The Fun of Figure Skating
by Maribel Vinson Owen
Chap. 1 Equipment
Chap. 2 First Strokes
Back Inside 8
Forward Outside 3s
Forward Inside 3s
Chap. 7 Free Skating
Free Skating Program
Chap. 8 Ice Dances
Chap. 9 Skater
Source -World Figure Skating
|Chapter 7. Free Skating -
Many youngsters seem to think that jumps are practically the whole of figure skating, which you by this time realize is hardly the case. On the other hand, jumping, whether from a springboard, a ski run, or a pair of skates, is about the nearest to flying the human body ever comes, and it is a wonderfully exhilarating feeling.
To get this feeling of flying, you must take off from a speedy edge and get plenty of elevation. Long, low jumps, "skimmers" as they are called, may be technically all right, but they are not so thrilling either to watch or to do. A second of poised suspension in the air, where for a breathless instant the skater seems to be held up by an outside force—that is the jumper's ideal. The late Guy Owen, one of the world's great jumpers, used to lift so high and poise so long on one of the simple back toe jumps I am going to teach you that audiences used to gasp and wonder when he was going to come down!
To comparatively few, however, is this ability to "hang in the air" given. I am convinced many more skaters could acquire it if they would learn to elevate high from the ground and then apply the same principles to the ice. Whatever the surface of take-off, the knees must bend deeply for a quick upward spring, while the whole body and the head remain erect and centered, back straight and diaphragm drawn up. Breathing in at the moment of take-off is also a help toward "levitation." Men are naturally better jumpers than women, because the spring itself takes strength as well as timing. As a whole, however, each new generation of girl skaters jumps better than the last, and the progress from the dainty little long-skirted hops of only a few generations ago to the daring double-revolution jumps of today is amazing.
As with everything you have tackled so far, the simple jumps come before the complicated ones; the same principles apply to both, and once you have mastered one set, you are well on the way toward mastering the other.
Simplest of all is the "bunny hop." This is merely a forward leap from the flat of one skate to the toe pick of the other, and back to the flat of the original take-off skate. When well done, however, with speed and height, it can be most effective, while it is so easy that any skater of literally any age can do it. After a few short strokes, take a straight LF with the skating knee well bent and the free leg extended behind (count 1); now (count 2) spring quickly, flexing the ankle so that you lift straight up from the picks of your left skate, at the same time swinging your free leg straight forward and up past your left leg (the spring plus the swing will give you an upward thrust plus forward momentum); as your left leg leaves the ice, kick it slightly backward, so that at the top of the leap your legs will be in a semisplit position; now let your weight shift onto your right toe point as you descend, some little distance ahead of where you took off; bend that knee and, as your left leg comes forward past this toe point, push onto the flat of your left skate again and ride away. The toe-point and edge landing should not be simultaneous (a common fault in forward toe-point landings) but should be counted like a half note and a whole note (or short, long = u—). Now practice the same hop from the right flat to the left toe point. Your arms should swing with the jump (left arm forward with the left-footed spring, and vice versa) but should not rise above the shoulder line, while the shoulders themselves must not rise at all—on this, or any other jump, ever, amen.
The fundamental edge jump is the "waltz jump" (Illus. 40), sometimes also called a "three jump," though this is a misnomer as there is a real "jumped three" which you will learn shortly. In a waltz jump you take off from the OF edge, turn a half-turn in the air, and land on the OB of the other foot. You see, it is like the first two edges of the waltz eight, with the jump substituting for the three turn on the ice (a majority of the basic jumps correspond to a figure on the ice).The first six steps of the man's ten-step make a good preparation for the take-off. (If you are one of those, usually left-handed, who revolve easier from right to left, start the steps on the right foot, progressing to the right, and reverse all the directions.) Hold 6 on a deep knee bend, change into the ROB spiral position with a strong upward draw of the skating knee, and then bend again as the skating foot changes to a slight IB edge and the free foot comes down close for the push to LOF. Push vigorously to a well-bent left leg which holds for one count before the skating knee snaps straight (40-1) and the whole body "lifts" from a flexed ankle. The right leg meanwhile, from a straight backward position at the start of the LOF (caution: it is most important that this free leg not fall back inside the curve after the ROB to LOF push), swings forward in a wide arc, toe turned slightly in and knee straight (40-1). All the preparatory edges so far should have been skated on the same wide-angle curve, and now you should aim to land outside this curve (40-2). This will prevent too much rotation and subsequent loss of balance when you land. The whole movement, from the turn to LOF to the spring, should be quick (count 1, 2). You should feel that you are wound up like a coil (that's your knee bend), and then suddenly let go. As soon as you leave the left toe on the take-off, move your left leg at once up and back along the same arc your right leg transcribed (40-2, 3, 4). At the apex of the jump your body is facing straight in toward the center of the ice with both your feet wide apart but at an even height underneath you (40-3). Both legs, needless to say, should be straight and toes pointed to avoid an unpleasant "frog" look in mid-air.
