The "Epaminondus Error"
|Thanks VSP for making my earlier point so much better than i was able to.
There always seem to be these new techniques or references that pop up from time to time that want to make absolutes out of observations in skiing technique. Remember Georges Joubert's "surf technique", and as recently as "parallel leg shafts", "hips stay aligned over the feet", "virtical line test", and there are more. All of these observations that may become vogue teaching aids, are filled with holes/exceptions.
It would seem to be prudent to always keep an open mind about difinitive statements like these and explore their value and understand their limitations and exceptions. Buying into any of these type declarations will tend to limit ones effectiveness on skis.
For example the "parallel leg shaft" concept that has been discussed here at epic many times fall short of accurate. Just go back in this thread and look at all the montages posted by Bob Barnes and observe the skiers' shins, ekspecially at the point Bob points out for the rotary tip engagement phase, and tell me if you see parallel shins?
Look at Bob's three turn montages and tell me if you see the "hips over the feet" throughout the turns?
Many of these declarations may occur at a particular phase in a turn but perhaps should not be the goal of the entire turn.
Just like Rick's "vertical line test" falls short of a full proof test in my mind.
but then I may be in the twilight zone?
Great points. It's the same old caveat of taking ideas too far, to the point of dogma. This sport is rife with myths and half-truths that, while often founded on something valid, cause problems in translation and application.
As all good skiers who have ever approached the realm of "expert" discover, sooner or later, skiing is about skill, not dogmatism. Take any exercise, drill, tip, technique, or focus you like as an example. If it's something new to a skier, it is good to practice it. If an idea involves movements you've not practiced (provided they are not dangerous), or produces sensations you've not experienced, explore them! Get good at them. There are no "bad skills." But take it one step further to the point of thinking that movement is "the way to ski," and you've gone too far. Skill liberates. Dogma limits.
If you want to ski a certain way, by all means do, whenever it works. If you don't want to ski a certain way, don't!
But if you can't
ski a certain way, you'll be a better skier when you develop the missing skills or solve the problem that causes your inability.
There are many things on skis that can indicate problems. It is common for skiers and inexperienced instructors to see these things, often in isolation, and wrongly conclude that they need fixing. The "a-frame vs.
parallel shins" thing that you mention is a great example. Chronic a-frames (knees closer than feet, making the lower legs suggest the letter "A") do often indicate problems. Improper boot setup or canting needs, or insufficient or inaccurate activity of the inside leg, both can produce a-frames. A sharp instructor will recognize the a-frame and search deeper for its cause before concluding what, if anything, needs "fixing." A less astute instructor will see the a-frame and think that it is a problem in itself, or that it absolutely and always means something's wrong, ipso facto.
It's a form of tunnel vision that often leads to instructors trying to solve problems their students don't have, and to students mistaking good exercises for good skiing. Let's call it the "Epaminondus Error."* (see below if you're not clear on the reference). It's a result of limited knowledge and/or failure to think critically.
As you point out, situational a-frames abound in good skiing, including World Cup. Often they result from the skier quickly and instinctively increasing the edge angle of the outside ski for a moment, usually at already high edge angles. They can also indicate the skier rotating his outside femur to redistribute pressure, as we've discussed here. Only an overzealous instructor with a low level of comprehension would say "don't do that"!
Banking can indicate a problem. But not necessarily.
A-frames can indicate a problem. But not necessarily.
Inside ski pressure can indicate a problem. But not necessarily.
Rotation can indicate a problem. But not necessarily.
Rick's vertical line test can indicate a problem. But not necessarily.
"Parallel shins" can be a good thing. But not always.
"Countering" can be important. So can squaring up.
"Getting forward" can be a good thing. So can pressuring the backs of the boot cuffs, now and then.
"Hips over feet" can be right. But sometimes it is very
"Angulation," "steering," and "leverage" (forward pressure) are critically important skills mastered by all great skiers. But equally important is the skill and judgement to know when, how, and how much to apply them (or not to).
Every one of these "mistakes" will show up in good skiing. And every one of these "good" things can be a mistake, if misapplied in the wrong context. The Epaminondus Error. It's easily avoided with deeper understanding and a little critical thinking. And it's a common trap for anyone who takes instructions too literally, too dogmatically.
*For those unfamiliar, "Epaminondus" refers to an old didactic folk tale about a little boy who earnestly tries to follow his mother's instructions for bringing home various gifts from his aunt. The problem is that he applies yesterday's instructions to today's gift, to unfortunate effect. After a piece of cake turns to crumbs in his hands, she tells him he should have wrapped it up in leaves and put it inside his hat. So he does that with the next gift--butter--which, of course, melts all over his head. "No, you should cool the butter in the stream on the way home," she says. So he does that with a puppy, drowning or nearly drowning him (depending on the version of the story you read). "No, you should tie a leash around it and walk it home," she says. Which he does next time with a loaf of bread. And so on. "Epaminondus," she finally declares, "you ain't got the sense you were born with. You never did have the sense you were born with, and you never will have the sense you were born with!" Famously written about 100 years ago by Sarah Cone Bryant about a little black boy, with strong dialect, "Epaminondus and His Auntie" surely lacks political correctness these days. But the moral of the story, about the need to think critically, remains as relevant as ever. As one reviewer of Bryant's story writes at Amazon.com, "The single, biggest problem in today's work force is the lack of ability to think critically. When given an instruction, if it is remembered(!), that instruction is construed to mean applicable in EVERY instance. Epaminondas is the condition of too many people today." I agree!