Neither the summer heat nor the monsoon rains could keep the fans away from the R16 World B-Boy Masters Championships held in Seoul last July 2 and 3.
After all, everyone knew the masters were all going to be in the house!
It was my second time to watch the b-boy championships in Korea. In 2010, I got a free ticket from the Korea National Tourism Organization. This time, thanks to Sunny Lee of R16, I was able to get a press pass and an R16 tee!
The championships actually started in the evening of both days, but the local and international fans converged in the early afternoon around the Olympic Hall to secure their seats and to check out the shops along the street market (especially the model standing next to the red hot F1 car!). The huddling crowd around the venue already looked excited even before the gates opened!
The graffiti competition next to the street market, which added a very colorful visual dimension to the championships, also added to the excitement that was building up!
And then, the competition began!
The fans were screaming and cheering every time a b-boy or a crew came out onstage, and as expected, with their home-crowd advantage, the Korean b-boys got even louder cheers, which erupted every time they came out.
I am not familiar with the technicalities of breakdancing. I even get confused between locking and popping; that, even after the judges for both categories danced and showed everyone the real popping and locking, sort of a pre-competition seminar onstage for breakdancing ignoramuses like me. Ha-ha-ha! Perhaps, I should request Popping Pete, Bruce, Crazy Kyo, P Lock, Tony Go Go and Woong to do it again the next time I get confused.
And as quickly as these b-boys span onstage, the judging was quick as well! With the judges actually sitting onstage and deciding on the spot, and with the scores under the R16 O.U.R. (Objective, Unified, Real-time) judging system being flashed on the giant screens, the competitors and the fans immediately knew who was moving on to the next round, or in case it was the finals,….who the 2011 champion was!
As I expected, the championships were totally electrifying as it was more than just a showcase of b-boys performing their impossible moves for the fans to the music of international DJs Skeme Richards, Light, Batsu, Wreckx and Warsaw Band. After all, it was the Olympics of breakdancing, where the winners of b-boy competitions from Korea, Southeast Asia, Japan, China, Taiwan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, US, Venezuela, Germany, Russia and France competed against each other here in Seoul! Oui, les b-boys français étaient ici! (I hope I got that right, or my French teacher will kill me!)
In the 1970s, breakdancing started on the streets. Now, it’s an international competition with its own recognized culture, stars, judging system and masters!
I guess the who’s who of the b-boy world were all in the house that night, and they may have added a few more names like Taisuke, Moon, Dokyun and my favorite crew, Jinjo Crew. These guys are the 2011 R-16 Korea champions, who, along with all the competitors, impressed me and the rest of the fans with their shoulder-dislocating one-hand spins, contortions-in-air freezes, not-for-the-flatfooted footwork and spinning-on-my-head-till-the-audience-get-dizzy revolutions!
These b-boys have added a new twist to Newton’s Law of Gravity: What goes up…must twirl, whirl, spin and turn…before coming down. Ha-ha-ha!
Jinjo Crew’s jacket-routine was very creative, earning deafening cheers from the crowd. They are, by the way, last year's champions, too.
And France’s Vagabond Crew almost made it. They, too, were très créateur et magnifique. Bonne chance next time, mes amis!
As if those b-boy performances were not enough, Tiger JK, Jay Park, Beatbox Korean FX provided more electricity with their rapping and jamming. I was particularly surprised with one rapper who had a Philippine flag dangling from his right-side pocket. I later found out it was Roscoe Umali, a Filipino-American rapper based in Los Angeles.
It’s good to see that the Korean government, through the Korea National Tourism Organization, has lent support to the R16 Korea Championships. In a way, this helps to bring the b-boy culture to the mainstream, into a bigger arena, where more people and fans are able to appreciate, enjoy and most of all, learn about the b-boy culture.
As I made my way home after the last night of competitions, on the platform waiting for the train at the Olympic Park Station, I saw the Korean b-boy, Pocket, the diminutive middle-school teen who impressed everyone at the solo b-boy competition. I told him that his flairs were really impressive, especially with that t-shirt routine! He told me he still had classes at 8 the next morning. That was why he was hurrying home that Sunday night.
Me? I wasn’t really in a hurry to go home that night. It was past 10PM and I still had an hour of subway traveling to go. But the energy of the competition was still invigorating, like it was on the other fans who, too, were waiting for the train.
The 2011 R16 Korea Championships are now over, but I, along with the rest of legion, look forward to 2012.
But in the meantime, I’m sure the current champions are already stepping up their moves so they can defend their titles next year, while those who didn’t make it must be preparing for the next battle.