jo skates

Skating in the key of life

Articulation–skating backwards


This week I’ve been thinking a lot about my backwards skating and working on back edges, whether as part of back outside and inside eights, Shafer push offs (did you know that this was invented by two-time Olympic champion Karl Shafer? Whatever did they do before?), back cross strokes (more bows to Karl Shafer), or back outside and inside three turns. Now I’m realizing that my back pushes, weight transfer, and free leg position need some work.

At another point in my checkered skating career, I would have been disgusted at this realization. All that time on the ice, and you still can’t skate backwards properly? But now that I’ve learned the secret of inner skating peace (which is that working on basic technique should be, well, basic), I am rather pleased that I’m able to figure out what has been the source of many a problem.

Let’s begin with the push. A good push moves out, then in: one continuous circular motion using  lots of foot and ankle action. Then the weight transfer should be smooth; the new edge should not be distorted by the push. The free leg draws in nicely from there, foot over the tracing.

My basic problem was not articulating my right foot and ankle enough on the push. That nice circular motion had been reduced to something that was well intentioned, yet truncated and ultimately feeble. In addition to loss of power, this meant that on my back left edges I would drop my right hip down slightly, and then wind up having to hike my free side back up (and tipping back in the process).

The good news is that even just a few days work on strengthening and lengthening this basic push has seemed to help a lot. I think some of my hip issues are definitely related to foot and ankle mobility (and vice versa) so I welcome this new discovery.

Plus the push itself is fun to do! I have been skating at fairly crowded sessions, so haven’t had a lot of space to move around. I stake out my little patch of ice and try to get the feel of using my feet and ankles fully–all the while dodging flying toddler bodies, testosterone-laden hockey players, and all kinds of other distractions on blades. Friday, for instance, brought all kinds of folks from a child care center with grownups dressed as butterflies, tigers, and other fabulous creatures.

Enough with the mellow meditative music. Time flies when Michael Jackson sings!

Gotta hide your inhibitions
Gotta let that fool loose deep inside your soul
Want to see an exhibition
Better do it now before you get too old



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.

2 thoughts on “Articulation–skating backwards

  1. We had an entire group lesson on backwards stroking, and none of us did it correctly! We were all missing the up-down-up knee action and accidentally pushed off of two feet. Shafer pushes are fun when done right – not that I can always do them! Ha!


  2. Oh good (I think)–at least I’m in good company! But once that knee action kicks in it’s like magic!


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