Video progression – scenes:
- Hip Control (angulation – ChiSkiing)
- Pivot Integrated (narrow stance)
- End of Turn Dynamics
- Resonance and Rhythm (through dynamics)
- Pole use added and more accentuated use of the legs
Separation of Feet and Ski Edges
Today’s session was started off with a warm up run revising yesterday’s skating turns and associated basic dynamics. The only thing added here was that some attention was given to explaining the separation of the edges of the feet from the edges of the skis. The lateral stiffness and height of the ski boot is so that the ski doesn’t flatten when you try to hold it on edge. In the photo to the right both feet are held on their inside edges but only one ski is on its inside edge – due again to the shaft of the ski boot. The left foot is on its inside edge and the left ski is on its outside edge. Skating to the left would exploit this issue – there is no need to try to be on the inside edge of the left ski. We worked on appreciating this subtlety in skating because it would become very important later on when we came to look at “pivoting” – which can be a very difficult skill to learn.
Alex was managing fine with skating and basic dynamics and was controlling the shoulder rotation that had been present yesterday. It was time to improve the rotation issue further now and develop hip angulation. While rotation was causing a severe limitation and instability, angulation opens the door to genuinely dynamic skiing. However! Angulation as is taught normally is extremely detrimental to the lower back – but the alternative requires a considerable amount of body awareness.
Classic angulation is created by facing the shoulders downhill – twisting the spine slightly from the shoulders (ribs) downwards. When in a close stance (feet fairly close together) this causes the downhill hip to be placed in front of the front lower rib and consequently for posture to collapse and the abdomen to compress. Any load going through the body now will be exclusively be taken up by the spine. We did a loading test to allow this to be felt – pole held across in front of the body and with me holding on supplying a weight Alex tried to lift up – and felt the strain in the lower back.
ChiSkiing angulation is created differently – the pelvis only being turned to face downhill – twisting the spine slightly from the bottom upwards and stretching the abdomen in front of the downhill hip. Effectively – the hip is pulled backwards in the middle of the body. When the load test is repeated the abdomen contract and this causes the load to be distributed across the entire midsection (hydraulic sac). Good basic posture (neutral pelvis) is critical for this to work but thankfully Alex had no issues to deal with there and she could apply this to her skiing immediately. (The photograph is angulation produced with ChiSkiing)
The engagement of the pelvis in this way starts right at the beginning of the turn and the hip needs to be pulled back even more strongly as the turn progresses. Transitioning from one turn to the next is when the hips switch – and this actually meshes with dynamics enabling far smoother turn transitions.
With Alex having been a sprinter I knew that teaching her how to ChiWalk – similar to ChiRunning – would be both interesting and useful for her. She was able to feel the change in use of the muscle groups involved when walking up a shallow hill. We used the “falling forwards” in skating to show how less energy is needed when gravity is exploited correctly.
A few years ago I had a look at comparing East and West ideas of “energy” and the result of that investigation is surprising:
Alex commented that feeling the core/abdomen made her focus on her body and that it altered the skiing experience. I explained that this was part of the goal – to internalise focus. The movements begin at the centre of the body and radiate outwards – plus the motion of this centre interacts with the skis. The focus on this area of the body develops awareness and improves concentration – calming the mind and allowing better reactions and athletic performance. There’s an overall “certering” of the individual – a solid sense of contact and grounding.
Alex learned the outside ski pivot following my usual protocol detailed in the above link. The work on separating the edges of the feet and skis carried out earlier made the exercise far less confusing for her. Alex is probably the only non-pro skier ever I’ve seen manage to execute her first unassisted attempt perfectly. Part of the exercise was to improve edge awareness – part was to improve the relationship between use of edges and dynamics and part was to being to introduce the pole plant for use in controlling the motion of the centre of mass.
After the exercise we skied as before but now Alex was able to pull the outside ski inwards more consciously and avoid searching for grip from the inside edge unnecessarily. The result was that her stance narrowed automatically when focusing on this. Later on when focusing on other things this close stance widened again – but that’s normal. With training all those things become automatic and consistent.
Learning in reality is a process of self-organisation. Alex was comfortable with my process of constantly moving on to different aspects of technique. Self organisation or optimisation of a system happens when there are a certain number of parts and a limited relation/connection between them. Each aspect of skiing – for example dynamics and skating and pelvis control etc are all connected. The idea is to work a little bit on all of them and to allow the entire system to self-organise. Edward de Bono discovered this process probably first and named it “lateral thinking”. I figured it out independently – but don’t relate it to “thinking” – it just happens when the environment/constraints are provided. It’s a fundament process for all complex systems – especially systems that learn and adapt.
End of Turn Dynamics
Most people would be saturated by now but as Alex was coping with everything so far it was time to move on again. Now the most important part of dynamics needed to be explained. The turn should complete with the energy built up with pressure beneath the ski being used to actively lifti the skier up and out of the turn. The leg itself can be used to help by pushing up as if at the end of a skating stride. The scary part is bringing the body out and over this downhill ski while still standing on it – but the ski is designed to make this work – it’s designed to lift you up. For dynamic skiing the body has to come out of the turn beyond “vertical” and right out to “perpendicular” and with the skis flat and then body able to fall freely into the next turn.
I demonstrated “hanger” turns to give Alex a visual on this and when she tried she was – as usual – immediately able to do it. Scene 4 of the video.
Efficient use of energy requires a rhythm – almost a bouncing action. This is where the skating and full dynamics come together to create a resonance. Nicola Tesla trumped Thomas Edison as an inventor because he focused on resonance – inventing radio as a result (not Marconi!) and lighting up Boston from power carried using alternating (resonant) current transported from Niagara Falls – the first ever city to have been lit up. The biggest machine in the world now is the electricity grid. (He told his father when aged 12 that he was going to harness the power of Niagara Falls)
With turns linked together and flowing due to dynamics then skiing begins to come to life.
With turns linked together and flowing due to dynamics then skiing begins to come to life.
Until now I was happy just seeing Alex learning to use her legs and hadn’t mentioned her arm and pole use. The pivoting had explained and developed some arm and pole awareness however. Now the goal was increase angulation with a view to building stronger pressure and more active dynamics and increase the range of motion of the body and legs. The pole touch when coming over the lower ski shows that the body is well placed and it gives a sensory feedback that brings confidence. Arms don’t move around – the body motion causes the pole action and only a wrist movement is necessary for aiming the pole. In the final video scene Alex manages to use the poles and increase her range of motion and dynamics.
Part of this is active use of the front of the skis – which is only secure when correctly angulated. Pressure can then be held on the shin and the front of the ski used if we are angulated well inside the turn. Alex commented that she always had sore shins in the past but not any more. This is probably due to having moved her centre of support to beneath the ankle joints instead of the balls of the feet. Flexing when on the middle or balls of the feet collapses the ankle joints and then the boots hold the skier up. Flexing when on the front of the heel causes the ankle to stiffen and for flexing to take place at the hips and knees – creating appropriate angulation and contributing to successful dynamics and use of the skis.
Nutrition was a subject that cropped up a few times. Basically, I don’t eat during the day and have no energy swings even on a demanding day outdoors on the mountain due to a ketogenic diet. Some insights are shared in the following article : http://skiinstruction.blogspot.fr/2014/10/breaking-paradigms.html