Last week I explained why compulsory figures might be a good idea for adult ice skaters. Having said that, I have to say that figures are not for everyone, and that it is possible to become an excellent ice skater without the benefit of practicing figures. Please don’t throw your scribes at me!
How do I know this? Apart from personal experience, consider ice dancers of the past and present. They master edges and turns with skill and speed, and create magic moments for the viewer while doing it. For several years now, I have worked with coaches who specialize in pushing ice skaters of all ages and levels to perfect their edges and turns at faster speeds. This training allows skaters to build their strength, skill and agility for the demands of the transitions and footwork sequences that are now needed to succeed under the IJS system. Often we will do the exercises to music to learn to match our movements with the nuances and tempo of the music. Other times, they will be done in silence so you can hear how bad you are on your toe picks or scraping your turns!
The down side of figures is that they were always done very slowly, with the upper body held in a rigid checked position. Turns were always done in isolation. For example, in the bracket figure, the turn is completed and held until returning to the centre where the same turn will be repeated on the other foot. In ice dance or a footwork sequence, turns are never done in isolation but always quickly followed by another element or a quick change of direction. Higher levels of competition also require a change in body position.
Another thing that bugs me about figures is that you are always looking down at the ice and obsessing with minutiae of flats, scrapes and wobbles. I suppose that means I just don’t have the personality for figures. Those who know me know that I’m a “Big Picture” sort of person; details are delegated to minions, or in my case, my husband whose middle name is “Nit-Picker.”
The Canadian Skating Skills tests were supposed to combine the need to acquire competence for edges and turns with speed and agility. Many older coaches I speak with feel that Skills tests have not adequately met this goal. To be honest, they are not that hard to pass. I passed my gold skills test after having completed my Diamond Dance test (that would be international dance tests for Americans). Compared to that, or even the Gold Ice Dance tests, the Gold Skills test is a walk in the park. From what I have seen of the American Moves tests, these do look a lot harder, especially the higher level ones.
So should figures be restored? Sure! In fact, let’s raise the bar on figures. The classical compulsory figures are well and good, but let’s be honest, I can’t see myself spending the rest of my skating life repeating the same ones over and over… especially if those figures are loops!! I’m really looking forward to new creative figures, back to the future as it were, painting all sorts of creative shapes and creatures with skate blades.
What do you think? Would figures help your skating skills? Would you prefer to work solely on figures? Are you like me? “NO WAY, NOT HAPPENING!” Share your thoughts with us!