Monday, March 16, 2009

jelly arms and judo candy: my new career as a breaker

the last time i was excited about doing something athletic was about, ohhh, never. i did ballet and gymnastics as a kid, but i avoided "sports" like plague monkeys. i like being healthy, but i don't totally enjoy the process of staying that way. the only reason i started going to the gym was because i got an ipod. dancing has always made me happy, so i trick myself into "dancing" in a straight line on a machine. i go to the gym about twice a week, but it's a slacker workout--i drag myself in the door for twenty to forty minutes of running, some stretching, and i'm back out in an hour, glad to have it over with for a few more days. i do feel energetic and relaxed and all that crap, which is why i go. however, something has gone terribly wrong...
ever since Quest Crew set fire to the stage of America's Best Dance Crew, i'm actually antsy to get in the gym. i'm on fire too. i have been stupidly happy, studying their performances over and over, heart pounding. SO. DAMN. EXCITED! it's been disturbingly long since i felt this inspired. Quest has made the awe-inspiring art of breakdancing accessible. breaking has always seemed scary and exclusionary...ripped street dudes battling on the pavement, which is where it started. since i've never been street, it seemed untouchable. but the Quest guys are fun, silly, artistic, and incredibly good at breaking. and they're conceptual; artistically they speak my language. i knew they were going to be something special when i recognized Victor Kim and Hok from So You Think You Can Dance (other members were on season 3, which i haven't seen).

ok, time for you to see for yourself! click the HQ button so you can appreciate the speed and intricacy. week 1: the first taste! week 3: they had to "bring" britney spears and do part of the routine blindfolded. week 6: their choreography had to be inspired by the Chris Brown Forever video. week 7: they had to incorporate 5 specific hip-hop styles into the number. OrQuestra: as their final performance, they had to make their own song and create a dance that showed what their crew was all about.

so what does all this mean?
it means i have been getting all kinds of uncomfortable in pursuit of some street cred. 'till now i haven't been exactly stationary, but i haven't done a headstand or somersault (child's play, really) in a long time. my first attempt at a handstand made my blood, so used to chillin' in my lower extremities, rocket to my brain, and i felt heavier and stupider than a cartoon anvil. luckily it's all uphill from there.
last week i started practicing in earnest. i'm a baby on this road, so i decided to start with baby freezes. yeah, i know they look easy, but i don't have a lot of core strength, and at first i was bent over my arm like soggy cardboard. my wrists are crap too. a week later, though, i nailed it. my handstands have progressed to four controlled seconds, i can do armstands, and my air swipes are looking less like a scribble and more like an illustration.
this all comes at a price: i doubt most beginning breakdancers get pounding headaches every time they practice, but of course they probably aren't starting at 30 years old either...make that definitely aren't. you should start learning this before you worry about the consequences of falling on your face, breaking your back, or biting your tongue off. i also had a slight run-in with the bathroom doorknob, but amazingly i think my knee won the battle. i got a purple lump, but the doorknob had to be bent back into place.

yesterday i spent longer than usual at my tiny gym. the only other people who really hang there are two old guys and two grunty guys who wear circus pants and lift in the other room (they got nothin' on me), so i don't feel awkward trying out my weird new moves. after an hour of working the mats, i could feel their curiosity seeping through the door. one after another, they would walk in, do something for like 30 seconds and then go back. it made me happy in a way, because it felt like the beginning of a tentative camaraderie. finally one guy told me the other guy was sukebei (a perv), always a good ice breaker. i laughed and felt accepted into the outskirts of their muscle village; it was the first word any of them had ever spoken to me.
at last, you can see for yourself what i've been up to. by the end of the night, my arms were pulpy and quivering, my head throbbed, and i thought wistfully about judo candy (advil, coined by stan lim--thanks stan!). falling out of this position sounds like toppling bowling pins: that would be my limbs hitting the floor. i pulled the arch of my foot too, and realized i should have been wearing shoes, but here it is. i can do it with just one arm and a little bit of face.

today i feel like someone popped my barbie arms off and beat me with them.


  1. Ah Judo candy! Be sure to get your value w/ the 500 tablet bottles! (unfortunately state-side only)

  2. thanks dude. i'm all stocked up!

  3. hi indra. nice to meet you too. do you like sumatran coffee?

  4. Hey Lady, it's been a while so I thought I'd check out your blog and see what sort of crafting, etc. you've been up to and OH MY GOD you're breakdancing?!!! I love dancing too, but I don't think I have the strength to pull off breakdancing. That was great!

    Do you like capoeira? - Junko

  5. I'm impressed! I would throw you a dollar if I saw you on the street doing that. :)

  6. hey junko, capoeira's pretty badass. and yes, breaking takes a lot more strength than i have. i've been sore in a different way every night for two weeks! but the more i do it, the quicker my body will hopefully catch up. i'm getting more bendy too.

    and jess. thank you! i would happily accept your dollar. you could stuff it in my sweaty, disgusting workout gear. j/k.

  7. I love your video! I think it takes some guts to teach yourself how to breakdance at 30! Lord knows I don't have the upper body strength!

  8. YES!!! well done my friend... breaking is yoga to a whole new level :)