Thursday, October 25, 2018

Sometimes a few words suddenly make all the difference.

Not much to report.  Still working on foundation skills.  This past Tuesday night coach A., after watching me demo a few Mohawks said "try to close your free hip more."  I tried that and, to our joint surprise, I whipped off two Mohawks in a row that I could hang onto the exit edge for more than the Fiesta Tango's required one beat duration.  Of course after the excitement of thinking I was actually on to something, reality settled in and I was back to "immediately put the free foot down" territory again.  Ah, but those two good Mohawks in the required direction are what I hope is the beginning of me being able to test this dance before the end of the decade.  A breakthrough, sort of. 

We skated the dance's end pattern partnered so that I could get the feel for the changes of partnering that occur during the turn as well as the steps which come after the Mohawk.  I won't claim that we're still friends but we didn't crash and burn and we are still on speaking terms.

After my microsecond of success, coach A then said that I need to flatten out the exit edge a bit.  By that I think she means that I need to check more.  I currently check Mohawks by pulling my free arm back and looking over my free shoulder.  I'm not sure how likely that technique will work if I'm hanging on to another skater, but one thing at a time.  Hopefully the exit edge control will become routine as I practice the turn, remembering her coaching tip.  And who knows-- in time it may eventually mirror the well controlled Mohawk that I have in my strong direction--at least well enough to fool the judges.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Warm up vs muscle memory: Physical, Mental or Neurological?

The title of this post brings to mind the old question: Animal, Mineral or Vegetable?  As I circulated around the perimeter of the rink during the first half of last night's Free Style session I experienced the usual frustration of trying to find a patch of ice that didn't have a coach and/or their skater parked smack dab in the middle of it.  Coach A. generally rigs my lesson so that I have thirty minutes to "warm up" while she coaches another skater.  Most of the time I wind up blowing that time advantage just perimeter stroking and taking evasive action to avoid other skaters. There's very little opportunity to attempt working on elements which I know are going to be part of my upcoming lesson.  Out of the corner of my eye I watch the digital hockey clock count away my precious warm up minutes without really finding an opportunity to explore any of my weak side elements.  If I do get a gap I usually attempt something in my strong direction, at least for the first few times.

After my lesson, which focused unsuccessfully on my list of usual suspect elements, I started to wonder what part of a warm up is physical vs mental?  It occurred to me that things like 3-turns and Mohawks in my strong direction require very little in the way of "warm up" before attempting them. Further, they require very little thinking on my part.  The same elements taken from my weak side don't happen at all during the first ten or fifteen minutes on ice.  After that if they do happen, a lot of thinking has to occur before and during their execution.

Even though I've been doing the weak side stuff for the same length of time as the ones from the strong side (actually more so, since I double up the practice on the weak side) they just refuse to enter into muscle memory. Why is that?   I have to think the whole process through: remember to bend the knee, pre-rotate, don't wide step, lean either into or out of the circle, etc. etc.  The amount of "admin" required is soul destroying.  And even with all this mindfulness going on in the background, sometimes (most times) the best laid Mohawks o' mice an' men gang aft a-gley.

Over and over, I come back to the same realization:  I don't have to think much about the strong side.  Those just happen.

Now before I go much further, I have tried different types of physical warm ups, (brisk walks, jumping jacks, etc.) followed by stretching regimes recommended by various skating gurus, and have come to the conclusion that the best warm up for a specific activity is probably the activity itself.  I've also come to the conclusion that muscles are at least "blood-heat" warm 24/7, so little if any further "warm up" is required.  Think about it:  if you suddenly had to jump up and run away from danger would you want a system that required a long and careful warm up plus stretching before making your escape?   Short answer: not unless you're bucking for a Darwin award.  You'd want a system that puts the pedal to the metal and gets the hell outta Dodge tout suite.

Then again, maybe what's not happening is precise muscle function, which is in turn controlled by the nervous system--ya know, maybe what I need is to have an acupuncturist chase me around on the ice and stick needles into various meridians until the correct muscles fire on my weak side.  Instead of Ice Capades I could have a debut role in "Acupuncture on Ice". One of those "spotlight" kinda things I suppose.

Or maybe since I have to think so much about the weak side elements, a therapist is in order; one who speaks with a heavy Viennese accent:  "Vie do you hate so much this forvard right inside Mohawk?" 

I don't know; I just don't know.

Meanwhile, those who have Face Book can watch this short video of a young fellow doing a wonderfully graceful double axel on in-line roller skates--something I'll never do regardless of which side I might try it from.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The future looks bright for Canadian ice dancing.

Dear faithful reader:  Not much to report here at diarist central.  Still chipping away at the dreaded Mohawk. Making glacial progress. Coach A. and I have added other foundation skills to work on to break up the monotony.  After all, one can only do so many Mohawks during a 30 minute lesson.  To that end we've been working on back chasses in waltz hold (makes my lower back and Achilles tendons ache in v. short order!), two foot turns (much to my embarrassment I still can't do back-to-front two foot turns without losing all momentum), forward cross rolls with an emphases on making them more progressive-like  (seems like everything is supposed to become more progressive-like, i.e. skimming the ice with the advancing foot rather than lifting the blade), back cross rolls with deeper edges and stronger push, etc. etc.  Anyway, that's life at present.

