Whenever new fans of figure skating try to get a grip on the elements involved the first hurdle to understanding the sport is vocabulary. There are dozens of specialized terms meant to indicate direction, rotation, and trajectory. While those terms become more specific based on context, every move in figure skating relies on understanding which edge of the blade a skater is using at any given point. So before we jump (pun absolutely intended) into explaining jumps, spins, or moves in the field, I’m going to take a detour back to the absolute basics of figure skating: edges.Embed from Getty Images
Every edge in figure skating can be described in terms of direction, lean, and foot. All edges are either forward or backward based on the direction of the skater. The lean of an edge is either inside or outside relative to the foot of the skater. A flat edge is, by process of elimination, when the skater is simply gliding flat on their blade. Finally, the skater’s foot indicates if the edge is right or left. Put all those ingredients together and you have a precise indicator for how a skater is moving on the ice with respect to their feet.
Understanding edges and how to judge their quality is critical for understanding how jumps are executed, and why particular elements are considered more difficult than others. Every jump has a specific take off and landing edge. Footwork steps and moves in the field likewise rely on the transition between edges for their definition and character. Manipulating the edge on a spin affects conservation of momentum and increases the difficulty of certain positions.
Specific edges are noted in dance patterns and on protocol sheets with abbreviations to indicate the foot, direction of travel, and lean, in that order. A RBI notation indicates a right back inside edge; LFO would indicate a left forward outside edge, and so on. An unclear edge is noted with an exclamation mark (!) on the protocol sheet. An obviously incorrect edge is noted with a lowercase “e“. Either notation is colloquially referred to as an edge call. Unclear and incorrect edges plague skaters on the lutz and flip in particular (for reasons I will explain in the individual entries for those jumps).
Now that you’ve passed a crash course in edges, we can move on to the next step in understanding jumps: the mechanics of movement. Stay tuned for the next Skating School post!