Monthly Archives: July 2013

Interview with JayR (NinJayR) DeGuzman on Tricking

 

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If you are the photographer of this picture, please let me know so I can give due credit.

Most of us have seen clips of people flipping and twisting through the air. We’ve seen the commercials, movies, video clips on the internet. It’s fascinating to watch people fly. As if flying weren’t enough, they kick and spin, WHILE flying!! It’s amazing.

This art form is known as tricking, and I was lucky enough to get a chance to learn about it from someone who has been a part of it for a long time.

JayR DeGuzman is from San José, California. He has been tricking since 2005. He is a former member of Team Loopkicks, of which he was a part of from 2005-2012. He is a member of the dance team DS Players, and likes to combine tricking with his dancing.

When I first met JayR, I had seen him do a flip here, a flip there. I had no idea he was/is a well known person in the tricking community. Heck, I didn’t even know what tricking was. One day, he invited me to go to the gymnastics gym where he was practicing, to teach me a few moves. I agreed to give it a shot, not having any expectation of actually learning anything. The process of learning even just a little bit of tricking, was an eye opening experience. I ended up learning moves I never thought I would be able to do.

I realized I wanted to help give context to what so many people have seen, but may not understand.

 

FitMentality: What is tricking?

JayR: The definition has changed over the years. It started out only including Gymnastics, Bboying, and different forms of martial arts such as Wushu, Capoeira, and Tae Kwon Do. It has further progressed to include other forms of art.

 

 

FM: What is your understanding as to where tricking began?

JayR: The concept has existed for a long time, but didn’t have a name. In martial arts demonstrations, martial artists would do backflips and spin flips when they would showcase. To name those moves, in general, they started calling them “tricks.” Similar to “power moves” in breaking. This way you could differentiate between a punch, kick and then something that was more acrobatic; a “trick.”  This is how it was named.

Roughly in the early 2000s, when tricking began to be called “tricking,” there were two kinds of trickers. People with martial art backgrounds, and “backyard” trickers. People who would just try and pick it up, without having the martial arts background.

The innovation of tricking started in San Jose, from a team called Loopkicks. In demonstrations/performances, you would see tricking. Loopkicks began to practice mainly those tricks.  They would try to innovate those moves. More spins, a kick after a spin, a kick after a flip. Every time a new variation came up, they would name it. Loopkicks were one of the pioneers in naming the tricks. Billy Bilang, from Switzerland, had a website called Bilang.com. On his website, he would show footage of tournaments. He would make compilation videos of the tricks he saw. It [his complications] would feature just tricks. This was before YouTube. This is when tricking started to grow.  This is when it became viral, because of these “samplers.” This is how the community really started to flourish.

Loopkicks would make samplers of themselves and Billy would post them on his website. There were other websites that did the same thing, either before or around the same time, but Bilang.com was the biggest.

 

FM: Where did you learn this art form?

I learned it San Jose, through Loopkicks. I was inspired by Rudy Reynon. He was the first person I saw do a trick. I didn’t know what it was called. I didn’t know what I was watching. I just saw the movement. This was when I was 14. I realized him and I had the same physical composition and were the same age. When I saw he was able to do this, I realized I didn’t have to be older or stronger. Since he resembled me, I figured I could do it. That was when I started to pursue tricking.

Back then, there was no one that would teach you. You just watched videos, and tried to emulate what you saw. We were just trying to teach ourselves. Now we have YouTube. We have people who have been doing it for years. Now, the bar is almost raised higher, because people have more access to these resources, as opposed to trying to learn on their own.

 

FM: What was the learning process like for you?

JayR: Back then, you weren’t sure what muscles you needed to train/incorporate in order to do moves. You didn’t know how flexible you needed to be. It started off by just experimenting. By repeating these moves over and over, you start to feel which muscles are used, by what (muscle groups) were the most sore. Whatever felt the most sore, that’s what you needed to work out, because that is what you used mostly.

I realized my core played a big role in tricking. I realized how important it was to be able to jump high and with power.

I started to condition my body until I was able to generate enough power to do full spins, etc.

 

FM: What kind of physicality does this art form require?

