting the knee and foot do all the work. Never bend forward or lean back, since this unnecessary movement is always translated to the blades and results in a loss of speed. Execute all the figures and their movements in the tube to prevent loss of speed and damage to the tracing.
- The knee can never be bent too much. The knee is made for bending, and when you bend the knee the hip is kept steady. Remember that every time you “lock” the knee the body will compensate and lean or “break: the alignment somewhere else–usually at the hip.
- Always keep a good position with the free leg. The free leg should be extended and stretched, with the toe pointed. The free leg is like the rudder of a boat, pointing and directing you where you want to go. The free leg not only adds to your style but helps maintain a steady trace.
I especially love the phrase “running of the blade”; it reminds me of the running of the bulls, or running water, or running anything.
It’s harder to imagine the more generously-proportioned parts of my body moving in a tube (the skinny kids in the books’ illustrations could fit into straws!) But I will certainly try. Working on these is super fun! (Ha, you thought I was going to say “totally tubular,” didn’t you?)