School figures and special figures | Golden Skate

School figures and special figures

gkelly

Record Breaker
Joined
Jul 26, 2003
@moonvine asked in the Debi Thomas thread about the difference between school figures (also known as compulsory figures) and creative figures (also known as fancy figures or special figures)

OK, here's some history and explanation.


School figures

As noted in the Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compulsory_figures,

"In 1897, the ISU adopted a schedule of 41 school figures, each of increasing difficulty, which was proposed by the British."

From 1897 to 1990, the compulsory figures portion of singles competitions sponsored by the ISU


It was these standard figures that were used in the compulsory parts of competition (more advanced ones in senior competition especially as the 20th century moved on, medium-difficulty ones in junior and lower competition, the easiest ones in low-level competition below international level).

All of those 41 figures consist of two or three circles, with a diameter approximately 3 times the height of the skater (or approximately the same as the skater's height in the case of loop figures). Two circles make a pattern that looks like 8 (hence the phrase "figure eight") and three circles looks like ooo.

Here's a link to a roller skating site that gives details and diagrams first for these standard 41 figures, and then for additional variations that may or may not be standard in roller skating these days but were never standard on ice: https://skatedancediagrams.weebly.com/school-figures.html

On the Wikipedia page linked above, if you scroll down to the Works cited at the bottom and click on Special Regulations for Figures, you can find a link to a PDF of the detailed rules for figures tests, that US Figure Skating still offers (though not many people take these tests any more).

That document also contains diagrams of the 41 school figures at the end, after a lot of pages about rules for testing.

There were and are plenty of other training exercises designed to be practiced on circles, so they could be practiced on patch sessions or otherwise teach about controlling edges and turns on circles. Those later roller skating examples might fit that definition. Some exercises based on circles are used on skating skills tests in the US and elsewhere.

For now, we’ll just focus on the figures that were part of the official list of school figures used in competition.

Here is a video of skaters practicing figures on a "patch session" (each skater using their own patch of ice): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noVEHiUcaUw
With few exceptions, the skaters in this video are working on standard school figures. At the beginning and end you see some skaters who are only doing pieces of the circles at a time.

OK, I’m also going to include this video of a coach demonstrating all the different one-foot turns used in figures (not counting loops). She’s not doing the whole patterns of the figures, but this will be useful for learning the differences between these different kinds of turns:
 
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gkelly

Record Breaker
Joined
Jul 26, 2003
In the school figures, the skater always starts at the point where two circles meet.

In the simplest figures, you just push off on an edge, travel all the way around the circle on that edge, and when you get back to where you started you push onto the other foot to make another circle on the same edge of the other foot (e.g., right forward outside RFO and then left forward outside LFO). No turns.

#1 Forward outside eight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cVV2OdAKowU

#3 Backward outside eight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H9RQ2Esfp7w

The next variation is to skate half a circle on one edge, then change edge to a new circle -- still on the same foot, still traveling forward or backward, but now on the opposite edge, to make 1 1/2 circles on the same foot. When you finish the whole circle to get back to the point where you changed edge, that's where you push onto the other foot and skate 1 1/2 circles with a change of edge on that foot. So that makes three circles in a row touching each other, the ooo pattern on the ice.

The three-circle patterns are known as "serpentine" figures.

#5 Forward serpentine: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fWIlvcwB0WQ&t=4m11s

As the figures get more difficult, there can be one three turn or bracket or loop at the top of the circle, or two three turns at the one-third and two-third points of the circle, called a double three figure.

The first figure that involves turns uses only forward outside threes at the top of each circle, with a step forward at the change of circle so that both circles include the same skill on each foot.

#7 Threes to center: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EE1bZ3jewc&t=60s

Then we have threes, double threes, brackets, and loops, one circle on each foot.

For threes and brackets, the first circle starts on a forward edge (outside or inside) and changes at the top of the circle to backward on the opposite edge (inside or outside), so the second circle will start on the other foot with the same kind of backward edge and then turn to forward at the top of the circle.

#19 Forward inside-back outside brackets: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TxgR_Cx52-s&t=48s



The double threes finish the circle on the same edge they started on, and the loops never leave the edge they started on.

#10 Forward outside double threes:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wVM8i8lxHU4&list=PLA9GOAs5v33LeM03roqBfj_iqiOrjACg9

#13 Back inside double threes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9Jm-kQR_Mw

#14 Forward outside loops: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f9Jm-kQR_Mw

Then the intermediate figures start combining the change of edge with the threes, brackets, and loops to make serpentine figures called "change three," "change bracket," "change double three," and "change loop."

