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Style Skating – It’s a Vibrant Art and Culture Transformer

Rhythm Skating’s Influence on American Style is Staggering

To learn the history of rhythm skating is to discover that this vibrant art and culture transformer actually shaped current day American style. Without skating culture-music, fashion, dance, and even politics, would not be what they are today.

While roller skating has been popular in the United States since the 1930s, African Americans have had a unique experience with the sport due to historical racial segregation and the emergence of a distinct skating culture. In the early days of roller skating, Black skaters faced discrimination and were often excluded from attending mainstream roller rinks. In response, they began to establish their own roller rinks, which became important social hubs for the Black community. These spaces provided a safe environment to enjoy roller skating, socialize, and express themselves.

Even as racial segregation began to ease in the 1960s, many roller rinks still enforced discriminatory policies. Some venues held “Colored Nights” or “Adults Only” nights specifically for African American patrons. While these events were still restrictive, they allowed the Black community to develop a distinct roller-skating style and culture.

“Style skating—a skate-dancing style that has splintered into hundreds of regional variants—got its start, in a roundabout way, in Detroit. Bill Butler started skating in 1945 at the Arcadia Ballroom on Woodward Avenue in Detroit on the one night black people were allowed in. ” – Soul on Wheels. Rhythm Skating and Style Skating are two terms used to describe this art form. There is some debate as to which is the most appropriate title. For now, we’ll use them both interchangeably.

As Black skaters continued to carve out spaces for themselves within the roller-skating scene, they developed a unique style characterized by dance moves, rhythm, and individuality. Skaters would often incorporate elements of popular dances into their routines and this fusion of dance and roller skating created a vibrant and expressive subculture.

Music played a crucial role in the development of Rhythm roller-skating. Rinks would often play funk, soul, and R&B music, which provided the perfect backdrop for skaters to showcase their moves. As hip-hop emerged in the 1970s and 1980s, roller rinks became important venues for the genre. This fusion not only shaped the skating culture, but American popular culture in general.

The history of African American roller skating is deeply intertwined with the broader social and cultural history of the United States. Through perseverance and creativity, Black Americans have shaped a unique roller-skating culture that is still celebrated today. It’s not an exaggeration to say that some of the most vibrant parts of our culture can be attributed to the Style Skate community.

These films are a fascinating introduction to Style Skating:

Two of the finest skate articles:

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Mysterious Skate Tips That Tune In The Magic

Deep Skate Secrets- Introducing Mysterious Skate Tips.

Check out these posts for mysterious skate tips that tune in the magic of this incredible artform.

If you’ve ever felt like there’s something special about Rhythm skating-Something beyond words even…You’re not alone.

The Deep Skate is Real.

What you will read in the coming posts may be hard to believe. Please commit to three weeks and see how your skating transforms. These practices are gleaned from a variety of disciplines. Among them centuries old internal arts.

Some may seem strange, while others -may at first, appear too simple. What they have in common is that they work.

We didn’t find these secrets. They found us.

And now they found you.

There’s a lot to unpack in the coming posts, so please take it slow. We’ll start with explanations and then move onto exercises. No need to hurry, do your practice and all is coming.

Check out Style Skate History for some background on this transformative art.

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Deep Skate Secrets 3: Seven Reasons To Look Up While You Roller Skate

The posture and gaze of a roller skater play essential roles in their performance, stability, and safety. Looking up while skating, as opposed to looking down, has several advantages that relate to human biomechanics, proprioception, and long-term health:

Balance & Stability: Balance on roller skates is achieved through a combination of visual cues, vestibular input (from our inner ear), and proprioceptive feedback (our sense of the relative position of one’s own parts of the body). When a skater looks down, they restrict their visual field and primarily focus on their feet or the ground immediately in front of them. This limits their ability to use visual cues from the broader environment to maintain balance.

Body Alignment: Our head is a heavy part of our body. When we look down, especially with the forward lean typical of someone learning to skate, the head moves forward of the center of gravity. This anterior shift can lead to a compensatory curve in the upper back and an increased lordotic (inward) curve in the lower back. Over time, maintaining this posture can lead to muscle imbalances, strain, and even structural changes to the spine.

Efficient Movement: Proper posture, with the head up and shoulders back, allows for optimal engagement of the core muscles. This not only protects the spine but also provides a stable base from which to generate movement. Looking down tends to disengage these core muscles, which can reduce the efficiency of movement, tire the skater out faster, and potentially lead to strains or injuries.

Environmental Awareness: Roller skating safely requires awareness of one’s surroundings. Hazards like cracks, debris, other skaters, or pedestrians can appear suddenly. Looking up expands the skater’s field of vision, allowing them to anticipate and react to obstacles more efficiently.

