Saturday, March 29, 2014

Changes to Adult Tests

I've sat on the sidelines watching USAFA's changes to adult testing. Let's just say, I'm glad I'll never do a Moves test.

This is the process.

A section of a test is rewritten. Usually it's unclear, or has some errors in the rewrite. Coaches' attitudes are like:

Adult testers' attitudes are like:

When the howling from coaches and adult skaters rises up to USAFA, their attitude is:

(Also, Silver should be split into pre-Silver, and Silver. It's just too much. There I've said it.)

Like anyone cares about my opinion.

Friday, March 28, 2014

On-Ice Makeup

The lights of the rink are bright and unforgiving.

The white surface of the rink reflects the light into my face.

I need a lot of makeup.

I layer on so I look amazing in the mirror
From the audience I look like this.
Then I slather the makeup on.
So much makeup, I feel like this.
People tell me I look great!
But this is what I'm afraid I really look like!

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

The Yoga Block as an Off-Ice Training Tool

I've been working on a new yoga DVD Hip Helpers by Jill Miller for about 2 weeks.  So far I'm just getting past the first section because my hips need a lot of work (arthritis) but I like it. She does a bit of work with yoga blocks, and I've started using mine for some off-ice work.

I've found that a yoga block is actually a useful tool for improving balance and strength if you're (like myself) older *cough* 'mature', and don't have much ice time available.
Yoga block
I've got a foam block and a cork one. I use them differently.

Let's say I'm working on my mohawks.  I lay the cork block wide side down, step on it with one foot, and then I do what I'll call the 'mohawk approach'. That is, I keep the 'skating foot' on the block, tuck the free foot, stroke, bring the free foot forward to the middle of  the skating foot as in a mohawk. I don't switch feet, this is just my 'approach' to the turn.

While standing on the block I focus on balancing on the correct edge and holding that edge, on the right spot of where the blade ought to be, and holding the correct arm and body position. I've found that the couple of inches of elevation really, really amplifies every bobble of every error.

After a few days of experience with the cork block, I switched to the foam block. The foam block is just a bit squishy. If I'm careless and let my weight get too far back, the block squishes down, reminding me to keep my weight more to the center of my foot.

Once I mastered that, I moved up just a little bit and started doing my mohawk approaches on a balance disc which is much, much, much harder. I originally started on the balance disc, but it was frustrating. Working my way up by stepping through the cork and foam blocks, allowed me to build my balance and strength without having to worry as much as if I'd started on a balance disc.

I feel it helped me get comfortable with all the tiny skills necessary to get my free foot to the center of the skating foot and work on my mohawks proactively off-ice.

And it was cheap, just using some handy things I had around the house.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

My Bad Checking as Described in Combat Hand Signals

My lesson Saturday was all about getting my arms under control while checking my turns. Let's just say that like many adult learners I have 'issues' checking.  Seeing an opportunity to prepare you for 'the Revolution', 'Occupy Ice Rink', or a time machine trip to WWII Army service, I'll provide my faults to you in Army Combat Hand Signals.

My right mohawk used to require a lot of shoulder motion to get the turn on the skating foot.  Scarily, I was ordering:

As Skirmishers!

When I learned to skate, my stroking had lopsided arms. I was ordering:
Echelon, Right!
But, I don't do that anymore.

My three turns have always been a problem. Serious checking problems. This time, I'm not giving a command, I'm trying to get the attention of 30-60 men, or ordering a copy of a 1986 Vietnam War movie by Oliver Stone.

 My coach should really learn some hand signals. It would save her voice from the other end of the rink. For example, in her attempt to get me to show more power she could signal:
Increase Speed! Double Time!
Or when I've screwed something up, she could order:
Rally point! Right now!
To which I reply:
Who me?

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Getting up from a Fall....On Ice

There you are, thrilled to be learning to be gliding along, and suddenly you fall. There's many reasons you fall when you're a beginner skater.

