My Journey - Ben Stuart
My name's Ben and this is my pole story.
I was never very good at sports and in a country that obsesses over big muscly dudes in rugby I gave it a shot anyway. After a few months of being thrown around while being unable to even move the big dudes, I realised it wasn't really for me.
I was never very strong either, and while everyone can gain muscle, I'm never going to be 'the biggest guy', and when you live in a world where being the best, or very good at something is important it sometimes feels like there's really no point to the gym when you're born as a weak nerd. I also suck at motivating myself to do something I don't enjoy - the gym sucks when you're the weakest there and everyone seems to be looking down on you.
One day that all changed.
I was living on a farm at the time and everyone on the farm had a goal to run long distance. I knew my family was genetically good at running, plus I liked the people I was with so it was pretty easy to peer pressure me into it.
After a lot of hard work I got pretty good at it, one of my proudest moments was beating my boss at a half marathon with a pretty quick time of around 1h 24m.
A couple of years later, I was living in Christchurch and I completely destroyed my knee tendons in a workplace injury.
Suddenly I completely sucked at the one sport I was 'good' at – running hurt my knee too much.
Around that time of moping at home feeling sorry for myself I discovered Pole Dancing.
See I always thought Pole was for strippers, and when I was joking around with a friend online about taking up male stripping, it seemed logical to look up 'pole dancing lessons Christchurch' on google.I learned there were a few places, and after looking up some 'male pole videos' on YouTube I also learned that guys can do it too and look awesome and masculine.
After a bit of internet education, I promptly forgot about the whole 'joke'.
About 4 months later, I remembered male pole dancing was a thing and it was something I could do in Christchurch.
My thought process went something like this; If I try Pole and it's for me, then great, I found something I like. Worst case scenario is I don't like it and I stop, but even then it'll be good fitness while it lasts plus a funny experience for "tell us something crazy you once did" scenarios.
So basically trying pole was a win win, a fun experience I could try for a month. Hell, it's not even that expensive when you compare it to a sport like snowboarding where you can quite easily blow $500 on one weekend.
So I gave it a shot and I got lucky without knowing it. I chose one of the very best pole studios in NZ, one with the best instructors - many of whom win a ton of national competitions.
I also got a pole studio with Joe Astell, an instructor who could teach me a masculine style of pole that I wanted to learn.
But probably most importantly, I lucked upon my first class being with Mel Brown who was welcoming and non-judgmental, she was inspiring when I felt like I looked stupid while being encouraging when I felt like I would never make it. She was basically everything you need when you're a male trying a sport completely dominated by females.
However there were days when I felt stink in pole as level one and two are very feminine which I didn’t relate to/didn’t feel like me. I stuck with it anyway, at the very least I thought to myself, if I ever get good at pole and teach, then I'll need to know how to do these 'girly' moves well. I had also seen masculinity in pole dancing on YouTube, and I knew Joe was there to teach me manly moves. I eventually asked him to teach me how to make pole dancing look masculine.
He showed me that it wasn't that some moves are only for females but that most of the pole moves can be done in a manly way and it's mostly about how you carry yourself that makes it look manly.
He also told me that the strength moves that are easier to look manly are in level 3 and higher and I was closer to getting there than I thought. He taught me how to do a few of the easier ones, but most importantly he taught me that the stuff I was learning in level one and two was the foundation for the moves I wanted to learn in the higher levels.
Every time I was doing a 'feminine martini spin' it was training my hands to grip the pole the right amount, and it was training my shoulders to be able to carry my body weight so when I needed them to do a harder move they wouldn't become injured.
Every time I did some feminine thigh grip move it was training my skin to not hurt so much when I needed it for an awesome drop or whatever.
I also got lucky with the awesome people I met, it's very intimidating to say 'hi' to someone in a group of people you don't know, but that's often what it takes to start one of the best friendships of your life.
Even now I still feel nervous and intimidated when I'm in a pole class full of people I've never met, it's not easy to make the first move, but it's not easy for them too, so sometimes you just have to make the first move and introduce yourself.
The people I've met have helped me grow both physically and mentally and are now one of the things that keeps me coming back, when at first they were strangers that were 'so much better and cooler than me'.
It's funny how some of the things that held me back turn into an advantage; 'weak and nerdy? Less weight to lift into a human flag' ....'male in a female dominated sport? Great way to make you stand out from the crowd!'
I bet the 80yr old lady who once thought she was 'too old' to take up pole, or the girl who thought she was 'too fat' to try pole never knew they would be the ones that makes everyone go 'wow!'
That was the story of how I started pole, funny how by giving a go a sport I once un-educated-ly thought was 'only for female strippers' I've found the best sport for me in the world.
Thanks for reading my name's Ben Stuart, you can find me on Facebook, or on Instagram.