Back then, we didn’t have a thorough online reference to tell us the how-to’s in this dance. So we did one just for you.
So you’ve just started your journey in bboying (or for the ladies, bgirling). Perhaps you’re a couple of years into breaking and you see barely any improvement. Or perhaps you’re stuck and couldn’t find an answer to your queries on bboy forums, or Youtube videos. Yet somehow you stumbled upon this post while scouring the Internet.
It’s okay. You’ve come to the right place.
The Long-Ass Guide to Breaking for Your First Three Years is your one-stop, comprehensive guide to your early breaking journey. Whenever you feel lost, or are unsure of what you’re facing in your breaking journey, coming back here will help you overcome your personal challenges.
This guide is long precisely because it covers the common-sense topics that nobody talks about yet everyone needs to know.
So what can you expect in this uber-lengthy post? You’ll be learning more about:
- A Day in the Life of a Bboy
- What to Expect in YOUR First Three Years
- What NOT to Expect
- What Fundamentals Are, and Why It Matters to You
- Types of Training Session and Which Suits You Best
- Three Typical Beginners I’ve Encountered
- How to Start Learning
- Why Top Rocks Come First
- Why You Shouldn’t Learn Power Moves (Yet…)
- How a Newbie Can Get Good at Freezes in 1 Month
- Common Scenarios You MUST Avoid
Before we begin, here are some definitions:
Bboying/Bgirling/Breakdancing/Breaking – the dance itself, referred to by many names. The actual name for it is bboying. Breakdancing was a term given to us by the media.
Set – a combination of moves put together in a sequence, that you have prepared for a performance or competition.
Toprock – the upright portion of the dance; the steps and moves you do when you are standing up.
Dope – crazy, awesome, wow, that’s mad! Used in breaking to compliment someone.
Battle – dance competitions where 2 or more bboys are pit against each other and they are judged by a panel of bboy judges.
Powermoves – the acrobatic part of the dance – fast, difficult and lots of spinning
Session – another name for practice or training.
Freeze – the stop motion part of the dance. Anything that involves a pose (whether simple or abstract) is a freeze.
Freestyling – you dance without any pre-planned sets or moves and you just create on the spot to the music.
Mini-sets – a smaller component of the set. Multiple mini-sets can form a longer set.
Transitions – Any movement that allows you to change from a move to a move, a mini-set to a mini-set or a set to a set.
Alright, let’s start the guide.
But before we get ahead of ourselves, I’m gonna share with you a story. And it’s the kind of short story that adds perspective to your breaking adventures.
During my first ever competition (it was 3-v-3 by the way), we made it to the 3rd and 4th placing. It was unfortunate that one of my teammates had to pull out; he sustained an injury from the previous battle. In the end, we decided to replace him with our reserve, as opposed to going out with a 2-man team.
Just to let you know a little about this reserve – he told me he had been breaking for a good 7 years. Sounds like a heap of experience – or so I thought.
So it seemed like we had a good chance to win the 3rd place with this guy… Until his turn came.
I was appalled, and let me tell you why. His set – and his supposed 7 years of experience – fell short of my expectations. If anything, it was a mediocre set at best, something I could expect from a bboy in his 3rd year.
Was I disappointed? Yes.
Did I learn anything? Of course, and that’s why I’m sharing this little memory of mine with you.
It dawned on me after the battle. Your performance does not necessarily match the number of years you’ve been in the game. This is especially if you have not been practicing well.
What do I mean by practicing well? It just means that to be good at what you do – you practice effectively, you practice hard, you practice smart.
(And for the record: hard work still beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.)
I’ve lived that experience for myself. But chances are, you haven’t. So I’m telling you to learn the moral from the above anecdote. Let me say it again. How long you break does not guarantee standards – it’s what you do with your time when you break that matters.
And if you guys are thinking it’s impossible to do this shit and learn breaking…
In case you are thinking, “Oh, I’d have to be a full-time bboy and give up my whole life – that includes my girlfriend(s), family, and day job…”
NOPE, there’s no need to.
And this confusion has been going on for too long in the past few decades – thanks to a heap of hype around the notion of mastery. Let me clear up this metaphorical fog for you.
First, many people have confused the following:
- Learning a skill
- Becoming a professional/mastering a skill
Learning the basics of a skill isn’t too difficult, and doesn’t require too much commitment. According to Josh Kaufman, author of The First 20 Hours: How to Learn Anything… Fast!, you don’t need that long to learn the basics of a skill. 20 hours (according to him) is sufficient to learn the most fundamental aspects of a skill.
I don’t claim to agree with Kaufman wholly. But his general point – that learning the basics can be done rather quickly – is something that I think is highly plausible.
Being a master, on the other hand, is a completely different platform. You need a different amount of commitment, you need way more than just experience and time. Masters are obsessed with what they do. The thing they do – be it an art, skill, sport – it becomes their life.
And I’m not saying that everyone who learns breaking must aim to become a master. Just as with every sport, game, or any activity out there, there’s a whole range of players. You could be playing basketball on the weekends but you don’t have to be in the NBA to consider yourself a b-baller.
Let me put my point across in another way. Just because you’re breaking doesn’t mean you must aim to be world-class bboy or bgirl. Too many people confuse learning something and being a master at it.
That said, here’s an appropriate place to share with you a personal training principle:
You can still aim to be the best version of yourself. That’s where proper guidance and effective training comes in to serve you.
Some of you might not believe me still. Maybe it’s not convincing enough to tell you what other bboys do in their daily routines. It would be better and more vivid to give you a detailed case scenario. So let me show you:
Chapter I: A Day in the Life of a Bboy
Specifically, a day in the life of yours truly.
- 8am: I wake up. Brush my teeth. Put on my clothes (just like you) before I go to work.
- 8.45am: Leave the house.
- 8.47am: Enter the house again. Forgot my Pennyboard (oops).
- 8.50am: Take the train.
- 10am: Arrive at office half-awake. Also, I’m your friendly HR Exec at a start-up ☺
- 1pm: Lunch at a near-by food centre. With black coffee (ohhh yeah). Or the occasional lime juice.
- 6.30pm: Depends on the day of the week. I break at least thrice a week. Once a week I’m teaching classes. Sometimes I hit the gym (for flips, not the one with weights). Girlfriend is cool with meeting once a week.
- 10.30pm (Let’s assume it’s a breaking day): Dinner/supper. At the same place. Everytime. Seriously, the waiter knows what I want exactly. And so do my semi-annoyed friends who need variety in their life.
- 12am: Home sweet home. A quick shower before I sleep and recharge.
Some of you may be wondering, what’s his point?
My life is not much different from the average white-collar worker. Except that my day doesn’t just end at 6pm. My day ends only when I’m home and dead-tired. That’s how I manage my life and priorities.
Sure, my lifestyle might not be the same as your lifestyle, or even remotely similar. But I’m telling you this because I want to assure you I’m a normal dude living a normal lifestyle. As you can see, my lifestyle isn’t perfect. I should be sleeping earlier. I should be eating at regular hours. But I’m not. We all have to adjust, we all aren’t perfect. And it’s okay.
To drive down the same point, we are all human. We have jobs, some of us have wives and even kids. We have vices, temptations and weaknesses. And it’s okay.
Take a moment to let the reality that I described above sink in.
Ready to carry on?
I want to get you started on the big picture, the first thing you probably don’t know but are wondering about. I’m talking about your mental expectations. If you’re completely new, then it’d be easier for you to take this in. If you’ve been breaking for a few years already, some of the things below may seem counter-intuitive. So use your best judgment to decide if you agree.
(Download the guide here to read at your own time)
Chapter II: What To Expect In Your First Three Years
When I was at your stage, I really wished someone had told me everything below. That way, I could have foreseen the challenges ahead and worked smarter. So that’s what I’m going to help you with.
I think everyone deserves to know an honest picture of a breaking journey (I didn’t know this when I first began). That’s why I’m helping you set your expectations first before everything else.
