Monday, 30 July 2012

List of things to practice

  • Perimeter stroking (pre-bronze MIF)
  • Backwards stroking
  • Consecutive edges - FO, FI, BO, BI (pre-bronze MIF)
  • Crossovers - forward CCW, backward CCW, forward CW, backward CW
                                - on figure eights if possible (pre-bronze MIF & freeskate)
  • Forwards three-turns - LFO3, RFO3, LFI3, RFI3
  • Backwards three-turns - LBO3, RBO3, LBI3, RBI3
  • Open mohawks - left/right fowards/backwards
  • Brackets
  • Waltz eights (pre-bronze MIF)
  • Spirals - left and right, forward on a straight line (pre-bronze MIF & freeskate)
  • Power pulls - left and right leg
  • Crossrolls
  • Two-foot spins (pre-bronze freeskate)
  • One-foot upright spins (pre-bronze freeskate)
  • Scratch spins
  • Sit spins
  • Waltz jumps
  • Toe loops (pre-bronze freeskate)
  • Salchows (pre-bronze freeskate)
  • Loops
  • Flips
  • Lutz

The list is getting too long!

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Bullet train speed vs. plodding steadily along

My figure skating education is going along two tracks at very different speeds. On the one hand are the group lessons, where coach C seems to see potential in me and tries to push me along at breakneck speed. On the other hand are my private lessons with coach J, where we are working towards pre-bronze tests right now, so need to get those basic skills thoroughly good, therefore spending a lot of time slowly going through things in detail.

I'm starting to think if the bullet train ride is not very good for me. Coach C's logic is, I might not have years and years ahead of me to get everything perfect before moving on. One day I'll start working and have less time, or even worse, I might move to somewhere without even an ice rink (please no!). It's not like I'm eight years old anymore. So since she believes I can one day achieve axels and even double jumps, well then we better get on to it. It's all very fun learning new jumps and elements every other week, but I feel like I can't do any of them well.

Today in group lessons, we did a step sequence involving backwards 3-turns and another with brackets. Naturally, I had to be taken aside and taught the brackets first. I can't even do the backwards 3-turns yet! Shouldn't I be very solid with all the normal 3-turns before doing the backwards ones and brackets? Well I'm not yet! I just looked at USFSA requirements and brackets are on the gold MIF test! Really? I'm still preparing for the pre-bronze! I admit that it was pretty interesting and fun, and I did manage a few ugly ones, I just don't know if I should be getting ahead of myself like this.

Moving on to jumps. Coach C taught me the Lutz last week with an entrance of backwards gliding, stepping left foot over right foot on the outside edge, then picking and jumping. I can sometimes do an extremely uncoordinated one with much spinning on the toe-pick. Coach C felt that was good enough and started teaching me the backwards crossover entry. Man it's hard. Then she said that she's giving it three weeks then she's teaching me the axel. Oh wow, I should be excited but I'm more apprehensive. Better work on getting that waltz jump good in three weeks!

So now I have the new elements of backwards 3-turns, brackets and Lutz jumps to practice, on top of all the other "old" elements and in particular the pre-bronze MIFs. If only ice time wasn't so expensive! Then I'd probably just spend all of my free time there. As it is now, I basically only go to a one-hour freestyle session where a half-hour is my private lesson, a two-hour public session where 45 min is the group lesson, and another 2.5 hour public session. Some weeks I throw in another freestyle session. I could really do with a lot more!

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Back to basics

Day 2 of private lessons with coach J. I must say that I'm a little down right now, but the problem is mine and I still love having private lessons.

I started officially learning figure skating with joining the adult novice/intermediate group lessons, without doing the beginners class, because I already could skate forwards, backwards, swizzles, two foot turns, sort-of spiral, sort-of crossover by myself already. The upside of this decision was that I went straight into learning fun things like waltz jumps, whereas the first lesson of the beginners class they were still trying to do forward stroking. The downside though, is that my basics aren't solid. And I'm paying for that now...

I've decided to take USFSA tests, so we started working on my pre-bronze MIF. That's when I discovered how woefully lacking in those basic skills I am. My edges aren't the best, but after last week's lesson, I can now do consecutive forward outside and inside edges pretty well (I think). However, the backward ones are dismal. Good thing coach J thought to ask, but it turns out part of the problem is that I don't know how to correctly do backward stroking! Wow, for someone who's onto learning Lutz jumps, I can't backward stroke??!! I guess my backwards skating has been a home-made combination of wiggles and half swizzles, not the correct way where you do half swizzles, completing the half circle pushing all the way, and lift that leg up forward. This is now on my homework list before we can try the consecutive back edges again.

