Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Rowdy–The Final Solution

Aware of the problem in Rowdy’s skiing I had no confidence at all that we could actually change it. So far every attempt at changing it had met with only fleeting and temporary success but at least this time the problem had been narrowed down considerably. We knew that Rowdy had always let the outside ski flatten and knee come out  along with the foot going onto the outside edge – and it had been his belief that this was how a ski pivoted. (It actually is the basis of a technique used deliberately by some – called the “surf” technique by Joubert.) The big question now was could Rowdy place mind over matter and change this simply through changing his intentions or would that make absolutely no difference whatsoever. Predictably it made no difference whatsoever! Back to square one!

Yesterday I’d looked at the previous blogs and noticed that the only time his body was organised correctly was when doing the chi-hips exercise with both ski poles held to the inside of the turn – so I asked him to repeat that exercise and sure enough the knee came in instead of out. Also, I’d noticed that when pivoting his body faced outwards (downhill at the end of the turns) and when this happened he knee was always out. Putting all of this together I suddenly realised that the problem was that his “point of rotation” was the knee! His “upper-lower body separation” was taking place at the level of the knee instead of near the navel or at the hips – or at the 12th thoracic vertebra as with Chi Skiing. The problem was coming from the top part of the body – not from the feet upwards. When the ski  came around in front of this body and pelvis then the knee was left sticking out and he couldn’t stop it. This is why the start of the pivot was OK and the problem got worse as the turn progressed. A little bit of reflection made it clear that the only way to change this would be to develop the “chi hips” – because it led also to good posture and protecting the back. If Rowdy worked on upper/lower body separation in the classical way – either at the hips or at the navel then his back would be mangled in no time – we’ve been there several times already. The “chi hips” not only sorted out the blockage at the hips, allowing the knee to be held in, but it also strongly protected the back (12th thoracic vertebra – but spine twisting in the opposite direction from the other options – “integration” instead of “separation”). The logical conclusion was to accept that the “chi hips” was working and that it really is the way to go.

Practising “chi hips” on the final descent Rowdy suddenly had the grip to complete the turn dynamics correctly and was able to use this to set up the next turn without having to step uphill into the infamous glitch. It looks like we have really found the way through the maze and although the spine twists the opposite way with the “chi hips” it is the correct way so there is just no point wasting any time on being able to ski in a classical pattern that is simply destructive.

Re-defining Upper/Lower Body Separation

Traditionally this terminology refers to the lower part of the body following the skis and the upper part resisting any change of direction – equating to “facing downhill”.

  1. When the feet are close together the point of separation is close to the base of the spine – which fits with the general view of the upper/lower body divide being at the level of the navel.
  2. When the feet are wide apart and the legs are used independently then this point of separation (or rotation) can be specifically in the hip joints – both of them  simultaneously.
  3. Rowdy has now discovered a unique version of his own where the point of separation is in the knee joint. This is a real achievement particularly because the knee joint does not rotate unless the leg is very bent – which probably explains the extreme tension that he sometimes feels in the leg muscles. Rowdy’s upper body therefor begins at the knee.

With the Chi Hips it’s the lower body which is prevented from rotating and the upper body is allowed to follow the skis. To permit this the divide between upper and lower moves up to the 12th thoracic vertebra – in other words – the bottom of the rib cage. To make this work the outside hip has to be actively pulled backwards against the direction of the turn – preferably in one single movement during the turn transition. The effect is no longer one of separation or looseness but one of integration and strength.

  • While this is being attended to it’s important to avoid pulling back the shoulder along with the hip – or the point of rotation is likely to move right up to the neck resulting in a generally passive “countered” stance (park and ride) or a different phenomenon called counter rotation when actively executed.

Traditional “separation” at the navel makes good posture almost impossible to achieve – the outside hip is allowed to swing forwards under the front ribs and the abdominal area is compressed. This means that correct “neutral pelvis” is impossible to achieve as there is no muscular control available. The postural muscles cannot function and everything becomes loose around the mid section. The lower back becomes stretched but without muscular and internal hydraulic protection to protect against dynamic shocks.  This stretch across the back is lauded as a desirable “winding up” of a coiled spring – ready to uncoil when the skier comes up to start the next turn – which of course even has the vertical timing back to front! When Version 2 (independent legs) is used the goal is to keep the midsection totally relaxed. Once again this leads to a practical impossibility of controlling posture and protecting the back. Fully certified idiots such as BASI trainers even train their victims to actively rotate their legs – generating a million different problems for different people and guaranteeing failure for the majority. Pulling the outside hip backwards produces the same “rotational” effect inside the hip joint without trying to turn the ski and is a thousand times more effective in getting the ski to pivot due to dynamics - for many reasons.

Foot Forwards or Hip Backwards?

Pushing the outside foot forwards during the turn causes an active tightening of the arc of the turn when coordinated with dynamics. Those two elements are necessary for turn radius control along with the choice of edge for turn initiation. When the foot is pushed forwards it is displaced relatively ahead of the hip – so pulling the hip backwards creates the same relative displacement. Doing both together causes the core muscles to be involved in the “foot forward” process and activates the postural muscles more noticeably. The “pushing forwards” isn’t coming from upper/lower body separation (version 1) but from upper/lower body integration. Actively pushing the foot forwards strengthens the muscular integration at the same time as enhancing the turning effect. Additionally this permits an extremely smooth turn transition with the initiation of the new turn happening automatically as the body slips into the dynamics of the new turn without any blockage from the hip preventing it.

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