Compulsory figures or school figures were formerly a segment of figure skating, and gave the sport its name. They are the “circular patterns which skaters trace on the ice to demonstrate skill in placing clean turns evenly on round circles”. For approximately the first 50 years of figure skating as a sport, until 1947, compulsory figures made up 60 percent of the total score at most competitions around the world. These figures continued to dominate the sport, although they steadily declined in importance, until the International Skating Union (ISU) voted to discontinue them as a part of competitions in 1990. Learning and training in compulsory figures instilled discipline and control; some in the figure skating community considered them necessary to teach skaters basic skills. Skaters would train for hours to learn and execute them well, and competing and judging figures would often take up to eight hours during competitions.
Skaters traced compulsory figures, and were judged according to their smoothness and accuracy. The circle is the basis of all figures. Other elements in compulsory figures include curves, change of foot, change of edge, and turns. Skaters had to trace precise circles while completing difficult turns and edges. The simple “figure eight” shape was executed by connecting two circles; other figures included the three turn, the counter turn, the rocker turn, the bracket turn, and the loop.
Although few skaters continue to practice compulsory figures, and few coaches still teach them to skaters, some skaters and coaches believe compulsory figures give skaters an advantage in developing alignment, core strength, body control, and discipline. The World Figure Sport Society has conducted festivals and competitions of compulsory figures, endorsed by the Ice Skating Institute, since 2015.