Friday, November 25, 2016

Skating Fridays

Axel Tips


One of my readers and fellow skaters (hi, Emily!) asked me for tips on the axel jump. This jump is considered the pinnacle for skaters - most people want to be able to land one, and if and when they do, it's a huge accomplishment. A skater is likely to remember when and when they landed their first axel.

First off, let me point out a few things about my axel journey so you can understand my struggle.
  1. It took me over a year of intensive practicing and training before I finally landed one
  2. I was 30 when I finally landed it for the first time
  3. Not only did I fall a lot, but I also pinched my sciatic nerve --twice-- during my axel training
  4. It took me 7+ years before I crossed my legs for the first time
I'm sure that list can go on for several more pages, but I hope you get the drift. This was no easy feat and required a lot of hard work before it got to its current state.

OK, enough with the rambling and onto the tips!
    1. The jump takes off sideways and is only 1 full revolution in the air. You'll hear experts and commentators (perhaps even coaches) say that this jump is 1.5 revolutions. Not true. Watch any skater's axel video and you'll see that they rotate a 1/4 turn before jumping off their toe pick. An "IJS-clean" axel can be 90 degrees short of the direction of travel. So, the actual rotation is a minimum of 1 full revolution. This is important to know because I find that adult skaters freak out if we hear that a jump is over 1 revolution. One revolution seems more feasible and less scary.

    2. Don't focus on jumping up. We adult skaters think that we need a HUGE jump so we exert all of our energy getting as much air time as we can. In reality, we don't need the air time. In fact, a huge jump makes it harder for us to pull in and fully rotate. Rather than jumping up, focus on jumping OUT (like a waltz jump). You'll want to have good flow in and out of your jump. Someone once told me that a decent axel should cover at least 3 blade lengths from takeoff to landing. Elite skaters will cover their body length.

    3. Watch the free leg before and during takeoff. Remember that old physics saying that "for every action, there must be an equal and separate reaction"? Well, the same holds true here. If you stretch and straighten your free leg behind you before takeoff, you'll have to stretch it out during takeoff. This is not an efficient jump. Keep the movements small. Think "tick tock." Keep the "tick" part small so the "tock" is small. Less movement = better jump.

    4. Jump outside of the circle. Skaters working on beginning axels tend to pre-rotate their jumps and end up "inside" the direction of travel (inside the circle).

    5. Make sure you are using an active edge prior to takeoff. There are 2 kinds of edges: passive and active. Passive edges are where you simply glide along the ice (think figure 8s and edges on a circle). Active edges generate power and accelerate. The takeoff for the axel requires an active edge. If you're familiar with power pulls, the active edge is what generates the "crunch" and the momentum forward. 

    6. Watch your head. Your instinct will be to turn your head into your jump rotation. This actually causes pre-rotation and is incorrect. The head should be the last thing that moves.

That's all I have for now. I'll post more if I can think of any other tips to share. I hope this was helpful to all of you who are working on this jump. You can do it!

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