Friday, January 1, 2016

The Curse of the FI3

As you can tell, one of the reasons I love figure skating is not just for the beauty of the performance, or the glow of success when I conquer a new element, but the fact that I can treat figure skating as an engineering problem.

Let me give you an example.

Today I was working on my FI3 (my never ending bĂȘte noire.)

I warmed up about 4 feet from the boards to so I could look into the glass and keep my eyes focused on the wall.  And also to keep away from the multitude of speedy little rug rats skating every which way.

Stroke. Extend the free leg to 'set' my posture. bring the free leg to the active heel. Turn.

Works fine.

Try the other side.

Works fine.

Go out in the middle.


I struggle through a few. Unable to Solve the problem.

Leave the middle, back to the boards. Stare at the glass. Stroke. Extend. Set. Turn. Works Fine.

Out  to the middle. Nope.

I went back and forth 3 or four times. Then as I'm standing in the middle, I think, "What am I doing at the boards that I'm not doing here?"

Then this is the engineering trick; I reversed the question. "What am I doing here that I'm not doing at the boards?"

And you know what it was? I was glancing down during the turn.

And why?

Because out in the middle, there's a horde of tiny little speedsters below my eyeline and it's an unconscious habit to glance down to check to make sure no one's in my way. When I glance down to my direction of travel, I disrupt the flow of the turn. At this stage of my learning the turn, it doesn't take much to disrupt the flow.

It's these unconscious little habits that are the hardest to find, and equally hard to break.



  1. In similar fashion I have "trained" myself to only be able do FI3's as I approach the red line at the extreme end of the rink, just before the boards. Can't reliably do them out at mid-ice in the absence of a target point. Haven't figured out why.

    1. Unintentional Operant conditioning. I know people who can only do spins in the center or one corner.

  2. Sounds like one of those "conditions" that gets written up in JAMA and/or New England Journal...