Currently, I am working on understanding the rhythm of movement of opponents so I can counter it efficiently. Could learning dancing help me to understand the rhythm of an opponent?

Are there any other benefits of learning dancing for martial artists, like improving footwork? The other day, I was watching some matches of Vasyl Lomachenko (a champion boxer). I was falling love with his footwork. Then, I learned about his background and I came to know that, before starting boxing, his father (who is also his coach) forced him to learn some form of dancing, so can I assume that dancing is one of reasons for his better footwork?


Fair warning, this is largely anecdotal, but I think that dancing is useful for most martial artists. Frankly, I think it's useful for most athletes. Dancing teaches you to move in a very precise measured manner, so it definitely improves your smoothness and precision of movement. I also think dancing is good because, frankly, martial artists are often bad athletes. We tend to have a degree of disdain for calisthenics and cardio, seeing it as something we're forced to do at the beginning of class. Doing a proper dance class, you're going to be moving constantly for an hour or two, and it's going to be good for your muscles, heart, and lungs.

As regards footwork and coordinating with your opponent, my experience is that it's not directly applicable generally, as above, it does help with your precision. And if you do a partner dance, such as swing dancing or other ballroom, you get a lot of training in sensing changes in body weight and automatically reacting to them. The flip side of it is that you are also training how to signal such changes, which might make you more transparent to an opponent.

Either way, I highly recommend trying a dancing class or two, and to see if it works for you. In most major cities, you can find a group you can drop in on without having to buy up a contract of classes.

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I've done ballroom dancing and many martial arts. While I did find some things that I could take from one to apply to the other, generally I concluded that they're fundamentally different. Let me explain.

In ballroom dancing, a male lead needs to be able to signal to his partner what he's about to do. The signal comes from a solid frame that provides pressure that ones partner can pick up on and use to know what they're supposed to do next. The goal is to communicate intent in order to synchronize movement between two people. One is the leader. The other is the follower. And the follower needs to understand what the leader wants to do, so the communication from the leader of his intent must be strong and unambiguous.

In (most*) martial arts, on the other hand, you have two competing individuals. Their goals are the exact opposite of that of dancing. They are trying their best to hide their intent from their opponent, unlike dancing which tries to make it clear and obvious.

In both martial arts and dancing, timing is indeed everything. But instead of working with your opponent's timing and synchronizing each others movements, the opposite is required in martial arts. You're trying to disrupt your opponent's rhythm or use it against him.

So instead of your opponent doing something, then you do something, and so on back and forth, the rhythm in martial arts is such that if your opponent begins to punch, just as he starts, you begin your counter attack with a step to the side and a strike of your own that's timed to land before he completes his strike. That's called "off-beat timing" or "half-beat timing". In other words, it's working against the rhythm, not with it.

In martial arts, you don't want to get in the mode of your opponent doing something, then you do something, then he does something, and so on. That's wrong. You want to become unpredictable and time your techniques in such a way that causes him to have to stop what he's doing and recalculate. Never become predictable or telegraph what you intend to do.

*I said "most" martial arts. There are some that don't do competition at all (aikido for example), where the goal is to work with each other, blending in and working with the rhythm of your opponent. There are some that are performance based (contemporary wushu for example), where the goal is to sort of do a hybrid of martial arts and dance. In these cases, ballroom dance training can actually have a positive influence.

Now that being said, I have heard on multiple occasions dance instructors saying that their students who came from a martial arts background were generally better. And their reasons have to do with being able to understand body movement in general. Martial artists are more aware of what their bodies are doing, spatially. They're more aware of their "frame" and whether their partner is getting a strong or weak connection to it. They understand the importance of keeping their form and not forming bad habits like looking down at the dance floor or slouching their shoulders. They come in more disciplined, more focused, and ready to learn. Stuff like that.

The biggest problem for me coming from an extensive martial arts background into beginning ballroom dance classes was the way dance is taught compared with the way martial arts is taught. That's going to cause martial artists the most frustration, I think. It did for me, anyway.

In martial arts, you're typically given a partner who already knows what to do and can teach you. If you're struggling, the instructor comes around and makes sure you know what you're doing. You get continuously corrected, whether you want it or not. Very rarely do you ever feel like you don't know what's going on.