So think of this section as my directions to your destination. This list contains a list of collective experiences belonging to me as well as a few friends from breaking.
1st Expectation: Loads of obstacles.
Let me confess something. Breaking is hard.
If breaking was easy, you would probably see way more people picking the dance up… And you’d see sicker moves and sets that currently don’t exist. No hard work would be needed, BUT you would also see even more people quitting because they never saw value in the moves (that they otherwise would have taken hours to grind and perfect).
I’m not trying to scare you. I’m not trying to be the b-boogeyman. I’m just here to tell you what I’ve experienced. What some of my friends experienced. So that you’d be way more prepared in the mental to face what we faced.
Every dope bboy you see on YouTube, in a cypher, at your local jam… They probably have talent in learning moves. I’d concede that. I’ve seen some bboys pick up power moves faster than I could pick up chicks. But I’m willing to bet all my Superstars that they put in a whole effing lot of sweat and blood into honing their craft.
I’ve had my own obstacles in dance as well.
What I can tell you is that I have my own system of training that can help you further progress in bboying.
Maybe you’ve seen what I can do. Power moves – love ‘em. And I know I can get them faster than the average bboy out there.
But I’ve struggled with getting a feel of what toprock truly is like (and I’m not talking about just the basics). To repeat, this is my 8th year breaking. And to date, I still feel the need to put in effort just to always be on the beat.
I’ll illustrate what this struggle felt like in the early years. And I’ve a feeling that a few of you may be nodding your head in agreement after reading this part.
You know the feeling when you hear a song you really like? You will feel the urge to really dance to the beat. Hit every horn, trumpet, high hat.
Then, when you actually start stepping to the music… You can’t help but feel like you’re (completely) off-beat. Something doesn’t feel right. And while you are moving with toprock steps and variations, you just feel completely incongruent with the music.
That’s how toprock was like during my formative years. And trust me, it feels really crappy.
Now my toprock has been much better compared to my past self. And it’s a much better feeling. Everything feels good – I know when the big beat is coming, I know I am consistently hitting the same instrument when I need to, the snares and my steps are in sync…
So despite what non-breakers (as well as some breakers) think, toprock is not an easy thing to be good at.
And just so you know, I’ve had the moments where I just want to give up the dance altogether. While I’ve (obviously) gotten over that phase, it still is part of my breaking journey – as with most or all bboys and bgirls in the world.
But I’m one of the luckier ones who came out physically unscathed – at the very least I’m still able to dance.
There are those with physical obstacles. I’ve had friends who’ve slip disc injuries. I’ve had friends who’ve degenerated muscles due to some flesh-eating bacteria in their body. I even saw bboys who still train despite being in a wheelchair. And these are just a few of the many situations people fall into before they end up wanting to quit.
The thing is,
They knew very well that they weren’t going to beat Neguin or Taisuke anytime soon. Or in this lifetime. But they persevered. Pushed through.
An easy answer would be to say that these cats really enjoyed the dance. But let’s dig deeper and find out the underlying truth. What’s the difference between someone who enjoyed the dance but quit, versus someone who enjoyed the dance and didn’t?
The second group followed through. They knew the value of outlasting, the value of longevity. They knew their priorities. It’s when you know your priorities and stick to them, that you decide, hey, I’m not gonna let this go even though I want to give up right now.
So I’ve stated two kinds of main obstacles – those related to the dance as well as those related to your own body. Other obstacles will come your way, and this is just to give you an idea of what’s to come. Don’t think of this as a scare, think of this as a wake-up call.
2nd Expectation: Nervousness and anxiety
We’ve all been there. Just FYI, the toughest-looking cats out there feel the same as you do when they’re pit against someone they aren’t sure of winning.
It’s perfectly normal to feel this way.
And it’s not just battle anxiety that many bboys face.
You as the newest kid on the block might feel shaken up and intimidated by other bboys. Perhaps you never felt you had anything to offer. Or anything impressive to grab their attention. This need for social validation is normal. But it does not mean you should act on this need.
But that’s a story for another day.
Back to the battle anxiety issue that many bboys face.
Suppose it’s your first battle. Or second. Or seventh. Doesn’t matter – battle anxiety can be chronic.
And your opponents are the big cats in your local scene.
You think that your opponent looks scary. He’s a shark on the battle floor. He grins at you menacingly. He might have full body tattoos. You feel the pressure from him (or her in some cases). He looks like he carries a knife – if it were several decades ago, he actually might.
Your teammate just finished his run. Your other opponent (the less scary guy) replies. It’s your turn to do your run. Chances are, you were running your set in your head and trying not to break into cold sweat. You remember what you’ve been taught and make eye contact with your opponent. He glares back.
All of a sudden, you forget what you were supposed to do.
You take a good 8 counts of 8 of “toprock” to enter your set.
You feel even worse at this point.
You realize you entered your preparation to your freeze too early.
You crash it.
Your teammate pats you on the back. But inside you feel like the worst person ever.
Your inner voice is ringing in your head. You just FUCKED IT UP. Your round just cost everybody their chance to win. Months of training, and it all came down to this crash? At this point, your own conscience isn’t helping you, and you feel like a great burden to your team.
Well, let me put things in perspective for you.
The menacing guy on the other side of the battle floor… You may feel scared or intimidated by his skill or his mere presence.
But you’ve not seen his first ever battle. Chances are, it is pretty embarrassing for him to watch. Because even though he’s quite far ahead in the game (or at least farther than you at the moment)…
Like you, he was once a beginner. Like you, he’s crashed many times before. Like you, he’s felt fear, angst, frustration, embarrassment, shame and anxiety. Like you, he’s felt like a pile of turd before somewhere in his breaking journey. Even if he has not messed up a battle before, he’s definitely made many mistakes to become better.
What you’re going through when you battle, it’s completely fine. It’s all part and parcel of breaking. It’s really okay to be nervous. (Just FYI, the best public speakers who seem to charm the audience are always feeling some form of nervousness. But they do know how to transform nervousness into passion and excitement.)
Even in breaking, the best bboys get all jittery when faced with another dope bboy. One that gives them a challenge.
Dope bboys don’t magically appear out of thin air. And dope bboys experience anxiety like you do too. So what I’m trying to say is,
Even dope bboys are just human beings.
They eat, breathe, shit, fuck, fuck up, laugh with their friends, mishandle their break ups, cry in their pillows every now and then, watch porn, watch re-runs of My Little Pony…
I’m just helping you put things in perspective.
So that was one kind of anxiety. What about anxiety outside of a battle?
Just so you know, the first time I spoke to a bboy was just before I started this whole breaking thing. And this bboy was a true veteran at what he did, a master of the craft. So I was a little scared.
No, actually. I was shitting my pants, metaphorically speaking.
And I took 45 minutes to approach him just so I could say hi. Let me spell that out. FORTY-FIVE FUCKING MINUTES. Even approaching a girl was much easier for me. Yet it took me all the courage and balls I could gather within a ten-mile radius just to walk over to a master.
And man, those steps were pretty heavy.
So how does my story help you in your beginning steps?
Well practically speaking, telling you to grab your balls (metaphorically speaking if you’re a bgirl) doesn’t do much. But the message beneath this is where value for you lies.
Think of it this way. I’ve been where you are, and I’m now at the level that I once looked up to (this is about me bragging, BTW). When a new bboy or bgirl says hi to me, I pretty much didn’t even notice he or she was there before. Looking back, that must have been what the guy whom I once looked up to was thinking.
Bboys are just like normal strangers on the street. They don’t really notice you there because they’re pretty much doing their own shit. Until you decide to say hi – and as with most civilized human beings they’d say hi back.
Learning to treat people as people (and not idols) is a crucial step in gaining back your confidence, as well as your sense of self-worth. This attitude will definitely help you in and out of a battle, in breaking as well as in life.
3rd Expectation: Friends who don’t think the same way
You’ll come to see that many people change their priorities along the way – bboying is not an exception.
There are friends you meet years later whom you consider close, even inseparable. Then there are friends whom you begin breaking with, but these friends are not necessarily the best companions in the long run.