Proprioception: This is our body’s ability to sense its position in space. It’s a crucial skill for any activity that requires coordination, like roller skating. Looking down continuously can impair our proprioceptive feedback as we become overly reliant on visual input about our feet’s position. In contrast, looking up and relying on a combination of visual, vestibular, and proprioceptive cues can improve our innate sense of body position and movement.

Neck Strain and Long-term Health: Continuously looking down can lead to what’s often referred to as “text neck” in the context of smartphone use. This posture can lead to chronic neck pain, tension headaches, and even degenerative disc issues over time. While roller skaters might not be in this posture as frequently as someone constantly checking their phone, the principle remains that maintaining such a position is not optimal for neck health.

Psychological Factors: There’s a psychological component to posture and gaze direction. Looking forward and up is associated with confidence, while looking down might reflect uncertainty or fear. By training oneself to look up, a skater might also foster a more positive and confident mindset, which can enhance their skating experience.

Exercises To Try:

When you step forward with your left leg your right arm swings forward in consequence. This promotes the normal rotations that we should see while walking and skating.

Supination, pronation, supination is a rotation that happens through the foot as we move. So when we skate we want to do things that promote this rotation. The first place it starts is where you’re looking: Your eyes dictate the position of your head and your neck. If you’re looking down while moving you are limiting the amount of rotation you are trying to perform.

Try this: look out as far as you can and rotate your torso normally. Do the same thing looking down. You’ll notice it will feel a little bit stiffer and restricted; and that’s because when you look down your body produces more internal rotation. Internal rotation is associated with increased muscle activity. Increase muscle activity is associated with less ability to rotate.

Try this: Hold up hand make fist and stiffen wrist, try circling your wrist. It doesn’t move as well as when your hand is relaxed and circling. Apply this same postural principle while skating by keep your body aligned and head up.

Alignment In Action = Grace and Flow

In conclusion, looking up while roller skating is crucial for maintaining balance, ensuring proper biomechanical function, preventing injuries, and ensuring optimal awareness of the environment. Proper posture and gaze direction can greatly enhance the roller skating experience, making it safer and more enjoyable. Think about looking as far out at the horizon as you can. Notice what is going on in the external environment. This will help you keep your head up so you can promote rotation through your spine.

Check out our past posts for some background on Rhythm/Style Skating & an Intro to Deep Skate Secrets.

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Deep Skate Secrets 2: Lateral Acceleration

Cultivating Lateral Acceleration Is The Secret Sauce.

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Skating Harnesses G Force. You’re Playing With Gravity!

What is it, and Why Does it Feel So Good?

What is Lateral Acceleration?

Lateral acceleration, often expressed in “g” units (with 1g equal to the acceleration due to gravity on Earth’s surface), occurs when you make a turn or change direction. We most often experience it via the sideways acceleration a vehicle experiences when it is taking a curve. It’s essentially a measure of the force that occupants inside the vehicle feel pushing them sideways during a turn.

For example, when a car turns a corner at speed, the lateral acceleration pushes the car’s occupants to the side. In racing, lateral acceleration is very important: high-performance vehicles are designed to maintain high speeds in curves, which leads to high lateral accelerations. The ability to generate and withstand high lateral acceleration is indicative of a car’s cornering ability.

It’s also used in the context of roller coasters and other amusement rides, where the lateral acceleration can contribute to the thrilling sensations riders experience. It’s not a sensation we experience often-unless we’re roller skating.

When roller skating, lateral acceleration occurs when you make a turn or change direction. Just like with a vehicle or an airplane, your body experiences a force pushing you towards the outside of the turn. This is the result of inertia: your body wants to keep moving in the original direction even as your skates turn.

When you lean into a turn while roller skating, you’re counteracting this force. Your center of gravity shifts towards the inside of the turn, allowing you to maintain balance and prevent from tipping over towards the outside of the turn. The sharper and faster the turn, the greater the lateral acceleration, and the more you need to lean to counterbalance it. So, if you’ve ever noticed that you naturally lean into a turn when you’re roller skating, that’s your body’s way of managing lateral acceleration! It’s a key part of maintaining control and balance when changing direction at any sort of speed.

Why Does it Feel so Good?

The feeling of lateral acceleration can be exhilarating because it’s both novel and challenging. It’s a uniquely remarkable way to move and rolling on wheels exponentiates this movement. It differs from the everyday experience of moving forward and backward, or up and down. As you become proficient at skating you learn to cultivate this feeling even when you’re not cornering or skating fast. Eventually you only need to slightly shift your weight from side to side to experience the pleasure of this feeling. You’re playing with gravity!

