I am what the Instructor Certification Course from Learn to Skate USA calls a “logical learner.” I learn better if I understand, intellectually, what’s going on and how things are supposed to work. So, I started thinking about turns. By turns I don’t mean making curved paths to the right or left like turning a corner but rather the various ways one changes from skating forward to skating backward and vice versa.
The first turns we learn in figure skating are two-foot turns but most of them are done on one foot.
In making a turn there are four things–three independent and one dependent–that define how you’re entering, and how you’re exiting, the turn. You’ve got:
- Which foot you’re skating on.
- The direction your feet are pointed in relation to your direction of movement (forward or backward). I say feet because even if your body is twisted to face in the direction you’re skating (as it often is) if you’re toes are pointed back along the direction of travel, it’s counted as backward.
- The edge on which you’re skating. As I have discussed before, skate blades have a curve from front to back and two edges–one to the inside and one to the outside. (See pictures below). As the blade is leaned to one side or the other the combination of the front to back curve and the edge pressed into the ice guides the skate into a curve along the ice in that direction.
- And this leads us to the fourth, the dependent, element, the direction the path curves relative to the direction of travel.
The key thing to remember about turns is that the four elements change in pairs. Examples:
A Right Forward Outside Three-Turn, you start on the right foot, skating forward on the outside edge. You make the turn and now you’re skating on a backward inside edge. So the Direction (forward to backward), and edge (Outside to inside) have changed The foot you’re skating on (right foot) and the direction of curvature of path (to the right) is the same.
Similarly with a Right Forward Inside Three-Turn, you start on the right foot, skating forward on the inside edge now. This means your path is curving to the left. Make the turn and now you’re on a backward outside edge. So again the direction (forward to backward) and edge (inside to outside) have changed while the skating foot (right) and direction of curvature of the path (to the left) has remained the same.
And you’ve got the backward outside and inside three turns as well which work the same way. Foot and direction of curvature remains the same but edge and direction (back to front) change. Note also that there’s a “bracket” turn that works similarly only instead of the “cusp” of the turn pointing inward on the curved path, it points outward.
Another kind of turn, also taught fairly early in skating (generally before one starts (“Free Skate” and serious work on figure skating) is the Mohawk. A Mohawk involves a change from forward to backward (or vice versa) and a change of foot. A right forward inside Mohawk would start skating on a right inside edge which means your path is curving to the left, then you’d turn out the left foot so it’s facing back (usually at an angle) and step over to it ending up skating on a left back inside edge. So the direction (forward to backward) has changed and the foot (right to left) has changed while the edge (inside) and direction of curvature of the path (to the left) remains the same.
The various other Mohawks work the same way. Edge and direction of curvature remains the same while foot and direction front to back or back to front changes.
A more advanced turn that looks very like a three-turn is called a “Rocker”. In this the direction (front to back) and curvature of path both change. So a right forward outside rocker would start on a right forward outside edge. So now the direction (front to back) and direction of curvature of the path (curving to the right vs. curving to the left) change while the foot and edge remain the same. (And just like a “bracket” turn is like a three turn but has the cusp of the turn point to the inside of the entry curve a “counter” turn is like a rocket but the custp points toward the outside of the entry curve.)
Finally, there’s a class of turns called the Choctaw. In these one steps from one foot to another, changing direction and edge. So a right forward inside Choctaw would start on a right forward inside edge, then step to a left, backward outside edge. In this case all four of the elements change.
And there you have it, the various turns, how to go from forward to backward or vice versa in Figure Skating (and Hockey players do a lot of this too). Knowing how they work and why doesn’t replace getting out there and doing it, with a good coach to spot what you’re doing wrong and offering correction, but if you’re anything like me, knowing how they work and why is a big help in getting your body to actually do it.