Thoughts on ballet

skribs

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A few months ago, I started taking yoga classes from a former student of mine. A week or two later, I started ballet lessons as well. I did warn her that I have the rhythm of dice. Now that I'm over a month in, I thought I'd share my thoughts.

First, I believe ballet to be much tougher than Taekwondo. It's not just that I've spent over 12 years of my life doing TKD, and that I'm only a few weeks into ballet. Let me give you a direct comparison. In Keumgang, we do the diamond high block in crane stance. This is a form designed to be learned by 2nd-Degree black belts. In the beginner's class in ballet, we do a similar position, with three key key differences: 1) The feet and knees are turned out, which requires more flexiblity; 2) There is more detail on the raised foot; and most importantly 3) We are standing on the ball of our foot. When the beginner class takes a 2nd-Degree stance and kicks it up a notch, I'd say it's difficult.

Second, I understand now why ballet dancers who transition into Taekwondo excel at almost everything right away, but really struggle with the roundhouse kick. In fact, almost everything is completely different from Taekwondo.
  • Your heel is pretty much always supposed to point inward and forward. This is the exact opposite of a roundhouse kick. It's also a big divergence from most of our stances, in which at least one foot is either pointed straight or inside (with the heel straight back or outside).
  • There is 0 bend in your leg, unless specifically called for. This is counter to most Taekwondo stances, in which at least one leg is usually sharply bent; as well as Taekwondo jumps and kicks that utilize a chamber.
  • Whenever possible, you are supposed to point your toes. The Tondue technique is superficially similar to a Cat Stance, but the raised leg is on the toe instead of the ball of the foot. (And both legs are straight).
  • The elbows are always flared out instead of tucked in.
  • Hands are purposefully kept loose, instead of in a tight fist.
The funny thing is that during the basic techniques I really struggle, but then we get into the more advanced stuff like jumps and spins and I pick them up real quick. In fact, yesterday we were doing a drill which was a fancy step and then a fancy jump, and then the fancy step again and an even fancier jump. The only technique I felt awkward with was the step, which was the part my instructor (and the other students) thought was the easy one.

I do feel there is much to be gained. There is a lot of work on posture, balance, flexibility, legs, and core. In particular, there is a lot of calf work. I also feel my twist kick is going to get a lot better with the emphasis on opening up the hips.
 

Xue Sheng

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I once meant a woman in a Shaolin Long FIst class, we dated briefly. She was an ex-ballerina. She had to stop ballet due to spinal issues. I will say this, her forms were the most amazingly graceful forms I have ever seen, beautiful to watch actually. The forms were also very good too from a Shaolin Long Fist perspective too. She seemed to pick them up rather quickly too.
 

Blindside

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My sister and brother-in-law were both professional ballet dancers at a major US company. As any professional athlete they were in phenomenal shape but the needs are different between a martial artist and a ballet dancer. My brother-in-law was one of the strongest in the company and the ability to lift, carry and manipulate another dancer (gracefully!) usually at arm's length is substantial. So he jumped into one of my classes and I gave him some tutoring on basic boxing blows and did a bit on the heavy bag. He told me later that he was totally wrecked from the workout which most people would have said was pretty average. Obviously he wasn't used to the workout and was using way too many antagonistic muscles, but fundamentally the explosiveness was different. Once he got out of dancing he could have been a phenomenal martial artist if he wanted, his command of his body was naturally extremely good.
 

Flying Crane

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My sister and brother-in-law were both professional ballet dancers at a major US company. As any professional athlete they were in phenomenal shape but the needs are different between a martial artist and a ballet dancer. My brother-in-law was one of the strongest in the company and the ability to lift, carry and manipulate another dancer (gracefully!) usually at arm's length is substantial. So he jumped into one of my classes and I gave him some tutoring on basic boxing blows and did a bit on the heavy bag. He told me later that he was totally wrecked from the workout which most people would have said was pretty average. Obviously he wasn't used to the workout and was using way too many antagonistic muscles, but fundamentally the explosiveness was different. Once he got out of dancing he could have been a phenomenal martial artist if he wanted, his command of his body was naturally extremely good.
Similarly, I dated a woman many years ago who was a professional dancer with a background in ballet, but did mostly modern. She began training capoeira, and while she was graceful, she always looked like a dancer. The rooting and center of gravity and intention were different and it really made it difficult for her to develop martial technique.
 

dvcochran

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Similarly, I dated a woman many years ago who was a professional dancer with a background in ballet, but did mostly modern. She began training capoeira, and while she was graceful, she always looked like a dancer. The rooting and center of gravity and intention were different and it really made it difficult for her to develop martial technique.
Professional dancer. Thought that was going somewhere else.;)

I have had several kids and adults who had a background in dance. I would say it is always harder for the people with years of dance experience to convert to MA's, for all the reason you mentioned.
We have a red belt right now who really, really struggles with stances. She is in a professional ballet chorus so understandably, that is her priority.
She had a beautiful performance last weekend at TPAC.
 
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