jo skates

Thoughts about skating and the practice of everyday life

Skating knowledge

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The greatest enemy of knowledge is not ignorance, it is the illusion of knowledge.

–Stephen Hawking

The one thing I will add to that wisdom is that the illusion of knowledge isn’t just about the things that we think we understand through our brains, but also what we feel through our bodies.

The accomplishment of a particular skating move, for instance. When I am able to move successfully from one edge to another, I feel like I’ve “mastered” something. I pat myself on the back. I keep doing that transition, thinking it is the right way to do something. I go on for years. It feels not just normal (“the way I do things”) but right (“if I did things another way I wouldn’t be able to do them at all”). I invest years in this kind of thinking.

At some point, I realize that I can’t go on doing things in this way. Maybe it’s that I can’t get any more speed, or I can only do this move in isolation. Maybe there’s some kind of pain involved that lets me know that what I’m doing is putting unwanted pressure on a knee, an ankle, a foot.

I start to realize that something’s wrong, not just with this particular move, but with the way I skate in general. A coach will point out that a particular joint (say, the hips) is not moving correctly. Even after working on a relatively simple move (say, chassés in a circle, or back crossovers, or swing rolls, my favorite) I realize that I don’t feel comfortable.

I’m told that the reason I can’t do something is because I’m literally moving the wrong way: my hip remains stuck in “forward” when at some point it needs to move back; my ankle still isn’t bending; I’m not on the correct part of my blade. And being told these things, I try to comply, but it feels really scary. After a few minutes, my muscles are exhausted, and I feel like my brain is trying to manage too many moving parts.

It’s terrifying not just because I’ve ingrained these habits but also because I’ve built up parts of my ego (the “feeling good” parts–oh no!) by thinking that I know how to do something.

So I go home, and rather than cry (there are far many more things in the world to cry about), I write about grunting and screaming in my blog. And I realize that in order to really learn how to skate, I have to let go of the overall illusion that I know what I’m doing.

I watch a few videos (Yuzuru Hanyu, Alexandra Trusova) and I marvel not only at those quads but the fact that their hips move in perfect harmony. And I read obituaries of Stephen Hawking and realize what a master he was–and not just of physics. And I go to bed early and sleep late (spring break, after all) and think about all the skating I’m going to learn today.

 

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Author: Joskates

Don't see me on the ice? I may be in the classroom or at the theater, or hanging out with my family and friends.

4 thoughts on “Skating knowledge

  1. A beautiful idea. Thanks for sharing. I’ve been relearning “mastered” things and feeling frustrated about it; this helps. It helps with my learning humility (or, unlearning arrogance), too.

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  2. Thank you so much, Wynne. It helps to know that I am not alone here. Those of us who take on skating after we think we are all grown up have a harder time with this! But in the end, we will be wiser–and be better skaters, hopefully.

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  3. It is so hard to re-learn something that we think we have mastered. It’s good that the coaches at your rink will tell you when something isn’t right. That is a gift. Otherwise, imagine how much longer you could go doing things incorrectly and potentially injuring yourself! I’m in the same boat as you – I constantly think I’m doing something right (like crossovers) but then come to find out that I’m not doing them correctly! It’s frustrating, but part of our long journey!

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  4. Eva, that is so right–I am really grateful for my coaches telling me like it is. (Grrr….) And even though it’s a long journey, the fact that I’m still pursuing it makes me one of the lucky ones!!!

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