#26 Change threes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pd3KwGw75-8

#32 Change brackets: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dfT8NV2wqQ0

Next in difficulty are the counter and rocker figures, in which the skater does half a circle on the first edge, then turns a counter or rocker to change from forward to backward (or back to forward) and also change circles, e.g., RFO to RBO, to make a three-circle figure.

#20 Forward Outside rockers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2LwMId43uU&list=PLSc3Jly7yHope2-OHoaJeiNccZYByVs6_&2m10s

#22 Forward outside counters: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n2LwMId43uU&list=PLSc3Jly7yHope2-OHoaJeiNccZYByVs6_&t=2m45s

Finally, more difficult figures involve skating two circles on one foot, only pushing to the other foot after the full figure eight has been completed. First are simple eights on one foot.

#24 Forward one-foot eight: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2w5XOPt7CKM

The most difficult figures are “paragraph” figures that involve skating one circle with a three, bracket, double three, or loop, then changing edge to complete the other circle with the same kind of turn(s) on the same foot. Only after both circles are complete does the pattern continue on the other foot.

#37 Paragraph back double three: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEhbveOV3h0

#39 Backward paragraph loop

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6EE1bZ3jewc&t=2m2s

#40 Forward paragraph bracket: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BSp89YviMBk

Several senior/international level figures with artsy lighting and camera work: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jU9Hy1upUr0&t=276s
 
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Joined
Jun 21, 2003
Thanks for this interesting thread, My impression from looking at what few videos I can find is that there is a really, really really,re, big difference between poep[le who excel at either school figures or fabcy figures and, well, everybody else. It appears to me that the key is to maintain a totally upright posture and do all the edging and turning just with your feet. If you have to start waving your arms about, or too much leaning with the upper body, to maintain ballance and do the turns, the effect is much less spectacular, at least to me.
 

Diana Delafield

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@moonvine asked in the Debi Thomas thread about the difference between school figures (also known as compulsory figures) and creative figures (also known as fancy figures or special figures)

OK, here's some history and explanation.


School figures

As noted in the Wikipedia article https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compulsory_figures,

"In 1897, the ISU adopted a schedule of 41 school figures, each of increasing difficulty, which was proposed by the British."

From 1897 to 1990, the compulsory figures portion of singles competitions sponsored by the ISU


It was these standard figures that were used in the compulsory parts of competition (more advanced ones in senior competition especially as the 20th century moved on, medium-difficulty ones in junior and lower competition, the easiest ones in low-level competition below international level).

All of those 41 figures consist of two or three circles, with a diameter approximately 3 times the height of the skater (or approximately the same as the skater's height in the case of loop figures). Two circles make a pattern that looks like 8 (hence the phrase "figure eight") and three circles looks like ooo.

Here's a link to a roller skating site that gives details and diagrams first for these standard 41 figures, and then for additional variations that may or may not be standard in roller skating these days but were never standard on ice: https://skatedancediagrams.weebly.com/school-figures.html

On the Wikipedia page linked above, if you scroll down to the Works cited at the bottom and click on Special Regulations for Figures, you can find a link to a PDF of the detailed rules for figures tests, that US Figure Skating still offers (though not many people take these tests any more).

That document also contains diagrams of the 41 school figures at the end, after a lot of pages about rules for testing.

There were and are plenty of other training exercises designed to be practiced on circles, so they could be practiced on patch sessions or otherwise teach about controlling edges and turns on circles. Those later roller skating examples might fit that definition. Some exercises based on circles are used on skating skills tests in the US and elsewhere.

For now, we’ll just focus on the figures that were part of the official list of school figures used in competition.

Here is a video of skaters practicing figures on a "patch session" (each skater using their own patch of ice): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=noVEHiUcaUw
With few exceptions, the skaters in this video are working on standard school figures. At the beginning and end you see some skaters who are only doing pieces of the circles at a time.

OK, I’m also going to include this video of a coach demonstrating all the different one-foot turns used in figures (not counting loops). She’s not doing the whole patterns of the figures, but this will be useful for learning the differences between these different kinds of turns:
Interesting to catch in the roller skating video a mention as to why they were called "school figures" (possibly from dressage, schooling a horse to do each of the required steps). When I started learning school figures at 6 or so, I was too young to wonder why they were called that.
 
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