Breakin’ started for me in the 4th or 5th grade. I’m not sure how the craze even GOT to Redding, let alone found it’s way to our elementary school. To the best of my knowledge we had no black students at our school that might have been street savvy, and learned a few moves to show off at school. Breakdancing showed up none the less.

The first person I knew that started breakdancing was a kid named Christian. He wasn’t spectacular at it, but he tried his best, and was the best I’d seen. Breakin’ at our school consisted of mainly Popping, and Locking, with some Tuts, and Up-Rocking thrown in. We could moonwalk, centipede, knee spin, and backspin, as well, but we all lacked a lot of what made break dancing impressive to view. Nobody had the physical prowess to do the more athletic moves such as windmills, headspins, or flares. Christian would practice at his house, I’d usually join him, although I didn’t break. I manned the boom box, and selected the songs he’d practice to. When he felt comfortable in his moves, he’d issue a challenge to someone at school. The challenges usually took place in the morning sometime before school, or during early recess, with the battle taking place at lunch.

The battles weren’t very impressive in retrospect. Someone brought a boom box to school, and at lunch the combatants would meet, usually in the middle of the blacktop. They would decide who started, and the music would begin. Competitors were allowed to bring their own music, or use the music of the challenger. Most battles were mano y mano. On rare occasions someone unexpected would jump in and throw out an Up Rock or Robot. This type of behavior wasn’t usually encouraged, because it distracted from the main event. But it almost strictly occurred at a point in the battle when one competitor was clearly outmatched, and to show the world how overmatched he was, a random participant would join the fray and destroy them as well.

These battles would draw large crowds of students, who would surround the competitors and cheer. This type of gathering usually signified a fist fight. It was a red alert to the teachers, that they needed to penetrate the circle, and separate the combatants. When they got to the kids and realized there weren’t punches being thrown, rather tuts, and waves, they were a little perplexed as to what to do. Eventually the principal decided to outlaw break dancing on campus, to avoid confusing the teachers.

With the new twists in protocol we were forced to take our battles to private residents. Christian’s house was the logical choice. He’d issue a challenge, or receive a challenge, and we’d set a time after school to meet at his house and settle business. I’d go over early to help him organize a routine, and watch him practice. A few times he tried to perfect moves like head spins and what not to really throw the competitor off. He always had very limited success. One time during an attempted head spin, he fell and broke a lamp. This stopped nearly all experimentation. The competitors almost always showed up late. There’d be a knock at the door, pleasantries would be exchanged, and the battle would commence. It was usually held in the living room, with the furniture moved out for safety. Being as I never competed, I was the judge. I would declare the winner (always my friend) and the loser would leave, score settled. Sometimes refreshments were enjoyed post battle, if available.

Just because I never competed, didn’t mean I didn’t practice. I practiced like crazy at home, in the privacy of my own room. I watched all the movies I could, studied different moves, etc. I could tut, top rock, back spin, knee spin, and do the wave, but that was it. To this day I still possess the same skills I had in 5th grade. When the Lord created me, he didn’t bless me with the athletic ability needed to perform a windmill or a flare. I did the bronco once, but hurt myself, and have since given up trying it.

I have however managed to find my niche in the breakin’ world as you shall see.