Matt and Sam breakin’ in JAPAN

In October, Sam and Matt received a grant from Arts Council England to get out to Japan for some contact with the Japanese breakin’ scene (one of the strongest in the world) and some training under underground legendary Bboy Bounce from Boogie Brats crew.

This post is about some of our adventures. Enjoy! And stay tuned for videos coming in the next few weeks (when I’ve have a chance to sit down and edit them).

First day arriving in Tokyo: Matt sometimes teaches breakin’ at Exeter Uni. One of his former students is a Japanese bboy called Shin who lives a couple of hours outside of Tokyo. Shin kindly came to meet us and take us to our first training session, thanks Shin! Shin took us to underground training in Tokyo.

Matt and Sam from breakdance exeter in Japan with Shin
Shin showed us around Tokyo and took us to training on our first day. Thanks Shin!
Underground training in Tokyo. Literally underground - 2nd floor below in some kind of hidden vault in Shinjuku. The level is super super high.
Underground training in Tokyo. Literally underground – 2nd floor below in some kind of hidden vault in Shinjuku filled with breakers, and a DJ. The level is super high.

At this point no sleep for 48 hours due to us taking the cheapest (read: longest) flight connection.

The Tokyo bboys tell us about an all night battle happening the next night in Shibuya, so we decide to go. We have heard in Japan that breakers run battles between midnight – 6am and then just go straight to work or study. Turns out its true! We had some trouble with the hotel so we still have barely slept. Despite this, as the night goes on Sam gets through more and more rounds and in the end, actually wins this competition without having slept for 3 days!

Godzilla almost got us on the way to the jam in Shibuya
Godzilla almost got us on the way to the jam in Shibuya
Quick stop at the Samurai museum... one of Sheku's inspirations.
Quick stop at the Samurai museum… one of Sheku’s inspirations.
Quick stop in the arcade for Matt to beat Sam at Dance Dance Revolution
Quick stop in the arcade for Matt to beat Sam at Dance Dance Revolution

Another battle in Tokyo. Sam wins again! Can’t stop this guy. Interesting thing we have noticed that at both battles, at the end of the battle the judges give a little talk on why they made the decisions they did and what they think the competitors could do to improve. It take about 20 minutes and they did this at all of the battles we went to:

Sam win's again. Someone needs to stop this guy!
Sam win’s again. Someone needs to stop this guy!
Judges talk after the battles: They explain some of their decisions and the overall things that were good and bad about people's breakin'.
Judges talk after the battles: They explain some of their decisions and the overall things that were good and bad about people’s breakin’.

Generally in the UK if you want feedback from the judges, you have to go and ask them personally. Because the battles we got to were run by dance studios to progress their students they do this so that students will get as much out of the battles as possible.

We hit some more training in Tokyo. Monday it’s Halloween and impossible to train in the street today as it’s overrun with Pikachu and Donald Trumps:

Halloween in Tokyo is basically strangers taking instagram snaps with each other in their costumes. Here is an army of Donald Trumps.
Halloween in Tokyo is basically strangers taking Instagram snaps with each other in their costumes. Here is an army of Donald Trumps.

Tokyo it’s been fun, but now we need to get to Himeje to meet Bounce! Time to get the bullet train:

Bullet train. Being from the UK we're used to paying lots of money for trains, but in Japan you actually get a fast and enjoyable train journey for the money!
Bullet train. Being from the UK we’re used to paying lots of money for trains, but in Japan you actually get a fast and enjoyable train journey for the money!

On the way we stop off at Mt Fuji and drop in to Osaka for some training where we meet some of the famous Bboys and Bgirls of Japan. They all train outside at this famous training spot in Namba Train Station, Osaka.

The breakers here are at a super high level but very welcoming and friendly. They seem really happy we’ve come to Japan to experience their breakin’ scene.

Quick stop at Mt Fuji on the way to Osaka.
Quick stop at Mt Fuji on the way to Osaka.
Above: Some of the awesome bboys and bgirls we met in Osaka
Above: Some of the awesome bboys and bgirls we met in Osaka

Finally we make it to Himeje. The biggest castle in Japan is in view from the station:

Himeje Castle
Himeje Castle

Bounce has a reputation as “Mad Busy Bounce” and his whole style of breakin is a bit mysterious. It’s really exciting to have actually made it to Himeje and be meeting him any time now. Sam spots him walking down from the castle. First stop, the boxing gym:

Stage one: The boxing gym
Stage one: The boxing gym

Bounce is also a serious boxer as well as a Bboy. He spent some time showing us how he sees the two forms are connected, especially in training methods. What starts off as a conversation about training turns into us running some techniques in the training room. Bounce’s mind is a bit like Pandora’s box: once he gets on the subject of breakin, each little idea expands out into another idea, into another, like a tree.

Training stage 2: Surprisingly smooth concrete spot by the castle.  At our sessions here we put some of the techniques we learned in the boxing gym into practice.

Training stage 2: Outdoor practice spot
Training stage 2: Outdoor practice spot

Training stage 3: Bounce literally gets us running up a mountain. As well as physical training we get an insight again into the way he thinks about training. Honestly I beat Sam to the top of this mountain but unfortunately have no photos to prove it.

Steps at the bottom part of of the summit.
Training stage 3:Run right to the top!
Traditional Japanese therapy for feet. Not the nice kind of therapy.
Traditional Japanese therapy for feet. Not the nice kind of therapy.

With our brains ready to implode with methods and inspiration it’s time to move on from Himeje. Thanks Bounce!

Thanks Bounce!
Thanks Bounce!

Quick stop at a comp in Osaka this time: We didn’t win this one, but we beat four crews to make it to the semi finals. Then on to Kyoto where we train with Tatchyn and Body Carnival. They train in another underground spot, the metro station. 10 till midnight then get the last metro back. Shame you can’t do this in Devon – First Great Western staff not quite so into having dancers train in their premises (trust me, we have tried).

Above: Tatchyn from Body Carnical was judging at the jam so he invited us to the session, thanks Tatchyn!
Above: Tatchyn from Body Carnical was judging at the jam so he invited us to the session, thanks Tatchyn!

One more battle in Osaka before we head back to Tokyo. This is at Mortal Combat Crew’s studio – they are a very famous crew from Japan. Ryoma from Mortal Combat tells me about his standard day: Work normal job till 5pm, teach class till 9pm, train till 11pm, see his wife and kids for a couple of hours, go to sleep, get up. About 3 hours sleep per night for him. This is seems kind of normal for Japanese breakers. I make a mental note to stop complaining about late nights running the Devon Breakin’ Project.

Mortal Combat crew have their own studio in Osaka, where they are training the next generation of insanely skilled dancers.
Mortal Combat crew have their own studio in Osaka, where they are training the next generation of insanely skilled dancers.
Another shot of some of our new bboy and bgirl friends from Osaka!
Another shot of some of our new bboy and bgirl friends from Osaka!

After this last battle the organisers and our new friends took us out to a party by the lake. As far as  I can tell someone has just set up DJ decks, brought some drinks and put the word out about a party. Looks like Osaka does Hip Hop culture!

Real Hip Hop Party: A DJ, a sound system, and some party people!
Real Hip Hop Party: A DJ, a sound system, and some party people!

Finally we’re on the way back home!

Just a 17 hour commute back to the UK.
Just a 17 hour commute back to the UK.

A massive thank you to Arts Council England for supporting us on this trip on which we’ve learned so much, and to Bounce for taking the time in between travelling to teach workshops in Thailand and Canada, to share and build with us and give us an insight into his training. We’re excited to be bringing back the inspiration to our students in the South West.

Japan, we’ll be back!