Now for a fine series of forward strokes in movement (Illus. 6-4, 5, 6, 7, 8). This time, as you make your T-position push off onto your right leg, lean your entire body from the edge of your blade to the top of your head in an unbroken line to the right—unbroken, that is, except for the forward bend of the knee and ankle of course. This lean will mean that you are no longer gliding on the flat, or both edges, of your blade but on the outside edge. Keep your free leg extended straight behind, with your free toe turned out and pointed down, until you are ready to stroke left. Then bring the free foot smoothly forward until it is parallel to and touching the skating foot but not on the ice (6-6). At this point both knees will again be strongly bent, as the skating knee has kept its initial bend all during the right stroke, and now the free knee must bend alongside it to match it. This will put you in a sort of a squat position that seems awkward in slow motion but in continuous movement is not. At any rate it is essential to a powerful stroke.
Now turn the toe of your right foot out to an approximate 45 degree angle which puts that skate on the inside edge, and simultaneously start your whole body leaning to the left. Without hesitating, straighten your right knee and transfer your weight in the same instant to your left leg and the outside edge of your left skate (6-7-8). The thrust again leaves your pushing (but now free) leg extended straight behind you while your skating knee retains its bend. This completes your stroking cycle: All you have to do is keep going in a steady rhythm from left to right, right to left, etc. As you become more proficient, try lengthening your stroke until you can count at least a slow 1, 2, 3 on each foot. On this plain stroke you should carry your free arm forward, changing arms as you change feet just as you do when you walk down the street. Do not try to lean on an exaggerated curve. This is essentially the racing stroke and should be comparatively shallow.
Remember to turn out the toe of your pushing foot each time, so that the push is made always from the inside edge of your blade, never from the toe points. A beautiful stroke is the first essential of fine figure skating, and too much time cannot be spent on its mastery. No matter how facile on your blades you may become, you will never be truly graceful unless you have a straight back, a well-bent skating knee, an extended free leg turned out from the hip, a pointed free toe, an erect head, and relaxed arms, combined with the easy posture true grace demands. This is not a natural position for anyone at first, so you must practice this straight-ahead stroking until you not only feel at home on your skates but are fully conscious of the details of position as you move (Illus. 3-B).
By the end of your first half-dozen sessions you should have acquired fair balance and control and should have lost all fear of falling. If you do start to tumble, or if anyone pushes into you, relax. Don't stiffen under any circumstances. Sink easily to the ice and you will find it surprisingly soft! Stiffen and you will find it as hard as you have anticipated. My mother, who was skating at least twice weekly at the age of seventy-nine, fell almost every time she skated—to the horror of those who were watching her for the first time. But her companions never worried, for they knew she had been falling as a tumbler falls all her life, in such a relaxed natural manner that she rarely even felt the bump. Don't ever get it into your head that falling on the ice is some sort of disgrace; and don't think for an instant that you will ever become so good that you won't fall. Every skater falls, and this is why it is important to learn to fall without fear, naturally and softly. Right now double up your knees and let your derriere lower onto the ice, as you slide your feet out in front of you. There! It wasn't so bad, was it? Rather fun, really. Remember too that the easiest falls are those taken with speed underfoot, the most painful from a standstill. Accidents to figure skaters, contrary to common opinion, are few and far between.
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