Papadakis & Cizeron skate with their knees continually bent. Their movements are very bendy and fluttery. However, if one assumes a soft knee is an indicator of excellent stroking and superior skating skills, then why aren't P/C's soft knees getting the job done?
P&C's edges are shallow, they sometimes wobble and often lack unison. Despite meeting level requirements, their programs lack the complexity and difficulty of other ice dancers' programs. They can't extend their free legs to save their lives unless their working knees get low, and their lines seldom match. Their lifts, as with Davis White's lifts, have a widely distributed center of gravity and lots of redundancy. In sum, Papadakis & Cizeron's much praised soft knees appear to be considered an achievement unto themselves. But "soft knees" are only important insofar as they enable the powerful, stable stroking that should undergird the execution of elite choreography.
So, first, my google search produced a short post from a recreational figure skater who, when she began skating, used bent knees in hopes it wouldn't hurt as much when she fell. She had "soft knees" before she could really move on the ice. It looked nice, and she was praised, but she was not initially a strong skater.
Then I found this: The Ice Doesn't Care: Soft Knees.
Like this author, I know how important the leg is in horseback riding - for example, my legs naturally turn out a bit, and it is real work to keep my inner legs lying flat against the horse's side (people who are naturally bow-legged have a big advantage here). This blogger compares the soft knees important to staying in contact with your mount with the soft knees necessary to good figure skating. Applying these principles to Papadakis & Cizeron, we see the important stuff, the skating stuff, is missing.
I propose that Papadakis/Cizeron have tight/weak hips, and lack strength and flexibility there and in their spines. Their bent knees are not coordinated with and moving responsively with the rest of their bodies (including, bizarrely, their ankles and feet).
The Ice Doesn't Care
Figure Skating for Adults.
Thursday, December 13, 2012
There's two things that horse back riding and skating have in common: soft knees and independence of upper and lower body.So, let's tackle 'soft knees' first.I did a lot of research on this, and all I could find were a couple of comments that 'soft knees means bent knees'.Mmmmm, no.Well, anyway, not to me.My experience has been in both riding and skating that a 'soft knee' is what I'll call a 'responsive leg'. The casual observer sees the knee bend and how it flexes. That's the obvious part. But really, I believe what's going on is much more complex.From my riding days, I learned that 'soft knees' involved the muscles of the lower back and abdomen, flexibility and strength in the hips and knees, and controlled movement of the ankle. All this has to be balanced and coordinated, otherwise you pull on the horse's mouth as your leg will get in the wrong position and throw off your balance.
Skating's very similar. You have to control the leg relative to the upper body, and to do that you need to get over the right part of the blade and that takes ever single joint below the waist. And as you move up and down, every single joint has to respond together. This is why I think defining 'soft knees' as 'bent knees' is inadequate. That's what the observer sees, but that's only the tip of the iceberg abot what's going on.
As I'm now in my 60's, I'm okay with the muscles of the back and core, the ankle bend and the hip flexion. However, my knee bend is CRAP!Still, I'd like to chime in with my amateur opinion, that 'soft knees' is something that ought to be banned from a coach's vocabulary. It's much more complex, especially in skating. I'm fortunate that my riding background is so extensive and strong, and Coach Cruella is good at getting everything coordinated both mentally and physically.
*I have watched skating video of Russian 1999 World Champion Maria Butyrskaya, and her knees are as stiff and brittle as matchsticks. Observing her rigid progress across the ice, it's understandable that one would believe soft knees = bent knees. However, as the "Ice Doesn't Care" notes above, a so-called "soft knee" is just as much about the hips and the spine. We can see that Butyrskaya's hips are also tight, as is her back.