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Why do we ice skate anti-clockwise ? It has been a mystery since the beginning or rather something uncanny that mostly skaters, whether it be in ice skating or figure skating, skate counter clockwise in both professional and recreational activities. Is it due to human history that has developed over time, or is it owing to an intricate scientific concept? We will find out the rationales behind this enigma and try to clarify and elucidate any misconception.  

What Nature Says with Moving Counter Clockwise

It is not only about ice skating but in all sports where athletes have to move in a circular path, their natural move is counterclockwise. In fact, the natural rotation in the universe is anti-clockwise. The planets orbit counter-clockwise around the sun (taking the North Pole as the reference point), planets rotate in a counter-clockwise direction except for two, a cyclone and tornado swivel around in the same direction. All the spiral shapes in nature are in a counter-clockwise direction. Hence, most of the games, such as horse racing, cycling, sprinting, NASCAR, etc, all use an anti-clockwise direction. We, humans, are immensely influenced by the universe and nature, so our natural tendency and instinct is always the counterclockwise direction. Let’s try one thing, go to your nearby running track and start running. What would be your natural motion? It will be anti-clockwise 9 out of 10 times.  

Scientific Reasons For The Ice Skating Anti Clockwise

Humans’ genetics evolution produces more right-handed people than the left-handed people, almost 90% of the people are righties and they use the right foot more naturally than the left one. A right-footed person tends to move from left to right or swivels in the anti-clockwise direction. The human body supports the motion of nature and there is a solid and concrete reason behind the innate pattern that has been adopted since the beginning. The centrifugal force, when moving in a counterclockwise direction, helps to pump the blood better than moving in the retrograde direction. The heart is located at the left side of the body and it pumps the blood from left to right; therefore, people are more comfortable in this motion. But it remains a mystery why genetically we are more righties as stated by Robert H, Faculty Editor Harvard Health Publishing. 

Another scientific reason for this motion is that humans have a better visual range from the left side. The right side of the brain controls the left side of the body and vice versa; the right side of the brain is responsible for handling spatial recognition so, the left side of vision gives a better perception of space and visibility. Therefore, most Archers use the left side of vision rather than the right side. There is another theory that the human body is slightly heavier on the left side because of the presence of heart, consequently, it makes running a bit faster in the counterclockwise direction. But this theory is not completely backed up by the scientist and biophysicist.. or a figure skater?

Historical Background That Affected Ice Skating

We also have been profoundly and greatly influenced by our ancestors. Initially, games were born in the northern hemisphere, therefore, they were more tended to apply counterclockwise motion. Over the years, this became a standard rule and it applied in every game. In Roman traditions, initially, racers and runners ran in a clockwise direction, but, an unfortunate incident happened in 6th century BC when an athlete inadvertently hit the emperor. After this incident, everything was in the counterclockwise direction. In Greek civilization as well, there are pieces of evidence that in ancient Olympics,  the runners used to run in a counterclockwise direction back in 700 BC.

The first modern Olympics was held in 1896 in Athens. In the event, the athletes ran in the clockwise direction. The same trail was followed in 1900 and 1906 events. But in these events, there were lots of complaints and objections from the athletes and countries participated in the event. After hearing the demur and protest from the participants, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) held a meeting in 1913 and decided to make it counterclockwise direction for all tracking and racing games. It would be anti-clockwise for every game forever – including Ice skating.

Ice Rink Safety First!

In the public ice rinks, whether indoor or outdoor, it is the rule of the thumb that every ice skater has to move in a counterclockwise direction. This rule is made for two reasons; the first reason is that all around the world, in professional skating games, the counterclockwise direction is exercised. The second reason is to avoid any accidents or mishaps. Let’s suppose if two ice skaters are skating on the same rink and both move in the opposite direction, there is a chance that they collide or crash into each other. Just like in traffic when two cars are traveling on the same road. So, there has to be some universal rule to follow. Although some might disagree as some skaters are left-footed and their comfort zone is to skate in an anti-clockwise direction, hence many times people complain about this rule in public ice rinks. Even in the Southern hemisphere, where the Earth seems to rotate in a clockwise direction, the skaters have to ice skate in a counterclockwise direction in public ice rinks.

The Stages Of Learning to Ice Skate

In the early learning stage, when a novice starts to experience ice skating, the coaches and trainers try to make the newbie perfect on one side of the spin rather than feeding everything at the same time, and that one side is counterclockwise. Therefore, many people grow up as a right-footed skater and feel comfortable spinning and rotating in an anti-clockwise direction. 

In professional figure skating, there is no side as a strong side. Skaters have to develop skills to spin in both ways and in fact, in ice hockey, it is imperative for the players to move in both ways to be competitive in the game. Whether it feels comfortable or not, skaters have to master the skills of spinning and maneuvering in both directions.

Finally, wherever you are in the world if you are skating recreationally you have to skate in an anti-clockwise direction, even if you are a lefty and you don’t feel comfortable doing so. And if you are a professional skater, the direction doesn’t matter, your skills should be right at the top.

By the way, our featured picture was from our family’s ice skating evening at the National History Museum, London. Such a lovely place at Christmas.