Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Derin & Defne 4; Emir 1


What happens next?

Emir joined me for a session today and after watching him ski for a few minutes I decided what to work on. He was skiing too much on the edges of the skis, not finishing his turns, lacking speed control and there was no use of ski poles. His legs were very static and arm carriage odd with the hands held low and close to the body. When asked he told me that he wanted to improve his off-piste. It was obvious that jump turns with angulation would address all of the above issues to some extent so it was a good place to start.

Emir had to work hard for a couple of hours because much of the coordination appeared alien to him but he did very well and persevered with everything he was asked to do until there was some good measure of success. The first thing I asked him to do was ski on one ski. This tells me a lot about a skier’s level. Predictably he could not manage it at all and this is at the start of the video clip. 

Inside Ski Pivot

The reason people can't ski on one ski is because they can’t keep the body to the inside of the turn. Pivoting on the “wrong" ski was also impossible for Emir. I physically assisted him through the manoeuvre so that he could feel the control of the edges and the placement of the body. The pole needs to be held correctly between the thumb and middle two fingers and then the body angulated to be able to move the centre of mass towards the pole. Emir had to start to bend at the hip a little and learn to put some weight on the pole. Once he had picked this up we added it to the video.

Independent legs – two ski pivot

We carried out a series of exercises to get Emir to be able to keep his pelvis facing downhill and just have the legs turning in the hip sockets (skis off). He had to battle to get this due to his tendency to throw his hips around and brace against the force. Eventually he could flex enough to jump and feel the rotation of each independent leg and control his overall body management. He struggled to use the poles for support but was steadily improving. This was then done with the skis on and although he had a tendency to start the turns before jumping he was improving rapidly. We had started off with just rotation of the legs  with the skis off and then pivoting in the fall-line (no moving across the hill) with smooth pivots and then repeated all of this with the jumping added. The idea here is that this translates into jump turns when skiing off-piste.

Jump Turns

Emir did well in the off-piste because I took him into some seriously steep terrain in deep snow. His jump turns may not have been perfect but they got him down without losing control of speed and without any falls. He was even starting to use his poles a little by the end. The pole use helps to keep the body perpendicular to the mountain and so this improves overall control.



Derin in slalom – setting her new record (35.63 seconds ) and displaying the increased inclination that helped her to do it…


Two Footed Pivot

I had hoped that today Derin would manage to ski on one ski, but it was not to be. She did however manage to make a close stance two footed platform to pivot with. This is important because Derin has never been able to ski with a close stance before. Whereas Emir had to learn to get his feet apart and be able to use his legs independently Derin is the opposite and needs to develop the option of using both skis together.


Extending the Dynamic Range

For slalom I wanted Derin to incline more so we worked at that on the piste – trying to touch the ground. I told her that she still had to try a lot harder to fall over. This immediately worked for her in the slalom and she had two runs with only 100th of a second separating them.

After the slalom we worked on carving – making sure there was no skidding during the edge changes. I explained to Dering that in racing the timing of the turns changes a little and the apex of the turn is not downhill but over to the side. We used a section of the piste and I filmed Derin carving down it with the turn apexes at the side. Next time in the slalom this is what she has to aim for. When she can both carve and alter this timing in the race course she will get to the bottom surprisingly fast and with less effort and difficulty.

We didn’t go off-piste due to the weather and visibility deteriorating and Derin being a bit tired. I didn’t want her injured due to being tired and losing concentration in difficult conditions.


Defne had a day skiing with friends and hopefully was proud of her skiing ability. I know that she wants to improve but has trouble facing some situations. Skiing is often said to be a “metaphor for life” in that it presents you with many of the challenges of life in a concentrated manner – so there is no real way to escape the challenges and progress in skiing.

Yesterday Defne needed to understand that nervousness is not always an enemy. Sometimes it is necessary to stimulate us and get us ready to perform. Musicians can feel sick with anxiety before a performance and then convert all this energy into a great performance. If you are attacked by a tiger it's a good idea to be afraid. That fear makes you either run or fight with an energy that would be impossible otherwise. Fear is only a problem when it paralyzes you and stops you from thinking and acting or makes you lose control. The hyperventilation that Defne sometimes experiences is due to the body trying to run away from the tiger, but not being allowed to.

I explained to Defne that many actions in skiing are done against a background of fear and so we are constantly working against our emotions. Emotion comes from  Latin and means "impulse to move". All of the impulses caused by fear are defensive and are generally inappropriate. When an untrained person falls into the sea that person will do everything wrong and probably drown. We need to learn new movements instead that work and give us an advantage. This flexibility and capacity to learn is a human being's greatest strength. Nearly all the movements required will be the opposite of our basic instinctive and emotional movements. This allows us to adapt to very complicated environments and situations.  

Standing on the top ski from the start of the turn requires directly working against those emotions. It's always hard, but like the stage performance it's always a buzz when it gets the result.

Skiing is a real metaphor for life because brute force and instinct don't get you very far. The ego blocks learning at all levels. The body has to be listened to and tension dealt with both physically and mentally. Defne will get there!


“Lowry” setting at the top of the Funicular in Val d’isère….













Lenticular wave clouds…

Mont Blanc with a warm front arriving…

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