Friday, July 25, 2014

Blade Placement Tips From Gustave Lussi

If you're not 'of a certain age', you may have never heard of Gustave Lussi. He coached Dick Button, Tenley Albright, Maria Jelinek / Otto Jelinek, Donald Jackson, Alena Vrzáňová, Ronald Robertson, Ronald Ludington, Barbara Ann Scott, David Jenkins, Hayes Jenkins, Emmerich Danzer, Dorothy Hamill, John Misha Petkevich, Scott Hamilton, Paul Wylie, and John Curry. Co-inventor of the flip jump, developer of modern jumping technique, he also developed modern program conventions, and designed the Pattern 99 blade. There's more, but do you really need more? Here's some more: the only reason triples and quads exist today is because he developed the cross-legged jump technique.

He was one of those seminal coaches who completely changed the sport, and is almost unknown today to modern skaters. But he still has good advice.

I happened to pick up his book Championship Figure Skating (C) 1951. Much of it has to do with compulsory figures, but at the beginning there's this section:
[Imagine a pair of skates] on which the blades are set to the inside of the centerline of the boot from toe toe heel. Setting the blades in this way brings the entire foot  under the body while standing on the skates, thereby strengthening and straightening the ankles....This method is logical and will not fail...Set in blades cause no harm to the foot; actually the skater will perform better with them than without because the additional support they provide will give him more self confidence. [He used this with all his students.]
I was having my old MK Pros transferred to my new boots, so I told my tech to move the blade 'in' just a smidgen.

A couple of days later I was lap skating in my boots; My new blocks of concrete boots. Don't they all feel like that the first half hour? Then I started doing 3 turns, spins, mohawks.

I have to say, I felt much more stable on the turns, and I swear stroking was easier and with more power. It was amazing.

So, for me that little experiment, and the $10 for the book was worth it!


  1. There's a saying in the theatre that you must know your history to get ahead (sadly, not so true today with those stupid reality shows). Those wishing to go into the theatre arts SHOULD know who Bob Fosse, Hal Prince, Stephen Sondheim, Richard Rogers, etc are. I feel it is the same with skaters. Know your history. Learn who Mr. Lussi was and what he did and why he's so important.

    Glad the experiment worked for you.

  2. Out of curiosity, how far inboard did you have your blades mounted and is there a bias between the amount the blade is inboard at the front vs the heel? Does Gustave get down to specifics or just provide a general blade location philosophy?

    I'm tempted to think that each skater is a "one off" in terms of exactly where the blades should be located but in general perhaps slightly inboard is a starting place? My current blades are set so that I track in a straight line when gliding on one foot. I'm always interested in hearing what the experts have to say about fine tuning.

    1. According to wikipedia, slight pronation is normal for the human gait. Since the slight inset of the blades would support pronated feet, and allow a greater push-off.

  3. Yes, aren't most blades set slightly inside the toe box seam? I'm all for optimizing equipment and making things as easy as possible.

    1. I don't know about that. Mine are just a32nd of an inch inside of the centerline.
      I'm really mastering manipulating my boots with this pair.