How to Breakdance 101: Unleash Your Inner B-Boy

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An impromptu b-boying lesson at home after some Bulleit bourbon. Don’t drink and dance.

Breakin’ 2 did it. It was 1984 and I was convinced I would be a professional breakdancer. Alas, I was seven years old, and I looked exactly like this reader who left a comment on my tango instructional post:

Tim,

I’m pretty impressed by your achievements in tango, but what about tips on your first love?

B-boying is a sport I’ve watched and attempted for years. Sadly, the minute I go from uprock to six-step I look like a two-year-old trying to find spilled jelly-beans.

I don’t know what to do. Can you offer any tips on learning how to storm floors?

PS: Nice freeze on the Jones Soda. I don’t know much about tango, but I do know how hard b-boying is. I’m from Seattle and I’m damn proud.

I didn’t rediscover breakdancing (aka b-boying, not to be confused with popping or locking a la Michael Jackson) until 1997 when I found a few scattered videos of breakdancing online. I download horrible written instructions, crappy 10-second video clips, and resolved to learn how to do my favorite move–windmills–before college graduation. Death or windmills.

Months of bruised hips and humiliation later, I was able to do them. It was almost all guess work and took far too long. I’ve since found better methods for building on basics in a logical progression.

In this post, I will teach you the basics of footwork. If you’ve ever dreamed of breakdancing (and who hasn’t?), this is enough to let you check it off the list…

– Six-step and six-step variations
– Basic flourishes that take 2-10 minutes to learn
– How to enter and exit footwork without looking like an idiot

First, a brief demonstration of what is possible with a mediocre build for breaking.

I am not a good breakdancer, and I’ve never claimed to be one, but I can do enough to use it for dramatic effect around untrained eyes. Assuming you have semi-healthy joints, you can learn how to do the following in 1-2 weeks, and I’ll teach you most of it in the next 10 minutes. This was on-the-spot, in dress shoes, at a conference after months of no practice, which goes to show how simple the moves really are:

Onward to How to Breakdance 101. I cut off my head, as the feet are more important:


This is enough to make an impression around non-b-boys.

Keep in mind that I now b-boy perhaps three times a year, and only for a few minutes at a time. These moves are not hard on the joints and will stay with you. Some other rules of thumb:

1) Thou shalt not break drunk or buzzed. Joints don’t like it.
2) Thou shalt not break on surfaces that might have spilled drinks. Ditto for joints and foreheads.
3) Thou shalt bring a second t-shirt if they plan on not being a sweaty bastard around others.
4) Thou shalt not break in public until reviewing video of themselves. Self-monitoring while breaking is not accurate. Mediocre breakdancing is more of a liability than no breakdancing. Take a few days to get the basics down before showcasing.

Have fun! It’s a great and unusual world to explore.

Here’s how the pros do it–take the time to watch this one:

Posted on: October 25, 2009.

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121 comments on “How to Breakdance 101: Unleash Your Inner B-Boy

  1. Tim,

    Stellar choice for an article. This caught me pleasantly off guard, as most things here do, and I love getting a little insight into this, because you’re right. Who *hasn’t* thought of trying this before?

    – Cam

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  2. Ha! What those guys do in the competition is insane! It’s a bit tricky I guess but I’ll start with the basics in your videos!

    Excellent stuff as always Tim, keep up the great work!

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  3. Tim this post is so money. I started toying with break last year in the same way – poor vids & step-by-steps. Bruised hips and humiliation? Check, check. Windmills were the holy grail and every hint of progress felt like a lifetime achievement. Classic line.. “Mediocre breakdancing is more of a liability than no breakdancing.”

    Sometimes it’s fun (albeit a bit dick) to go to clubs and covertly orchestrate a break circle, then watch everyone look around until they realize there’s no actual b-boys in the room.

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  4. Nice moves Tim.

    Always wondered when you’d cover the topic of break dancing since it was mentioned in 4 hour work week. Nice videos too, except… where’s the big boom-box hiding?

    Mike

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  5. nice, Tim.

    Are you in japan? im digging the minimalist room with the wood accents. Thanks for keeping the posts fresh and informative. To me, you and Seth Godin are irreplaceable in that aspect. Take care!

    King

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  6. As a dancer I think it’s great that you introduce this aspect to more people.

    I remember that tango article and always appreciate it when someone is willing to go out there and share their interest in dance to so many people.

    Also, a nice break down of the six-step basic. I hadn’t heard the tip about the palm vs. the finger bend and will work with that a bit to see how it feels.

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  7. If I ever wanted to hit up a football game and get free tickets, I’d throw down a cardboard box on the sidewalk, cause a hurricane from my windmills, and make mad tip money. Hell, they may even throw me a couple cold ones, to loosen me up a little.

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  8. Nice post! I’ve been breaking for a while and enjoy learning about other people’s experience and exposure to it

    Also, I’m glad you included those 4 rules of thumbs to keep in mind. Anyone who breaks for long enough would have figured it out sooner or later but it’s always nice to learn from other people’s experience.

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  9. That is some of the funniest video I’ve seen in quite some time, particlarly the “locking” one. Why not just go to clown school?

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  10. That breaking competition was filthy. Nice tutorial too. I’ve messed around with this before myself but always found it hard to look cool coming in and out of the 6 step, good info.

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