The one-foot upright spin has improved the teensiest bit. Coach J was nice enough to say that they look much better than last week. One-foot spins are still homework, and will remain there for quite a while I predict.

We spent the entire half-hour lesson today going over these basic elements. I'm not complaining about coach J. I definitely understand that I need to do this, I need to get my basics solid and she's really helping tons. But oh I feel so useless and immensely stupid. I hope coach J isn't disappointed, coach C apparently said some good stuff about me to her. And I was really itching to jump. Good thing I had another half hour on the session after my lesson, so I did do a few waltz jumps, toe loops, Salchows and loops. I tried filming myself with my iPhone too, but am having a bit of technical difficulty (as in half of the screen consisted of the edge of the board the phone was sitting on...). Jumps are infinitely more fun than MIFs and spins (sigh).

So now I'm back to the basics, trying to keep myself grounded and patient. I guess it's a good thing that I have the MIF test to work towards, otherwise it'll be hard to motivate myself to work on basic steps, even though they're very important. Working hard.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Lutz klutz

So during group lesson last night, coach C decided it was time for me to learn the Lutz. I did somewhat manage on a few tries, but there was definitely a lot of spinning on the toe pick instead of in the air, and I don't know if I was even on a left outside edge still as I picked the ice. The Lutz has got to be the most awkward jump out there. I really felt like a klutz and felt that my legs were going to tangle up and I will end up sprawled on the ground (which I did do too a few times). Mr. Lutz, whatever were you thinking when you invented this jump?

On the good side, I've now managed another combination jump, the loop-loop. They're ugly, but they're doable (even repeatable!). My loops are getting pretty consistent now, I think I'm landing them about 85% of the time. But doing combination loops really take the strength out of me. After doing a few in a row during practice today, by the time I got to the second loop, I could only manage half a revolution. My leg simply said no, it ain't happening. On top of that, I think my right knee is starting to dislike me. I better look up some knee warmups and take better care of it.

Salchow-loops however, are a mystery to me. My free leg just isn't in the correct wrapped position to keep going on to another loop, I don't know what to do with it. It'll be on the list of things to ask either coach C or coach J. Spins are also a mystery and currently feel like they will be for all eternity. I did manage my third ever scratch spin today though, so that's something. Oh and apparently, my half-hearted sit spins are actually half-hearted broken-leg sit spins, because I hold my free leg to the side and not in front. So I can't do the official sit spin yet, only sort of can do the easier version of it, for maybe two revolutions. I really worked hard on spins in practice today, but they're just so discouraging!

Again, can't wait till Tuesday for my private lesson with coach J!

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Tests and recitals and competitions! Oh, my!

After mulling over it for quite a while, I decided to bring up the matter of testing and eventual competing to my new private coach J. She seemed pretty excited and happy that I have a goal in mind to work hard towards. She suggested a timeline which seems really good but oh so sudden as I never actually thought about when to do any of this.

1. Work hard on my pre-bronze elements before my vacation in September when I won't be skating for two weeks. Have them to passing quality before I leave.
2. Choose music.
3. Take (and hopefully pass) my pre-bronze tests whenever our club offers a testing session next after I come back.
4. Start putting together a program when I come back.
5. Skate my program at our rink's Winter Recital on Nov 30 & Dec 2!!!
6. Maybe some competition Feb/March 2013.

It all seems so real now that I have an actual timeline to work to. I hope I can achieve this!! Really excited now!!!


I had quite a scare for a day. On Saturday, I dropped my very heavy piano stool on my right big toe. It turned purple. But I thought, oh well it's just a bruise I can live with it, and still went skating on Tuesday morning for my lesson. I did avoid doing things like sticking my right toe into the ice for the flip jump, but still skated a whole hour. However, last night, my toe experienced a pain somewhere between a sharp pain and prickly pain when I held it at certain angles, no pressure exerted. I started to worry if I'd fractured my toe bone. I know I was being paranoid, but judging from my past history of fracturing my finger bone just from playing volleyball, I think I'm allowed a bit of paranoia. I went to the doctor and got an x-ray, and thank goodness, the bone is perfectly fine. I guess the doctor must have thought to herself what a waste of time for me to get an x-ray when all I did was bruise my toe. But I will admit that I'm paranoid, and I'd rather put my mind at ease and know I can keep skating, rather than skate and aggravate an unknown fracture and be out of skating for two months. I'm so glad that it's nothing but a very purple bruise, I can deal with the little pain from that. So, skating as usual tomorrow! : )

