Friday, February 6, 2015

Okan, Haluk

Miserable weather brought Derin a dispensation from skiing – however it was probably the wrong move being her last day of skiing for another year. However Okan filled the gap and Haluk made couple of appearances through the afternoon.


Haluk is suffering from a very poorly knee joint so I just wanted to make him aware that there is an issue with his stance that is not helping. This issue is probably stressing the knee joint disproportionately – and also presenting a limiting factor in ski performance and security.

It’s hard to get a perfect view point for this – but in the image below you can see the angles between the lower leg (centre of boot hinge) to centre of knee (seen slightly from behind) and the ski and the angle at the knee – are greatest – but the femur is almost vertical and and there is very little angle at the hip. Haluk knows this is a problem but the reason the image is presented here is that he is not aware this is happening. The issue is called “proprioception”. Proprioception is the sensing of the relative positioning of body parts in space. This can only be properly calibrated through appropriate feedback. Video (photo) feedback is by far the best and quickest way to make this re-calibration.

I will never forget in the 1980s when working as a ski instructor in Andorra the first time I ever saw my skiing on video. I was absolutely horrified because it looked nothing like I imagined. This immediately prompted me to buy my own video camera – a Sony Sports 8mm camera – both expensive and bulky. Since those days video has played a key role in all of my teaching because that lesson was never forgotten.

In this particular case with Haluk either there is a serious problem with the ski boots/fitting or a conscious correction is required.


Okan skis strongly and fast but with very little skill or confidence. People who take the time during their life to develop physical skills – craftsmanship, martial arts, yoga, music playing, sports etc. are really developing a well rounded potential. Mastering just one of those opens the door to the others – because the process is always the same. No Okan! Being over 50 is not too late to change things and develop those skills – far from it. The sport of skiing is an excellent place to get this ball rolling! However the strong headedness required to succeed in business is perhaps not the best attribute to bring to the table here! Focus, attentiveness, feeling, sensing, centring and above all listening are the keys. However - what better an antidote to stress of modern life can you ask for? Taking the time out  - the patience – to make this switch ensures that skiing itself does not just become another form of personal torture – an extension of existing stress! Skiing should above all be subtle, relaxing, creative, imaginative and fun. If it isn’t then it’s because you are using brute force – both mentally and physically.

After several hours of listening to Okan, watching Okan and hearing Okan’s views of his limitations and frustrations I decided to leave him with one idea to try to move forward. (Bear in mind it takes me about 3 seconds to know exactly any skier’s level) Okan needs to learn to use the ski from the start of the turn – to stand strongly on the uphill ski (new outside ski as the turn commences) and to stay strongly on this leg throughout the turn. Yes Okan I know you can’t currently do this  - and the fact you don’t get it first time doesn’t mean you can’t do it with a little bit of work. Any new skill needs to be acquired and initially the learner cannot do it. All skills have to be learned very slowly and with great patience initially. If learning is slow and requires a great number of repetitions to begin with then so what? The next thing will be that little bit easier because we are actually learning how to learn. The body and brain adapts.

Below in the photograph the turn to the left has already started. The biggest problem is that the lower leg is still taking most of the weight and correspondingly the skis are flat and skidding sideways – they are already in the middle of being forced into a high speed pivot to get them around and downhill for a high speed braking action. Very exhausting! Very precarious! In bad visibility this is a nightmare scenario to be avoided. In addition this simply cannot work off piste without catastrophic results.

Okan has great spirit and positive attitude – with a first even attempt in the slalom giving 41.05 seconds. Professionals and elite racers will do this run between 21.5 and 25 seconds depending on their fitness and practice levels. (Alan Baxter – French national slalom champion – did it in 21.6 seconds)

Okan manages to use dynamics – getting his centre of mass moving into the turn – but skiing is all about HOW you get the centre of mass to move into a turn and out of it – in relation to the support of the outside ski and terrain or snow type. Skill development is about managing and extending this dynamic range so that it becomes reflexive.

The reality is that high speed bursts to feel security from crude forces – followed by physical exhaustion – is not a great way to ski – ever!  Spend your time on skis changing this in future – not telling your coach that this is what you need to do!  I complied in this case because I realised your head was really elsewhere with problems back at home and I just wanted you to ski and get your mind off as much of that as possible for a short while.

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