Figure Skating: All About Choctaws and Mohawks

An ice dance team does forward inside Mohawks together
Photo Copyright © Jo Ann Schneider Farris

Choctaws and Mohawks are figure skating turns. The turns are similar since the skater turns from either forward to backward or backward to forward and changes feet.

The Difference Between a Mohawk and a Choctaw

A Choctaw turn is made from one edge to a different edge, from forward to backward or backward to forward.

Mohawks are done from the same edge to the same edge. There are forward to backward Mohawks, and backward to forward Mohawks.

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.

Why Are the Turns Named for Native American Tribes?

It does seem strange that the names of two common figure skating turns are also the names of two Native American tribes, but 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 Native Americans 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.

Mixing Turns Into Figure-Skating Step Sequences

When a series of turns and steps are put together, figure skaters are doing step sequences. Almost all footwork sequences include Choctaws and Mohawks. Choctaw turns, rather than Mohawk turns, can make footwork more interesting and difficult. 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.

The possibilities are endless when figure skaters put steps and turns together. It's also fun for skaters to be creative with turns and steps.

The Ten-Step Mohawk Sequence

The ten-step Mohawk sequence is usually done in the counter-clockwise direction and on a circle or curve.

  1. The skater begins on the left foot and does a forward progressive or crossover.
  2. The first three steps are a left forward outside stroke, then a right forward inside crossover or progressive stroke, and then a left forward outside edge.
  3. Next, the skater does a right forward inside Mohawk.
  4. What follows is a short right back outside edge, then a short left back inside edge, followed by a back crossover (left foot over right). ,
  5. Finally, the sequence ends when the skater steps forward to an extended right forward inside glide.

Difference Between Open and Closed Mohawks and Choctaws

When a skater does a closed Choctaw or Mohawk, the free foot is placed behind of the heel of the skate as the skater changes feet. In an open Choctaw or Mohawk, the free foot is placed almost in front of the other skate or near the middle of the instep of a skater's foot.

Choctaws in Ice Dancing

Some pattern ice dances include both Choctaws and Mohawks. The Choctaw is the highlight of both the Kilian and the Blues. In the Kilian, the skaters do a forward inside to back outside Choctaw at high speed. In the Blues, the skaters do a forward inside to back outside Choctaw. The Choctaw in the Kilian is an open Choctaw, while the Choctaw in the Blues is a closed Choctaw.