Figure Skating 101 - March 7

One foot figure skating turns

A collage of one foot figure skating turns.
A collage of one foot figure skating turns. (Jo Ann Schneider Farris)


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By Jo Ann Schneider Farris, special to
(03/07/2008) - Every figure skating turn has a name. When a figure skater turns from forward to backward or from backward to forward on one foot, he could be doing a three turn, a bracket, a counter, or a rocker. Each turn is slightly different.

Three turns

The easiest turn that is done on one foot is a three turn. In a three turn, the ice skate blade makes the pattern of a "3" on the ice. Three turns are done from either an outside edge to an inside edge, or an inside edge to an outside edge. The direction of the turn follows the way the edge rotates and curves.


A bracket turn is similar to a three turn, but a bracket turn is counter-rotated. The tracing the ice skate blade makes on the ice after the turn is completed points outward, and does not make a "3" pattern like the three turn. Again, the turn can be done from either an outside edge to an inside edge, or an inside edge to an outside edge.


Then, there are counters and rockers. In counters and in rockers, a skater stays on an inside to inside edge or an outside to outside edge. A counter begins like a bracket, where the rotation of the body is counter to the natural direction of the curve made by the edge. Like the bracket, the top of the turn points out. The difference is that unlike the bracket turn, the edges before and after the turn makes opposite curves.


Rockers are the opposite of counters. A rocker turn starts like a three turn, but unlike a three turn, the turn occurs from same edge to same edge. Also, like a counter turn, the turn continues on a different curve.

One foot turns were part of compulsory figures

Figure skating is called "figure skating" because of the sport's original emphasis on compulsory figures. The figures were designs that were skated on a clean sheet of ice, most often in the shape of a figure eight.

All of the one foot turns done in figure skating were originally included in the standard U.S. Figure Skating figure tests. Figure skaters learned how to do three turns early in their skating training. As they advanced, they were then introduced to brackets. Once brackets were mastered, the skater worked on counters. Very advanced figure skaters finally learned rockers.

Turns today

Things have changed, and compulsory figures are no longer part of competitive figure skating. Instead, figure skaters are introduced to the many different one foot figure skating turns in the 'Moves in the Field' tests. Coaches of today must ensure that their figure skating students include all of these turns in the step sequences, which are now required in figure skating programs. The judges look hard at what is included.

A "figure skating turn challenge"

Figure skating fans can learn to recognize the turns done on the ice. Next time you watch a skater do a footwork step sequence, try to recognize at least one three turn, one bracket, one rocker, and one counter. Next, look for twizzles, mohawks and choctaws!

Happy Skating!

For more information on the fundamentals of figure skating visit the U.S. Figure Slating's Basic Skills Program.