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

First private lesson

I loved it. I really like my new coach, coach J. She's really analytical like coach C told me and points out all of those tiny details that I could be improving on. I never knew how many little things I was doing wrong! The slightest wrong angle or wrong height or unused muscle or bent back can mess everything up.

We started with doing outside edges (the kind that's on the pre-bronze MIF test), something I haven't been able to steadily do. Turns out my arms were completely on the wrong side (I had them like you would when you start outside 3-turns), plus I swing my arms and legs around when I change directions. After not doing this, the edges felt so much better, but definitely could do with a lot more practice.

Then we moved on to waltz jumps. Partly because I hadn't had time to warm them up and partly because of the aforementioned volleyball jump confusion, this totally sucked. I was lucky I didn't fall. No wait... I did! But at least not on the first go when I was showing coach J what I could do. Holding the RBO edge from a backward crossover entry was the big thing here, and I'm kind of having trouble with this now.

Thankfully we moved away from waltz jumps soon to Salchows and toe loops. Hold the left arm steady and scoop up only the right arm as I jump up. Extend the left leg to the back and side and don't swing left arm open in the check position. Have a deeper LFO edge and hold it steady right before jumping Salchow. Actually do a real RFI 3-turn on a curve as opposed to turning on a straight line for toe loop. There's actually a lot more on that list of to-do's, how on earth did I do them all at once? Well I couldn't. Coach J said it's just going to take practice and practice until they become muscle memory so I don't have to think about every little thing at the same time.

Four minutes left of the lesson and time for the dreaded spins. Having trouble with backward crossover entry now for some reason, I just did the one-foot spin from a pivot. Keep spinning leg straight. Bend and hold free leg higher, with foot next to spinning leg, not behind. This actually made a huge difference, for that one time that I managed to do all this. For the first time ever, I actually felt my spin centered and was steady for many more revolutions. It was such a happy feeling, I really want it again!

Well this has become a big long list of things to do, but there's just so much to remember! I hope I still remember them when I next skate. I'm so glad coach C recommended coach J to me, she's great! Nice and funny and really helpful all at the same time. I only wish I had more money to take lessons often. For now just to catch things up a bit, it will be once a week, but afterwards I'll probably have to cut them down to once every two weeks : ( Have to make use of every bit of it. Practice!

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Half-hearted sit spin

I wish I could say yay I have a sit spin, but it is definitely not low enough to be a sit spin yet. However, seeing as this was my first attempt at them, I'm pretty pleased with what I could do, especially since I totally suck at spins. I still can't do a scratch spin, and somehow, I can't even do a normal one-foot upright spin from a backward crossover entry anymore, I just lose the edge as I go into it. Thought I'd just give sit spin a try but it actually worked better! One reason being that I always go too forward on my toepicks when I spin, because I'm afraid of falling backwards, but on a sit spin, I'm low to the ground so I dare to not lean so much forward which makes it better! I can do a non-wobbly shoot the duck now, so maybe I can get the sit spin as low as a proper sit spin should.

The jumps definitely did not feel as good as it did yesterday, guess it was just a really good day. Loops only succeeded occasionally, and flip-loops only happened once. I tried working on edges a bit more and to get my steps and turns more solid.

The rink was pretty empty for a Friday night public session, and after the Zamboni was done the ice was soooooo smooth and I was so happy : ) It really felt like I was flying as I glided over the smooth ice. Almost felt bad when I jumped or spun and scratched the ice.

Oh I really can't wait for next Tuesday, I'll be having my first private lesson!!!

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Flip + Loop

Oh. My. Gosh!!!!!

I tried for the first time and landed a flip-loop combination! I'm ecstatic right now.

Loops and flips are jumps I learned maybe about a month or two ago.
Their success rate were about 30-40%, and at best, on the good days, I could land them 80% of the time. Flips were much better than loops; loops were my most hated jumps.

