I believe in the power of duality. That two principles, two actions can contradict each other, and yet complement and improve each other.
Martial arts. Tough guys. Scary, deadly, dangerous. A powerful and imposing figure, his large shoulders cast a wide shadow. Shaved head, broken nose, cut and shattered knuckles.
Ballet. The word conjures up images. Images of little girls wearing delicate tutus. The slender and graceful figure holding a high arabesque. Ballet is for the frail, the gentle, the artsy.
Jean Claude van Damme versus Rudolf Nureyev. Two forces acting in opposition. Violence versus expression. The clear boundaries between one and the other are not questioned, can not be questioned. A person is one or the other. Yin and yang of blood red and lavender blush.
Yet, ballet made me a better and more complete martial artist.
One martial art studio I attended rented out space from a two story ballet studio. One class left me collapsed on the floor, waiting for my legs to stop pulsing. Hoping the pain would subside so that I could drive home, my instructor approaches me.
“You think your legs are hurting now, try taking a class up stairs,” he said with a half smirk on his face, pointing upwards towards to sounds of pointe shoes tiptoeing across a hard wood floor. My audaciousness and pride compelled me. The next week while climbing those stairs I dared ballet to try and break me. My pride was soon crushed.
Who could imagine feet could move so fast. I had the speed necessary to kick my opponent in the face, and the control necessary to slow the kick down at the last moment, as to not cause my opponent too much pain. Such a skill pales in comparison to crisply executed fouettes or echappes battu.
As I gained experience in ballet, I found myself becoming better at the karate studio. I could now shift my weight much more precisely, and my sense of balance improved greatly. However, how ballet changed my perspective was even more important. A paradigm shift occurred. Fighting became sparring. Opponents became peers. Instead of trying to hurt or beat a person, I tried to be my best. Punches and leaps became equally meritorious. There was no longer opposition. There was no tough and fragile, no strong and passive. In my head ballet and martial arts became a unified force with the ability to be all these aspects at once. A force that was no longer limited by expectations. A force allowed to focus singularly on self improvement.
The unification of opposites, the benefits of the twofold path, with such a belief, I approach life.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.