Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Mohawks - The Ongoing Saga

It took me a good six months before I could do a serviceable mohawk. The six months before that was spent doing mohawks on the wall, in endless rounds of ISI Gamma classes, and repeated falls to my rear. My chiropractor once asked me, “Did you break your tailbone at some point? It’s crooked.” I told him it was highly likely. But mohawks took a long time. I simply could not wrap my head around turning. Turning at speed? Forget it.

And for a long time even after I could do an ungainly turn on the ice, I was allowed to skip mohawks at my leisure. I did mohawks only when I absolutely had to, not because I had to turn. Why risk my neck on a mohawk when I could turn on two feet?

Well, New Coach isn't having any of this. I got a nice long lecture on the importance of mohawks, and over the course of three weeks I got no fewer than eight different drills, all involving various forms of mohawks. I do Mohawks from forward crossovers, mohawks from back edges, mohawks from three turns, mohawks from tap toe steps, and mohawks from more mohawks. Inside, outside, forward and back, I do a hell of a lot of mohawks. Coach never lets me turn on the ice unless it's a mohawk. If I chicken out and two foot it, I have to skate back and try again. Better, no new skill is taught in isolation; they all come with mohawks like fries with my cheeseburger.

Result? Well, naturally my mohawks have gotten better, but more than that my confidence and speed has improved. Which is great because now I can turn faster, but bad because on the moments I do chicken out or worse, hesitate, the end result is lightning fast and hella scary.

Now we're working on making my mohawks pretty. I'm not allowed to bring my feet together before I turn that mohawk. The free leg now has to turn out and head for the ice from a full extension. This is proving difficult. My feet like to check in with each other before anything considered marginally dangerous. This also happened with consecutive Bunny Hops. My feet liked to come together, check in, then pull back and jump again. Coach didn’t like that, so I spent a good amount of time in a “I’m gonna hop” position halfway down the ice before getting myself together to jump again. But it’s working. My Bunny Hops can happen at faster clips now, as do all my mohawks.

Discussions of Mohawks in the lobby prompted a parent to ask me where the term “Mohawk” came from. The general consensus is, “Nobody knows.” I do a lot of general reading on skating, and I like the old texts from the early 1900’s. They’re a lot of fun, but even here, all the authors admit to not knowing where “Mohawk” came from.

My best guess is that it’s a Native American reference, made in jest by snobby Englishmen when one of their fellow skaters would hit the ice too hard, thus making a sound like a tomahawk to the ice. I do this a lot; your foot just comes down like lead and  it sounds awful.  This book I’m reading now says that the usage of mohawks came about when English Skaters would greet each other on the ice, mohawk turn and doff their caps to each other, turn forwards and go each other’s way. I can only see Sir Reginald (my made-up name whenever I reference an Olde English Figure Skater doing crosscuts or whatever) making fun of his buddy Duke Orrington when he botches his turn.

“I say, old chap! You sound much like an Indian hatchet on your turn! What are those called? Mohawks?”
“Quite right, my fellow! Haha! Yes, I sound much like a Mohawk!”

And thus Sir Reggie and Duke Orrington forever confused a hairstyle with a crude hand implement, naming something completely irrelevant to either subject; a figure skating element. A century later, it’s something a lot of us struggle with.

So the next time you’re out and working those mohawks, perhaps having a hard time with them that day, just think of Sir Reginald making fun of Duke Orrington and it just might lighten the mood for you.

Because Sir Reggie always does a perfect Mohawk!

1 comment:

  1. Mohawks and Choctaws came from the fact that there were Mohawk and Choctaw Native American dancers in the theaters at the end of the late 1800s when skating was taking off. Supposedly the skaters noticed some of the dancers steps resembled the moves on the ice, hence the name. Source: A History of Figure Skating.