“You look at where you’re going and where you are and it never makes sense, but then you look back at where you’ve been and a pattern seems to emerge.”
–Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance
“Dynamic quality is the pre-intellectual cutting edge of reality, the source of all things, completely simple and always new.”
–Robert M. Pirsig, Lila: An Inquiry into Morals
One of the things I love about skating is that there are these occasional moments when things just kind of click into place. I can be struggling in vain for what seems like (no, what really is!) years to get all my different body parts organized. And then one of my coaches will say something like “Bend your knee more” or “Don’t slouch forward” or “Lean into the circle” or (my favorite!) “Get on an actual edge.” Boom, the clouds part, and it’s skating epiphany time. Suddenly everything just sort of comes together.
So at yesterday’s lesson Laurie and I were working on forward outside three turns, and she told me to think about entering the three turn like a “skinny ninja.” What this means is that I have try to make my body as narrow as possible on the entering edge. The “ninja” part is that I can enter the edge efficiently, not presenting my body so broadly all over the place.
“Oh,” I said, “I’m like one of those big round targets slowly bobbing up and down at the shooting gallery. They are much easier to hit than the ‘skinny ninjas.'” “Precisely,” Laurie said. And then we both laughed, imagining the difference between skating like a stealthy skinny ninja and skating as if I were shaped like a bulls-eye or a duck or cow or clown face.
I wrote in an earlier post about Carlo Fassi’s description of doing figures as if one were in a plastic tube. I think this is a similar idea, except there’s speed involved. The ninja moves narrowly and quickly in a poised and organized manner, not with free legs and arms dangling around like naughty bits.
So I tried to find some pictures of skinny ninjas and clown face targets, and I did find an entire web-based game that generated a whole page of skating ninjas. For the targets, nothing came up that was appropriate and not terrifying. (You would not believe the number of creepy clown images there are out there!)
So you’ll just have to take my word that skating like a skinny ninja is the way to go. There are a lot of friendly skaters who nod their heads politely when I tell them just that. But just wait until I start skating in my shinobi shōzoku!
- Alternating back progressives. Work on back position (natural curve in spine), don’t initiate the change of edge with your shoulders and hips.
- Back cross, change edge, push to cross in front. The power comes from (1) being low enough on your back inside edge so that you can push into the ice on the rise; (2) pushing under into the cross (work on these separately in crossovers); and (3) pulling into the change of edge.
- Inside mohawks. Remember that the heel comes in first, and that you have to open both hips (from the back, not just turning out your feet); draw the new foot into position rather than thinking of transferring weight over (you have to be aligned correctly over your entry edge to do this).
- Skinny ninja three turns. This idea works for a lot of things.