Monday, December 31, 2012

The Ice Dance Industrial Test Process

People used to ice dance for fun, on dates, at all ages.

What happened?

The heyday of ice dance was between the 20's and the 50's. Rock and roll had a hand in killing it. The rhythms just were too popular to ignore and appealed to the younger crowd. The old dance standards died out and ice dancing became stuffy, and too hard, and the bar was raised too high.

And at one time ice dance was ragingly popular! So popular that, ice dance testing was introduced in the US (the earliest testing record is from 1928 in Canada, but the US dance test structure was adopted in 1939). You had to learn the pattern dances, and test them.

By 1941:
" dancers became test conscious, they did not want to spend time learning non- compulsory dances. With the focus on new dance  test requirements, the social dances that did not make the test schedule would gradually disappear...Serious skaters are goal oriented. They work on elements that offer a visible  measure of progress, such as a passed test, entry in competition, or the ability to skate a Silver level dance" (Figure Skating History: The Evolution of Dance on Ice

So in the fifties, when Rock and Roll took over the music world, young people must have looked at the  time and testing requirements for ice dance and abandoned the sport in droves. They wanted to ice dance for dates--who wants to spend months (years!) learning to ice dance when you can go out on the floor and dance right away! And who wanted to test to go on a date! It was too much commitment! Skating required commitment! The social aspects of ice dance were already beginning to die.

And now, 70 years after testing was introduced what do we have? We have the Ice Dance Industrial Test Process, where you test so you can take more tests.

And hardly any social dance sessions to dance on.

Or any male partners to dance with.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Happy Holidays




Thursday, December 20, 2012

The End of the World and I'm at the Rink

I don't care if it's the end of the world....I'm going to try out the ice tomorrow and see if my knee has healed up enough to skate.

Nothing will deter me....

Not an invasion of WWII fighter planes
(that's a Spitfire in the upper left corner)
Not the Zombie Apocalypse

Only one thing can stop me from trying to skate tomorrow...only ONE THING!!!!

Aaaargh! Christmas ice tourists!!!!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Forward Inside 3--Lessons Learned

I thought I'd write some notes about the FI3 and some things I figured out about learning new skills--well, new 3 turn skills---from the experience.

1. It takes a lot more kneebend that I thought it would. Coaches would tell me 'deeper in the knee' and I'd do it right once, then go back to 'not quite deep enough in the knee kneebend'. So, my bad (also, maybe 'my age'). Anyway, now if something doesn't work--GO DEEPER IN THE KNEE!

2. Coaches would hold my hand to keep me from falling. This was useful at the very beginning. I needed to put together a lot of stuff physically and not worry about falling. The hand holding in the long run, I felt kept me from getting some of the rhythm of the turn.  I needed the freedom to move my arms and shoulders. At some point, I wish a coach had just flat out said, "Put some pads on and get over it."

 3.  There was a certain kind of rhythm to me getting the FI3. Push off, pull the freefoot to the heel, do some fiddly stuff with the upper body (more about that later), turn. I really had to work on the order of occurence of all the fiddly upper body stuff in coordination with bringing the free foot to the heel of the skating foot. This was essential. Once I realized that the sequence and the pacing was critical, and I could duplicate it over and over, I was finally able to get what are honestly beginner FI3. The FO3 didn't seem to be as dependent on the rhythm of the turn (maybe I'm more of an intermediate with FO3 as I can do it pretty much from any position now) and I had not anticipated how sensitive to pacing the turn the FI3 was.  So it wasn't until I put some pads on and started falling that I was able to get the FI3.

4. Every coach had a slightly different technique for teaching FI3. Right now I'm definitely beginner, and I found that I needed more arm movement to get the turn. For a LFI3, one coach put a glove in my left  hand, and then while doing the turn I was to pass the glove from the left to the right hand in front of the body and turn. This actually worked pretty well. It doesn't give pretty turns with still arms, like people want, but it helped me get the turn.

5. I can't remember stuff from lessons perfectly so the InterTubes is a godsend. I particularly found Robert Burgerman's 3 turn video the most helpful in jogging my memory. Notice how he holds the free arm ahead of the body for the FI3. Now imagine holding the free arm in that position, then using the technique from para 4 (the passing of the glove in the skating hand). That's what worked for me. As I said, that gives me beginner FI3. See how he uses quite a bit of shoulder action? I need that, but as I'm just a beginner, I use arm motion to get me there.

