My boyfriend and I often compare our passions. Mine is obviously ballet. His is Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. At first glance, you might not think there would be much in common between a martial art that specializes in on-the-floor grappling that has sweaty opponents choking each other out and the ethereal art of ballet. But, it turns out these two have a lot in common, and I often find myself learning from my fighter boyfriend.
This morning we were talking about why it takes so long to earn a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. While in other martial arts a black belt can be earned in 2-3 years, it is not uncommon for it to take 10 years or more to earn one in BJJ. One of the reasons for this (besides BJJ being a grueling grappling sport requiring a ton of technique, finesse, strength, coordination, agility, and knowledge) is that fighters get caught spinning their wheels often. They can show up to class day after day to work on the same techniques and still miss the one or two key components that will make the moves click into place. The worst part is that it feels like they are making improvements because they keep showing up, putting the work and time in, and training with 110% effort. But without the key components clicking in their minds and bodies, they just keep struggling with the same mistakes over and over again. How frustrating is it to put all your passion and efforts into something and yet progress at a snail's pace?
As dancers, we totally get this frustration. Many of us start training at the age of three and spend decades perfecting our craft. Sure we have our “breakthrough” moments where something clicks into place and we truly understand some aspect to our technique. But for the most part, we are no strangers to spending years working on our art while feeling as if we are barely progressing. We show up every day to take class, give it 110% of our energy, and leave still struggling with the same issues from the day before. Yet, we just keep going back for more, practicing the same moves and making the same mistakes.
But what if instead of spinning your wheels and practicing the same way day after day, you tried throwing something new into the mix? What if the x-factor for your progression wasn’t hours logged in the studio doing ballet but a different kind of training that got you off the hamster wheel and catapulted you to the next level? That’s what happened when I started my Bulletproof Ballerina workouts. All of a sudden, I had this new key to apply to my dancing that helped certain aspects of my technique click into place: STRENGTH.
Instead of running into the same issues I had been battling with for years unable to overcome, I had a new resource to work into to these problem areas. I found that a grounding strength through my supporting leg was the key element missing in my extensions. Where I once struggled with speed and timing, lower leg strength propelled my petit allegro. Hip and leg strength improved the height of my jumps. My pirouettes felt solid and controlled with my enhanced muscle coordination. A strong core gave me a feeling of weightlessness. Overall body strength helped integrate my movements, allowing me to articulate my transitions and flow from one step to another.
I’m not saying that I’ve mastered my art and that I have everything figured out. I still have a long way to go to earn my “black belt.” But, the strength component was definitely a warp zone for me. It got me to my next level…fast. It was the key that stopped me from killing myself in class every day thinking the more I did the better I would be...when in reality, doing more of the same thing wasn't getting me anywhere.
Could strength be a missing link for you? Absolutely. Now, you could just keep showing up to class, working you’re a$$ off, and struggling with the same frustrations day after day. Or you could try something new. Break the rules. Throw yourself off the hamster wheel and shake up your routine. Lift a weight or two. What do you have to lose, besides another 10-20 years struggling with the same issues, fighting to move up to that next belt level.
Find your warp zone. Be a rebel. Be a Bad Girl Ballerina.