jo skates

Skating in the key of life

Humiliation, skating style


I am still waiting for the moment when I can truly feel smug about skating. Oh, I have my occasional moments of major skating pride now and then. Sometimes I’m out there feeling pretty good about my edges, feeling like the flow is happening, feeling groovy. I can’t see my own face, but I imagine that some kind of insufferably self-satisfied expression passes across my otherwise blank or terrified visage.

But then reality strikes. There are basic things that I am still having trouble with! Argghhh! “This is why you take lessons,” said Ari when I told him that this week (initiated by the change of skates) has brought out everything I hate about my skating.

Excuse me, coach, I thought I was taking lessons so that I could feel smug someday.

Boy, was I wrong. Instead, I feel like a beginner nearly every time I have a lesson. The funny thing is that the more I realize that I am doing things wrong, the more I want to skate. Both Ari and Laurie have been giving me corrections, like the skinny ninja idea (gotta love that one!), that radically change the way different moves feel. So I’m going to spend some time here detailing how I am reworking basic moves and changing my posture and technique.

This is the skating equivalent of “Humiliation,” the party game played by literature professors that David Lodge describes in his academic satire, Changing Places (1975) in which “each person names a book which he hasn’t read but assumes the others have read, and scores a point for every person who has read it.” Writing down all these basic things I still can’t do correctly is rather humiliating, but heck, I can score all kinds of imaginary points just by admitting them.


The first few are rather big concepts, so I should get extra points.

NEUTRAL POSTURE. Both coaches are still trying to get me to skate without letting my hips go back and ribs pop forward (my anterior pelvic tilt mode).


Ari suggested that I think about pointing my navel upward. He also suggested thinking about knee bend as controlled by the glutes and hamstrings, rather than the quads pushing forward. This helps (especially on outside-outside mohawks).

ANKLE BEND. Laurie noticed that I am not actually bending my ankles. This means that when I think I am bending my knees and try to stand up straight, I wind up sitting back on my skates in posterior pelvic tilt. But when I think about relaxing my ankles, I have a much better position on my blades overall. I will have to think (and write) more about this issue, but for now I’ll just record what she said: that if your ankles are flexed properly, you shouldn’t be able to look down and see your feet, just your thighs and knees.

USE UP THE ENTIRE LEG ON THE PUSH. This is another way of getting a full extension out of each push.

DON’T PUT THE NEW FOOT DOWN OR CHANGE YOUR EDGE PREMATURELY. I tend to be impatient about moving to the next edge before I’ve even finished what I’m doing. Just hold still and nobody gets hurt! (background music by Grace Jones)

Other lesson notes:

  • back outside-outside transitions (bring new foot in, change edge with new foot slightly in front, don’t let free side swing around to change lean)
  • back crossovers (posture and ankle bend; additional humiliation–I actually got leg cramps from doing these the other day!)
  • inside-inside mohawks (don’t let feet separate, posture, should feel like marching)
  • outside-outside (Viennese) mohawks (pattern on two count lobes, head and shoulders, look in the direction you are going on exit edge)
  • back progressives (engage left inside edge for push, changeover should happen quicker and with the blade, not by just moving upper body)
  • forward swing rolls (use the skinny ninja idea with the free leg, sneaking up behind and coming through narrowly; don’t change edge too early; maintain that edge!)







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 “Humiliation, skating style

  1. YES! I feel the same way. I’m back to working on basics – including rudimentary edges and extensions. I’m trying to break down a simple 3-turn but am finding that it’s really not that simple! May the Force be with us during this time! LOL 🙂


  2. Oooh, the Force. Yes, indeed–we need the Force. So glad I’m in good company, Eva. We can compare three turn notes together!


  3. Jo! Beating ourselves up is what we as skaters do best. Every now and then we should mentally list and take satisfaction in what we’ve accomplished. I have so many problem areas in my skating that I’d get depressed if I didn’t do that on a regular basis. This is why I don’t feel too guilty if I spend part of my ice time doing “feel good” elements instead of all those things that need fixing. In time some of my problems will get fixed and others will remain as carrots in front of the old donkey. As I type this I wonder if a magic wand was waved and my skating suddenly became “perfect”, would I still be driven to skate or would I quit? I think imperfection is to a degree what drives me along.


  4. You are so right, George–we do such a good job at self-flagellation that we should definitely spend equal time feeling good about skating too. There are just too many challenges to ever feel perfect! But if I had that magic wand (where can I get one? how much does it cost?) I would definitely just keep skating–only with a very smug look perpetually on my smug face!


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