I say this because I had a friend who started breaking with me, but obviously isn’t dancing any more.
In 2007, my friends and I were watching the movie You Got Served. After the film, we unanimously decided that we would imitate all the cool dance moves. That’s my first encounter with breakdancing – or something like that.
Like a lit match, we had a fire inside us burning bright and strong. We practiced almost every other day without fail. But for some, the flame extinguished sooner than I thought. Time revealed differences in our attitudes toward breaking – especially between that friend and me.
I wanted him to come for practice on time and more frequently. He didn’t. I wanted him to practice at home so he could improve even if he wasn’t with us. He didn’t. I was disappointed. He was disinterested. I thought he should quit. He agreed. And he went on to pursue art – something he was much better at…
At least that’s what I heard.
(On hindsight, my opinions came on too strong onto him.)
And I learned the hard way that every individual has a different priority at each point in life. And that means you’ve got to accept that your friend will give up X in order to give more to Y. After all, who’s to dictate what your friends should be doing with their lives?
I’ll be honest. That particular lesson made me think really hard about the types of bboys and bgirls that I’ve met. And I’ve decided to record a handy list of friends you will encounter.
While I hope you never have to meet some of them, there’s always something to be learnt from the people you meet. So here goes.
- The Burnout
Among these friends there are those who will begin with an enthusiastic spirit, but you’ll see their motivation wane faster than a speeding train. They might ask you down to go for breaking sessions, yet turn up once in 2 to 3 months. They might be the ones who ask you to meet at 6 in the evening, yet arrive just when everyone is packing up because they were “too busy”.
Of course there are those who are genuinely busy all the time, maybe they are hustling to earn a million dollars by the age of 30. Or they could be running two day jobs back to back at really distant places. But these are the exceptional few.
- Mr. Insecurity
There’s also the friend who trains hard but he has his own insecurities and lets his ego and pride get in the way of friendship. He probably disses your move at every opportunity he gets. This isn’t necessarily the worst kind of friend, because he might be telling you what your opponent would in a battle.
- The Hopeless Romantic
There’s the guy who is a sucker for girls. He may or may not train well. But whenever a new girl enters his life he disappears faster than Houdini wearing the One Ring. You probably only see this guy during the post-break up/pre-attached period. Which might not last long because he’s a serial dater… Not a friend you want to look up to for training habits.
- The Blind Man
Many times you’d encounter this species of friend who spends time at practice as if it were an unlimited resource. He might be the friend from childhood who seems the most carefree. Or the one who doesn’t really have an idea of what to train. He might be playing Clash of Clans every 15 minutes. Or taking a water break after throwing half a set. His influence is subtle but sure. So beware if you find yourself training (or not) like him.
There are more characters that you’d meet at session and this list isn’t exhaustive.
Not all friends are bad though. You might meet a few friends (who are worth keeping) like the following…
- The Training Buddy
One positive influence would be the friend who challenges you to do better. The insecure friend mentioned above might be one such variant, though he might do this in less desirable means. The buddy who challenges you might give you suggestions, ask you to try various moves, and might even ask you to challenge him back. Chances are, your standards are almost equal, with either of you being slightly better than the other. This is the training buddy that you want in your life. The Apollo Creed to every Rocky Balboa.
- Mr. Miyagi (AKA The Mentor)
Another would be a senior who has had more experience and put in much more training hours than you. You might be where he was a couple of years back (or even a decade ago). And he might be someone older (in breaking) within the crew. Ask him for help once in a while, and if this senior-mentor-friend gives you a suggestion to practice, you better do it. Just as every young man wants a father figure to look up to in life, or a role model, this particular friend would fit this role – at least in terms of breaking.
- The Genius
If you’re lucky, you’ll meet the friend who is kinesthetically talented – he gets technical moves easily and has an intuitive understanding of the human body. He might have been recruited into the school gymnastics team because of his talent, but also kicked out equally fast because he doesn’t follow their rules.
This technical adept might not necessarily be able to teach you to do what he can do however.
A rarer variant among the kings of technique would be the one who can break down his area of specialty for those who are slower than him. Finding this guy would be akin to striking the jackpot; he can teach you how to do things by deconstructing what he knows. Chances are, he knows your body better than you do.
In other words, the technical genius can do but usually cannot teach. But once in a while, there’s the technical guru who can do and teach. If he’s your friend and you can follow through his advice, expect improvement on the way.
Some count this guy as a curse. I say he’s a blessing. If you ever have the drill sergeant friend then you know he’s here to make sure you put in the effort. He’ll make you repeat your sets 10 times. He’ll make you handstand walk across the area. He’ll keep your water breaks short, assuming he’s a close friend or a crew member. You may or may not have improved as much as you wanted to, but you’ll definitely be sweating more than you thought you could. Of course I’m just describing the extreme case. But in any case, he’s a useful asset to the group whether you like him or not.
- The Idea Generator
I’ve met this one last type of friend – he’s may seem like he’s not specialized in any particular area. But that’s because his specialty isn’t technical. He’s the idea generator; developing and creating ideas are what he does best. You might be stuck at trying to get out of a footwork position. He will be the one to untangle your mess (sometimes literally, if you aren’t an experienced threader). Or if you want to try a new variation or transition, he’ll suggest a thousand different things to try. While most of these moves are not necessarily attuned to your style, you might want to keep the suggestions from your friend.
With the above list, help yourself by identifying the friends who will help you achieve more, who will be more objective with their criticisms. If a dear friend of yours sounds like someone who isn’t helping (or pulling you away from the right stuff in life), then you have be very aware of your own goals. While you can still retain your friendship with such a person, be careful if he or she is drifting you away from your purpose.
4th Expectation: Forgetting to have fun
This is an expectation that is painfully obvious but is often neglected. And it has to be said as a warning, a reminder.
It’s fun to be a bboy. That’s a given. You dance, meet friends, and vibe out. Just like most other hobbies – for example, basketball – you play the game at a court that you frequent often. You meet other people who enjoy the game just as much as you. You all seem to enjoy passing the time playing basketball, to get away from the stresses of school or family.
But as you grow older, you face more adult responsibilities, you lose the energy you once had. Hence you might feel drained and unable to dance the same way that you started out. Likewise, with basketball, you might feel like there’s less time or energy to keep playing at the same rate.
For some, you might even have turned from casual to competitive in high school. That’s when the pressure sets in because there are expectations to be met. Training becomes much more intense and you start to lose the playful attitude you once adopted.
The same goes for bboying. When you go competitive – even though there isn’t a coach to bark at you – there are similar pressures. You want to do well as a team, you want to win badly. When the fun of bboying gets taken out of the equation, your own mind and body feel less inclined to push yourself. And you might feel like you want to quit.
But that’s just part of the pain period when you train for competitions. You’ve got to juggle with the discomfort that you feel when you train harder.
So never, ever, let anyone take the joy of breaking away from you. Specifically, don’t forget why you even started breaking in the first place.
(Download the guide here to read at your own time)
Chapter III: What NOT To Expect (Erin Debunks the Following Myths…)
That previous chapter was all about what to expect. This one is about what NOT to expect, or what you shouldn’t count on happening.
It might help you remember better, if you think of the preceding and present chapters as a DO and DON’T list respectively.
1st Un-expectation: Don’t expect to nail down moves in 2 or 3 attempts…
Unless you’re exceptionally talented, which most of us aren’t. I’ll frame this in another way because I cannot emphasize this enough.
If it’s the 3rd attempt, it’s luck. If it’s the 300th attempt, it’s normal.
Now repeat the above sentence, because I hope you got that idea really lodged somewhere in your head.
Here’s the scenario that happens way too frequently. A beginner will be stuck while trying to get a new move. Let’s say it’s flares that this hypothetical beginner wants to get. The beginner will approach and ask mentors or senior bboys in the scene how to try a new move. The older bboys teach him flares and some conditioning exercises.
