Dec 21, 2009

Starting Figures Class

When teaching edges to freestyle and adults, I always start with figures. For one thing, I think skaters should know just how hard it is. For another, the new USFS Moves tests have added figures at the Preliminary, Pre-Juvenile, Novice and Junior levels, including outside forward and backward eights, and loops. For another, there is no better way to help a skater understand body alignment.

Plus, I'm really good at figures, which is not something that can be said about most of my skating.

In the first few days, you should learn:
How to “lay out” your figure using the long and short axes.
The first 4 figures: Forward Outside, Forward Inside, Back Outside and 3s to the Center.

So here we go:
Imagine a long line down the ice. This is your Long Axis. All figures are laid out on a Long Axis (you know this from Delta and Pre Freestyle class, or from your Moves lessons). You always push perpendicular to (across) the Long Axis. We call this the Short Axis. It can also be used to mark your center (the middle of the figure). When you are just beginning figures, you can draw the long and short axes.

Now you’re ready to skate your circles! You’ll have a circle to your right and a circle to your left. You always start right in the middle where the two circles touch, facing the long axis.

The first four figures, plus a bonus.
Forward Outside 8: Two circles on forward outside edges. Each circle is completed from a single push. The “V” in the center is the two pushes- one to the right, one to the left. This figure has been added to the Preliminary Moves test (hooray!)

Forward Inside 8: Two circles on forward inside edges. Notice how the push changes.

Back Outside 8: Two circles on backward outside edges. Push changes again! Hey-how can you see where you’re going!? (hint-- you have to turn your head and look. Get those shoulders around, too!) This one is now in Pre-Juv Moves.

Threes to the Center: Forward Outside to Back inside edge. Place the 3-turn right on the long axis! Oh, and the push changes again-- now it's a "choctaw turn": change of edge, change of foot, change of direction. This is the easiest of the variations of the choctaw turn.

Bonus: Forward Right Outside-Inside Serpentine: You'll now have added a second circle to your right, touching the original circles (so, three in a row). Forward outside push off the original center. Without pushing again, change edge to inside at the new circle, and stay on the inside edge all the way around that third circle. When you get all the way around, back to the long axis (you've now traveled 1 1/2 circles on a single push), new push to the left inside edge, change edges at the original center, holding new left outside edge all the way around that circle until you reach your starting point.

Did I mention that in a test you do these on completely clean ice with no markers or guides, and you have to trace each figure perfectly twice (so, lay it out, trace it, trace it again). Oh, and the judge stands right there on the ice, watching every inch.


  1. CH pointed out that technically a choctaw is a "step" not a "turn." Consider me corrected!

  2. How do you get enough power and speed from one push to make it all the way around a big (to me lol) circle? I can do semi circles (6 in the length of the rink) but a whole circle is asking too much!

    Both private coaches i've had did figures tests as young kids, but both say they were terrible, one crashed into a judge! Unlike the US there's no national figures tests here at all anymore.

    I don't know why figures interest me, as I would be absolutely terrible!

  3. @Turnip-- that's the whole point! Learning the kind of blade and edge control that allows you to get that kind of power from a push. And forget just one circle-- the high tests require a push that takes you all the way around two circles on the same push, with edge changes and turns! Figures are why skaters "back in the day" seemed to have such effortless skill- they knew how to generate the most power from the least expenditure of energy.

  4. In an actual figures test (yes, you can still take them) you have to skate each circle 3 times, not twice.

  5. Gordon, as I said, you lay it out once, then trace it twice. The layout is not a trace, because there's nothing to trace yet. Figure skated 3 times, but traced only twice. Before you correct me, make sure you know what you're talking about. For the figures in the new USFS moves tests you only have to trace once.

    As far as taking the tests, yes they still test them, but they are not training judges or coaches anymore (no PSA rating) and good luck getting a club to give you the 20+ minutes on a test that you need. I ended up having to take First Figures on a noon-time public.

  6. Well, I do know what I'm talking about, I just didn't read your post carefully enough -- my apologies.

    The one thing that seems to be missing here is that your circles are supposed to be 3x your height in diameter.

    I was pleasantly surprised that they added the FO/FI and BO/BI to the MITF structure; though they are easier than on the figures test, it's at least a start.

  7. Oh, Gordon, my apologies. You caught me on a bad day, not that that's all that hard. Good call on the missing info; I actually like to think of it as radius=1 1/2x your height, for some reason, which is approximately equivalent to 20 blade lengths, for a quick measure, I've discovered.