At the top of the jump allow your body weight to shift toward your right side (40-4) so that as you complete the half-revolution, you can land softly over the ball of your right foot with your skating hip already tucked tight in underneath you (40-5, 6). If you continue the backward movement of the left leg smoothly, it will be slightly back of and to the outside of the right leg at the moment of the ROB landing (40-6). Be sure that you tighten the muscles of the whole free leg and buttocks so that the hips will remain firmly square and this free leg will not fall in behind you after landing. In fact, on this entire landing edge you should feel as if your free foot were pointing to the outside of the ice surface (40-7) (to the barrier of the rink —or the edge of the pond—as you lean strongly inward). That is one of the best control tips I know. For if your free leg curls around behind you toward the inside of the curve, you will find that this rotation plus your momentum will make it impossible for you to hold your landing edge at all. At best you will have to hop off it; at worst you will fall down.Remember: No jump is any better than the control of its landing edge. A jump is judged first by this, second by elevation and position in the air, once a correct take-off has been made.
How do you make yourself revolve in the air? Simple. The problem with most jumping is how not to revolve too far! Two main factors influence this revolution: the use of your arms and shoulders and the use of your jumping leg after the take-off. For a half-turn or even a whole turn, nothing more than a simple reversal of the arms and shoulders is needed—no flailing or exaggerated pulling in is necessary. In fact, on edge jumps if the jumping leg works backward after the spring, this alone is often enough to turn the body.
Thus, if turning the shoulders provides the mechanics of turning the body, then it stands to reason that the shoulders must not turn until the body is leaving the ice. In all jump takeoff positions the shoulders must be held against the revolution of the jump until the split second of spring. Ergo, in this waltz jump of ours your left arm and shoulder should lead and the free arm and shoulder should be pressed back until the actual thrust from the ice. As the right leg swings forward, the right arm swings forward above it and the left arm simultaneously starts a backward movement. The landing finds the skating arm forward, the free arm back, and the head looking back over the free shoulder in orthodox OB spiral position.
The landing of all jumps should be soft and flexible, with the edge on a wide-angle curve that matches the curve that preceded the take-off. Softness is achieved, first, through exact balance at the moment of impact and, second, through the use of the skating knee. Your knee is your shock-absorber; keep it stiff and you will jar your whole body; make it flexible (40-6, 7) with a bending and rising motion and you will ride away lightly and airily. My husband used to say that jumps should land on a bending knee; that is, as the skate touches the ice, the knee is partially bent and continues to bend more as the edge continues; when it is fully bent, it at once begins to straighten slowly and gradually. This continual working of the skating knee gives a quality of "flight" to skating. Landing on a completely bent knee that stays bent can be just as jarring as landing on a stiff one.
Letting out the skating hip is the most common reason for a "broken" landing. Leaning out of the circle will have the same effect. However, by the same token, the upper body must not break into the curve either. The body must remain one unit throughout. Before the take-off the body weight must remain back, shifting forward up over the take-off foot only on the thrust. There must be absolutely no forward break of the body at the hips or waist on the take-off edge. Returning to the technique of the waltz jump, you will see that it is started from an orthodox outside eight first position and landed on an orthodox outside backward eight second position, with all the controls of those edges exercised to the full because of the momentum of the jump itself. (Note: the model here has landed with his shoulders square, but in the next few feet moved his skating shoulder forward, free shoulder back, and head over his free shoulder).
I have dwelt at such length on the waltz jump because it teaches so exactly the basic theory of all jumping. The general instructions apply no matter what the edge of take-off, inside or outside, forward or backward—namely, a wide-angle preparation, a straight upward thrust from a well bent-knee, no rotation of the shoulders before the take-off, aiming the jump toward the outside of the circle, a straight body at all times, movement of the head with the rotation of the jump, weight over the landing leg with the skating hip in and the skating knee bending and rising for a controlled ride-out. For extra spring my husband always said that he felt as if he "snapped" his back as well as his knee at the take-off of every jump.
