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Figure skating 101 - Jan. 4

Mohawks and Choctaws

An example of a mohawk in ice dancing.
An example of a mohawk in ice dancing. (Jo Ann Schneider Farris)

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By Jo Ann Schneider Farris, special to icenetwork.com
(01/04/2008) - Mohawks and choctaws are ice skating turns. Both turns are similar since the skater turns from either forward to backward or backward to forward and changes feet while performing the turns on the ice.

Mohawks are done from same edge to same edge. There are forward to backward mohawks, and backward to forward mohawks. A choctaw turn is made from one edge to a different edge, from forward to backward or backward to forward.

Choctaws can be entered on an inside edge and exited on an outside edge, or be entered on an outside edge and be exited on an inside edge. Mohawks are entered on an inside edge and exited on an inside edge, or are entered on an outside edge and exited on an outside edge. Inside mohawks are much easier than outside mohawks.

Origin of Terms Mohawk and Choctaw

Doesn't it seem strange that the names of two common figure skating turns are also the names of two American Indian tribes? Actually, the origin of the figure skating terms "mohawk" and "choctaw" really does come from the American Indians!

During the 1800s, the British people were very interested in the American Indians and they brought them to England to entertain the elite. The British ice skaters noticed that a certain pose done in Indian war dances looked like a figure skating turn they were doing on the ice, so they named that turn the mohawk.

A variation of the mohawk was introduced a bit later and was named choctaw. Those first choctaws were done from a forward outside edge to a back inside edge.

Most Footwork Step Sequences Include Mohawks and Choctaws

When a series of turns and steps are put together, figure skaters are doing footwork. The possibilities for footwork can be endless and most footwork sequences include mohawks and/or choctaws. A simple mohawk sequence that most new figure skaters can master is done by doing two mohawks in a row. If the skater can mix the directions of each mohawk, a very interesting sequence can be created. Choctaw turns, rather than mohawk turns, can make footwork more interesting and difficult. Next time you go to the rink, experiment with mohawks and choctaws. You'll find that mixing turns and steps together can be fun!

Happy Skating!

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