Tie on your skates and jump on the ice. We've got lots of life lessons to discuss today...

Beginners' Advice

When I first meet a brand new skater I teach them the 3 fundamental laws of ice skating:

  1. Wherever your eyes are looking, that's where you are going.

  2. Whichever foot has your weight, that knee should be bent. (This rule is also known as, "Sit down!" )

  3. Keep your hands out to your sides, but don't wave them around.

The first one seems pretty obvious, but almost no one puts it into practice. Nearly ever new skater, most intermediate skaters, and a frighteningly large number of advanced skaters spend all their time looking at the ice. You do not want to go down there. Why are you looking there?

An ice skating blade is not like a knife with just one edge. A skate blade has an edge on each side with a hollow space in between. It's a bit like an upside down U. When you are moving straight, you are on both edges at the same time. When you are moving to the right you are on the right-side edge(s) of your blade(s). When you are moving to the left, you are on the left side edge(s) of your blade(s).

Here's the tricky part: any little shift in your weight can push you to one side or the other. When you turn your eyes in one direction, your body moves in subtle ways to put just a little more weight on that side. That makes you tip onto that edge of your blade, and then you find yourself moving in that direction.

With lots of practice you can overcome this tendency, but most of the time you are better off using it to your advantage rather than trying to fight it. Fighting it means that you are working less efficiently. Looking where you want to go means that you are using small, subtle, light-weight things to help you get big jobs done instead of strong-arming your way to whatever it is you want.

Looking down at the ice is generally the most deadly thing you can do. You see, ice skate blades don't just have a hollow with two edges on either side, they also have a rocker. On the front of a hockey skate, you can lean right over and just run out of blade. When that happens you go *splat*. On figure skates, you have a toe pick at the front of the blade. When you hit that, you will also fall over and go *splat*. Either way, this is not the direction you want to go. Don't look there.

This isn't just beginners' advice, either. All of these three laws are things I repeat again and again to students at every level, just in different contexts.

When you jump? Don't look down. You can't get up in the air if your eyes are looking down. That's not just because of your edge and your rocker. It also has to do with the body mechanics of launching yourself into the air, getting the most spring out of your legs, and making your body straight enough to go up and turn around while you are in the air.

When you are concentrating on footwork? Don't look down or you will go *splat*. Do look in the direction of travel or in the exact opposite of your direction of travel -- with only a few rare exceptions.

When you are working on edges, figures, three turns and brackets? Look in the direction of travel and you will stay on your lines better, keep your body straighter and have more control over your edges.

All of this advice about looking where you are going goes just as well for the rest of life. The things that you concentrate on are the things that you are going to become. The actions that you focus on are the things that you will do.

If you don't want to be like your evil stepmother, then don't think about her. She's the ice that will make you go *splat*. Keep your eye on the people that you do want to be like. Focus on the person that you would like to be, on the actions that you think make for a good person, and that is what you will become.

If you want to get good grades in school, or make a certain goal at work, then focus on that goal. Don't think about failure. Don't worry about what will happen if you don't make it. Don't think about the mistakes that you've made in the past or the way that someone else is trying to cause you problems or any other tangential or disconnected matter. Keep your eye on the prize, and you can reach it.

Tomorrow I'll talk a bit more about the second of the 3 fundamental laws of ice skating. In the meantime, tell me, what are you looking at these days while you skate through life?

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