jo skates

Skating in the key of life

Bone skates, anyone?


A poem by Jane McKie, “Viking Horse-bone Ice Skates“:
The horse won’t know how its metatarsal
can be whittled by friction with the lake,
how the act of skating is part halting
glide, part planer blade; or how thick ice melts
back to health, its grooves, its scuffed ‘v’s, softening
to fill their own wounds. And the horse won’t know 
how the skating boy, who opens his mouth
as he flies, will lose three blunt teeth, two milk,
one new; how these teeth, also, will be found.

From Kitsune (Blaenau Ffestiniog:  Cinnamon Press, 2015)


This photo is of a pair of bone skates that were discovered in Dublin 11th/12th century AD. There is also an interesting webpage out there about Viking-age ice skates, complete with photos of the brave author who tried to reconstruct and actually skate on a pair of these.

Thankfully my skates, however old, are not made of bone and there is no loss of teeth to report here! I have had enough challenges on my relatively high-tech Reidell-MK combo.

Since I don’t have equipment issues to contend with, I have to up the ante a bit. I been trying to make myself work more on things that are out of my current comfort zone. This week, this has mainly entailed skating with my arms in different positions. Laurie has me doing progressives with my arms in fifth position: up over my head, and with my thumbs touching. This makes me much more aware of how used I am to leaning slightly forward and have my shoulders raised. Similarly, I have been doing back outside edge push backs with arms in first position, thumbs touching; again, this makes me realize how much my shoulder and torso have been distorted.

Since my edges are getting stronger, I have also been trying to work on getting better positions in and out of turns. I tend to flatten out edges just before I turn (don’t know why, since it makes the turn much harder).

Still hard at work, but at least my blades are nice and sharp (got them done last week) and made of metal, not bone!

Lesson notes:

  • progressives with arms raised in fifth. Head lifted too. No bobbing!
  • push back with arms in first. Watch that you are not setting down your left foot too far forward.
  • inside edges and forward inside threes. Be really clear about the edge and starting arm positions. Control rotation.
  • mohawk push back, back outside three. No delay on second edge of mohawk.
  • alternating back crossover, change edge. On back inside edge, turn in free leg (top of thigh turns in). Knee action to gain speed on the change of edge.
  • back to front choctaw, counter. Don’t change over and do a three turn instead of a counter.
  • swing roll with edge pull, change edge to quick mohawk step forward. Keep lean into circle, especially on right side.

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.

10 thoughts on “Bone skates, anyone?

  1. When I read about bone skate blades and the Vikings, I find myself wondering why bone? The Vikings while not quite as sophisticated as the Moorish metal workers of roughly the same time period in Toledo, Spain, were none the less skilled in both smelting and making hand forged iron objects such as the rivets that held the planks to the frames of their long ships, axe heads and sword blades, etc. for hacking up fat English priests, arrow points, beard combs and so on. Seems like metal skate blades would have been a no-brainer.

    I’ll not be attempting progressives with my arms in the 5th position–don’t want to leave any teeth, milk or otherwise for later discovery!


    • Good question, George. Maybe the Vikings only thought of using blades as weapons, not for skating. Their loss!!! And yes, having arms up does feel a little scary, to say the least!


  2. The arms up in high 5th position sounds scary!! I’m with George on this one… I’d be afraid to bust my face and lose some teeth. 🙂


  3. No teeth loss so far–maybe someone should do a comparative study of teeth lost by hockey players vs. adult ice dancers!


  4. Having the arms up is a good challenge! My old coach used to have me do a variety of things like loosely wave my arms while doing footwork, just to get my arms relaxed and make me use my core instead. I hated it! But it was good for me. My shoulders and back aren’t as flexible as I’d like so getting the arms overhead without raising the shoulders is pretty hard to impossible. Spending time working on it on the foam roller, though.


    • Oh, and P.S., as a former English major, I’m always up for a bit of poetry! Skating is quite a harsh mistress in that poem. The horse has to give up its very bones, the lake is wounded by the blades, the boy loses his teeth. All that for a ‘halting’ glide doesn’t make skating sound worth it!


    • My upper back is pretty stiff too! I find that sitting at a desk most of the day makes it really hard to relax the shoulders and arm on command. The foam roller is a good idea; I’ve been so focused on the lower body! Time for the total roller!


      • I’ve been told that a stiff middle and upper back is a common problem, I’m sure our lifestyles don’t help! I’ll have to share my stretches sometime.


  5. Oh, please do share your stretches! I would love to see them!


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