jo skates

Skating in the key of life

Befriending the three turn


Sometimes you can obsess about a move for days, months, even years, and then boom, something clicks into place and suddenly, inexplicably, it works.

Take my left outside three turn, for example. I’ve been really baffled by this move. Pushing into that forward outside entry edge was like walking towards a firing squad. It’s been discouraging to look at a post I wrote over a year ago, and realize that I still have some of the same problems, even after a year of hard work.

At my lesson yesterday, though, Laurie told me to release my right shoulder forward while rotating into the turn. (I had been moving my right arm forward, but not my shoulder. Go figure.)

And yes, it worked. I don’t quite have it all down: I still need a more consistent outside edge going into the turn, and I need to bend immediately on the inside edge coming out of the turn (instead of pausing, thinking “I need to bend,” and then bending).

But the turn itself? Well, now it seems to work. So first I go hooray!!! And I then think to myself, “Was all that necessary?”

By that, I don’t mean all the physical work it has taken to get to this point: figuring out my hips were misaligned, isolating which muscles were involved, doing lots of exercises, relearning correct body position, edges, and rotation. All that was necessary to make it so this one little change could become a “quick fix” rather than a major production.

No, by that I mean the frustration. You know, the sense of arggghh!!! The years of thinking of the three turn as my nemesis, rather than my friend. The internal voice that goes something like “All those #%&!!! hours on the ice, and you still can’t do a #%&!!! three turn?”

So there are several ways this lesson could go.

  1. I could pretend that I have never had a problem with threes. You know, like denial–acting like something never existed (like what they used to called “abandoning” and now call “ghosting” someone, only I am not doing this to someone else, just to the bad versions of my three turns, so it’s not quite the same thing.) What happened never happened. La di dah di dah.
  2. I could figure out another focal point for my embittered skating ambitions. Since the left outside three turn is now my BFF, all that negative energy will turn to other enemies (ahem) challenges. Like the inside three turn (still hard on the left). Or maybe my mohawks (a.k.a. Zhulins). Recently, every time I’ve demonstrated mohawks on lessons, my coaches look puzzled and say things like “I’m not really sure what you’re trying to do.” Then I have to caption what I just tried to do: “This is my feeble attempt at an outside-outside closed mohawk.”
  3. Or I could do the positive reappraisal thing, and rethink my entire experience with the traumatic threes. (“How am I a better person for having struggled with three turns all these years?” Hmmm, the answer is not coming to me. . . )

The great thing about skating is that it doesn’t really matter which of the three options I choose. Heck, it doesn’t matter how I feel about doing three turns. I just have to do them. Hopefully with my free shoulder released on the entry so that I can rotate properly.

I will report back as to whether the left three remains a friend of mine. Okay, here’s an additional list of things for me to do (from the past few weeks), not just think about.

  • Another “quick fix” is something Ari told me about the back outside to forward outside transition: depending on where you want to go, your new foot can come up behind the skating foot and then push to a forward outside. Another hooray! Just stop at hooray. . .
  • COUNTING AND PATTERN. For all I talk about music, I think I need to get a little more rhythm into my skating. Or let me rephrase that: I need to get some different rhythms into my skating. I tend to pause and reset my edges on the inside edges of progressives, for instance, so I need to spend equal or greater time on the outside edges. On perimeter stroking I have pay attention both to counting and placement  (2 beats on progressive, 4 on inside to make transitions more parallel to boards).
  • On my progressives, I am still working on circles and strong pushing feet. I love imagining that my body is a pastry bag (only a strong and hopefully attractive pastry bag) shooting powerfully out of that pastry bag tip (that sweet spot on the blade).
  • Forward inside threes, then cross in front (I had a lot of trouble with this on the left, but it helps to think about starting with the skating arm forward).
  • Back cross strokes (chest keeps facing forward, knees bent and turned out, free foot skims, the motion comes from the push from the skating foot rather than from swinging the free side around).
  • Inside swing rolls, hips roll forward (tailbone down, take out back arch).
  • inside brackets (you can do these with an inside swing roll first). Remember that the hip begins by turning in (hips face outside the circle you are making) and then out after the turn.

Author: Joskates

Don't see me on the ice? I may be in the classroom or at the theater, or hanging out with my family and friends.

4 thoughts on “Befriending the three turn

  1. I have to do those forward inside 3s with the cross in front. They sound so much easier than they are to do in reality! And I totally understand where you’re coming from with those forward outside 3s. The backspin used to be the bane of my existence but now we’re BFFs as well. Once you have that one element consistent, it can serve as a gateway to other transitions and elements!


  2. When you’ve figured out the secret of the inside three, tell me!!! I need a new BFF!


  3. I also watch birds and there’s a thing in birding called your ‘nemesis bird,’ the one that you can never see (for years) and have experiences like getting to a spot where someone tells you “It flew away five minutes ago.” I’ve never been a fan of the ‘nemesis bird’ concept because I love birds, none of them are my nemesis! So I’d like to think that skating moves are the same: I love skating so nothing in skating is going to be my nemesis (not even that fourteenstep mohawk).


  4. Such a sunny attitude! You will definitely get that 14-step mohawk faster because it won’t be put off by your scowl (like mine was…)


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