The newbie does it once. He thinks he’s gotten it (chances are it’s beginner’s luck). He tries again. He somehow manages to replicate the move without really understand why or how he got it. Feeling satisfied, the beginner happily thanks the senior bboy and walks away. He’ll probably walk away with the delusion that he’s going to remember how he did it. He’s going to think he’s a fast learner.
Nope he’s not gonna. Guess who’s going to ask the same mentors about the same move 2 months down the road.
2nd Un-expectation: Don’t expect to get results when trying breaking blindly.
This is a common scenario once again, that you should avoid at all costs. I’m saying so because I want to save you what limited time you have in breaking, and help you avoid facing the frustration that countless numbers of bboys (or even breakdancers) have encountered. Possibly, this could be a top reason why many people quit the dance.
So pay attention here.
Because chances are, the following might sound awfully familiar to you. Possibly, your friend commits the same mistake. Or even you.
Imagine this. The hypothetical beginner (yes, this guy again) takes a series of 8 beginner lessons at the price of 4, just because his brother knew the boss of the studio. Being all hyped about breaking, he wants to practice about 5 times a week – a good thing in my opinion, by the way. Consistency is powerful but that’s not my point here.
So this beginner just learned (just for the sake of argument once more) flares! And it was taught to him by this really, really, good-looking and tanned Asian instructor. Unfortunately, the beginner didn’t dare to show his instructor the flare – he was afraid of criticism at that point.
The next day, the beginner decides to train flares again because he got inspired by Pluto (Ruffneck Attack, Ukraine). He sets a goal of attempting 40 rounds by the end of the session. And no one was actually there to see whether he improved. Neither did it cross his mind to record himself with a camera (or smartphone, as most of us seem to have one nowadays). Our beginner friend here didn’t really keep track with his numbers either. He probably lost count at 12. Or was it 15? See, none of us can remember how many the beginner actually did.
So this process goes on for an awfully long time.
The beginner faithfully practices 5 times a week for the next 2 years. Let’s say he’s average on talent. But the amount of time he invested into breaking for 2 years is a hell lot.
That’s 5 days out of 7 without fail. Since I’m bad with mental sums and no one will lend me a calculator, I’m gonna estimate. That’s about 250 days of training. If he really did spend about 1 out of 3 hours training just for flares, it’s be a convenient 250 hours of flare-related training. Maybe I’ll even throw in a free training montage with Survivor’s music in the background, just for this guy.
If Josh Kaufman is right (I’ve mentioned him above… Y’know, the author of The First 20 Hours), 20 solid hours should provide you with the basics of learning flares.
So why did our beginner friend fail to even get past 1 round of flares?
Our friend, our Daniel-san, was practicing blindly.
I’m not even talking about his form (that’s why I’m intentionally not giving you a video example here – many of us train flares in subtly different ways). Let me put it very clearly how he (and many beginners) make training difficult for themselves:
- Beginners tend to be shy with their moves, not showing anyone what they are doing.
- Beginners are often embarrassed by looking at themselves on camera – kind of like how we all hate to hear our own voice on the recorder.
- Without anyone to help them spot mistakes, or without being able to see themselves, beginners don’t know what they are doing wrong.
- By not knowing what went wrong, mistakes calcify and become a habit – one that is ridiculously hard but not impossible to shake off.
- When they finally think that the move is impossible, beginners write off the move as impossible. Or even worse, write off themselves as utterly talentless.
- They quit. Either the move or the dance itself. It’s a shame, honestly.
But Erin, how can I overcome this? I don’t want to be this guy. Or even more desperately put, I want to stop being this guy. For now, I want you to write this down on a piece of paper and stick it to your wall:
My breaking goals must be
SPECIFIC and ACTIONABLE.
What do I mean by specific?
This means no breaking goals such as “I’m going to get a power move by the next battle.” If this is your goal, let me help you right now. By power move, which do you want? I’m going to go with flares (again). So your goal may be
“I’m going to get flares by the next battle.”
Still vague, isn’t it. What makes goals specific?
Numbers. Numbers don’t lie to you. They’re fixed, they give you more objectivity than flexible, malleable words. Let’s say you want 2 rounds of flares. And in addition to that, we never know when your next battle will be. Suppose today is the 1st of May. Can we aim for 2 rounds in 3 months’ time? That’d make it the 31st of July.
So what does your goal look like now?
“I’m going to get 2x flares by 31st July.”
Isn’t this much better?
But there’s one more thing you can do before this becomes a strong goal to attain… That involves being actionable.
What do I mean by actionable?
The word speaks for itself, but let me make it as clear as the sky in an Australian desert.
If your goal is actionable, it has to allow you to be able to take action. To act it out. Let’s take a look at the latest goal we just set: “I’m going to get 2x flares by 31st July.”
This goal, while specific, doesn’t tell you anything about what you can do to achieve it!
Let’s refine this goal for the last time and make it relevant to your training routine. Suppose you go for practice three times a week. How can I add more numbers here? How many times do you want to do flares? What is your duration span? Once you consider these factors, your goal may look something like this:
“I’m dedicating 30 minutes for 40 rounds, 3x a week, to get 2x flares by 31st July.”
See? Doesn’t the goal become much more concrete and realizable?
Even though it seems like it, THIS ISN’T MAGIC. What I’m doing here is to help you be more realistic with your training goals.
(Note: Writing the goal in present tense helps you psychologically, because “going to” tells yourself that you aren’t going to do it yet. And tricking your mind into believing that you are already doing it can make you less resistant to actually doing your set goal.)
3rd Un-expectation: Don’t expect to remember all your moves.
This one is simple, glaringly obvious, yet many of us choose not to believe.
WRITE IT DOWN.
Write. Your. Moves. Down.
You can write it in a notebook (moleskin if you can afford it or if you are feeling hipster-ish). Alternatively, type it down in Evernote, or whatever note-pad/sticky-pad application you can find in the Android, Apple, or Windows market. Or if you are using a normal phone, write the move in a text message and send it to yourself. You’re bboys and bgirls. Exercise your creativity here.
And it doesn’t matter if you don’t have a name for it. The move may be as simple as “scissor-leg halo”. Or if it’s a small set or routine, it may sound like “knee drop → reverse spin and hop to 6-step back position → left hand sweep under to floor rock → grub up → halo → high chair → weirdass air freeze that Bob and I came up with”.
Sounds confusing if this isn’t your move. It is equally so if this is your move AND you don’t revisit what you wrote after a few months. While I’m not asking you to keep reading what you wrote, it will definitely jog your memory if you do it once a month or even once a week. There is a pro to forgetting what you wrote though. It forces you to re-interpret your old move and voila, you get a new variation!
4th Un-expectation: Don’t expect to get moves if you don’t have prior muscle conditioning.
Let me provide you with an analogy. Suppose we look at the Giza pyramid. It is pretty grand. But it wouldn’t be standing if not for its base structure and layer. Its third layer of stone bricks wouldn’t be there if not for its second layer, and its second layer wouldn’t be there if not for its first.
Likewise, you need to have your layers of bricks laid in place before you try something that looks dope but isn’t easy to achieve. You need to be able to strengthen your body muscles for the move you want to learn.
Many beginners tend to think that learning the big moves first is important for reasons I shall not delve into. And they tend to injure themselves more often than not. By the time they nail the move down, another beginner who had prior conditioning and foundations for the move would have surpassed them in progress.
So conditioning is key. Conditioning. Conditioning. Conditioning.
It is even more crucial to you, if you aren’t the technical genius that I mentioned above. For instance, you should get a stable handstand for 10 seconds, if you want to learn 1990s. You should be able to hold a one-handed float (with minimal support from your other hand) for 10 seconds, if you want to learn crickets. I’ll give you an in-depth example later on.
At this point, you might be asking, Erin, what if I’m scrawny? Or what if I don’t put on muscle mass easily? Or what if I’m really fat?
I don’t mean that you have to hit your nearest Fitness First gym every Tuesday and Friday. I don’t mean for you to look like a gym rat.