You think someone has run into you

When really, someone is just passing by:

But then you fall. What's the beginner skater's reaction? The pathetic
"Help me please"
or maybe the more aggressive...

But pretty soon you learn to get up. At first is isn't easy.
Use your toepicks, willya!
If you're cute, there's always a helpful stranger or two:
If you're not cute, you're often left to struggle on your own:
 And we all wish for magical powers!

But in skating like Life, getting up from the fall and moving on is a critical skill!

Because when you get up and start skating again, you feel great!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Mastering Mohawks

For some reason I have a lot of trouble with mohawks. Here's what I've tried:
1. Use the upper shoulders
2. Use the hips
3. Use the half drop inside 3 (not something I'd recommend, but it works---ugly)
But these *force* the mohawk, rather than have them come naturally.

It's  not that these techniques won't work, but they've been mere stops along the road I've traveled to move into proper smooth mohawks. And I'd like to master then all: swing mohawks, open, closed,  and that thing in the Blues where you do that big sweepy move with the free leg in the corner and then do a mohawk.

So, after working the whole body from top to bottom, I realized that a long time ago, Coach Amazing gave me a tip about doing turns.

To Do a Turn
Press On The Inside Edge

That's all I did different. Inside a single lesson I was doing the change edge swing mohawk from the pre-Bronze Adult Moves test.

Were they perfect? Well, they were smooth, and I had my extension in the right place, so they were okay. But I was slow and timid. Shrug. Also, I still have trouble getting my free left foot to turn out, so about 1 out of five times, I have to recover with a two foot turn.

Was all the rest of the stuff a waste of time? I don't think so. The 'forced' ways, really helped me learn different body positions, and build my skills, so not a waste. I'm not a natural skater, so I'm resigned  to taking the long hard slog.

What's Next in Madam Bianca's Tour d'Fear?

Working on kid level power?

An Adult Group number for the Spring Show?
Can you spot me?

The dreaded 8-step mohawk...what fun!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

How To Do The Dutch Waltz on a Figure 8

Once upon a time, more than half a skater's time was spent on 'doing figures' or 'compulsories'. The first figure learned was a figure 8. These figures were practiced on ice time called 'patch', since every skater had a patch of ice to skate on.
A Figure 8
At the same time in the early part of the 20th Century, social ice dance was incredibly popular. The dances were primarily pattern dances that covered the entire ice. Believe it or not, in order to get the most out of the available ice time, booklets were published on how to do the basic pattern dances on 'patch'.

I don't have a copy of one of those booklets, so I'm reconstructing for you how to do the Dutch Waltz on a figure 8. Why? Because sometimes you may want to practice in a constrained space (like center ice on a Christmas skate, or in a small area for a group lesson) or just to blow your coach's mind.

The basic Dutch Waltz pattern. All forwards: progressives (crossovers), and swingrolls.
The Dutch Waltz pattern marked up to base on a figure 8.

Let's start with Pattern 1 (the green on the lower right of the image above). Pattern 1 is unique, because you don't start on the center of the figure 8, but on the outside of the right circle.

Pattern 2 (the blue) is easy. Don't worry about the sizes of the 8's or placement of the steps. This is just a toy example, not instructional.

Pattern 3 (the red) gets a little crowded, what with the extra strokes. Feel free to expand the size of your 8 to get comfortable with it.

Pattern 4 is the 'backend' of pattern 1, so it's the green again at the end
Yeah, it suffers from my lack of a graphics pen, but hey, the blog is free, so whatever.

Anyway, have fun with this if you want to give it a try.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

The Mohawk as a Half Drop Three Turn

 This works, but I've rediscovered a better way.

I'm about to babble on recklessly about something I'm having trouble with on ice: The mohawk. It's pretty typical for older adult learners to have trouble with these, so I'm not alone.

I'll wait while you go get popcorn.