But somehow today, I just suddenly got the hang of them! I could land almost all of the loops and flips I tried, and they were also much better than the ones I could do before. Before I'd always come to a standstill when I landed, not graciously gliding backwards in a strong check position. Today, I could keep going! Finally mustering up the courage to have a faster entrance probably helped. So our group lesson assistant coach A told me to try a flip-loop combination. My loops were never stable and I couldn't even do a waltz-loop, let alone a flip-loop, so I was so shocked when I actually landed it on the first try. Apparently coach A found my expression of total surprise very amusing. I managed to pull it off quite a number of times too, so hopefully it wasn't just by luck!

I also had a fleeting moment of one real cross-foot scratch spin! Thanks to one of my fellow adult skater's tip on keeping my foot open so the hip's not jutting out. It really helped!

All in all, this was a happy, happy day. I hope whatever I accomplished today is going to stay with me. I'm so excited and can't wait to get to the rink tomorrow night!

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Freestyle for real!

You can tell I'm obsessed with figure skating when I'm willing to get up early so I can go to the morning freestyles before I go to school. Getting up at 7:40 am is considered early for a night owl like me who needs eight hours sleep. The original plan was to go to the 7:45 am session, but I simply could not fall asleep the night before and decided to push it back to the 8:30 am session instead. It turned out for the best though! My group lesson coach C was there around 9 am so I asked her for recommendations for a coach. The coach she recommended was there too so I got to talk to her straight away. In fact, the coach was on the ice with another student right next to where I was practicing, so I caught snippets of how she teaches, and I really liked her! She seems very nice and analytical, which suits me perfectly, as I've often been told off by coach C to stop over-analyzing lol.

So there. I've finally made up my mind and the deed is done. I'm getting a private coach! We've yet to set up a time for our first lesson, but I'm really looking forward to it : )

So now I've been to my first real open freestyle session! (not counting coffee club and the adult only freestyle session) When I skate on public session, I waste time trying to dodge people and wait for an open space. On freestyle session, I still waste time! Because I can't help but watch the skater running their program! There was a skater there who's the best skater I've seen in real life (watching Kim Yuna on youtube obviously doesn't count). She had strength and elegance and all her double jumps were very strong, her steps so intricate. I was honestly very moved as I watched her.

I was still scared to move much around the rink since I couldn't go at the speed everyone else seems to skate at. After stroking around a few laps, I stuck to one end and stayed there. And every time there was a skater with a program, I would just stay at the boards whenever they were on this side of the rink, because I didn't think I'd be able to avoid them quickly enough.

I landed two of what I felt were perfect Salchows today (by my standards lol)! Only two though, they were not reproducible. Nor were those loops I felt I had started to get a hang of last week : ( But I guess if I can land perfect Salchows when I hated them before too, I should be able to get loops eventually. Toe loop jumps continue to be my absolute favourite, and spins are just the bane of my existence. That cross-leg scratch spin which appeared once has vanished without a trace. Please come back!! Tomorrow is group lesson night so I will ask our assistant coach who's brilliant at spinning to help me. Fingers crossed!

Monday, 9 July 2012

Figure skating and volleyball

You'd think there would be no connection between these two sports, but I've recently discovered a most annoying overlap. These are the two sports that I love and do on a very regular basis. I've wondered for a long time why my waltz jumps always feel so strange. Playing volleyball yesterday I wondered why I was so confused when I tried to jump and spike the ball. Then it hit me... the two motions are so similar yet they are opposite!

To do a full out waltz jump (for an anti-clockwise skater), one would
1. Skate out on the left leg, arms swung DOWN
2. Swing the right leg forward (and up for starting an axel), arms swinging forward and UP
3. Leap off the left foot only

To jump up and spike in volleyball, one would (there are various steps to jump, this is the way I learnt it)
1. Step out the left foot, arms swung UP
2. Step out the right foot, arms swinging DOWN
3. Jump off BOTH feet while swinging arms up

The arm motions are completely opposite and the end jumping is different too! I have now thoroughly confused my body and can do neither properly : (  So annoying. This is going to take a lot of practice to get used to and to be able to switch modes between ice skating and playing volleyball...

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Freestyle 18+

This was officially the first freestyle session I’ve been to. Before, I’d been to coffee club once where the rest of the ice was freestyle, and practice afterwards was freestyle still. But to intentionally go to a freestyle-only session, today was a first. Intimidated is all I can say.