Many instructors teach a strong "checking" of the rotation of a jump through the shoulders—even to thrusting the free shoulder forward on landing—but I feel that the major check must always be through the back and hips. If the free hip is pressed hard forward with a strong muscular contraction, this will give sufficient control for all but double- and triple-revolution jumps, provided all the other requirements of a straight back and balanced edges are observed. On double-revolution jumps, where the rotation requires a definite pulling in of the arms, a square shoulder position with the arms out to the side, as the landing foot touches the ice, often gives added control.
Most unattractive of all the jumping errors is the prevalent habit of looking down at the ice before, during, and after jumping. Not only does it destroy a sense of true balance but it makes the skater look unsure of himself, whether he feels so or not. I always think that a skater who constantly looks back at the spot where he landed is mentally saying, "Did I really get around? Did I really land all right?" Such an attitude appeals to neither audiences nor judges!
Skating jumps are of essentially two categories, those that take off one foot from a running edge and those that add the toe point of the free foot as a lever at the take-off. The latter are commonly called "toe jumps" and the most basic of these is the "mohawk," or "half-flip," jump.
After a few quick strokes (plus a bunny hop perhaps) take a straight right forward edge and hop a quick mohawk turn onto a straight left back edge (this may also be done on a curve with a definite RIF edge to LIB). Immediately on turning the mohawk, bend the left knee, hold the left shoulder and arm firmly forward and the right shoulder and arm straight back, with your head forward and your eyes looking along your left arm. At the same instant extend your right leg back from the turn, rigidly straight-kneed and with the front of the knee facing the ice. Do not raise it more than a few inches. The hips should be tucked forward under you and the back kept perfectly straight, with the muscles at the base of the spine pulled down as this right leg reaches back.
Now in an absolutely simultaneous action, place your toe point in the ice and snap the left knee for the take-off. As the left leg pushes up, the right leg gives a simultaneous forward pull, so that the left foot rides back to the right and the body weight shifts back up over the toe points as the body rises into the air. The stiff right leg thus acts much as a pole does to a pole vaulter. If the timing is exact, the feet will be close together all during the jump. Turn the body and the head a half-revolution to the left, landing forward just as for the right-footed bunny hop—that is, on the left toe point, pushing off onto a well-controlled RIF edge in regulation spiral position (first position of the IF eight). There is so little effort in making this half-turn that it is not necessary to move the arms and shoulders at all—the left can remain forward and the right back throughout—but if you wish to add another half turn, you must draw your left shoulder back and your right forward at the moment of take-off. If you do add the half-turn, you will be doing a full "flip jump," which lands on the ROB edge in the exact way that the waltz jump landed. However, I must again counsel you to make haste slowly. Perfect the technique of your plain mo-hawk jump before adding any variations. It is this technique that will produce not only the flip jump, the flip-and-a-half, and the double flip but the split jump and the split flip. If the basic jump is not right, none of these advanced variations will be right either. In fact, some of them you may never be able to do at all. Of course, I am talking to the young and daring now; those not so athletic, however, can certainly do the Mohawk jump well both to left and right—and, if limber, will be able to add the split jump, too. All these same jumps may be prepared from a straight line three turn in place of a Mohawk.
Quick timing is again an essential ingredient of a successful toe jump. Try counting the whole preparation: 1 for the edge before the Mohawk, 2 for the turn and the edge out (the bend and reach), and 3 for the actual spring. Even though the action of the toe-point leg is vitally important, the main "lift" still comes from the straightening snap of the well-bent skating knee. Be sure that this skate remains on a good running edge and that there is not the slightest scraping on the toe point before the jump. "Stopping up" on the points not only is technically very bad but it takes away all the appearance of freedom and joy. Scraping like this makes an unpleasant noise, and I often say to beginning toe jumpers, "If you can hear the edge before you jump, don't jump," for the habit of scratching, once acquired, seems very difficult to break. As for the landing, you should be able to hold it a full circle without turning. If you observe all the rules of position and do not allow the body to pitch forward on the landing (another common error), you should have no problems of control.The "ballet jump" (see Illus. 34-A at start of Chapter VII) looks advanced and makes a lovely picture, but is really an elementary jump that can be done well by anybody at any age. It takes little daring and depends mainly on good form for its effect. Again our favorite six steps (add a sway after 3 this time, just for fun), and when you stroke onto the ROB of 6, let your free leg go quickly back and turn your whole body to the left in the finishing OB spiral position (skating knee moderately straight at this point). Now bend deeply and reach your turned out and pointed left leg, hard back and very slightly outside the curve (see Illus. 41-1). Place the left toe point in the ice, at the same time bending that left knee (41-2); allow some of your body weight to shift to the left leg and spring from both legs.