Muscle conditioning is different from bodybuilding. Conditioning here means to be able to let your muscles get used to a particular function.
To really drive the point across, stand straight and raise your right arm up at a 45 degree angle. Now try straightening and bringing your right leg up, such that your fingertips can touch your toes. You should look vaguely like this:
Try holding it for at least 20 seconds.
If you can, you probably are a gymnast. Or martial artist. And in both cases, you’d have learned this for years! Why? For the same reason above – to condition your muscles for a specific activity (to kick, flip, spin, etc.).
So, going back to the stone bricks and the in-depth example I promised earlier…
Let’s say your ideal babymill is the Giza pyramid. What would those layers of stone bricks be, analogously?
I won’t explain every bit of how to do a babymill/munchmill here, because that isn’t the purpose of this post – remember it’s a guide, a roadmap to your journey. Not your move.
While there are many ways to learn a windmill, I’m going to go with one of the methods I already know. For starters, your windmill might need the following bricks for its first layer:
- A strong baby freeze (i.e. you can open your legs as wide as possible without supporting it on your other arm)
- Knowing how to collapse from a stab position
- Knowing how to land in a back spin from baby freeze
- A pop-up recovery (to a baby freeze)
A second layer might look like this:
- Basic windmill that isn’t stabbed
- Head touches floor throughout the entire windmill
- Knowing how to whip both legs
Once you get your second layer, the third one would include:
- Having decent barrel mills
- Being able to do barrel mills at the rate of 1 round per beat
So you can see how a power move can be stacked in its training.
If you have 15 minutes to spare, try writing out your own pyramid and the stacking series of exercises or requirements you need for that move. And remember to allow yourself to condition your body progressively.
(Download the guide here to read at your own time)
Chapter IV: What Are Fundamentals and Why It Matters To You
So everyone has asked at least once, what the hell are fundamentals? What does it look like and can I buy it on Amazon?
Fundamentals are what everything else can be built upon in your breaking. It’s not a set of moves. Rather…
Fundamentals are a necessary, core component for the development of any aspect in breaking.
Let me break that down for you.
Necessary: Your move/set/breaking in general cannot do without it.
Component: Fundamentals are part of breaking.
Development: The corollary/consequence/next stage from where you are at the moment.
It’s a requirement for your basic moves. But it is also your basic moves, in the sense that it is for your intermediate moves. Likewise, your intermediate moves are also your fundamentals to your advanced moves.
If that still isn’t clear, let me demonstrate this with another example.
Fundamentals are also your groove that you need for your basic toprock steps. But the skill of catching a rhythm (e.g. being able to count the eights of a funk/EDM soundtrack that is playing at the moment) is fundamental to having a groove in the first place.
Without fundamentals, the things above will be shaky and done by luck at best, or at worst, they will crumble and collapse.
So why is it important for you to understand and possess fundamentals? The stronger your fundamentals, the smoother your learning curve will be. If bboying was a house, your fundamentals would be the bricks that form its structure, and your fancier or signature moves would be the decorations and facilities.
That said, it could take a few hours long to really give an in-depth, insightful explanation and discussion of what fundamentals really are.
The above should provide you with a basic understanding of what fundamentals are in your early breaking journey.
(Download the guide here to read at your own time)
Chapter V: The Types of Training Sessions and Which Suits You Best
“Erin, I get the above points. But how do I go about training? What kind of training would suit me best?”
I believe in focused training. So I don’t expect your sessions to be 12 hours trying to train every single move you ever knew. Nor do I expect you to cram every kind of training into a single session.
Depending on your current strengths, weaknesses, and goals, each recommended training would differ.
Also, just because you are focusing on a type of training first, does not mean that you should neglect others in the long run.
I’ve friends who decided to train on power moves for one year straight. It worked for them because they learned about 3 to 4 power moves in total – and they are already considered slow learners. But even then, they did not fail to train their sets or work on their dance overall.
Remember, you want to be focused in your training so you can attain better results in a more effective manner.
Note: You can combine the various types of training in each session, no one is saying that you cannot.
Type A: Technical training
For those who feel like they want to gain or improve on a particular move, this is the right type of training for you. Suppose you want to be really good with ground freezes, you could probably spend an hour per session just to drill freezes and their transitions, for the next 6 months.
This type applies not just to freezes but to power(s), technical transitions, and even flips as well. You work and grind out the technical moves till it is solid.
If you are really going for Type A training, let me refer you back to two segments that you’ve read above. These will make learning slightly easier for you in the long run:
- Prior Muscle Conditioning
- Goal Setting
Type B: Step training
In this type of training, you’d want to brush up on a particular step that you feel you’re weak in. It can be drilled for many rounds at the very beginning (unlike technical moves). For instance, if you had to work on your footwork 2-step, you can go for 30 rounds clockwise and 30 rounds anticlockwise in each set, for a total of 2 sets per session.
If you are concurrently aiming for a technical move then this type of training is best done at the end of the session, as you would not want to wear yourself out totally at the start of a session. Furthermore, to wear your body out for the rest of the session might affect your ability to focus. So plan your training properly too.
I’d recommend that you try out with a smaller number first or a smaller amount of sets so that you don’t overwork your body. It can happen to you in a various number of ways – pulling a muscle, spraining an ankle due to fatigue.
Type B is to condition your body (once again) for certain moves.
For toprocks, you might want to just practice grooving to the music. Play any bboy track (funk, soul, alternative hip hop, or any breakbeat from the DJs). I want you to pay attention to how you’d move your body without stepping to the beat (e.g. doing the toprock 2-step or indian/crossover step). Just let the music play, notice if you’d like to move your neck, your toes, your shoulders etc.
Learning to understand your body will help you get more comfortable with your body and movement. In that way, you can gradually improve your toprock. And we aren’t even getting to increasing your vocabulary yet.
For drops, my advice is to play around with the move itself first, not what the move is. For instance, you can try doing the knee drop at half the normal speed, twice the speed, pausing just before you drop, sliding across the floor when you drop, lifting both legs up in the air before the drop is done etc. Repeat each variation that you want to do about 10 to 15 times. And for drops, learn to do them in both directions (i.e. clockwise and anti-clockwise).
For footwork, consider your back footwork position (the one that looks like a push-up position with your inner knuckles) and your front footwork position (the one where you’re squatting on the ball of your feet). Holding both positions is a must because many footwork steps incorporate them. This should take place even before you begin to drill your steps!
When you’re comfortable with the form of your back and front footwork position, that’s when you know you can begin to work with drilling a particular footwork step. Remember, the more specific your goal is, the more likely you can attain your goal.
Type C: Freestyle/experimentation/flow training
Type C training comes in when you’ve at least a decent basic vocabulary for all the elements of bboying (except maybe power moves). This training is best done with a video recorder, because often times you won’t know what you were doing or how you even did it.
Here’s what you gotta do if you want to go with Type C training. Usually this is pretty useful for trying to create new moves or develop sets.
Start recording the area you’ll be dancing at. Pick a soundtrack that has a constant drum beat at a pace you’re comfortable with. It does not necessarily have to be a breakbeat. For starters, you may want to include the following in your playlist:
- Wu-Tang Clan – C.R.E.A.M
- Ashley MacIsaac – Sleepy Maggie
- Django OST – Freedom
- J-Walk – Soul Vibration
- Incredible Bongo Band – Apache
- The XX – Intro
Try everything slowly, without really thinking about what’s next. This includes your toprock, freezes, drops, footwork, and floorrock. Your mood here should be playful, if not experimental. Do your best not to stop for too long (at most, you should include a pause).
I’m suggesting to you to use slow music because it’s an observation I made from many sessions. I’ve seen many bboys play around when a slow music track comes on, particularly because they aren’t focused on trying to hit the beat. Try this training method, it may just work for you.
Type D: Sets training
This training will be the most common among bboys from all over. Of course there are a few who don’t actually do any sets at all because they believe in just freestyling all the way. Nothing wrong with what you believe in, as long as you put in the hard work and practice smart.