I've figured out a way for me that gives me reliable (albeit, not pretty) mohawks. Here is my solution. I do a FI3, and when the skating foot turns, I put the free foot down and don't do a 3.

Classically, the way three turns are taught is the down-up-down method. Go down in the knee before the turn, come UP on the knee to induce the turn, go down in the knee after the turn.

With my mohawks, when I come UP from the bent knee, the foot begins an inside 3. I just swap feet without finishing the 3 turn.

Yes, It's a "half drop 3".

Anyway,  don't need to think about the hip or the feet, it just happens.

That's it?
Yeah, what do you want? Pictures of cats?

Yes, cats, please!
 Here's my mohawk in cat medium!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Demon Bragatron

There is the opposite of the Demon Negatron. Let's call this the Demon Bragatron. This skater's skills are always learned faster or done better than anyone else's. And not only that, they really, really have to share that with everyone. Usually in a really loud voice.

To a large group of people.

They don't know particularly well.

I had the experience of coming into contact with a Demon Bragatron a couple of years ago. This skater would go off and skate with 'famous former Olympian' and come back with tales of "Coach X said my Y was so wonderful, it  was elite level."  This would be announced in a loud voice to an entire dressing room full of women.

So what were the listeners thinking?

Sarcasm Clap

The Yeah Whatever Shrug

The False Congratulations Smile
So far as I know, no one was thinking this:

The only person impressed by the braggart's boasts, is the braggart.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Snapback Saturday: The Demon Negatron

This is, hand's down, my favorite post. I think it's one of the best things I've written for this blog. Sadly, hardly anyone's read it so I'm reposting.

Ladies and Gents from Oct, 2012....the Demon Negatron!!!

*     *     *     *     *

The other day, another skater paid me a compliment. "You're so good," she said.

Immediately, the Demon Negatron that lives in my head started his little speech.

"What would she know? She's just a beginner. 
If you were any good, why don't your coaches tell you so?
Didn't you just mess up that mohawk five minutes ago?
And you still can't do FI3!"
Just like the picture says, Negative Self Talk will swallow your soul. Seriously.

Here's the horror of Negative Self Talk, even if someone pays you a compliment, someone like a coach, or a skater of a higher level, or someone with a knowledgeable 'skater's eye', says "Wow! That was great!" THE DEMON NEGATRON MAKES YOU DOUBT WHAT THEY SAY!

"Oh, they're just being nice. Oh, she can't mean that. Oh, I'm not any good. I suck."

It takes me an act of will to remember the good things coaches have said about my skating.  It's so easy to remember the corrections and instruction as negatives. There is no end to corrections and instruction in skating. It's hard, very hard to not interpret them as criticism.

So, here's my hints to avoid negative self talk.
1. Ask your coach, "How have I improved over the last year?" Because, progress is hard for you to measure yourself over a long period of time. A coach sees it.
2. Make a mental note of the compliments your coach has made. If you keep a skating log (I do), don't forget to write the little triumphs as well as what to work on.
3. Don't allow yourself to disparage your own skating to others. Yes, you need work. So do world champions. Don't go telling people how awful you are. Even if something's not working, try and phrase it in a positive manner. "It's taking longer than I expected, but I'm moving forward." vice "I suck."
4. Don't compare yourself to other skaters. Skating is a journey not a race. (eg."I learned this in a week, she took two.") If you treat learning like a competition, you will be miserable. The less you compare your skating to others' skating, the happier you'll be.
5. Compliment other skaters for their successes. Don't be jealous. Envy makes you miserable.
6. It's easy to let one or two bad elements in a practice session overwhelm you. There's no such thing as a 'bad practice'. Some things will have gone well, don't forget about them.
7. Accept compliments from others with, "Thank you. That means a lot to hear you say that." Then slap the Demon Negatron back to the hell where he belongs!

Angel Positron looks down from heaven and says,
"Keep up the good work!"