(For my UK readers: What is that accent? Mancunian? Estuary? Geordie?)

So these are some things I learned in my FI3 journey. I still have quite a bit of beginner arm swing, but I'd rather work to suppress that and have FI3, than I would to work fruitlessly on FI3 in the hope I'll someday get them with still arms. I'm willing to skate with compromise rather than perfection.

[No, I've not returned to the ice. I'm scheduling an MRI for first week of January. Determined to find out what is going on.]

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I think About Skating All.The.Time

So, I'm prowling through other blogs, or humor websites and I see a picture.

First thing that goes through my mind is a skating thought.

Some examples.

Really, that's carrying skating protection too far!
Christmas public!
I'm at the outdoor rink! Where's the ice! Where's the ice!
Okay, nice spiral. Now do shoot the duck!

You're going to need to work on your outside mohawk some more.
And Stop Drinking.
I try out my new boots.

Coach, please tell the new guy not to hammertoe his lutzes.
These divot are ridiculous!
Oh, that would make a really cute practice outfit.

What alien?

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Off Ice-- :-(

So, I went skating yesterday and I still have pain in the right knee when stroking or doing CCW forward crossovers. I don't think there's any muscle weakness there, but the pain is so sharp it's hard not to flinch when I stroke or step down on the crossover. If I put the weight on the leg while it's straight, and bend into it (like a 3 turn) the pain's not so great, so no idea what's going on. I need an ortho who's a hockey player, but none to be found.

I called Coach Cruella and told her to take me off her list of students as I didn't think I'd be back on the ice anytime soon.

For the first time in years I'm coachless.

I don't know what to do with myself on weekends. I don't have to rush to the rink. I don't have an excuse to buy new skating clothes.

I did notice yesterday, that swizzles and a few other moves didn't cause me problems. Also, I experimented with old-fashioned English style 3 turns, where you do the 3 turn with a straight leg through out and three turn based on a leg swing (yes, it's tricky). So maybe, I will go back on the ice. I could work on my back crossovers probably, and a few other things that don't involve deeply bend right knees.

 I'll still continue to post, but I'll be limited to figure skating history. While those aren't my most popular posts, at least I'll be able to keep my hand in while I'm waiting for further knee workups. (MRI next!)

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Soft Knees

There's two things that horse back riding and skating have in common: soft knees and independence of upper and lower body.

So, let's tackle 'soft knees' first.

I did a lot of research on this, and all I could find were a couple of comments that 'soft knees means bent knees'.

Mmmmm, no.

Well, anyway, not to me.

My experience has been in both riding and skating that a 'soft knee' is what I'll call a 'responsive leg'. The casual observer sees the knee bend and how it flexes. That's the obvious part.  But really, I believe what's going on is much more complex.

From my riding days, I learned that 'soft knees' involved the muscles of the lower back and abdomen,  flexibility and strength in the hips and knees, and controlled movement of the ankle. All this has to be  balanced and coordinated, otherwise you pull on the horse's mouth as your leg will get in the wrong position and throw off your balance.

Skating's very similar. You have to control the leg relative to the upper body, and to do that you need to get over the right part of the blade and that takes ever single joint below the waist. And as you move up and down, every single joint has to respond together. This is why I think defining 'soft knees' as 'bent knees' is inadequate. That's what the observer sees, but that's only the tip of the iceberg abot what's going on.

As I'm now in my 60's, I'm okay with the muscles of the back and core, the ankle bend and the hip flexion. However, my knee bend is CRAP!
See my knees?
Crap! Crap! I say!
Still, I'd like to chime in with my amateur opinion, that 'soft knees' is something that ought to be banned from a coach's vocabulary. It's much more complex, especially in skating. I'm fortunate that my riding background is so extensive and strong, and Coach Cruella is good at getting everything coordinated both mentally and physically.

Still, a coach can take me only so far. The knees are willing but the flesh is weak.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Stuff I Hate on Ice. 1

A while back, Coach Cruella wanted to video me.

I feel like this while she videos

I look like this in the video....

My tiny little skating ego is crushed unto the ... earth...well, the ice.

There's only one way to fix this issue:

No, it's not practice.

Or more lessons.

