With confidence gained from sculling and baby stepping by yourself, you are ready to try a real stroke. But first it is important to learn the push from standstill (Illus. 6). Place your feet in a perfect T, so that your left foot is behind the right and the heel of your right skate sets into the instep of your left foot at a 90 degree, or right, angle (6-1). Keeping your body upright and your knees straight, put all your weight on your left leg and turn your left ankle strongly in so that the skate is firmly anchored against the ice. Bend both knees deeply. (Illus. 6-1 and photo insert 1). You are now on your mark, ready to go.
Keeping your right foot straight under your upright body, quickly straighten your left knee and at the same instant shift your entire body weight from the left leg to the right (6-2, 3, and photo inserts 2, 3). If you keep your right knee in a deep forward bend, you will find your body is riding easily over a right skate that is gliding equally easily over the ice (6-3). Hold this glide as long as you can on a straight line, body perfectly erect and facing straight ahead, left leg fully extended behind, and the left skate only 2 to 4 inches above the ice. I find it easier to balance if I place my left arm forward and concentrate on keeping my shoulders level. Now try exactly the same pushing movement onto the left leg, with the right skate as the T-position anchor. Practice these pushoffs from a standstill many times until you can feel real balance on each skate. Always push from the flat of the whole blade. Using your picks for a push from the toe is a cardinal sin of figure skating. The teeth are used only for spinning, jumping, and stopping backward. Play a game with yourself to see how far you can glide from a single push.
From this one exercise it must be clear to you now that momentum across the ice comes from the thrust against the ice —from the quick straightening of your pushing knee with an instantaneous shift of weight onto the gliding foot. The full power of this thrust (which comes mainly from the muscles just above the knee) is felt when the feet are close together at the moment of weight transference. In this way not only is no energy lost but quicker balance on each stroke is also gained. Experimenting with a speed camera showed that a fine pushoff is made in approximately three-tenths of a second. Beginners, persevere. Experts, check your pushoffs.
Right here is the place to explain more skating terminology, the everyday jargon of the sport which will become as familiar as your own name after a very few sessions.
The foot that you are skating on is called, logically enough, the "skating" (sometimes the "employed") foot; the foot in the air is called the "free" (or the "unemployed") foot. Dividing the body down the middle, each part of the body that corresponds to the skating foot is called "skating"—thus, the skating arm, skating hip, skating knee, etc. Conversely, each part on the side of the body corresponding to the free foot is called "free"—thus, the free hand, free toe, free shoulder, etc. In this way a lot of confusing "left," "right" talk is eliminated.
The terms "forward" and "backward," when applied to the skate itself, designate the direction in which you are progressing. However, when applied to a part of the body, "forward" means corresponding to the front of your body and "backward" means corresponding to the back of your body. Thus if the directions say to hold your free arm forward, or "in front," you are to place it so that the arm carries out the stomach line, no matter whether you are traveling forward or backward. Similarly, if you are told your free leg is backward, or "behind" or "in back," you must place it to the back of your body so that it carries out the spinal line. So remember, front and back position of the arms, head, free leg, etc., have nothing to do with the direction of travel. They merely designate position in relation to the torso of the skater.
Every skating maneuver has three designating terms—namely, the foot you are skating on, the edge the skate is on, and the direction in which you are going—thus, the "left outside forward" edge or the "right inside backward" edge. These edge names are then applied to all the various turns, etc. For the sake of brevity in writing, the abbreviations "L.O.F.," "R.I.B.," etc., are often used. Look around at other skaters and see if you can quickly assign the correct three edge terms to the moves they are making. It will be a help to your own progress if you can gain automatic recognition of all the eight edges—ROF, LOF, RIF, LIF, ROB, LOB, RIB, LIB.
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