Breaking to the top

Breaking to the top

Following his recent victory, Hong Kong's dynamic b-boy sensation is eyeing global success

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Photo: Nora Tam
Mind Dance Studio in Kwun Tong sports a wide range of hip hop gear, from turntables to an old-school ghetto blaster. For many, the 1,700 sq ft area is a reflection of themselves: dedicated to funky beats and rhyming vocals. These hip hop fans love their music, and can't help but dance when they hear it. And this shrine to rhythm is also where recently crowned Red Bull BC One Cypher Hong Kong champion Monkey J perfects his craft.

A dynamo on the dance floor, Monkey J breezed his way through the competition. The B-Boy took out his rivals one by one with his signature moves and his ability to play to the crowd. The moment he laced up his oversized Pumas and began to strut his stuff, there was little doubt amongst onlookers why he was the hands-down favourite, and that he deserved to advance to the Asian finals to be held in Taiwan in June.

But despite his dancefloor cockiness, Monkey J confesses he felt less sure of his success.

"Thinking back [ to the BC One competition], I did feel a bit scared," he says. "I got to round four, then I got cramps in my leg.

"Some people helped me stretch. I just wanted to get better and go out there and dance again. If I couldn't continue, it would have been such terrible luck."

Monkey J comes from the translation of "Monkey Boy" in Chinese - the "J" is the first sound in the word for "boy". "It's just a nickname that people have been using since I was little," he says.

It's a fitting moniker: people often note that his dancing resembles what a monkey on a sugar high might do. His legs and feet bop to the beat at what seems like 100 kilometres per second, as his arms flail in the air.

"When I dance, it's very crazy and wild," the 22-year-old says.

"People would say to me, 'You dance with a lot of energy yet still joke around.' Sometimes I play it up a little to live up to my name."

Monkey J, aka Yu Yuk-man, began B-Boying in his teens after he saw some guys in his neighbourhood dancing. He was captivated and began practising in private. Soon he mustered the courage to join them. The youngsters went on to form a dance crew called Rhythm Attack.

His current crew is the 12-member Hills Nation, which also includes Drunk, his opponent in the BC One finals. Sweet revenge indeed: in 2006, it was Drunk who beat Monkey J in the semi-finals of the competition.

For the upcoming BC One Taiwan, Monkey J knows he has plenty of hard work ahead of him, especially if he aims to win there and make it to the world finals in Russia. But physical training is only part of it; mental fitness is also crucial.

"At first, I had this mentality that I needed to win," he says. "Later I realised that when your goal is to win, you'll feel tense and tighten up. When you're battling, the best thing to do is stay loose and relaxed. That's when you perform best."

One of the latest additions to the Mind Studio is a large, worn rubber mat with the Red Bull BC One logo and many scuff marks on it. It's the cover from the stage on which Monkey J won his latest victory. It may be proof of his prowess, but the dancer knows he has plenty more battles yet to win.

Young Post will be taking a Junior Reporter to the Red Bull BC One event in Taiwan this June. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates.

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