Death to Video Cameras!
Crush them! Crush them to little bitty pieces!

Friday, December 7, 2012

Techniquey Skating with Brian Orser Videos

I'm pumped.

Since I'm stuck off ice with a bad knee, I've been looking at stuff to do when I get back on ice. I recently got all of the "Speed for Free" videos with Brian Orser from and I'm now respectfully worshipful of Brian's coaching of skating skills.

These are 8 videos extracted from a group class Brian taught, and they are very, very skating skills techniquey. I can say that each of the videos have something I want to try when I get back on the ice because the demonstrated techniques are within my skill set.  I don't think that means the skills are easy, but I can try them and see if they do improve my speed.

How techniquey are they? Deeply techniquey.

There's a video on how to use your arms to build up your speed. If that's been mentioned to me before, it completely passed me by.  So, I consider that deep technique (although once he talked about it, I realized the physics was perfectly obvious as long jumpers use a variation of it).  

The series also has a couple of videos on how to do proper russian stroking (don't google that term by the way, you'll get responses that are NSFW) in the series. It really looks like alternating forward crossovers to me, but he shows how to get speed out of it.

My favorite is his video on "Progressive Edge Change" (it's not in the Speed for Free series). This is an exercise that is designed to increase speed.  However, at the end of several variations of the exercise you build up to doing an edge change alternating feet every stroke. Hmmm, maybe I can use this as an approach to improve my edge changes so I can finally do edge pulls.

The only bad thing about videos is the expense. I got these in a 70% off Black Friday sale. The videos are only a few minutes long and run $4.99 per video. If you root around in the site you may find a coupon for reduced cost if you buy a lot of them.

And speaking as someone who is a decade + older than Brian, he's just the charmingest guy managing his class of teenagers in the group lessons.

So, I'm pumped, ready to get back on the ice!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

The Mystery of Freestyle Ice

I have 3 rinks within driving distance of me. These are their drop-in charges.

Rink A charges by the quarter hour--$4.50 a quarter. $18 an hour. (allows bridging)

Rink B charges a flat $10 an hour. (Bridging unknown)

Rink C charges a flat $14 for three-quarters of an hour. (And *no* bridging)

These are the 3 rinks' freestyle qualities.

Rink C has ice as hard as diamond, but more coaches than leaves in the fall, and freestyle hours coming out of the yin-yang. HUGE ADULT SKATER COMMUNITY...Did I say the ice was crap?

Rink B has 'okay' ice (it's sometimes rough, but not hard), but I don't know any of the coaches. But in addition to being the closest, it's also the cheapest. And ice times that are incredibly convenient. But NO ADULT SKATER COMMUNITY.

Rink A has DIVINE ICE. I know all the coaches. And two hours of freestyle a day at the most inconvenient times. HUGE ADULT SKATER COMMUNITY.

Outside: I'm all Hillary Clinton. Worldly, mature, aware that others are in pain and need my help and sympathy.

Madame Secretary

Inside: I'm 8.

Why can't I have cheap freestyle, near my house,
with coaches I know, with GOOD ICE!
And an adult skater community!


Sorry, had to get that out of my system.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Belita--The Forgotten Skater

In the 30's and 40's figure skating, particularly show skating, was the rage. At one point there were so many ice shows (many in theaters and night clubs) that skating clubs had trouble finding coaches to teach. Part of the appeal of skating in that era may have been that women did not wear slacks, and their skirts went below the knee. Figure skating with its exposure of long legs and costume 'underpinnings' must have been pretty exciting back then to men who didn't have the kind of access to pictures of scantily clad women that exists today.

Sonja Henie was a name that is still remembered, but the voluptuous Belita (who has mostly passed from public memory) held her own in the public eye for several years. Unlike Sonja, Belita didn't run her own career, didn't like to skate, and left the business as soon as she could.

What she left behind are some film clips of some beautiful show skating from a different era. She was a trained ballerina, and came into skating with that mindset. She seems to have had about a dozen strong skills, mostly spins and spirals. Her candlestick spiral is notable.

Skating technique has changed in the last 60 years, and she was skating on stages so you won't see any spectacular jumps. In the language of my youth, she was 'built'. Belita specialized in 's.e.x', she used her body like a telegraph to send male viewers the message "I'm what you want. But boys, I'm a wild ride."

