Tuesday, December 23, 2014

The Zen Wisdom of Figures: Part 2

I started the path to Figures on a lark. I read and heard they were good for improving one's freeskating technique, and I wanted that. I also wanted something slow and calm and deliberate, to contrast the nonstop crazy that is Freestyle. But as I go on, Figures become something a bit... more.

When I did Figures in my Freestyle skates, it was easy. FO8? Yes! Serpentine? A little challenging but yes! I liked it because I could do it. It wasn't *really* a challenge. I had the quads and the speed to pull it off. BO8? Back outside edges are my favorites!

So I got excited. And I talked. And I inherited my Actual Figure Skates. And then things changed a bit.

My Figure Skates scared me. I went from being confident and nuts, to more timid and frightened than I'd been in my sports store skates four years ago. It was jarring. This wasn't me. I had fought hard to be the strong skater, the fast skater. And suddenly I couldn't lift my foot!

Suddenly I didn't like Figures that much. I wanted to... but I didn't. Not like that, not scared and weird. When I work with Freestyle Coach, I always say, "I'll try," no matter what Crazy he throws at me. Even if it doesn't work. (And a lot of it doesn't.) I still try. But today, Patch Coach asked me to try backwards one foot glides. "Think back to Beta," he said.

Beta? I remembered. I remember trying backwards one foot glides incesssantly. I couldn't do them. I toppled inside within a second, I was so scared. I didn't think I'd ever glide backward. I went home so frustrated, so many days. Today I stand tall backwards, my free foot perched neatly on my skating heel. It was a hard path to get to this level of comfort.

"Just swizzle out, big and wide," he gestured. "And find your balance point."

So I took a breath and tried. And I did one foot glides backwards, in the Figure Skates. I listened to my body and the blade, and though I caved inwards faster than I would in my Freestyles, I did get some distance. Aware that I had no "safety catch" drag pick, my posture straightened up. I looked up at the wall clock, not down at the ice. I rested on my heel, the back of the blade, where I was safe.

"Find your balance point."

One of the tenents of Buddhism is "Beginner Mind." Approach things with the mindset of a beginner, always. I'd worked hard to be strong in my skates, and now I just had to step back, and work harder. Again. So I slowed down, let go my expectation of where I had been and accepted where I was: Beta. Backwards glides, but with no toepick. The Patch Skates forced correct technique, and as I like to joke, "their correction is swift and terrible." I pushed back, wide and deliberate, and did a slow glide backwards. A beginner, a Beta Skater, and that's okay. The reason I suddenly was hesitating about Figures was that I didn't like being a beginner again. I just have to embrace it, and start all over.

"Now try an outside edge," Coach Yoda encourages.

"I can't," I say. "Not yet!"

"Just try!"

So I tried, and I skidded, and I started to learn that a little skid isn't so scary. I just came back to my balance point, and tried again.

"Next week we'll work on a real lean instead of a false lean," he said nicely.

"Was I false leaning?" I was frustrated.

"Yes, but go ahead and switch skates."

I know that the Holidays can be a stressful time for some of us. I wish that for those of us who get bogged down to see through the Busy and Tinsel and Glitter and Whatever.  Slow down, and find your balance point. Safe as peaches.

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