Monday, January 23, 2012

Slalom Defne, Derin, Emir

All three skiers have been taught by me at some time in the past. Emir has had mostly my influence and can't remember anything else from when he was younger. Derin has held onto the natural sensations and rhythms that she picked up on a few years ago. Defne has kept some of the moves that I taught her but much has been replaced by standard "ski school" teaching.

Lenticular Wave Cloud - casting a shadow over La Grande Motte and Tignes

Two Body Centres
Before going into slalom we warmed up with a couple of short runs. I asked the skiers if they knew what is the most important part of the body in skiing. Nobody got it right - though Derin offered quite a few suggestions. The most important part is the "centre"  - but there are two centres - a centre of power and a Centre of Mass. The body spins and rolls around the Centre of Mass. I explained that when you write you can feel the point of a pencil even though it's not part of your body. Your Centre of Mass can move around and be in different parts of your body (or outside of it) but you can be aware of it like the tip of a pencil. The centre of your physical power is above the pelvis and in front of the spine. Most of the time the two centres are in the same place - or trying to get back together. To keep it simple I actually only spoke of only one "centre" and explained that the aim is to move this centre and use it to control everything else. If you want to go left - move it to the left. If you want to stay in a slalom turn - move it in towards the centre of the turn. This is the one thing that will always save you when everything else goes wrong - but it's not always easy to do! 

One Turn Centre
Towards the end of a turn the forces build up strongly on the legs - but those forces are because the ski is trying to bring your centre up and out of the turn. You have to fight this by driving your centre down and in towards the snow and the turn centre  - until it's the right time to come back up and out. This is where most people get it wrong in slalom. The poles are there to show them that they need to work to finish a turn properly.

In the slalom Derin (age seven and a half) told herself all the way down the course to move her centre inwards. This showed by her great results for the first proper time in slalom - and a rapid improvement on the following runs. Derin is often on the back of her ski boots but we were not concerned with that issue yet.

Defne was trying hard to move her centre inwards but was getting blocked by being too hard against the back of her ski boots. In Defne's case the muscle tension was also locking up the hip joint and causing a rotation - which made it impossible to keep a good line in the course and to keep the Centre of Mass inside the turn. 

Emir is nice and relaxed at his hips and stands well on his feet and skis - not leaning on his boots. He was moving his Centre of Mass - but still not enough. His spectular fall was because his support foot was trailing too far behind and when the ski "dug in" a little it pinged him up in the air and out of control. If the foot had been further ahead that wouldn't have happened. Still, it's better to make this mistake than to fall against the backs of the ski boots!

Reality Check
The slalom had been filmed so we went indoors to study it. I gave each individual personal feedback before and during the video. None of the children understood what "perception" was so I explained that it was how we either "felt" or "saw" something. "Reality" and "Perception" do not always agree. When we move we might think that we move a lot (that's how we perceive it) but then we look at the video and can see the reality is sometimes very different. Derin immediately saw that she was not moving into the centre as much as she had perceived she was and Defne could see that she was leaning on the back of her boots even though she hadn't perceived it before. I explained that it's the same when I say something about their skiing - it's often to help to bring their perception closer to reality. Slalom itself is about developing perception of how to turn properly - through the use of feedback (reality check) from specific physical constraints.

Body-Mind Connection
To progress well in skiing it requires conscious, mindful awareness of our acts. Focusing on parts of the body - being aware of them - trains not only the body but it trains the mind to be better at focusing. This exercise actually relaxes the mind and helps to reduce tension. Developing a clear and strong dialogue between the body and mind is really developing one of the most useful "life skills" possible. 

After lunch I skied for a while with Dilsat and she mentioned that she was having a problem with her knees coming together. A quick look at it and it was clear that the underlying issue was actually hip rotation - the knee collapsing inwards slightly to compensate for the lack of hip angulation. I explained how the hip has to move backwards in walking and skiing and demonstrated this with the use of ski poles for support. Dilsat understood and tried this. Immediately this worked to prevent the hip rotation. In the video, the outside foot however is trailing even further behind so this has to be corrected next!

The crack in the sky (to the left) is a tear in the fabric of spacetime!

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