There's actually a full movie (Silver Skates) with her (and several other skaters of the 40's) on NETFLIX, so you can see her acting too. My advice, scroll through to get to the skating scenes, plot and acting; not much.

Fortunately, there's some videos of her on youTube. In this one from the movie SUSPENSE she's skating a performance in a 'bad girl' role. I believe her partner is the late Gene Turner (US Men's Champion 40 & 41). He partnered her in Silver Skates as well.

In this bit from Silver Skates she's a little tease, especially at 1:30 and beyond. The candlestick spiral at 1:10 makes me wince at how close she goes to the scenery. This was a WWII picture, hence the battleship scenery.

And if you're into some slightly more risque' costumes, there's always the borderline dominatrix look in the number below. Who knew the 40's were so naughty?

 But for pure skating, this performance from Suspense shows her in her best light. From an artistic perspective I think this is beautifully shot, especially in the camera coverage.

 Let me say that if I ever do a program I'm going to do my darnedest to replicate that dress!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Congratulations to Miss Cheerleader!

I just found out that Miss Cheerleader passed her Silver MITF! That's probably the most demanding test of stamina from the perspective for adult skaters that there is. And even when she was working hard to get ready for her test (and I mean she was working really hard every session) she had time to encourage me.

Figure skating needs people like Miss Cheerleader. People like her make a rink a fun place to go.

So what's on the Silver moves test? (Videos here)

The Utterly Evil 8 step mohawk

Frequently fierce forward and backward cross strokes

Fervently ferocious forward outside/back inside three turns in the field

Agonizingly asymptotic Forward inside / back outside three turns in the field

Maliciously malevolent Forward right and left foot spirals

Vampiricly vicious Forward and Backward Power Change of Edge Pulls

I mean, a test like that, you need to be super-human to pass!

So Miss Cheerleader, here's your very own Congratulations Post!

Monday, December 3, 2012

Xmas Gifts for Coaches

You've had a good year skating. Maybe you've had some major advances. You're in love with skating; it's changed your life.

Now, what do you give the coach who helped you do all that for Christmas?
First off, you're under no social or customary obligation to give either your group coach or your private coach a gift for Christmas or birthdays.  However, it's a nice and generous gesture. But don't get wrapped around the axel over it (hee hee). It can be as simple as you want.

I've veered away from giving anything personal like a skate bag or gloves. If a coach has kid students he or she will probably get lots of gloves, personalized blade rags, or earmuffs from the kids. You're an adult, you can give an adult gift. And skate bags are too personal. You don't know what the coach needs or prefers.

The easiest thing is to pay attention during the year and make some mental notes.

I've known coaches who drop some pretty broad hints starting in November. I knew one who liked a particular brand of liquor and all his new students were told that by other students, so problem solved.

Other coaches show up with a cup of Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts coffee every morning. Gift Card! Problem solved.

But suppose you don't have a clue. You missed the student gossip chain, and your coach drinks water, what do you do?

Everyone likes a gift of home made cookies or food. Even if it doesn't make it out of the pro's locker room because everyone dives in, it's always a nice gesture.

Gift cards to Amazon can be a real benefit to a coach who needs something.
ITunes gift cards are nice too, especially to a coach who does a lot of programs.

Gifts of a massage or a card to a restaurant can also be a generous and welcome gesture. 

And finally, there's nothing wrong with cash. Cold hard cash in a nice card thanking the coach for all their efforts over the last year. I usually give an amount equal to about one lesson, although there's absolutely no expectation.  Some coaches have pretty precarious finances, I'm sure they welcome cash more than anything else.  A coach who is making a decent living from coaching might be surprised or mildly offended, so of course, use your judgement

So far, I've been talking about private coaches. What about group coaches?

There's a lot of variety here. I've been in group programs where the coach changes every other week. I've never felt under any compunction to make a gift in that circumstance. It's nice if a student shows up with cookies to share with the class and coach, but a personal gift? Not from me. On the other hand I've seen situations where a group of students has been taking group lessons from the same coach for a long time. In that case it's not unknown for the group or individuals to make small personal gifts.

