I have been working on executing 3-turns better. My primary coach is Alysen Stryker. She is a student of Karen Courtland Kelley. A few times a year I travel to Lake Placid for a session with Karen; it is always a treat, and usually transformative.
On my most recent trip, I worked with Karen on 3-turns for over half and hour. She had me work on executing a 3-turn by sliding into and out of the turn without skidding. The tracing of the point of the 3 is a good blade length from the circumference of circle. It takes a fair amount of skill to do the turn without a skid. The skid can come from scraping the blade sideways, or from rocking to far onto the toe pick. If the latter, then the toe pick scrape is visible as a small half circle at the top of the tracing.
Working with Karen, I was able to sort of get the left outside 3-turn to make the correct motion, although it was rather inconsistent. The right side scraped the toe pick, as well as the blade. The insider were not good at all, though by the end, they were getting closer. Karen had me go to wall, and do the 3-turns against the boards. Here I traced a small 3 at slow speed, using the board to brace myself. Begin facing away from the board, and trace a 3 so the point of the 3 faces the board. Doing this slowly gives a feeling for the sliding action of the foot, both into and out of the turn. But doing it without the board to support is very different, and far more difficult. She had me do it very small at first, to get the foot feel.
I spent the next month working on improving these -- typically at least half an hour, 4-5 times a week. I have done exercise at the boards alternating outside 3's, right foot and left, and alternating insides similarly. But it also helps to alternate insides to outsides repeatedly on one foot; for me, the weak spots on the outside are strong parts on the inside, and the weak spots on the inside are stronger on the outside. Thus one can learn how to engage the muscles that are not used properly.
To execute the turn the posture must be good, balanced with hip directly over the foot, with shoulders aligned into the turn, also directly over the foot. The turning foot slides and twists into the center of the circle. As you turn in, the foot rocks slightly to the back of the rocker, under the back of the ball of the foot. The movement leads to a change of edge. The foot feels like it is sliding in, and then feels like it is sliding out. Momentum along the circumference of the circle is what limits the the range of the push in, and sets the timing for the pull out.
After a month of working on this, I had a session with Alysen. She corrected it so that free leg came out in an angle, right along the arc of the skating circle. It holds an interesting shape, with the hip lifted. She also emphasized that the foot should pull out the turn, which leads to an increase in speed.
The inside forward 3's are more difficult to get the feel of the push in, and even harder on the push out. I am beginning to get better at the turn itself, in terms of not scraping. That is a good start. But to get a clean push in and a pull out requires a bit of coordination that I have yet to master. So I will be working on this for a while until it improves.
Once these are mastered, of course, there is plenty more to do. The same technique can be applied to brackets, and then counters and rockers. I have played a bit with the forward inside brackets, and I can see them coming along in terms of not scraping. But I there is a whole lot of work to go; years. And in the process, I have to learn to link these together into sequences. But I feel like a whole new world of movement vocabulary that I barely perceived has opened up. Exploring it will be fun.