What's more fun to talk about is the  state of ice dance, particularly in Canada.  There's been a lot of gnashing of teeth over the prospect of Tessa and Scott retiring in between Olympic cycles.  I say, not to worry:  Marjorie Lajoie & Zachery Lagha are the ticket.  I've been watching them for the past three years and they get better each year.  Above is a video from a novice competition in  2015.Click on full screen for the best view.


Here is a pair of videos from the current competition at the Junior GP at Richmond: 

 By 2022 this will be the pair to beat.  See if you don't agree.  If I watch these videos a hundred times I won't see everything.  The foot work and edges happen much too fast for this old geezer.  Thank God I'm not a technical analyst or a judge.  How do they keep the choreo in their heads?  I struggle to remember a 14 step pattern dance.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Chipping away

Not much to blog about these days.  Coach A. claims that my dodgy RFI Mohawk is improving.  I'm not sure I buy into that.  Even if it is, it's improving at a  snail's pace.

We moved my weekly lesson to last night's public session rather that the more frantic Thursday evening Free Style session.  It turned out the the public was also most as nutty as the FS session but like my weak direction Mohawk, swapping one session for another is a game of modest percentages.

We worked a bit on the Mohawk steps in the Fiesta Tango, ran through the dance a few times partnered (I only had brain fade once) and then just for something different we worked on my forward and back cross rolls in an attempt to (a). keep the blades on the ice--more like a progressive, and (b). get a proper push, especially for the back X-rolls.  We also worked briefly on power pulls in the hope that refining that element on the left leg will provide future dividends for the Mohawk.  We might have talked about other stuff but if we did I've already forgotten.  If I don't write it down or make a short video, lesson content tends to evaporate!  I'll bring my phone next week and maybe I'll be able to document a little progress.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

New blades, new season, same old skater

My new blades, Ultima Legacy 7 (the 7 indicates a 7 foot rocker as opposed to my old blades which have an 8 foot rocker) arrived and so I hiked down to my skate tech to have them mounted on my current boots.

My boots upside down on the cobbler's stands.  Good bye old blades.

New blades going on.
 My tech skate, M, kept the relative blade position and the shims that we had worked with several times before getting things dialed in with the old blades in the same positions.  He told me to go out on the ice and see how they felt.  He brought a drill-driver down to the penalty box, ready to make changes as required. 

I wondered if I'd be able to stand up let alone skate.  I cautiously stepped onto the ice and stroked around the perimeter.  At least the new blades didn't feel completely weird.  I was relieved to learn that this little experiment was maybe not a $200 plus dollar mistake.  Of course the new blades are a bit different--but not radically so.  I told M that no immediate changes were required.  I bought an ice pass and stayed for the next public to continue getting acquainted.

 So for the big question:  do the blades with a 7 foot rocker make it any easier to cleanly execute my RFI Mohawk?  Quick answer--no, at least not with that initial foray.  However, turns and back skating did seem quieter.  I think the extra bit of rocker tended to force me further back on the blade and thus away from the toe picks.  I'll have my first lesson of the new season tonight with coach A and perhaps that will be a bit more enlightening.  

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Last dance at Piney

Due to scheduling issues, yesterday was my final ice dance lesson until home ice comes back on line the 8th of July.  Don't get me wrong, I like Piney Orchard but home ice is home ice.

Coach A. and I have been chugging along with the Fiesta Tango.  The dreaded Mohawk is slowly getting better but just when I though that it was semi-under control, we tried it pardnered.  Yow! Are our feet/blades ever so close together during that little maneuver! Kinda freaks me out.  I can tell--we'll be swapping more boot polish before this gets better.

The rest of the dance is heading in the right direction.  I'm still wide stepping during the cross in front/tuck behind steps but at least I'm beginning to be aware of that.  The back progressive/cross in front steps are also a bit wild at times--but not every time.  So, progress.

On the equipment front, my skate tech has placed an order for Jackson's new Legacy 7 blades for me.  I'm currently skating on blades with an 8 foot rocker and decided to see if a 7 foot rocker would make turns a bit easier.  In theory it should. In practice--we shall see.  I was hoping he could get me the Matrix version of the Legacy 7, which features a stainless steel blade mounted in an aluminum chassis but it seems that Jackson isn't making that particular blade in my size.  So no stainless steel for me.  The advantages of stainless over chromed steel are that the blades hold their sharpness longer and don't rust as easily.

Like with everything else in skating I expect a learning curve as I transition from 8 foot rocker blades to the 7 footer.  Hopefully these blades won't be an expensive mistake.  The new season with new blades should be interesting!


    Jackson Ultima Legacy 7 Blade UB70 Figure Skating Blades

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Laszlo Gombos

Adult skater buddy, S. sent me the video link below.  I have a new hero: Laszlo Gombos,  a guy roughly my age who ice dances on hockey blades.  He lives in Hungary and started ice dancing 17 years ago to take his mind off of cancer treatments.  He learns a new dance each winter.  Maybe some day I'll be half as smooth as he is---rock on, Laszlo!  Maybe my renegade RFI Mohawk would be less wonky if I went over to the dark side and tried hockey blades.  Na, I think I'll try free style blades but ones with a 7 foot rocker rather than the 8 foot rocker blades on which I'm currently skating.

He has many more short videos on Face Book.

You can read more about Laszlo here: