By Al Taylor (a.k.a. Mr. Rhonda), Senior Staff Columnist

This blog will be the first in a series on the science of skating. This approach eliminates opinion and replaces it with fact. The results are jaw dropping. You will learn how to teach a beginner to skate, walk or shuffle across the ice in minutes.  If they fall, standing up on their own power is a snap. You will learn to read ice marks, which will show the skater what was right on or right off and why; interpret sensations felt by a skater; how to interpolate your visual observations; and provide a new novel approach to teaching skill development.

A few years ago, I was invited to participate in a promotional program put on by a national Jr. A team in Corpus Christi, Texas. The theme was teaching the blind to skate. The program was 50 minutes long.  \A busload of blind enthusiasts was fitted with skates and the show was on. An individual that was standing alone, in the confusion, became my subject. He was a newbie to skating. At the end of the 50 minutes, he skated two laps around the arena’s ice surface unaided. The only one to do so!

Working with this individual reinforced the idea that if an individual does not recognize any changes to their balance, stability and agility, there is complete confidence in their ability. There is no nagging fear of falling.

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If an action is repeated time and time again with virtually no variations to the methodology, it could be that is the only way the action can be done. Do you recognize any of the following scenarios?

All skaters wearing conventional hockey skates have a bend in their push leg at the end of their stride. After all, professional hockey players are the best skaters in the country and they have this bend. It appears “that’s the way it is.”  Or is it?                                                                        

Intently focus on the angle formed by the lower leg and the foot of only one player’s leg during the action of skating with conventional hockey skates. It soon becomes apparent that there is no change in the ankle/foot relationship. It seems as though the foot is glued to the end of the lower leg in the neutral position regardless of the positioning of the lower leg. Since every skater, including the pros, has the frozen foot syndrome, perhaps it is another “that’s the way it is.”  Or is it?

Frozen foot syndrome

All players taking a face-off while wearing conventional hockey skates have their legs spread so far apart they are on the verge of a hip displacement.  Apparently, this is the only way to get the bottom of their stick blade on the ice.  Hence, “that’s the way it is.”  Or is it?  Incidentally, scoring a goal from a corner face-off is now a lost art.

Neglecting any reference to their outstanding playing skills, it is evident the pros use only two joints of their leg: the hip and the knee during a skating stride. As do we. The pros do not have full range of motion of their hip and knee respectfully. As do we. The monumental difference is the pros have incredibly powerful hip and thigh muscles and, with all certainty, an over abundance of fast-twitch muscle fibres. And we do not.

These examples are definitely not the way it has to be with any stretch of the imagination. When these same players walked into the arena with streetwear, there was no indication of any limits to their mobility. Their mobility problems occurred the moment they changed their streetwear to icewear.

There is no doubt; these examples are all the result of skate boot restriction to dorsiflexion.

Hence, the primary purpose of this series of blogs is the elimination of skate boot restrictions. The secondary purpose shows how to put real power into your skating. The result will be a stunning improvement in skating and performance.

The mechanics of human motion is a science, obeying all the applicable laws of physics. When we compare walking with skating the basic difference is in the footwear, i.e. streetware vs. iceware. Both involve the legs to create maximum momentum of the body mass.

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The humanoid is a veritable walking machine. Millions of people spend their entire lives walking everywhere they go. They simply have no other means of transportation.

Walking is a natural movement of the body.  Walking seems to require only the use of the legs. Walking is the action of pushing back to move the body in the opposite direction. The momentum produced is from the power of the leg muscles and the speed of leg extension. Since the action and reaction are in the same plane of movement, the power developed by the leg is virtually 100 per cent efficient.

The instant movement starts, our upper and lower body muscles go to work to help keep our balance. Actually, balance is a function of the mid-foot. The need for balance becomes very apparent if you walk, or watched someone else walk across an icy surface. The often-exaggerated body motions usually bring on peals of laughter from any onlookers. These motions clearly show there are a number of muscles involved to keep our balance.  Yet, these muscle movements are normally unnoticed except for the movement of the arms.

Skating is not a natural movement of the body. Skating is the action of pushing back and to the side, to move the body forward. The body mass momentum is from the power of the leg muscles and the speed of leg extension. Since the action and reaction are not in the same plane of movement, the power developed by the leg is not 100 per cent efficient.  For what it’s worth, forward skating is around 51 per cent efficient.  Backward skating is in the order of 86 per cent efficient. Skating in a circular path is 100 per  cent efficient. The push is in the direction of the imaginary centre of the circle being skated. Here, the action and reaction are in the same plane. That is why all skaters develop noticeably more speed when skating a circular path.

The instant movement starts, our upper and lower body muscles go to work to help keep our balance. The complexity of the muscle movement to maintain balance during skating is far greater than that of walking. Upper body control is incredibly important for skating.

Last but not least is the significant difference between streetware and iceware.  The sole of the former is designed to permit flexing of the foot during the action of walking.  Whereas the sole of iceware is designed to prevent flexing of the foot during the action of skating.

The mechanics of human motion is a science, obeying all the applicable laws of physics.  When we compare walking with skating the basic difference is in the footware, ie streetware vs iceware. Both involve the legs to create maximum momentum of the body mass.

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The humanoid is a veritable walking machine.  Millions of people spend their entire lives walking everywhere they go. They simply have no other means of transportation.

Walking is a natural movement of the body.    Walking seems to require only the use of the legs.  Walking is the action of pushing back to move the body in the opposite direction. The momentum produced is from the power of the leg muscles and the speed of leg extension.  Since the action and reaction are in the same plane of movement, the power developed by the leg is virtually 100% efficient.

The instant movement starts, our upper and lower body muscles go to work to help keep our balance. Actually, balance is a function of the mid-foot. The need for balance becomes very apparent if you walk, or watched someone else walk across an icy surface.  The often-exaggerated body motions usually bring on peals of laughter from any onlookers.  These motions clearly show there are a number of muscles involved to keep our balance.  Yet, these muscle movements are normally unnoticed except for the movement of the arms.

Skating is not a natural movement of the body.  Skating is the action of pushing back and to the side, to move the body forward.  The body mass momentum is from the power of the leg muscles and the speed of leg extension.  Since the action and reaction are not in the same plane of movement, the power developed by the leg is not 100% efficient.  For what it’s worth, forward skating is around 51% efficient.  Backward skating is in the order of 86% efficient. Skating in a circular path is 100% efficient.  The push is in the direction of the imaginary center of the circle being skated.  Here, the action and reaction are in the same plane. That is why all skaters develop noticeably more speed when skating a circular path.

The instant movement starts, our upper and lower body muscles go to work to help keep our balance. The complexity of the muscle movement to maintain balance during skating is far greater than that of walking.  Upper body control is incredibly important for skating.

Last but not least is the significant difference between streetware and iceware.  The sole of the former is designed to permit flexing of the foot during the action of walking.  Whereas the sole of iceware is designed to prevent flexing of the foot during the action of skating.

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The picture below is a typical scene at any hockey game.  Each player’s skate seems to be glued to the end of the leg in the neutral position.  Notice the absence of players not in the set position to be able to react to the situation. A characteristic of dorsiflexion restriction is the tendency to remain erect. The photograph below shows the awesome power generated by the plantar flexion of the ankle in a nearly completed stride.

Check out our next blog on the Science of Skating from Coach OFFSIDE Al, coming soon!