A little known fact about me that I don’t believe even most of my family members are aware of, is that I LOVE to dance. There’s something about the liberating feeling of allowing your body to move and sway in one’s particular way to a great song. And the beauty of it, is that everyone’s way of doing it can be different. Much like martial arts. And that’s the focus of today’s post: the connection of martial arts and dance.
It’s no secret that I’ve been studying karate for over three decades, but I never really “discovered” dance until 2007. At the time, I was living in the Ottawa area and working as a manager for a local pharmacy. I had the opportunity to get my hands on a couple of tickets for a show at the National Ballet of Canada. I went in with mixed feelings since, well… Most guys usually try to be macho and pretend they don’t like dancing, ballet and things of that sort. And I’ll admit that I may or may not have been on that bandwagon.
But what I saw that night changed my perspective on dance, ballet and all the associated effort and fitness that is involved in the process. I can’t remember what specific production was being performed, but I felt a certain level of awe (and jealousy) at how fast, flexible and nimble the guys on stage were. Sheathed in sweat but moving about effortlessly, I watched as they moved, leapt and even balanced themselves on the single point of a wooden staff, seemingly defying gravity.
And their abs and muscles pissed me off, haha. I have to admit that I was impressed at the athleticism involved in what I was seeing and I couldn’t help but feel that some of the movements and efforts reminded me of doing forms, or kata. I decided that I needed to look into this whole “dance thing” in a bit more detail. A girl I dated in high school had a sister who owned her own dance studio, so I reached out and asked her what my best first step would be. She said I should find a dance school that would allow me to try out for free and give it a go before committing to anything. Now it REALLY sounded like karate.
My journey started in Ottawa’s ByWard Market, where a latin dance club had a “dance lesson” night where they provided free latin dancing lessons before opening up for the evening. It was pretty interesting and challenging, from a structured and instructional standpoint. But with over 50 people and only one instructor, I wasn’t really able to get the kind of one-on-one instruction I needed in order to actually LEARN the type of dance. It became clear that this was a gimmick more for fun than actual instruction. At the risk of getting discouraged, I gave up and left.
That’s where fate decided to intervene. A few weeks later, I received a coupon for a free introductory dance lesson at a small, privately owned dance studio that had just opened. I would love to remember the name of the place and truthfully, I tried to look it up. But with a dozen or more dance schools in the Ottawa area, it’s a bit difficult to jog the old memory. All I can tell you is that it was a privately owned studio located on a little side street and was on the upstairs floor of another business.
I was excited because the coupon boasted a free lesson in salsa, tango and cha-cha, to name a few. I can writhe and wiggle my body to music with the best of them, but this would be the first time I received formal instruction. It was one of the best 90 minutes of my life! I took to dance like a swan to a lake (see what I did, there?) and was able to memorize a lot of steps and do them properly on the first try. It seemed as though studying katas had an unexpected benefit in the sense that I could learn and recall dance moves without issue.
The instructor was pleased and impressed with me and asked if I had ever done dance before or even martial arts. I replied that I did karate and she explained that this was why I had good balance, centering and was able to learn dance the way I was. There were only five couples in total but I was partnered with almost every woman in the room that night, much to the chagrin of my ex-wife who apparently was born with two left feet. Dance, like everything else in life, is not for everyone and she didn’t take to it. Despite how much fun I was having, she was not a happy camper at seeing me dance with other women. Whatever. It was a LESSON for light’s sake… There’s a reason she’s an “ex”… Moving on!
At the instructor’s request, I joined a few more introductory classes and learned the rudimentary basics of dance. I absolutely loved it, and it provided some valuable tools that translated easily into karate. But once the whole “introductory” phase was past, the reality is that I simply couldn’t afford to pay for the lessons. Such is life. I also didn’t enjoy the constant fights I had with my ex-wife every time I attended a lesson. Apparently, she preferred having another woman punch me in the face instead of dancing with me.
The bottom line is that dance and martial arts share a lot of the same valuable benefits including but not limited to flexibility, balance, knowing where to step, increased circulation, a strengthened core and increased control over one’s own body. All of those are fantastic and shared aspects. That’s why, if you’ve ever thought about it or considered it, I would highly recommend dance as a a supplemental means of fitness. Or a primary one, if you aren’t in the martial arts. Ever try Zumba? Combination of cardio and dancing? That shit’ll kick your ass, believe me!
My sons are already obsessed with dancing. Of course, Nathan is all about the twerking… I guess I should just be grateful that he never learned flossing or one of those weird gimmick dances. I also think that precision and accuracy are important, shared aspects of martial arts and dance. And there’s no denying that professional dancers are superb athletes that work extremely hard. Hence, the jealousy at the ripped abs and being able to wear a unitard without looking like a sausage about to burst out of its casing. Not that I want to wear a unitard, of course. Jus’ saying’… Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m gonna dance my way out of that last comment! ☯