In dance class, your partners are the followers, and you're a leader. (Or vice-versa.) They know their part, but they can't tell you your part. They don't know that. So you're on your own. The instructor will demonstrate something for the whole class, and then you just have to remember it all from memory and not screw up. It's especially important if you're a leader, because leaders need to start each movement and signal it to their partner unambiguously. If you're having trouble with it, or if you can't remember what to do, you literally can't continue. You just have to stand there and hope the instructor will be around to fix you. But the instructors don't typically make the rounds to correct you. You can raise your hand and hope the instructor will come to you to help you out, but that's not guaranteed. And if you don't get correction on this step you're learning now, you can't continue with the rest of the class, because the next step you learn builds on the current step.

It is so inferior to the way martial arts classes are taught that you'll wonder how anyone ever learns dance this way.

I later realized that "group" dance classes were only there to practice what you already know, with different partners that rotate from one person to the next. Some/many people actually do learn it that way, but pretty much everyone would be far better off booking time with a private dance instructor instead in order to learn it. Then when you're ready, you can do the group classes and social dances to get better at it with lots of other partners. Then you find out for real if you know it or not.

Contrast that with martial arts classes. We don't need private lessons at all, for the most part. The regular classes go over everything really well. You're going to get correction and feedback all the time. And your partners can teach you, even if they themselves just learned it.

Anyway, I could go on about the differences between dance and martial arts. But suffice it to say, there's not a lot that I think one can benefit from the other. My best advice is to go into each with an empty cup. You'll be better off in the long run. And do get a private dance instructor at first. You'll save yourself months of agony and frustration. My advice for what it's worth.

Hope that helps.

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Sure, learning to dance can be beneficial to martial artists. Anything where you learn to use your body better is beneficial.

I had a judo instructor who thought dancing was an easy way to improve footwork. He especially encouraged those with uncoordinated feet to learn to dance. Judo, however, does not spend a lot of time on footwork.

On another level, it is strange to outsource footwork training to non-martial sources, where the motivations for movements are completely different. Footwork in dancing is primarily to look good while martial footwork optimizes speed, stability, and power, without a need for aesthetics. In dance, you need to maintain your balance by yourself or in cooperation with a partner. In martial arts, you need to maintain your balance while someone is actively trying to disrupt it.

The utility of dancing will also depend on the system you train. In bagua, there is a HUGE emphasis placed on footwork; it is the foundational skill practiced in particular ways to achieve specific training goals. Walking exercises are part of every training session, forever. A bagua teacher will not send you to a dance instructor to get better footwork because that is the bagua teacher's responsibility.

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Very thought-provoking question. I would say yes, dancing can help. But truly, some forms of dance are out of place in any martial context, and in other cases, dance's benefit is brief or superficial. Other times, it's hugely beneficial.

First off, the intention of dance is not at all relevant. Dance is done to convey emotion, while in martial arts, the purpose is for self-defense. But there are elements to dancing which can be very much relevant to martial arts. One may argue that some tribal forms of martial arts - like Capoeira - is a dance, and whose martial movements are hidden in the dance.

Any kind of dancing where one's body positioning relative to another would be useful resources for a martial arts. Tango, for example, requires both participants to be always acutely aware of each other's position. Square dancing, on the other hand, does not. Neither does any kind of one-person dancing, such as tap, line, step, or krumping.

Some forms of dance, such as break, popping, and maybe locking might have applications in regards to improved balance, feints, and evading movements from your opponent - but these are techniques already taught in styles, but they can be complimentary. Capoeira, XMA, and perhaps even some Taekwondo could surely benefit from any of these backgrounds.

Tango, waltz, and ballet would unquestionably compliment Aikido. (Ever watch Christian Tissier or Bruno Gonzalez?) Here, balance, distance, timing, and breathing are all important - and very much relevant.

EDIT - I hope I'm not breaking the rules here, but I do want to add another important difference between dance and martial arts.

In 2-person dance, there is the absolute required element of working together, in unison, with rhythm, and with compliance.

In martial arts, it's the exact opposite. While your training requires that you "work together", your techniques specifically take advantage of spaces in your opponent's position and timing. Each looks for these holes in the other person's movements. There's absolutely no rhythm, no compliance (other than to stop when the other person capitulates in agreement that you've got 'em).

Dance, therefore, can be a dangerous tool to train with. You expect your partner to move with you, but your opponent to move against you. In every way possible. Nothing is expected.

Nevertheless, all functions of dance as it relates to balance, breathing, stepping, and turning are all relevant.

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