Okay. Precisely what do I mean by edges? And there should be links up from every other skating page to this one. There will be in time. Bear with me.
Edges are those things you skate on. Each skate boot has a blade screwed onto it. On the bottom of that blade is what is called a set of hollow-ground edges. What that means is they took the flat bottom of the blade, the one that touches the ice, and ground it so it's like a depression in the middle, like a trough. You have these pointy things on either side. This trough and the pointy edges run all the way from front to back of the blade. Those are your edges right there. That's what you skate on. Very rarely, and it is considered bad form in the extreme when it happens, does a world-level or even national-level skater from most of the big skating countries skate on both edges at the same time. You're either leaning on your left side or on your right side, so you're balancing on one edge or the other of the blade.
Now, the technical terms. I advise you at some point to go check out Don Korte's edge page (that also gives you descriptions of jumps, spins, and turns at the bottom of the page). It has pictures, more technical info, and everything. But skaters (and commentators) will call an edge an inside or outside edge, depending on whether the skater is leaning away from the center of their body or toward the other side, over toward the center of their body. For instance, if you're standing on your left foot (and most skating is done on one foot at a time -- they just switch feet to make it look fancy and fool the judges :-) ), if you're leaning over leftwards so that you're balanced on the left side of your blade, that's called a left outside edge because you're leaning toward the outside of the body. If you were standing on that same left foot and balancing on the right edge of the blade, that would be called a left inside edge because you're on your left foot but leaning toward the inside of the body, or on the edge that is closest to the inside of the leg. Got it? Good. Now if you're traveling backward, that is called a back edge. If you're traveling forward, that is called a forward edge.
Don't let this backward/forward edge stuff get you mixed up with when I talk about a skater messing up on the front part or the back part of their blade, or whatever. I am literally talking about that part of their blade being out of position on the ice. I'm not referring to the edges (except indirectly). When I say blade, I mean blade. When I say edges, I mean the little sharp thingys that you have two to a blade and that you balance on. Got it? Good.
Left or right for what foot you're on. Inside or outside (closer to body center or away from body center) for which edge you're on. And back or forward depending on which way you're going. Confused? Don't worry. Read this again a few times, go look at Don Korte's descriptions and drawings, and you'll be fine. And maybe watch some skating. That'll help.
Okay. Now how to tell whether edges are good or not.
You should really be able to tell by how a skater's foot and leg looks on the ice whether they're on an inner or outer edge. It should be that clear. And throughout a move, it should stay clear. There should be none of this wobbly bit, going back and forth from one edge to another. Now obviously, when you want to change directions or do something else, you have to switch edges, if not feet. But that's not what I'm talking about. When you're in a move that really calls for an inside edge, you should stay on that inside edge throughout the move until you're ready to switch to an outer edge or whatever. It should look nice.
When you are on an edge that is nice and consistent ("deep" is a term you will hear, and often commentators themselves don't have the eyes for deep edges that we would like -- I can name at least one big-time professional skater who regularly cheats on her edges and has since the Carter administration, and gets away with it and is referred to as having nice deep edges) -- anyhow, when you have an edge that is nice and consistent, it will take you in a circle in the direction you're leaning. That is why the move that requires a simple deep edge in one direction is called a spiral. That is because when you do it right, just hold a nice deep edge for several feet, you are technically going around and around in a spiral that should lead you to a center stop. You know, that thing where you put one leg out behind you (or up behind your head, depending), maybe stretch out an arm in front of you, and just glide along and look pretty? Don't be fooled by the ballet. Look at their edges. You can really see them flip-flop around if they're not holding a solid edge. That is a real easy place to tell if a skater has good edge control. Also, watch turns. If their turns do not look nice and smooth, if it looks like maybe a piece of ice got in the way or something, chances are it wasn't a piece of ice, not at that level. Skaters know how to maneuver around those things almost instinctively. Chances are it was not a real smooth, deep turn edge and so the skater got messed up. Your edges are everything.
For a more specific description of dance edges, check out this dance site for a clearer description and illustration about that. If you are seriously interested in dance, read every word he says and play around with the diagrams until you understand them. Watch a few dance tapes as you do. Especially Torvill and Dean, Bestemianova and Bukin, or any other dancer who's been around for ten years or more. It'll help.
How good and solid an edge you're on really influences how well you can do everything else, because that's how you maneuver around on the ice. You don't walk a straight line. You drive those little blades and their crazy edges and you make those edges take you places in curved directions. No such thing as a straight line in skating, unless it's the straight line from your butt to the ice if you mess up an edge or something. And that's pretty straight. Your edges are like your tires. You want them to be able to grip the ice well and get you where you want to go. Well-sharpened skates are important, but mostly at this level of competition, that's taken care of. Most of these guys baby their skates (although I could tell you stories about the guy who used to regularly throw his skates around the room, blades and all, not see that they were sharpened more than once or twice a month, and considering I once saw him throw a skate blade 50 feet across a room at a competition and I know he'd done something similar the morning before and the day after -- and this guy would still win. He never made the Olympic team. But he was really good. One of the best edge-control skaters I've ever seen. He had to be. I wouldn't skate on those blades....you couldn't pay almost anyone else I knew....but he routinely went out and won with those things. Horrible. You could see the nicks in the blades.). But most skaters really do take care of their skates and the rest of their technical equipment -- smart when you have thousands of dollars in reputation riding on those things -- and so your edge control is how you steer. I have seen a young lady slip and fall (not anyone famous) on a triple axel attempt, not because she was doing the jump wrong in the air or had bad body position or anything like that, but because she was not leaning over on her blade I'd say about a quarter of an inch as much as she should be when she went into the takeoff. Little things like that can spoil big jumps. Embarrass you at the Olympics. And ruin your career. In a sport where there is literally no room for mistakes, edges are very, very smart things to have. Very.
Why don't a lot of skaters have good edges? Why am I wearing myself out yelling about edgework? A couple of reasons. I firmly believe that figure work (figure eights and stuff like that) should be part of skating training. They are no longer compulsory as of the early 1990s for competition. You saw a lot of skaters' edges go downhill when that happened. They didn't have to work on them anymore. And you can understand from what I said above about why practicing going around in circles until you're blue in the face would help your edges. Your edges take you around in circles. Good practice. Also, there has been such an emphasis on image in skating that a lot of people (including audiences) have forgotten that in order to really, really look good on the ice, you have to have more than lots of ballet work, a smile on your face, and a pretty costume. Edges are being neglected. I have seen skaters who trained in edgework for competitions be blown away routinely by skaters who worked on their images, polished their costumes, smiled a lot, and looked pretty for the judges. Even triple jumps. They don't care if the jumps are done right so much anymore, as long as they can kind of squinch their eyes and say, "Yeah, that was a lutz," and you managed to land it on the requisite one foot (basically). They don't care about the fine points of technique anymore. As a result, we do not have the prettiness of Peggy Fleming and some of the earlier skaters (yes, skating fans, there are names I'm leaving out from that era) because nobody trains with the edges and takes them seriously and is allowed to win on a consistent basis any more. They want the quick way to the Peggy look. There is only one way to produce a Peggy. Pray. Train the right student. And emphasize fundamentals until you're blue in the face and your toes turn massively cold. Don't hand me fancy dresses and ballet training to compromise.
I want edges.
Which is why I'm doing this site.
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