jo skates

Skating in the key of life

A new hope


Since it may be a while before I get in to see the new Star Wars movie, I’ve been watching skating videos to get that much-needed shot of adrenaline. I really like the Shibutanis’ free dance this season; I even like watching it minus Coldplay (sometimes it’s easier to hit “mute,” even though I do like the song).

I wonder if Coldplay will invite the ShibSibs to skate during the Super Bowl halftime show. . . hmmmm. . . .

One thing that I’ve been fixated on are the way the Shibutanis’ knees and ankles are constantly bending. It’s mesmerizing. If I turn Coldplay back on, I can really see how their lower bodies work to express the music, not just to propel their upper bodies around the rink. I tend to focus on their faces and expressive arms and beautiful back positions, and sometimes forget to pay attention to the constant action of their knees, ankles, and feet. They are engaging these throughout the program, not just in the footwork sequences.

I do not allow my ankles to bend enough, meaning that my knees don’t go past 90 degrees. This means that I am sometimes skating on restricted or even locked knees and ankles. This has led to overdeveloped, tight quads and additional pressure on my knees (and feet). It also it keeps my hips from coming forward underneath me, and puts my weight backwards on my blade.

Is this the reason why I sometimes do the “bobbing bird” in an effort to get my weight forward? As Luke Skywalker might say, noooo!


If you look at this picture of Nathalie Péchalat and Fabian Bourzat, you’ll see that each of their skating legs makes a shape like this:


Not like this:


When I was doing one of my bridging exercises the other day, PT Sarah told me to thinking of my knees as reaching forward. This seems to be good advice for skating as well.

This week I’ve been concentrating on flexing through the ankles and actively reaching my skating knees forward and downwards. The result is that I can feel the driving force of each push moving through the skating thigh. My body moves forward over the skate, even past it a little, and then can move back again. It’s a very elastic feeling.

Realizing that I could activate my skating side by reaching the knee forward was quite a revelation. What makes this so exciting is that it seems to help a lot with the alignment of my left side. This is especially true on turns; I was able to do inside rockers on the left side, which have always been a problem for me. It also helps with that initial edge into forward outside three turns.

So the skating week ended on a very good note indeed. Here’s some lesson notes. Someday I’ll read this and think “A long time ago in a rink far, far away”:

  • edge pulls: forward, use gravity and ankle bend to move forward; change tempo of power pulls to accelerate. Backwards, allow hip to rotate in socket, work on definitively bending and pushing on left side (this is still tentative).
  • alternating progressive, swing roll with hands clasped (forwards and backwards). This will show whether your shoulders are really on the circle. Make sure you initiate curve with a strong skating side, not by pulling around with shoulders. The body just goes along with the legs for a ride.
  • outside three, push back onto back outside edge, back outside three; inside mohawk push back, back outside three. On both of these, make sure you are really pushing, and turn your free leg out on the back outside edge. Turn your head too. Arms can help with this (try some different arm positions).
  • alternating back crossover, change edge, cross in front. Watch your left back inside edge and make sure you are really bending, turning in your free leg, and doing a good change of edge.
  • alternating forward outside three turns followed by change of edge.
  • back clockwise chassés (this is to work on getting a good push onto a good left back outside edge). Hang on to that inside edge push longer. Remember proper head position, shoulders down.
  • inside mohawk. Don’t forget to turn your body first; big toe turned out on exit free foot.
  • outside open mohawks. You have to hold your foot on the outside edge; if you allow it to come in neutral, you will do an inside edge.


And some lyrics to that Coldplay song, now stuck in my head:

When you try your best, but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can’t sleep
Stuck in reverse
And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace
When you love someone, but it goes to waste
Could it be worse?

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you





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.

6 thoughts on “A new hope

  1. The ShibSibs are beautiful and mesmerizing to watch – they make it look so easy! I have the opposite problem with my knees and ankles. My coach says that I bend *too* much and that when I jump, I need to learn to straighten my legs. How about this – I’ll swap you some knee bend for some straightened leg and then we’ll both be good to go?? 🙂


  2. Funny, Eva! I wish skating were like trading cards: “I’ll give you a triple lutz-triple toe combination for a quad salchow and one of those haircutter spins…”


  3. That’s Pechalat and Bourzat (FRA), not Cappellini and Lanotte (ITA). I believe you’ve made this mistake before, too.


  4. My coach called me a ‘bobbing bird’ on my back 3’s this week. It’s not a happy feeling.
    Anyway, deep swizzles forward and back help with ankle strength.


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