I must be clairvoyant, because earlier this week I put this picture (a junior team, Lorraine McNamara and Quinn Carpenter) in my last post. Lo and behold, it illustrates something that I had a lesson on yesterday: correct head position on back outside edges.
To help keep aligned on my left back outside edge, I am working on keeping my head up and looking slightly left. (Look how well Lorraine does it!) The head position is key; it helps place the back in the proper position relative to the skate (rather than slightly forward). And this allows for a good strong lean into the circle.
This picture really captures the speed and beauty that is possible on that back outside edge. I imagine it’s like hitting the sweet spot in tennis. Once you’ve found that edge, you can just let the blade carry you and fly.
Even though the positions are strong, there is no tension, no clenching of the muscles, no premature motion towards the next edge. There’s security there, so that one can let go and move with abandon.
I could just sit and look at this picture all day. Poetry in motion!
I spent some time this week just cruising on these back outside edges, feeling like they could go on forever. It was a nice change from the anxious feeling that I sometimes have both on and off the ice. Whenever I am unsure of what I’m doing, I often add the problem of rushing from one thing to another. For instance, I magnify the difficulty of three-turns by turning early. Or I spend spending much of my time on each edge thinking ahead to the next step, especially if it’s a challenging mohawk or choctaw.
“You don’t like that edge,” Ari sometimes observes of my left forward inside edge. It’s taken a while to get past my first response (simply agreeing “no, I really don’t like that edge,” or even worse, the snarky “well, duh!”) and to understand what this really means: that I’m supposed to like my edges. I’m supposed to enjoy the feeling of being on each edge. It’s supposed to be fun, not just correct. It’s like that James Taylor song:
Another way of putting is: “Wherever you go, there you are.” Used to be a funny line from Buckaroo Banzai before it became a mindfulness mantra.
The thing is, it is fun (especially when I’m not so worried about it and really get into the edge). It’s a wonderful feeling, that the deep swoopy glide that comes when you’re really really into the skate. There is a natural sinking into or rising of the knee, and the action of the entire body is strong yet fluid: no ossification here! (I just wanted to use that word for the benefit of my friends Jeff, Karen, Terri, and Doug.)
For freeskaters, it’s that outside back edge that happens when you nail the landing on a jump. For ice dancers, this should happen on–well, just about everything! Some illustrations:
I know that these are polished performers, but I can’t help but think that the thrill on their faces actually comes from the pleasure of doing those edges so well.
There are a lot of wonders in life, but there really isn’t any other feeling in the world quite like being into the ice.