JayR: It is specific to the move. Generally, the core is a big part of it. That’s where your center is. When you do tricks, the idea is to get in the air and revolve around your core. If you’re twisting, you’re twisting from your center of gravity. If you’re flipping, you’re flipping around your center. You have to use that center to maneuver in the air. This is refers mostly to flipping and twisting.

If your goal is to do kicking moves, you need strong leg. You work on jumping higher. Plyometric training helps a lot. Fast twitch muscles are a big part of this training. Flexibility is huge, as well. Range or motion is very important.

 

FM: How big is the mental aspect of this activity?

JayR: The mental aspect is probably 80% or more of tricking. My personal opinion is that, a lot of people are capable of doing tricks like backflips, horizontal twists.  Most people are capable of it, they just have to get passed the fear of doing the moves. People are scared of going in the air. People are scared of going upside down. When you get over that fear, tricks start to happen quicker. You begin to understand where you are in the air. You become aware of your body. Body awareness is huge.

The mental aspect is probably the toughest part. You have to build that confidence.

 

FM: What kind of training do you go through, to maintain/advance your ability to do this?

JayR: If you want to get better at tricking, you have to trick. But you also need to condition your body. It will get to a point where your body needs to be capable of doing what you want to do. To do something like, three kicks in the middle of a backflip, you would need to work on your legs in order to be able to kick three times in the air. It requires a lot of conditioning.

Stretching is really important.  We start with dynamic stretching to prepare the body to have the range of motion we need. After the session, we do static stretches to maintain/increase flexibility. There are different types of stretching you can do. It depends on what you’re trying to get out of it.

 

FM: How is tricking different from other activities/sports/art forms?

JayR: Tricking is often confused with gymnastics and breaking (breakdancing). It combines all of that together, into one art form. The misconception is that it’s confused as JUST martial arts, JUST breaking, or JUST gymnastics. Tricking portrays someone’s individuality, as they add their own style. One can include whatever other form of art they would like to their tricking.

 

FM: How is it similar?

JayR: We take moves from gymnastics (such as back flips, front clips), techniques from martial arts (such as 540 kick, or butterfly twist). Moves from bboying, coin drops, flares (power moves). Similar to how a bboy/bgirl might incorporate a move from gymnastics.

 

FM: What is your approach to teaching tricking to beginners?

JayR: I like to tell my students that you may not learn a certain move in one day. Some people might. It really depends on your individual capabilities and what you excel at. I tell them to not be discouraged if you they don’t get it right away, or if someone learns quicker than they do.

I like to gauge what the physical capability is of who I am working with. If they have trouble jumping or spinning, ill focus on drills that teach them how to jump higher, or spin more efficiently.

When it comes to actually teaching tricks, I break it down by sections of a move. I try to break it down so that students understand what movements they will need to learn. I’ll explain what steps you have to take, what parts of your body should be doing what, and then how it all comes together.

When I hear people say “look at me, I can’t do that,” I’ll pull up a video on YouTube of a heavier guy doing a butterfly twist and a flashkick.

 

FM: What would be your advice as to what to expect, physically, for someone who would like to learn tricking?

JayR: You will be sore in places you haven’t been sore before. You don’t fully understand the muscles you use for a certain trick, until you try it.

When I was learning breaking, I would use my legs to rotate me. When I first started tricking, I thought it would be the same concept. But when I tried to do twists in the air, using just my legs, it wasn’t working. I had to try different ways to make it work. I realized that I need to use more of my torso/arms.

 You have to realize that different methods work different for different people. One person might do a move one way and he could tell you how he does it. That method may not work for someone else. Maybe you realize that you need a different approach. Depends on your specific body. Some people have longer legs/arms than others. Maybe some people have a stronger upper body. Ideally, you want to be well rounded. You want to be able to apply power from both your legs and arms equally.

Anyone can do it, no matter what body type they have. It’s just a matter of perseverance. It’s a matter of mentality. If you do want to learn harder moves/techniques, then you need to condition your body to be able to do them. Multiple flips/spins, for example.