Essentially, you drill your full set over and over, if not the minisets and the transitions you’re using.
Two rules (or guiding principles) to follow:
- Make sure when you drill it’s done at least 10 times in a session
- Each time you run the set, make sure you pick out at least one point where you could have done better. Ensure that you won’t repeat the same error during the next run
Following these two rules will definitely help you strengthen your set.
Extra tip: It’d help if you recorded your 9th and 10th run, especially if you practiced alone. This is to help you gain an outside perspective on what your sets look like.
(Download the guide here to read at your own time)
Chapter VI: Three Typical Beginners I’ve Encountered
(You Probably Fall Into One of the Categories)…
I’ve included this segment to show you the potential potholes you might fall into or already are in. Based on my experience in teaching beginners, many of them can be slot into one of the three types below.
In the case that you’re thinking “Oh shit, this is exactly/somewhat like me!” then fret not, because I’ll tell you how you can leverage on your existing strengths and how you can reduce those glaring weaknesses.
So here they are…
Beginner A: The Stubborn Mule
This beginner has his ears open but not his mind. He doesn’t listen to advice or suggestions, and chances are he has his ego issues – and equally likely – a lack of self-awareness.
If you’re this person, you’re probably thinking right now, no, I listen all the time, I never had this problem.
I’ll concede that being obstinate has its own perks. You’re likely to be a bit more determined than the average person.
But the cons of being stubborn can really outweigh the pros.
I’ve seen this happen really often. And if you did self-identify as the stubborn beginner, I have a quick and effective tip to help you get out of this trap. But you must be willing to apply this and discipline yourself to change your habit of not listening.
Ready? Here goes.
Whenever anyone gives you criticism or suggestion, even if you don’t like it, just say “THANK YOU”.
Why “thank you”?
Because you learn to be grateful for what others are doing for you. Think about it this way. If your friends want you to grow, they’ll tell you how you can be better.
Also, saying thanks demonstrates grace in your mannerism. You welcome criticism and ideas with an open mind and open arms. People learn to respect you for that trait.
And most importantly, you learn to keep your mouth shut. Even if the voice in your head is still talking and you’re not actually listening (yet), you develop a habit of calming that voice down.
Even if others are just giving you negative and non-constructive criticism, I want you to be the bigger person. The fact that you’re reading this post in the first place shows that you’re willing to change and improve!
Prove the naysayers wrong. Know that not every criticism requires you to defend yourself. Not everything in life is a debate. And sometimes the real winners have the last laugh, not the last line.
Slowly, you’ll come to realize that other people have good points too, and you have ideas that could have been the bane of your progress.
Understand that human beings are social animals. Just as how you need a mirror to see your own image, humans also come to learn about themselves through the people around them. You learn about your strengths, weaknesses, priorities, interests, beliefs better when you know who you resemble the most.
So don’t just reject the words of others without thinking it through. You don’t have to accept them immediately, but give it careful consideration. It will change the way you think.
Beginner B: The Premature Quitter
This second type usually thinks that moves aren’t as hard as they actually are. This class of beginners is likely to have thought of moves that can be dope. But when they try the move for the first time, they realize that their expectations weren’t even close to reality. In other words, their imagination wasn’t limited by the physics of reality.
And when they don’t get the move in a couple of tries, they get all pissed and give up. Or in gamer terms, they rage quit. And they quit too easily.
Why do they quit so fast?
Often times, the problem stems from having too many moves to try, too many moves to train.
The good thing about these beginners is that they have potentially strong and creative ideas.
One kind of Premature Quitter is limited not by the imagination but rather knowing how to materialize their imagination. The other kind of Premature Quitter comes in the form of someone who doubts himself or herself a lot. In either case, both variants of this beginner will waste their potential if left to their own devices.
Here’s something every Premature Quitter must remember. Bruce Lee once said, “I fear not the man who has practiced 10, 000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced 1 kick 10,000 times.
What has the words of the late Master got to do with knowing when to quit?
He’s saying that mastery is that end-goal if you want to be good. What is the point of having 10,000 nice bboy ideas if you can’t bring one of them to life?
I’m going to show how the Premature Quitter can learn to overcome the early quitting.
- If you are afraid all your ideas will be lost, write them down first. It doesn’t matter if it makes sense or not.
- Among these ideas, pick just ONE idea and work with it. Do it at least 20 times – it doesn’t matter if it’s not perfect yet. In case you lose count, write the number of attempts made in your Notes application (or on a piece of paper).
- Follow-up the idea during your next session. Do another 20 attempts.
- Repeat step 3 for no less than 5 trainings. Here, you must monitor your progress and see if your attempt in Training 3 looks less horrible than in Training 1.
In all your 20 attempts, MAKE EACH ONE OF THEM COUNT. Don’t do the move just for the sake of doing it. Do it like you want to identify your mistakes, do it like you want to troubleshoot an error, do it like you want to strategically defeat a monster (that has kicked your ass over and over) in Dark Souls II.
Beginner C: The Casual Gamer
Let me state my disclaimer before I begin anything in this segment: Just because you’re similar to this type of beginner does not mean you’re doing something bad or wrong. I’m merely stating a word of caution to the Casual Gamer types.
As the header suggests, this class of beginners does not treat breaking super-seriously. They are likely to just do this for fun. Perhaps they treat practice as a playground – to get away from stresses of life, to expend energy, to just spend time with their breaking friends (who might be more serious about sessions).
They might not think about doing their best to win competitions, nor do they want to go all out in representing a crew in the cyphers. For these beginners, they probably try moves for fun, and may or may not think about putting much thought and effort into the dance.
Here’s my word of advice to the Casual Gamer. It’s totally fine if you don’t want to train like an athlete. No one can tell you how to live your life. Just don’t gripe if you find that you cannot get a certain move, or find yourself stuck.
On a more abstract note: if you already decided to do things in a certain way (e.g. casually and not seriously), then set the appropriate expectations for that lifestyle.
It happens often when the casual bboys complain that they aren’t winning competitions, getting enough rep, not getting moves, not creative enough etc. Their expectations don’t match their actions. If you find yourself in such a situation, then you ought to relook your intentions and goals for breaking.
Specifically, if you find a mismatch between your expectation and action, reflect and ask yourself the following.
If I say I want X but I’m behaving Y, does this mean my goals are more inclined more toward Y than X? Where do my real goals lie?
Sometimes you need to be self-aware of what matters most to you – and not just in the moment. Consider the fact that human beings are still motivated primarily by emotion, not reason. How do I mean?
A likely cause for the above scenario is this. You begin off breaking casually, amidst a bunch of serious breaking friends. Your X may sound like this: I just want to have fun with my friends. Along the way, after a couple of years, your casual attitude has been influenced by your peers. And thus you treat breaking more seriously without even realizing.
So does this mean it’s wrong to be frustrated when you cannot achieve? No. It doesn’t. But it is harmful to yourself if you say you want to be casual yet behave completely opposite of what you say you want to do.
You might end up entering an inescapable spiral of frustration and self-loathe. You end up forgetting why you even started the dance in the first place and give up all together just because you feel like you cannot progress, or are wasting your time.
Avoid this trap simply by remembering why you even want to break in the first place. Not only does it keep you on track, it’s a healthy reminder of what you really love about the dance.
You’ve probably identified yourself as one of the likely types of beginners. If you have not, don’t worry – you are bound to share the traits with one of the three types anyway. With that identification in mind, you should be better equipped and prepared to face your future training.
(Download the guide here to read at your own time)
Chapter VII: How Do I Start Learning?
So why did I put a number zero? I want to emphasize to you how important this is. You may choose not to strictly adhere to other methods of learning, but miss this component and you’ll come to regret it. Many bboys have learned the hard way.
So what do I mean by warm up? You have to stretch. But stretching isn’t sufficient, and shouldn’t be the first thing to do. Usually you can throw a couple of rounds just before you stretch at the beginning. To get your body pumped up. You don’t have to throw these rounds at their fullest. You could even just toprock for 3 rounds.