As your body (which turns forward as you place your toe in the ice) shoots straight up into the air, lift your right leg, turned out and pointed, high in the back and stretch your left leg straight down and slightly forward. Land on the left toe point and push off to a standard RIF spiral. Try the same jump from the LOB in the opposite direction. It is not difficult to reverse this one (Illus. 34-A).
The arms may strike a variety of poses in the air. I like to put my right arm forward and the left backward during the elevation, reversing them immediately upon landing. But you may throw both backward, or one upward over your head, etc. Whatever you do, it is wise to study the position before a mirror off the ice to see its effect for yourself. If instead of extending your left leg straight when you are in the air, you bend it so that your left knee is well forward while your right leg rises straight back as in the ballet jump, you will be doing the so-called "stag," or "fawn," jump (Illus. 34-B). Again, on all these various toe jumps, be extra careful not to "scratch" your take-off edge. The model is a reverse (or left-to-right) jumper.
This same OB toe point take-off (where the extended free toe jabs the ice outside the line of the circle (Illus. 41-1, 2) —rather than inside it, as in the mohawk jump) has many variations. The plain ROB back toe jump (which my husband performed so fantastically) takes off just like the ballet jump, but this time both feet draw together in the air as the body stays facing out. Land on the right toe point and push off on your LOF. If you should throw your right leg forward at the take-off and the left leg back, so that they are crossed in the air, you will be doing the "mazurka jump" (41-3, 4, 5) (which you may insert into the Sal chow march step—remember?). The mazurka is another photographer's delight, for it makes a fine picture in mid-flight. Done fast and with snapped-back elevation, as Tenley Albright did it, there is a thrill to it. But don't be afraid to try it, beginners; it's not as hard as it looks. Just think of doing a bunny hop as you swing your right foot forward past your left. Land right (toe) and push left (edge)—that's all there is to it (41-6, 7).
Two more important edge jumps come in the elementary category. They are the Sal chow and the loop jump. As the Sal-chow (Illus. 42) is distinctly the easier to learn (though perhaps the more difficult to perfect), we will tackle that first. It is an advance over the waltz jump in that it has a take-off from the inside back edge and calls for a three-quarter revolution of the body in the air. Prepare by skating fast and then doing a big ROF roll. Step onto a very shallow LOF edge straight down the ice and snap a quick left three, passing the free leg close by the turn and pressing the free shoulder and the free hip hard back after it (42-1). Hold this shallow LB edge (caution: don't raise your free leg here) for one count thus, and then sink quickly onto a deeply bent LIB edge (42-2, 3) which curves in as you let your right leg (well turned out, straight, and pointed) swing around in a wide arc. As your right foot comes forward low to the ice and opposite your skating foot (42-3) (but several feet to the inside of it), spring from your left knee (42-4). At this point your right leg lifts up past your left, knee bending slightly; your right arm and shoulder follow the action of the right leg exactly (42-1, 2, 3, 4); and your body lifting after it completes a loop in the air (42-5, 6, 7) and lands on the ROB edge in finishing position (42-8) (left arm back, right arm forward, left leg back, and head looking around over the left shoulder). The general pattern of the jump is straight (not circular, as is so often taught), and after the curve of the take-off edge, the aim of the jump is again outside the circle in a continuation of the preceding edges (42-1, 8). Be careful to keep your skating hip hard in with your body weight over it and on your skating shoulder all the time you are preparing your takeoff (42-1, 2, 3, 4). Leaning into your circle on the IB will take your weight off your skate, so that you will do a "spinner" rather than an elevated lift from a clean back edge. Also be careful that your body does not dip forward with a resultant scratch on the toe before the take-off. Any of these errors will destroy the possibility of eventually doubling the revolutions.
action and rhythm are the keynotes of a successful Sal-chow. Count 1 as
you bend on the LOF, count 2 as you snap the straight three and hold
with a straight knee on the IB, count 3 as you bend on the curved LIB
(42-2, 3), count 4 as you snap your take-off (42-4).