You have to train smart. If you’re feeling fatigued, rest. If you’re tired and you keep pushing, you will be more likely to hurt yourself. People who are hungry to learn, want to do something 100 times. Make sure to listen to your body. Work hard, but listen to your body.

 

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If you are the photographer of this picture, please let me know so I can give due credit.

 

Here is an example of JayR tricking. Notice the subtle spins, kicks, and rotations that go into different moves. What may look like the same move, can actually be very different, based off of how one takes off, lands, spins, kicks, rotates, which direction they face.

 

 

Fitness is beautiful. It comes in all types of activities, lifestyles and interests. This is an example of a fun way to get active.

Of course, as a disclaimer, if you were to try anything like this, be smart. Learn in a safe environment. Always check with your doctor as to what type of activity is appropriate for you.

Interview with Bboy Poe One | FitMentality

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A while back, I had the chance to meet Poe One at a class he was teaching. During the class he spoke about the importance of taking care of your body and how this body health/fitness awareness relates to dancers. This being a similar message that I try to convey as well, I struck up a conversation with him about that very topic. It was really interesting to hear about his journey. I wanted to share this specific part of his life, with the world.

His answers to my questions were detailed, with examples to illustrate points he felt were important. One may find the answers to be a bit longer than you would find in most interviews. However, I believe that is the beauty of this interview. It reads very similarly to what the conversation was like on that day. Reading the interview in text format gives the reader a chance to digest the topics Poe talks about, at their own speed. During a conversation, one receives information at the speed of which the conversation is being had. Reading an interview gives one a chance to return, and slowly digest what was being said.

Poe is inspirational to me. The way he dances, the way he articulates his thoughts, the way he takes care of his health/fitness, the way he is constantly learning from and contributing to the Hip Hop culture, and the way he has lasted within such a demanding art, are all reasons I am inspired.

Enjoy.

 

FitMentality: What does your name mean? How did you get it?

Poe One: My name was given to me as a kid. It was around 1984. I was about 14 years old. The name came from two guys that were  from Brooklyn; Puc, and Zoe. They took the “P” from “Puc” and “oe” from “Zoe.” Before that, my name was Nes, which stood for “Never Ending Style.” They used to call me, little Nes. It came from someone from Puerto Rico, who used to teach me, named Nasty Nes (Nestor).

FM: Why is breaking special to you?

Poe One: Hip Hop, in general, has given me so much. It has taught me so much. It opened a lot of doors. It gave me confidence at a time when I needed it.  It was a time when I needed to believe in myself. It [Hip Hop] taught me this at a young age.  I got into Hip Hop when I was 12 years old, at a time when I was searching for an identity. You have a lot of insecurities at that age. When you’re in a divorced family, you look for a father figure. My mother raised me. Hip hop gave me an identity on the block; an outlet. It was a way for me to let out whatever I was feeling, without realizing it was happening. At the time, I didn’t know it was an outlet. It [breaking] looked cool and looked like something that most people couldn’t do. [Breakers] were like superheroes. What they were doing looked fun, hard, original, one of a kind. It grabbed me. There weren’t days that I didn’t do it. The more I learned, the more I realized that there is so much more to learn. When I was younger, I was searching for that respect, from the people I respected from the block (my mom, sister, friends).  Bullies would leave you alone if you were good.  It feels good to get your props from your peers, the ones you admire. You work hard for that.

Now, it’s similar, but I’m not as insecure. I see the art form as a whole. I realize how much I missed in the 80s, due to lack of information. It’s dope to create your own way; find your own path. But at the same time, you should learn from guys before you. When you hear their stories, you realize there was another path that you missed. It’s dope to learn steps I missed before. I’m learning how connected everything is: jazz, lindy hop, swing, etc. It’s important to research, find steps similar to ours. We didn’t have resources to learn breaking. We couldn’t videotape other people in order to bite their moves.  Back then, there were TV shows with actors who were a triple threat. Actors had to be able to act, sing, and dance. For example, Shirley Temple, The Three stooges, Fred Astaire, The Nicholas Brothers. TV shows were constantly pumped into our heads, as we were kids. We would see people jump in the air and land on their chest. We would watch shaolin kung fu movies.