The key thing is, do what you feel is comfortable but will get your body activated. You’ll literally be warm too and that’s because your blood is rushing. You wouldn’t want to throw a higher-risk move after a full day of living the sedentary lifestyle (either from schooling or work).
After which, you’ll stretch to let the muscles be ready for use. By stretching, you’ll let your muscles be loosened up so that while dancing you reduce the risk of cramps or pulling them.
Furthermore, there’s an additional benefit to stretching. You need a certain amount of flexibility (in the weirdest places) if you want to be able to try certain technical moves.
But we aren’t done yet. There are things you can do to further optimize or enhance your body for bboying. That’s right. We’re back to conditioning. Specifically, we’re doing conditioning exercises.
Conditioning exercises can be a set of ground freezes, a set of 10 pop-ups, 10 six-steps per direction. The good thing is, no one tells you what you must be doing. If you feel you need to work on your weakness, go ahead and do it.
Just to recap, a warm up routine at the beginning consists of:
- Activating your body
- Conditioning exercises
I hope you’ve got this down, because without warming up, we are all prone to injuries. Ask athletes, martial artists, other dancers, or even your nearest gym buddy.
1A. When you’re trying new moves, practice smart. Don’t train blind. (0-20%)
But I’m not saying that hard work doesn’t matter. It does. But it’s not the only thing that matters.
I want you to draw a lesson from this example.
When I first learnt airchair (for those who don’t know what that is, please refer to the image below), I crashed often.
All beginners do. But here’s the difference.
When I crashed on my back, I knew something was pulling my weight back. So I had to push my weight more to the front. When I crashed toward the front, I knew that my transition was bringing me too far out. With every attempt, I made sure that I was making less of a mistake.
In other words, I made every freeze attempt count.
Making mistakes is perfectly normal. Making a mistake for the first time is a mistake. Making a mistake for the 2nd time (or 207th) is a choice.
You must analyze your mistakes. Remember what Einstein said:
To drive home the point, you must practice smart.
1B. When you’ve gotten the idea of how to do a move, here’s how to nail it down (20-100%)
I learned this the hard way, though thankfully it wasn’t because of a serious injury.
In the midst of learning elbow airtracks, I thought I had it strong for me. I could do elbow tracks a few times per session but it wasn’t 10 out of 10 yet. I probably got it 7 out of 10 tries back then, just before I joined a jam. So, my complacency got the better of me and guess the obvious. I crashed. And lost.
That’s when I learned that I cannot ever leave the wins, medals and trophies for Lady Luck to decide. Don’t ever leave your chances in winning to fate.
So I only have one policy when it comes to deciding if you can actually do a move in a bboy jam or competition. If you can do a move 10/10 times, that’s when you know you can use it.
2. Minimize non-activity time
How do you know if you’ve rested for too long during a session? Well, usually one of the following occurs:
- You’re not sweating enough (exception: you’re breaking in winter and the heater is broken)
- You’re busy with your phone games
- You feel fully rested
- You realize someone has started packing for home and you’ve not hit your agenda for the day
Well, how do you know if you’ve rested for too little?
- You’re bloated when you start to get down on the floor or you get a stitch (drink less in future)
- You’re light-headed
- You can’t breathe and your chest hurts
- Other typical signs of exhaustion
- Part of your body is in pain (that’s when you probably should head for the doctor/assistance instead)
There’s another benefit besides reinforcing the habit of disciplined training when you minimize your rest time. When you do this, you make sure your body is in an optimum condition to give its best. In other words, you want a more productive session.
Like I said, I don’t believe in grinding for the sake of it. That’s ineffective. I want to give you the tried and tested tips to help you progress as fast as possible.
3. Record yourself or get someone to spot for you
This should only be done when you feel you’re ready to throw a move. Record yourself if everyone else is busy or if you’re alone. It also helps if you get to re-watch and analyze your own movements. Someone else should spot for you if you aren’t sure what your mistakes are. Even someone new like you might give you a different perspective.
4. Mean to do the move
This tip will help you refine your execution of moves, making your moves sharper and more powerful. This way, your moves will look closer to your ideal image in your head. This even applies to moves that are supposed to look slow-mo, minute, or even relaxed. For example, a move that moves slowly does not mean that your move should look sloppy.
You have to be in control of your body, you have to mean to do the move.
How do you go about doing this?
Before you even execute the move, you need to
- Know what the movement/move should look, feel, and be like
- Intend to move as you want it to be in (a)
- Follow through that intention in (b)
Following through the intention – hence meaning to do the move – will make the difference between a half-assed, crashy attempt and a clean, solid one.
It helps if you’ve watched Edge of Tomorrow (a decent movie about time-travelling by the way).Or if you’ve ever played a really tough game where you kept dying. Why? Because in both cases, the main character (you or Tom Cruise) keeps dying at a certain point in the journey. But the main character also figures out how to get past that stage little by little, until the goal is reached.
The point is that you will get stuck at certain times. But each time you try, you make a very conscious attempt how to get yourself un-stuck. You progress, even if it’s very little.
In the game, sometimes you die earlier than your previous save. Likewise, you could screw up earlier in breaking because you didn’t do it as properly as your previous attempt. You could be really tired, your leg swung slower than expected, or you could just have really not been focusing for a split second.
But in the game, you try often enough – maybe to get the timing of your jump across a booby trap right, maybe to select a different dialogue to get different results. Likewise in breaking, you must try enough times – and in a smart way, with an objective in mind – to overcome your plateaus and stagnation.
(Download the guide here to read at your own time)
Chapter VIII: Why Top Rocks First?
This is a question that many beginners have asked me time and again. So I’ll answer this question based on my experience and research.
You must understand that breaking is ultimately a dance, despite all its athleticism and acrobatic movements. If you ever come out in a cypher and people cannot tell you are dancing to the beat, don’t expect to get the respect you want. Let’s suppose you saw a bboy who could do blow-ups effortlessly without crashing. But he was not following the rhythm, not hitting the trumpets, not toprocking to the beat.
Without following the music, what good is the DJ? Why bother breaking in a studio with a dope sound system if you just ignore the music?
Breaking is still a dance beneath all the other elements that you see.
Next, you must understand that top rocks are the first thing that you generally do the moment you enter the dance floor. There are exceptions, such people flipping their way in, or throwing a small set that begins explosively. But for most of the part, top rocks LITERALLY and STRUCTURALLY come first.
Also, toprocks help you understand the groove, the rhythm, more easily than other elements of breaking. Think about it this way, would it be easier to groove in the footwork position or the upright position?
Here’s a couple of useful tips from really experienced bboys to change your perspective.
Bounce (MZK Japan) broke toprocks down into four essential motions – the step, kick, spin, and hop. Everything else from there is just a combination or permutation of the four moves.
Ynot (RSC) does this simple step whether he’s judging or waiting to enter the cypher. When the beat comes on, he’s just grooving to the music. Doing so helps you warm up and feel the rhythm of the beat played.
Quick Exercise: Play your favourite bboy track (or if you are totally new, stick with Apache) and look at yourself move in the mirror. Notice how you move, which parts of your body is leading first. Now imagine how would you amplify that and really toprock to the song.
(Download the guide here to read at your own time)
Chapter IX: What’s Wrong With Learning Power Moves At The Start?
The learning curve for power moves is much steeper and by nature is more technical. As I’ve mentioned, some aspects of bboying may not require as much effort or is less intuitive than others.
By having strong basics, the learning curve is gentler for advanced moves.
You have to be realistic with yourself. If you really discover that you’re physically talented, then no one is going to stop you from learning powers. But if you’re not, you probably won’t learn as fast as these geniuses (through pure effort). With the proper guidance in your learning, you can progress as fast as – if not faster than – the technically adept people.
But for now, I’ll give you a basic example of how power moves would require certain foundation.
Suppose you wanted to try 1990s (or for those who aren’t familiar: a one-handed handstand pirouette). Which looks like this:
But the basics for your handstand is not strong. What makes you think that you can even keep your body upright while your hand supports the body? Can your body even get up into position while generating momentum?
