• written by Y-Roc • photos by Eugene Soh

Elements of Movement in Bboying


“Don’t get set into one form, adapt it and build your own, and let it grow and be like water. Empty your mind, be formless, shapeless--like water. Now you put water in a cup, it becomes the cup; You put water into a bottle it becomes the bottle; You put it in a teapot and it becomes the teapot. Now water can flow or it can crash.”

“Be water my friend.”

Wise words from Master Bruce.

When he told us to be like water, what exactly did Bruce Lee mean? I’ve heard from a lot of bboys and bgirls who use Master Bruce’s quotation as a guide for their style--we should be flexible, we should be flowy, and we should adapt to our surroundings.

It’s great if you’ve used Master Bruce’s ideas to make your floorwork flow more, or to be more flexible in your music choice during a battle--that’s likely what he would have wanted. But is there more to this we might be missing?

I rarely hear people talk about their minds being “formless and shapeless.” In my opinion, Master Bruce also meant to comment on our mindset. Water doesn’t just flow through the path of least resistance, it does so without thinking about it. Water doesn’t just take the shape of its container, it does so naturally.

When we try to be like water, perhaps we should think about “flow” as a sense of being and work towards dancing more naturally. We should develop our flow, our mental flexibility, our adaptability so that we can execute our style without thinking about it. We can use our practice and our daily habits to build a more natural style--so that when we cypher, battle, teach, and perform, everything seems to be second nature.

One way to learn to “flow” and be adaptable is to allow your body and mind to be familiar with different circumstances. Routine is great, but try to throw in some variety and learn to adapt to different environments. Change up your practice routine. Change your practice music. Practice with new people in a different place.

The skills that you learn when developing this “be like water” mindset can also help you in other aspects of your life. In school, adaptability and flow will help you to work and communicate with different study groups and teachers with different teaching styles, which can ultimately help your grades. Companies value soft skills like collaboration, communication, and critical thinking when evaluating potential candidates and existing employees.

With this mindset, you can work more effectively with co-workers, cross-functional teams, and make clearer decisions when put on the spot. You can also apply these skills to your personal life, and learn to roll with the punches with your family, friends, and significant other.

And when you learn to make the most of each situation, you too can be like water.

If there are lessons to learn from being like water, what lessons do the other elements have for us? If you already know you’re an Earth-Bender, that’s awesome. For everyone else, here is a chart to identify your strongest element as a bboy/bgirl and how you can learn from it. Enjoy!

#opinion #editorial #culture #dance

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