How to Do an Axel – Part 1 (Charlie Tickner)

Figure skating jump specialist Charlie Tickner explains and demonstrates how he teaches an axel.  This is an excellent presentation and epitomizes the “traditional” axel teaching method used in the United States.  Charlie uses the back outside edge preparation for waltz jump, axel, double axel, and triple axel development.  Notice the discussion on whether to extend the free leg or not on this preparation edge.  Charlie’s comments regarding the hip position are very important and keeping the hips closed and the feet close tends to simplify the preparation.

Next, Charlie offers advice regarding the step to forward.  He likes his skaters to push onto the forward edge.  And he does not want them to “step on the same circle.”  He says, “I’m going to pretend there’s another circle right out here, that I’m going to skate out onto.”  Video evidence shows that most top skaters step off the circle as Charlie explains, but some coaches still teach stepping onto the same circle as the back preparation edge.  Charlie offers insights about why this is not ideal.

Charlie wants his skaters to push strongly onto the forward outside edge, although this recommendation is not universal, even among top coaches.  Most want a push to create more energy for the jump, but many want control and specific positions and are willing to sacrifice the push as a strong push often compromises the desired alignment.  Video evidence suggests that many elite skaters doing triple axels do not push at all but most skaters just learning an axel will find a push helpful.  (Take a look on YouTube at a Mao Asada triple axel from turns on the same foot prior to the active take-off edge.  Obviously she cannot “push” into the jump.)

Charlie wants the shoulders open before the step, but the hips closed.  He wants the skater to push onto a new circle, and he shows how and when we wants the arms to move back.  The free leg after the step needs to be bent.  And although Charlie says “bring my free leg back strong behind me,” he does not mean to compromise the hip or body position.  He means the position is strong.  The upper part of the free leg should be roughly in line with the body down to the knee.  Charlie wants the body core up and the chest up.  He also talks about keeping the eyes and head up.  In particular, skaters should not look down and into the circle.

Charlie says, “I want to be nice and square, leading with the left side.”  To some this may sound like a contradictory statement, but he means the hips and shoulders are square to each other, but not to the direction of travel.  The left side should be leading.  As the take-off edge comes around, “at the side of that curve… I start coming through.”  He focuses a lot on making sure the arms come all the way through and the skater steps up into an h-position.  (Almost no skater actually steps up into an h-position on axel but this is an extremely common teaching method and to many skaters it feels like an h-position, even though it is not.)

The discussion of the take-off edge turning past the target direction of the jump is important to understand.  And to get a jump with flow the skater must focus on jumping through to the target.  Charlie takes a moment to cover a common problem with the “h-position” method of teaching the axel.  If the h-position steps across the jump, the jump will be tilted outside the circle.  Charlie also talks about the alignment needed to turn the jump over into rotation.  He also talks about keeping the feet crossed, but distinguishes between keeping the feet crossed and keeping them tight.


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