Sep 16, 2010

Using Features in teaching and practicing

Pre-competition season education has started! You want to be an informed fan, if for no other reason than that you can follow the tweets (and by the way, I'll live tweet every competition I can).

If you're a skater or a coach, one of the ways you can do this is by utilizing components of the IJS (ISU Judging System) in your teaching or practice. And, no, you don't have to be Yuna to be successful at this.

A feature is simply any addition or enhancement to a basic jump, spin, footwork, or spiral position that increases difficulty and uniqueness. Unusual or difficult arm or leg positions in spins, footwork and spirals; additional rotations; the length of time you hold a single position, etc. all are features. Here's some examples of features that you can add, at any level:

Simply spinning in both directions is a feature. In today's competitive world it's a really good idea to be able to spin both directions (ballet dancers have always done this). Start at Basic 5/Beta getting the kids to spin in both directions from a stand still. Add a feature to a one-foot spin by spinning with arms over the head or behind the back. Sit spins? Try "broken leg" (foot to the side) and "pancake" (foot folded under, or to the back). Spin with arms doing a windmill. Any variation you can come up with is fine.

Believe it or not, you can add features to jumps. I'm kind of amazed that we haven't started seeing jumping in both directions yet. ISI high level tests have required this forever, so I'm not sure why USFS is so slow to pick this up. At the very least, every skater should be able to do all of the half-jumps in both directions (waltz jump, half flip/stag, half toe-walley, scissor or mazurka, half lutz, split, falling leaf, Russian split; what else am I missing?) Then there are alternative arms-- for very secure skaters, (VERY secure) try jumping with arms behind. Then there's the "Tano" jumps-- one arm over the head, and the "Rippon" jumps-- both arms over the head.

Edge changes (without an additional push), then variations on the 3 basic spiral positions (belly button facing the ice, the wall, or the cieling)-- waving or windmill arms, grabbing the knee or the blade, "haircutters" (blade pulled to the back of the head). Plus the Sasha spiral, leg pulled up in front, although the judges are discouraging this (get an image of this position coming straight at you on a forward glide and you'll understand why. The position has a very crude alternative name.) For low level skaters do catch foot with an upright back rather than a true spiral position, or moving between spiral, lunge and shoot the duck in various orders.

This is the hardest thing to add features to at high level competition, because the requirement for footwork is so complex in and of itself. But you can use this for intermediate skaters, simply to get them used to the concept of "features." Have them do all the basic turns (through counters) with different arm positions, or have them jump the turns (in a jumped turn the edge and/or foot change occurs in the air, so these are essentially half-jumps). With twizzles (moving spins) no so important, and part of the Moves in the Field tests, you can easily add features-- alternate arm and foot positions, or catch foot. You can also do two-foot "twizzles" (not really twizzles but again, it starts to familiarize even beginning skaters with the terms).

In other words, get yourself and your students ready to understand what you're seeing by doing it/teaching it yourself. How fun would it be to be watching skating with an 8-year old PreJuv and have her say "Hey-- I did that thing that YuNa just did!"

What features do you like to practice or teach?


  1. I've been wondering about the alternative arm positions for jumps. My coach always told me that it is the arms that give you the rotation in the jump not the legs. If that were true then the arms over the head during a double rev jump wouldn't work. What gives??

    Silver Blades

  2. Exactly. It is exTREMEly difficult to create rotation with arm or arms over the head or behind the back. That's why you get extra points for doing it. And we're talking triples with the international competitors.

    That said, the arms can aid rotation (although not in all jumps), but do not create it. Rotation is actually created by torque on the blade, by turning linear momentum into rotational momentum, and by how tight and how quickly you pull in both arms and legs, not by the actual movement or placement of the arms.