What about giving gifts with a 'skating theme'? I have to say, I suspect coaches already have tons of stuff with skating themes to it. Remember, coaching is their job; it's your hobby. Their hobby may be fishing or fantasy football or  bowling. Don't confuse your passion with their passion.  In the years I've been skating I've only given one skating themed gift (a pair skating Christmas ornament) to a coach I had know for five years, who I was certain would like it. Otherwise, I didn't give skating themed gifts.

If you have a child who wants to give a coach a gift, you can of course guide the child, but I've seem coaches wear some amazing hats, gloves, and earmuffs in January, so don't worry. Every coach I've known has been a good sport about it no matter what the gift is.
Just last week I saw a *male* coach in this hat!
And that reminded me to write this post!

Don't expect a gift from your coach. This is like giving a gift to your child's teacher, they usually don't give gifts that are more than a card and a piece of candy.

[And a personal note to readers who have been following my knee injury. Diagnosis: minor meniscus tear.  Treatment: Industrial strength anti-inflammatories, rest. Back on ice (not lessons) in 10 days to  see if I can gently skate, then lessons after follow-up in January.]

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Fixing Knee Pain--

Once upon a time I dated an anesthesiologist. I learned from him that there are two kinds of pain: Nerve pain and inflammation pain. Advil (sweet, sweet Advil) is an anti-inflammatory and it's working for me.

Tomorrow I see the doctor and learn if a. I'm going to get better with time, b. get better with physical therapy, or c. there's miracle drugs to fix me d. this is the end of my skating.

Please, please let it be this....
I have a miracle shot for you.
PS. I've started The Ice Doesn't Care Facebook page if you're interested. Still learning about FB....yeah, I'm the age of a granma, don't know anything about FB, but I'm working on putting up the pages.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

The Turn Forward--The 'Back Mohawk'?

I skated for years and was unable to do the turn forward from a back outside edge.  You all know what this is. You skate backwards on an outside edge, then facing out of the circle step forward onto an outside edge.

If that doesn't meet the definition of a back mohawk, I don't know what does.  No one calls it a mohawk though. Maybe because forward mohawks can be so intimidating (to adults anyway), it's easier to call it a 'step forward' or 'turn forward'. There doesn't that sound nice? And if you don't think it's a mohawk, maybe it will be easier to learn.

We do a lot of this in our culture; we call things by 'nice' names to make them seem less bad. We use the term 'charge it' rather than  'take out a short term high interest loan'. We use the term 'economy' on an airplane rather than 'third class'. American politics and advertising are full of these 'reframing' techniques. Reframe the name and you reframe the perception.
Not a perfect example, but you get the idea
So when I was learning the 'step forward', I immediately turned to my then coach and said, "Isn't this a back mohawk?" She looked a little sheepish, "Well, yes but we don't call it that."

Once I had that in my head, combined with the fact I was lousy at skating backwards, lousy at forward mohawsk and had other bad skating issues (hunching, looking down, you name it), I couldn't do a back outside step forward unless I got lucky. And at my age, you don't get lucky that often.

So in Coach Cruella's edge class,  I finally learned the back outside mohawk. She taught me in 5 minutes and I've been able to do it ever sense.

First off, I can now get a strong back outside edge, and I don't hunch/look at the ice/ etc. My posture isn't perfect (Cruella wants me to skate as if my back is to a wall) but it's good enough.

So, I take a back outside edge, then Cruella has me put the toe of my free foot to the heel of my skating foot, facing out of the circle.

Then 'open the knee' (that is, move the knee of the free leg as if I'm opening a door, with my toe still at the heel), step forward.  Zip, zap thunderclap, Back outside mohawk.

I didn't get it for the first few tries, but after 5 minutes of so I had it down perfect. I can now do them either direction without thinking about them.

So what's going on there? I think even after getting better backwards skills, still the 'toe of the free leg to the heel of the skating leg' may have been the critical technique for me. It kept me from sticking my free leg behind me and put my center of gravity more solidly over the skating foot throughout the entire movement. If my free leg was off to the side or behind me, then when I tried to 'step forward' I wasn't balanced and kind of 'tipped forward'. Or 'fell forward' on my bad days.

Back inside mohawk? Easy peasy. I don't think anyone has a problem with them.

My only problem is that when I step forwards I tend to start on a back outside edge, and after the transfer, end up on a forward inside edge and headed away from my original circle, onto a different lobe.



That's not a flaw,
That's a choctaw! Oh, happy day! PARTY TIME!

Oh. . .