There are physiological and psychological reasons why this feels so good. Firstly, our brains are wired to enjoy new and unique sensations, and the feeling of lateral acceleration certainly falls into that category. It’s not something we experience regularly, especially not at high intensity. This novelty can trigger a release of adrenaline, a hormone that increases heart rate, boosts energy levels, and generally makes us feel excited and alive.

On a physiological level, experiencing lateral acceleration can often feel exhilarating because it stimulates our vestibular system, which is the sensory system responsible for maintaining balance and spatial orientation. This system resides primarily in the inner ear and communicates with the brain to help us know where our bodies are in space. When we experience lateral acceleration, the vestibular system sends signals to the brain which can create feelings of excitement, thrill, and pleasure.

The following quote from SLOMO, a doctor who gave it all up to spend his life roller blading says this about Lateral Acceleration:

“For a while I thought I might be going crazy or something because I’m too happy. I kept waiting for this obsession with skating to differentiate itself into some diagnosible problem. But that was 15 years ago….I realized that there was an aspect to lateral acceleration that made many of us feel good. I studied this and there’s a neurological explanation to this type of thing. Acceleration stimulates a set of receptors in the inner ear, which connect us with the center of the earth by gravity. A piece of calcium sits on a membrane, so that any change in the relative position of gravity will make this stone roll, and therefore there will be some indication that the body is moving relative to the center of the earth.
When I skate the whole idea is to keep a continuous feeling of acceleration. And if you keep it constant the feeling if expansion continues to build. Anything where you can get this lateral acceleration feeling, you can use that for meditation because it puts you in the zone.”


SLOMO and his theory of why skating puts us in the zone:

“But now I experience myself as the tip of a great iceberg of consciousness.”


Check out our past posts for some background on Rhythm/Style Skating & an Intro to Deep Skate Secrets.

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Deep Skate Secrets I: A Remarkable Connection.

Is There A Remarkable Connection Between Roller Skating and Neigong?

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Could there be a connection between roller skating and Neigong?

Initially similarities between roller skating and 3000 year old Chinese Internal Arts may seem implausible, but as you travel down their respective paths, the correlations become impossible to deny. At the very least, these arts complement one another very well.

Is it possible that when two arts separated by millennia, culture, and geography finally meet, their transformative powers are exponentiated? Are we at an evolutionary intersection and finally ready to explore secrets that have remained largely undiscovered?

Neigong, which means ‘internal skill’ or ‘internal work’, is a millenniums old, Chinese practice with roots in Daoism and alchemical training, it’s the core of internal Chinese martial arts such as: Tai Chi, Xing-yi Quan, and Bagua. The focus of these arts is on opening and strengthening the deepest energy channels in the body with the aim of enhancing and balancing the flow of qi (life force energy).

Qi is believed to be the vital energy that flows through the body, and is responsible for overall health and vitality. Circular movement is thought to help cultivate and circulate Qi throughout the body, helping to balance and harmonize the body’s energy systems, improve circulation, enhance mental clarity and concentration, and promote overall physical and emotional well-being.

External Work, Internal Harmony

These practices are external work with internal harmony. They involve the coordination of physical movement, breathing techniques, and meditation with the aim of enhancing and balancing the flow of qi. Just because someone performs the arm movements or gets in Neigong postures, doesn’t mean that they are cultivating qi. And cultivating qi is the point! It’s entirely possible to look like you are doing these practices, but if you are not doing the internal work, you are just going through the motions and will not affect change.

Rhythm skating is similar- if one just learns a series of tricks, or footwork without incorporating the flow, the groove, the inner work, it’s not actually the art of rhythm skating. However, when one goes to a deep level with skating there is no denying that something unusual happens. Something that feels like what Neigong practitioners have been describing for centuries.

“I can feel the power of Qi, I can benefit from the universal Qi. The Daoist practitioners, they have realized this and that’s why we have been practicing Qi Gong.”

Master Gu
Deep Skate Secrets I: A Remarkable Connection. How to roller skate. Roller skate secrets.
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 Master Gu grew up in the Wudang mountains and has taught Qi Gong there for the past 20 years. 

Here is a brief video of him explaining energy work and the power of Qi.

Culture, politics, and religion are some of the forces that have kept Neigong a relative secret. Additionally these ancient arts are incredibly intricate. Many of these practices are based in Chinese medicine and are complex and difficult for Westerners to digest. The beauty of our interconnected world is that we no longer have to venture far to seek out these ideas. In fact, we may only have to put on our skates and travel within ourselves to begin this journey.

We’ll continue down this path in coming posts, so stay tuned.

Check out our past posts for some background on Rhythm/Style Skating & an Intro to Deep Skate Secrets.