The XX Factor

Ballet and Bloody Knuckles

The Long Shot - featured in the Daily Beast this morning-seems like an unlikely project. First of all, it’s a literary novel about the violent, gut-churning free-for-all known as mixed martial arts, or ultimate fighting. Second of all, it’s by a girl. And she used to be a ballerina!

The bloody bard giving MMA the humanizing “Mickey Rourke treatment” is Katie Kitamura, a Princeton grad and English Ph.D. holder who was introduced to the sport by her brother. (He got his knuckles tattooed with the words “Long Shot” for the book’s cover.) The worlds of ballet and MMA turn out to be interesting mirror images: Both feature “brutal training regimens, physical injury and pain, fanatical coaches, and success or failure in front of a large audience.” There’s also a surprising amount of bodily intimacy-and artistry-in both:

We’re a culture that hates touching; a handshake is the most skin-to-skin time we usually share with a stranger. But in ballet, “you’re getting manhandled all the time,” says Kitamura. “You get used to the fact of a stranger grabbing your body. Also, I was really preoccupied with the rhythms of fighting, where people are feinting and dancing around.”


Kitamura’s unexpected background-and, let’s face it, her knock-out good looks (all puns intended)-means that somewhere out there, a Free Press publicist is falling to her knees and thanking the gods above. But the book sounds pretty good, too-I might add it to my beach book pile.

Any of you Double X? ers MMA fans? If so, what do you love about it?

Photograph of ballet dancers by STR/AFP/Getty Images. Photograph of mixed martial arts fighters by HENNING KAISER/AFP/Getty Images.