To me, I realized that’s what breaking means to me.  It’s much more than just spinning on our back and head. There is such a beauty and soul and struggle that comes from the youth. It’s [breaking] a youth voice/creative voice that the youth expressed. It means everything to me.

FM: What can breaking learn from other styles of dance?

Poe One: Every dance is related in some way, shape, or form. The only thing that changes is the approach; how you do it. It’s a necessity, a must, that bboys and bgirls learn how to groove. Learn the social aspect of this dance. Learn how to go in a club and learn the dances of the actual songs that are playing. This is missing in today’s breakers. Not all, but the majority. When the Brass Monkey song comes on, do the Brass Monkey! Do the dance, do the feel. Do the Pee Wee Hermen. Do the Roger Rabbit. Do the Running Man, the Guess, the Earth Quake. Do dances like the old school Dougie, the Robo Cop, the Push and Pull.  Do the Charlie rock, The Roof Top, the Cabbage Patch, the Scare Crow. People now would say, “what are you talking about?” All these dances taught me how to groove, how to dance.

We learned how to roller-skate and dance. We used to go to Cal Skate in Milpitas, and Disco Patin in Puerto Rico. In the 80s, while everyone skated at the roller rink, the DJ would turn the floor into a dance floor. That’s missing now. [By learning dance steps in history] so many breakers would learn how to actually dance, and relate it to the actual top rock steps. When you’re able to do it with the approach of breaking, but still get that rhythm, the two-step will look very different. You’ll find grooves to make your own. It’s very important to learn other dances. If you’re doing the salsa rock step, relate it to salsa. The Salsa Step, or Salsa Step Out. The Latin Rock is from Latin Hustle. At a class I just taught, everyone could do the Latin Rock with the jump, but most couldn’t hustle. People could rock, but not hustle. I told them to go to a disco, in order to learn to switch speed in the same spot. Walk, jog, and run the step. Most breakers RUN the step. Most of them can’t walk with style. Many breakers have only one tone of breaking. Learning how to dance, teaches you how to do different tones. It’s like speaking in a different tone of voice. When you say something, you have exclamation marks. If I’m happy and I say  “YO, ISAAC!” Then I change it to, Yo, Isaac,” like I got something serious to tell you, it will sound different. It’s the same words, but different sound. Depending on the tone of the song, is how you’re going to step. These guys/girls are doing one tone. One speed. Many are off to the races. Other dances will help them to learn how to groove. Not just movement, pay attention to the “groovement.”

FM: Describe the role that fitness plays in your life and how it relates to your dance.

Poe One: Fitness now is everything. At 43, I have to stretch more. I have to listen to my body about what it’s capable of at that moment. I slowly breathe into the stretch. I listen to my lower back, my neck, my wrists, shoulders. I warm everything up.  I drink A LOT of water. No soda. No fake juices. Even if it says 100% natural. How can it be natural if the expiration date can last a month? If you cut an orange right now, in one day it already looks and tastes different.  The second day, it’s bad. I make fresh juice every day, in my blender. I blend water and fruits. No milk.  I cut out all dairy. I cut out all breads. I cut out everything with dough; pasta. Only fresh veggies. I buy and wash them myself.  I barely cook.  I eat mostly raw veggies. I steam potatoes a little.  I have fresh fruit every day. Our bodies are made of about 70% liquid.  When you’re hungry, you might be just thirsty. I learned to listen to my body. I learned not to mix certain foods.  I try to chew food longer, with less portions.  It helps my digestive system. Getting a lot of sleep is very important.

It’s tough for hip hop heads to do this because jams last all day. They have hot dogs and chips. I bring my own stuff to the jam. I bring fruit, instead of chips. I’ll have an orange or a banana. Potassium is great for cramps. Gatorade? Naw; its not real. It’s not good for you. Have some water with sea salt, Your body will be fine. Get electrolytes from that. These things are hard, but they’re the key factor for longevity.

 I get exhausted, physically spiritually, emotionally, when I don’t live like that. I didn’t realize how important it was.

 When did you realize that fitness/nutrition played an important role in your bboy life?