Maybe a more positive example will help you. If you wanted to learn the power move known as windmill, you should get a list of things down first:
- Baby freeze
- Icey-ice whip
- Collapsing smoothly from a stab to your upper back
- Backspin motion
Having the above will ease your learning curve in getting your first windmill.
Want an even simpler example?
If you wanted to learn crickets, you must have:
- Float freeze (with only support from the fingertips non-master hand)
- Learning how to push from float into a handglide for at least half a round
The above explanation and examples should give you a clearer understanding why you shouldn’t just dive straight into power moves without learning anything else.
Lastly, learning other elements of the dance first will help you understand how to use power moves to hit the beats. That’s why you’re here in breaking and not gymnastics. Wouldn’t you like your audience to be in awe, knowing how you did those sick moves TO THE MUSIC?
(Download the guide here to read at your own time)
Chapter X: So You’ve Heard About Freezes – Now You’ll Know How To Train Them
Many bboys have also asked me how freezes can be utilized in a set. I’ll tell you the basic ways you can use them, and how my way of conditioning for freezes can improve your breaking.
Really, what are freezes?
Think of them as poses. Poses where the bboy or bgirl is holding the position and tensing the entire body. They are called freezes because it literally looks as if the person froze in the midst of all the motion. Know that we weren’t born to stand on our heads or be held upside down – it can be disorientating and scary.
But freezes are a wonderful addition to your breaking arsenal. Most people have heard of the air freeze and baby freeze. But hardly anyone tells you how or why they are done.
Freezes as punctuations
Freezes essentially can be used to end a set or a routine, by adding a dimension of impact and dynamism. If everything else in bboying (toprock, footwork, powers) were words of a sentence, freezes are the punctuations. They create a different feel and allows you to create emphasis within the sentence.
Quick Exercise (note that a solid freeze foundation is required for this exercise):
In the English language, each punctuation mark is used differently and for different purposes/contexts. I want you to
- Research on all the punctuation marks available (their purpose, how they are used etc.)
- Think how you can use your freeze as a particular punctuation (e.g. a semi-colon, full stop, comma etc.)
P.S. This doesn’t have to make perfect logical sense. This exercise is to train your mindset towards using freezes.
Freezes to create a stop-flow motion
Sometimes, running long sets can end up looking mundane, or even worse, boring. One particular reason stems from bboying doing their sets without learning to change the rhythm of their dance. This happens often, even though the music has much variation.
So, a simple but effective method to create this change of rhythm is to add freezes to stop this continuous motion. A bboy can be flowing very nicely like Menno, when a freeze is added unexpectedly on the 8th or 1st beat (in a bar of eight) – BAM.
Quick Exercise: Be able to do 2 counts of 8 of footwork and land in a freeze on the 8th beat of the second count (or 1st beat of the 3rd count of 8). Repeat this mini-set for 10 times. This should help you learn to stop on a freeze at the correct beats.
Conditioning for freezes
You have to stretch everyday – or as many days as you can every week – because flexibility is an essential component to breaking. Otherwise, you’ll be severely limited by your own body. Imagine when you need to position your body in ways you never have, with muscles you’ve never really used before.
So consistent stretching is a must if you want to make your journey in freezes a bit easier.
You also have to condition the points of your body in which you’ll place your weight on.
For instance, in a headstand, you’re likely to place your weight on both wrists as well as the top of your head. (Yes, I mean the area where you take height measurements from). So it might do you good to do wrist exercises as well as strengthen your neck and shoulders – these are the muscle groups required to endure weight, in addition to your joints.
In general, you might want to train your forearms as well.
This last tip for freezes applies to those who already can enter a freeze. It would help you to hold the freeze itself for 30 seconds. The most direct way to become better at freezes is to do the freeze itself.
These conditioning exercises might provide you the baby steps for freeze training. But if you want more exercises that will hack your learning progress in freezes, then subscribe to my free material. I’ll introduce a couple of detailed, conditioning methods to dramatically improve your current freezes.
(Download the guide here to read at your own time)
Chapter XI: Common Scenarios You’ll Want To Avoid or Get Out Of…
Your breaking skill stagnates and hits a plateau
This scenario is obviously undesirable but almost inevitable. We might be happily improving for a few weeks; we continue breaking for another few and –BAM! We realize we haven’t been moving forward for a month or so.
When this happens, take a moment to analyze how you’ve become stuck.
- Have you been resting enough? Eating enough?
- Have you been training without focus?
- Have you been emotionally worn out or disturbed recently?
- Did you just go through a rough break up? Lost someone close to you?
- Financially drained?
- Did you pick up a bad habit recently? Is your lifestyle impacted in a negative way?
- Has the stresses of work or school been taking a toll on you? Hate your boss?
- Did you get injured?
- Are your breaking methods too intense or too relaxed?
Whatever the reason, you need to deal with the problem head on instead of avoiding or delaying it. You see, breaking isn’t just a separate component of your life. All the parts somehow affect each other and it’s your own responsibility to deal with the one area that’s been holding you back in your life.
If the problem lies in breaking, look at how you are training. The rest of this guide as well as my course will definitely be able to help you improve and break out of your stagnant zone.
But if the problem lies elsewhere, and if you truly need to…
Take a couple of weeks (or even 1 month) away from breaking.
I’m serious. Every once in a while we all need a breath of fresh air. And everyone has a different pace in breaking.
Just don’t use this advice as an excuse to skip out on practice.
2. You’re in an environment that you hate or dread
I can’t emphasize this enough.
Environment matters a lot.
Basically, you’re the average of the five closest people, and I had to learn this the hard way. I didn’t let go of the people who no longer had interest in breaking.
If someone has given up entirely on their journey here in breaking, it’s pointless to push them no matter how hard you try. Even if they are your closest buddies ever. Because people aren’t going to change just because you asked them to.
So what do you do?
Break with people who push you. Break with those who motivate you, push you, want you to be better. If you’re in an environment that is conducive to your improvement, then you’ll achieve much more than you ever could.
Also, be compassionate and let others do whatever they want with their lives. They may or may not be your close friends still, but the least you can do is to respect people and their choices.
3. You’re afraid to try moves
Here’s another common scenario. The bboy tends to have many fears when trying new stuff. One of my old crew mates was able to do a move (on the first try)… 6 months after I told him to try it.
The funny thing was, given his abilities, he could already attempt the move and it was a matter of cleaning up. And he could have progressed much more in that same 6 months if he had tried it there and then.
Sometimes, we can’t see what other people can. And usually, the experienced eye can see things more accurately than a newbie. But instead of trusting experience, and our own bodies, we tend to shirk back due to fear – which can be a hindrance to our progress without us really knowing it.
So you have to be able to give it a shot, but how can you do it?
Depending on the move, you need to break down what is required of you. Think of this as testing the water. Or for the more scientifically minded, testing the hypothesis.
For instance, if you want to learn a forward roll, you have to be able transfer weight – on the ground –from the ball of your neck (just slightly below the base of your skull) to your upper back.
(You could try this by lying down on the ground, facing the ceiling, and raising your hips over your head. Then try to roll upright until you’re sitting on your from there.)
If you’ve managed to try that, that means you can get part of the move – in the case of the forward roll, you can do the latter half of it.
In other words, you pick out a component of the move that you are scared to try. And if you’re good with that, pick another component and try that part too. If all the parts of the move can be done, try piecing up bits together until the whole move is combined back again.
It’s not impossible; it’s just about practicing smart.
(Download the guide here to read at your own time)
Chapter XII: So Here’s Your Next Step…
I’m sure you found a couple of gems that are relevant to you and your breaking.
You must practice what I give you though. Just like how a good student faithfully does the homework given by her teacher. Otherwise, how else are you going to step up your game?
SO, in the comments below, tell me:
- What was surprising about the guide that you didn’t know about?
- What else did I miss out that you feel is important to a newbie?
See you in the comments!