How To Do An Axel – Axel Class Part 5 (Tom Zakrajsek)

Olympic coach Tom Zakrajsek teaches an axel class at the Grassroots to Champions Supercamp held in Faribault, MN in July/August 2013.  This video is the fifth in a multi-part series by Tom sharing the information he covered in his classes at camp.  In the first video of the axel class, he discussed warming up properly and shared details of the forward take-off edge.  In the second video of the axel class, Tom focused on the standstill axel and he shared more details of the forward take-off edge, including very important timing information.  In the third how to do an axel video, Tom talked more about the movements of the forward take-off edge and he shared a drill he calls the pogo stick exercise.  In the fourth axel jump video, Tom discussed the process of learning a new jump and shares a few additional insights about arms and positions and posture.

All parts of this series:
Axel Class – Part 1
Axel Class – Part 2
Axel Class – Part 3
Axel Class – Part 4
Axel Class – Part 5
Axel Class – Part 6
Axel Class – Part 7

In this video, Tom shares the concept of “3 ups” in every jump.  He explains what the three ups are, but you have to read between the lines a little to understand why he wants the skaters to think about 3 ups.  He”s trying to create better air positions and the potential for more rotation in the air while still being in a position to land the jump successfully and cleanly.  The first up is the take-off movements that launch the skater into the air.  The second up is the skater getting into an efficient and powerful rotational position over the landing side.  (Note that even loop, flip and lutz take-offs generally pull the skater away from the landing side, so establishing the axis over the landing side is important in all the major jumps, not just the classic “weight transfer jumps” of axel, salchow, and toe loop.)  Tom uses the terms “stretch, stand tall, stand straight” to help explain the second up.  He says the “second up is stretched.  It”s taller.  It”s where you”re converting to your axis.  And your body is getting straighter.”

Largely in passing, Tom offers an insight that is incredibly important, yet often overlooked.  Tom explains and demonstrates that for an axel, the actual take-off position is not a classic h-position.  He says, “I call it the Karate Kid.”  Every coach and skater should watch Tom”s Karate Kid demonstration repeatedly to understand what actually happens in good an axel take-off.  Seeing this demonstrated by an Olympic coach should open some eyes and destroy some myths.

Next Tom talks a little about air times.  In particular, he notes that the minimum air time for double axel is about 0.45 seconds and it can easily be measured with a simple tablet or smartphone app.  Many coaches have their skaters attempting double axels well before they”re ready.  But coaches and skaters and skating parents should listen to Tom”s advice.  “If you”re not close to 0.45 [seconds] in your air time, you shouldn”t try double axel, because you know you”re going to fall.  And we don”t want you just to fall and [maybe] hurt yourself.  We want you to try your double axel when your technique is really solid and we know you have a chance to do it.”

Finally, Tom explains the third up.  It”s “where you pull up while you”re in the air and your body is coming down and gravity is pulling you down.  Gravity is pulling you down but you pull up against gravity in order to land.”  Tom also discusses the landing concept that he refers to as “reversing out.”  What he”s talking about is rotating the upper body against the natural rotation.  Physics tells us that by twisting the shoulders one way, the hips will twist the other way, getting a little more rotation at the feet (if the hips are closed) just prior to landing.  The shoulders twisted against the rotation also gives the skater a better chance of decelerating the rotation of the jump by providing some decelerating shoulder movement.

Another great video from Tom with lots of detail and subtle secrets.

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One Response to “How To Do An Axel – Axel Class Part 5 (Tom Zakrajsek)”
  1. January 2, 2014 at 12:19 pm

    Nancy Great info Tom! I love the three ups. I have always taught two ups, but didn't use the third up for the landing. Thank you for sharing your amazing insights!

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