When I went back to learning how to take care of my body, I had to re condition. I had to reprogram my brain and my body. At first, I got really sick. As you detox your body, sicknesses start coming out, that you’ve been covering up. When I don’t live right, I really feel it. I get more tired.

Take the time to step back and breathe. The race of always chasing the dollar. There is more time if you learn how to manage it better.

FM: Who were influences in the past, that played a role in the healthy lifestyle you live today?

Poe One: My mother is a vegan.  My step farther is a naturopath. In Spanish, you would say Naturópata. They do different forms of healing. My mother was always healthy in the ways she ate. When they found a softball size tumor in her stomach, she said no to surgery, because she wanted to get rid of it naturally. She studied how tumors grow and what they feed off of.  She learned that they feed off sugar. She eliminated all fake sugar and fake salt from her diet. I started seeing what she was doing and how she healed herself. I noticed how they [mother and step father] healed people around them. I started asking questions. They gave me little books. I learned about herbs from the mountains. This green grass helps this; this rose bud helps this.

 I’m still learning. That’s why I went to the Amazon. I wanted to talk to the natives about how they survive without doctor check ups. They don’t even have electricity. Their houses are built out of banana leaves.

I go to Buddhist retreats. They give you this little bowl of food. It’s how you chew the food. That’s all they give you.  They teach you to feel every vitamin and mineral in that food by the way you chew it, until it liquefies in your mouth.

I eat 4 or 5 smaller meals throughout the day. Your body only digests a certain percentage each time you eat.

Lots of people are out of shape these days. The portions we get at restaurants are huge. I don’t need that.  Small meal sizes are like large orders used to be.

A homie asked me how I do it. How am I in shape? I told him that I don’t eat all that shit.  It’s a matter of discipline. Don’t eat all these foods just because they are there. You realize how much food we eat because of a fast paced world. Most people are rushed. They eat cereal, or grilled cheese sandwich. Cheese and bread are processed.

FM: What advice would you give dancers who are not quite convinced, or maybe are starting to realize how important nutrition/fitness can be in their dance/life?

Poe One: Don’t wait ‘til it’s too late.  Don’t wait until you get a major injury and you’re off for a long time. Start stretching. If you’re watching hours of footage of breaking on YouTube, search how to stretch and breathe. If you want to last long, look into that stuff. When you’re feeling sore, if your wrist hurts, or elbows hurt, work on different exercises to lay off the areas that hurt. There is a way to touch the floor that is easier. Learn to break the fall, so your body lasts longer.  Like a stunt double, learn to fall, and not hurt yourself. I watch kids slam on the floor, forgetting about being smooth, swift, and having finesse. Take the pressure off of the landing. It’s important to learn that.

 Some kids get into breaking, but haven’t played a sport. No basketball, skating. Sports teach you how to be swift and agile. You learn agility and get natural reflexes. If you haven’t done activities other than breaking, do other physical activities. Try swimming, basketball, jumping (plyometrics), learn how to land, absorb the landing. If you’re thinking about taking care of yourself, your subconscious mind is telling you something. Your spirit is telling you something. Listen to your gut. It’s telling you something. Don’t wait. Take it in. Take your time.

 I tell people to warm up before class.  Most people just sit in one position, like they are gonna’ do flares. You gotta’ do different movements. Move around. Loosen up in different ways. If you look ridiculous, but you know what you need to do, it doesn’t matter. You’re the one who knows you’re gonna’ be rocking 20 years later. I wish someone woulda’ told me that. Maybe someone did tell me. Maybe my mom told me, and I didn’t listen. Now I know the importance of it.

 Don’t talk about it. Be about it. If you’re thinking about taking better care of yourself; do it. Don’t wait. Your body will thank you.

 I feel it when I slack off. I feel when I don’t take care of my body. I know how important it is to me.

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This interview was not meant to have everyone follow, step by step, how Poe goes about his own nutrition and fitness. This was him sharing his OWN journey and how he reached his own fitness/nutrition path. You are encouraged to look into what works best for you. Learn what your body prefers. Check with your health care provider about any specific health concerns you may have. This interview was simply meant to share one personal story.

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