Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The value of practice, part 2

I decided to do the Tuesday evening MITF class at Lloyd Center last night just for some fun, and since Tim is in Hong Kong on business so really ... what else can I do? I skated a freestyle beforehand even though it was crowded with little jumping beans who frowned in my direction as I practiced my Midnight Blues and Ravensburger Waltz patterns in their lutz corner and axel setup path. Right before class, I saw the instructor looking at the Junior Moves Choctaw pattern and my mental cash register went, “KaChing!”

I have been working on the Junior Choctaws for some time now. In fact, whenever Tim isn’t looking I throw in a pattern. When Tim is out of town I spend a lot of time on them. They have gone from truly pathetic to basically acceptable after several long months … why? Well, because I practiced them of course.

I have utterly no aptitude for them since (1) my hips are so closed I actually walked pigeon-toed as a child (home movies confirm this fact) and (2) I had a lot of trouble getting the twisting action, knee bend, and re-bend all to happen in the correct sequence at first because I am not-so-limber at my age and (3) these were something I never learned as a child so I had to create new muscle memory in middle age, which is not an easy thing to do.

But I practiced, and practiced, and practiced them. I fell over while practicing, and tripped myself while practicing, and hit myself in the face while practicing (I really wish I had that one on video). Then they started improving, slowly and almost invisibly. Soon I gained confidence and bent my knees more (which of course is the key to doing them well in the first place) and they got better. They are not perfect or 100% consistent yet by any means, but they actually look like Choctaws on accurate if not super deep edges. (Let’s face it, I will never do them like Doug H., but not many people can!)

So when we got to work on them in class, I was ecstatic. Two adults, 3 kids, and nobody could do them except … me. And I’m not bragging (ok, a little bit, because I’ve earned it, because I practiced) but I have to say it was gratifying to have the instructor ask me to demonstrate them, and to do them well while demonstrating. Perhaps not “passing the Junior Moves test” well, but “well for someone who couldn’t do them at all a couple of months ago.” And then she asked us to add two quick twisting rockers on the end (THOSE are easy for us "closed hip" folk) and I could even demonstrate that. Followed by kudos from the instructor on my nice deep choctaw edges, yee haw. Especially nice to demonstrate them in front of the kids who, on the freestyle before the class, likely thought of me as the old lady doing solo ice dance who was perpetually in their way and why oh why was I on their freestyle instead of attending Coffee Club or sitting in a rocking chair knitting sweaters.

Wait, there’s more! Learning where to put all of my body parts on these Choctaws has addressed many of my weaknesses in other areas too. The hard work has made some other things easier and better, such as the FI edges at the end of the Samba and Cha Cha Congelado. My inside edges are just deeper and more flowing now as a result of having better control and alignment. Clearly practicing one thing can often help other things improve.

(Side note to those of you who skate with me -- now the cat's out of the bag, so every time you see me do these I'll probably trip, fall, or hit myself in the face and you'll say hmmm, she obviously didn't practice enough. Don't worry, it doesn't happen every time, only when you are watching. Keeps me humble.)

So there you have it, the many rewards of practice. Now I need to step it up even more by doing the first Choctaw from a FI edge (not from a BO edge). Starting forward is harder, but necessary for the Rumba which is a dance I really should be working on … so I guess it’s time to stop writing and get to the rink to practice that.

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