I chose on purpose my initiation into the freestyle world by starting with the 18 or older freestyle session on Sunday noon, thinking that thereby I can avoid having my confidence being shattered when I see ten year olds doing double axels. 18 or older, that’s basically adult figure skating, isn’t it? I’ve seen the adult skaters at our rink. The majority being in the intermediate class which I’d been in, and about ten really good adults in the advanced class which I’ve just joined. So I wasn’t really expecting many other insanely good adults around. I was even wondering with hope and delight that maybe it would be a nice empty rink. I was so wrong.

There were around twenty adults on the ice, so this was heaven compared to my usual public sessions. But they were twenty pretty advanced adults. Quite a few of them were doing double jumps. They all skated with a lot of speed. I saw spread eagles, sit spins, really high spirals, complicated footwork, lay back Ina Bauers, and one lady skated her routine to “The Swan” with such elegance and artistry that I could have stood there and watched her for the whole hour (had she been doing her program).

I don’t know which is more damaging to my confidence and pride: skating with really good adults or skating with really good kids. Because for the latter, at least I have the explanation of, well, they probably started training since they were like 5 years old, of course they’re good. But for the adults, how are they so much better than I am? That’s actually not a question, since I know what the answer is. They’ve spent hours and hours and hours practicing to get to where they are. It’s just that just when I’ve started feeling a little bit good about myself, the truth hits me really hard in the face telling me that no, I’m really just not that good.

But I will end this dismal note with an optimistic ending. I will add a “yet” to the end of the “I’m really just not that good” sentence, because one day, I will be.

Thursday, 5 July 2012

Battle of the public session

“Oh no…” was what went through my mind as I drove into the rink parking lot, for parked there were two full-size yellow school buses. Praying fervently that its contents were here for an ice-hockey game and will be leaving soon (hockey session was right before public session), I walked towards the entrance of the building. The moment I saw my friend at the entrance talking with the ticket lady and looking appalled, my heart sank. Apparently, a group of 120 kids was here for the public session on a Thursday night during summer vacation. Yes. That’s one-hundred-and-twenty crazy teens.

My friend and I waited for the Zamboni to finish and the ice to open to see how bad it was going to get, deliberating on whether we were going to brave the chaos out there and skate. It was bad, but we both wanted to skate so much that we went anyway. But oh my, if it looked bad from the outside, it was honestly a war zone when we were actually on the ice. Thursday nights are actually group lesson nights, but they were cancelled for the week. But a lot of us still turned up just to skate, so there we were all bunched up in the centre of the rink, like being stuck on an island in a raging sea.

I’m so glad that my skills are relatively okay now to the point where I can maneuver myself pretty well, because I definitely needed those skills to dodge all the crazy people cutting across the centre, skating my way without looking, falling on the path where I am about to land my jump, and let's not forget that long chain of friends who felt they all needed to hold hands together.

Usually when the rink is packed, with a bit of patience I can still practice jumps, I just need to wait for the timing where there is an empty space between people where I can jump. But last night, the density of human bodies was just so high it was nigh on impossible. However I did still get some practicing done, and what’s more, I accomplished my very first cross-foot scratch spin!! Well it was almost complete. After so many months of not progressing past the simple one-foot spin, I’m going to count it as one and be ecstatic. You’d think that for someone who’s practicing loops and flip jumps, I should be celebrating a sit spin or a camel spin. But me and spins, we really just don’t get along. Hopefully with the scratch spin, we can start a good relationship now!

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Figure skating blog

I actually own a personal blog already, one where I talk about random things about my daily life, and for the past few months since I've started figure skating, I've barely talked about anything else. Which leads to the reason for this blog. I want to have somewhere where I can gush about the joys of figure skating without my non-figure skating friends being bored. I want to have a place where people who are as obsessed as me, who regularly look up youtube videos and blogs of fellow adult figure skaters, can share that joy with me. People who will know how difficult it is to learn a new jump, who understand why and how happy I am when I shout "I landed my first loop jump!", who won't be worried that I've hurt myself when I say "I did a broken-leg sit spin today!" (which won't be happening for a very long time yet).

So for those of you adult figure skaters who are reading this because you love the sport as much as I do and want to share that joy, welcome! May we all fall less, spin faster and jump higher : )

P.S. If you're interested in when I started figure skating and all that (not a very exciting history I must warn you), please click on the link to "Figure skating and me" on the right panel.