In kobudo, I have begun learning bo (staff) kata. Shihan randomly had one of the senpai teach me the second bo kata last week; I’m trying to hold onto that sequence in my head just ’cause I don’t want to forget it, but today one of the sensei mercifully retreated a step and taught me the much less complicated first kata.
But they both begin with the same preparatory movement, and this is where my ballet training reasserts itself with a vengeance. It’s a bit complicated to describe, but there’s a point at which the bo is held vertically in front of your right shoulder, with your right hand gripping it low and your left hand gripping it high, over your head. You lower the left hand in an arc, sweeping it outward rather than down the front of your body; then, when you begin the kata, you sweep it back up the same path to grasp the bo again, before moving into the first strike.
To all the ballet dancers who just said, “Oh, you mean like a port de bras” — EXACTLY.
Guess whose arm immediately defaults to a gentle curve, whose hand turns to make an elegant line? If you pointed at me, give yourself a gold star! It’s like when I try to say something in French, and my accent is so Spanish it would give your average Parisian a coronary. I’ve hunted down and trained out a lot of my ballet habits over the last two years — in shizentai-dachi, I no longer rotate my foot outward into fourth position before stepping through; I’m learning not to tuck my butt under in shiko-dachi — but wow, do I still go first to ballet assumptions when doing something new. It isn’t even a simple matter of reminding myself before I begin the motion; if I don’t keep my attention on my hand every inch of the way, it goes straight back to what it knows best.
(I’m kind of afraid of the expression on Shihan’s face if he ever catches me doing that. I suspect it will be some flavor of baffled amusement, and I will want to sink through the floor out of embarrassment.)
Ah well. I’ve only been doing bo kata for two classes; I can’t expect to lose the habit that fast. But I’ve opened up my own private betting pool for how long it will take.