jo skates

Skating in the key of life

Hips don’t lie


Cellist Valentin Berlinsky, one of the founding members of the famed Borodin Quartet, once said that “you cannot lie in music” (quoted in Elizabeth Wilson, Shostakovich: A Life Remembered p. 281).

I’ve been thinking about that quote, and whether it’s possible to lie in skating, and I’ve come to the conclusion that yes, it is possible to lie in skating. But it catches up with you.

I’ve been lying about some of my edges for years. Well, maybe I wouldn’t really call it lying, or even faking, because that implies bad intentions on my part. It’s more that I’ve long been aware that I haven’t really been aligned over my blade, especially on my left side. I could certainly get on an edge when I thought about it, or when I needed to: it just wasn’t always there and it took additional muscle and brain power to make it happen.

I would get frustrated but then I would simply keep repeating the movement, hoping it would improve.  Or I would move onto to something else. As a result, the things I could do easily have gotten to be second nature, and the rest have pretty much stalled.

The last couple of years I have pretty much gone back to square one on edges, putting all  other possible skating goals on hold. And, as this blog has detailed, I have put a lot in off-ice training, trying to correct all those misalignment issues.

Two major corrections highlighted the past week or two feel particularly important to this process. One is my foot position: mobilizing my left big toe and developing the left arch (I think about this on the right side too, but it’s much more of a big deal on the left). And the second is moving the skating hip even farther under my body to get more of a body lean. I wrote about this in my “chicken shawarma” post (ohhhh, chicken shawarma. . . must . . . make. . . more) but it has made such a difference that I feel like I need to write more about it.

So when I started skating, it probably looked something like this:


Notice the up and down balance right on top of the skate blade. No lean into the circle and flat edges. But then as I started skating faster and tried to produce better edges, it started to look more like this.


The legs are doing the leaning, but the upper body is leaning out of the circle. The hips and knees are having to do a lot of extra work counter-balancing the rest of the body. I wasn’t ever truly over my edge, though I was working plenty hard. I have been trying to correct this primarily by moving my upper body over into the circle. This worked only up to a point; then I became hopelessly twisted and confused.

The real solution is to take my skating hip and just move it farther out of the circle so that my upper body is on the other side of it. As Laurie put it so tactfully, those of us without a lot of mass on the upper body (haha!) might be better off just moving the big strong powerful hips under us rather than trying to accomplish anything with that T-Rex upper body structure.

I have been working on this idea, and it is awesome! Now I look like this:


Well, just saying that is lying indeed. But this idea of shifting my skating hips over farther underneath me is helping a lot.

Laurie told me that this idea goes all the way back to Ulrich Salchow, and we all know how important that forefather of the modern quad was. Here’s a picture that captures Mr. Salchow’s mighty hip positions, and then one of the great Swedish skater Gillis Gafström (who invented the flying sit spin).


Gilles Grafström

Gillis Grafström, Winter-Olympics in Lake Placid

Here’s Mr. Salchow on YouTube:

Okay, that was fun. Now have you seen the video of the T-Rex skating?

That is not me inside the costume. No lie!

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.

5 thoughts on “Hips don’t lie

  1. I’ve seen the t-rex video. It’s pretty epic! I’m glad your edges are improving. Like music, we cannot always practice mistakes/errors or else those get ingrained into our muscle memory. As hard as it is, we need to practice correctly, even if it’s agonizing to start over!


  2. Well said, Eva! And I’m glad you like the T-Rex too!


  3. Is it my imagination or was Ulrich Salchow a CW spinner and a CCW jumper? Doesn’t take much to confuse me.


  4. Watched it again. Ulrich spins in both directions–impressive!


  5. It is impressive! He also looks like he’s making things up as he goes along, which I would guess he is–those spread-eagles are really something.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s