Light Handed

Category: Creating the Self

Your Feet Will Touch the Soils of Many Lands

Where would you go if you could move anywhere in the world?

I have so many places to list. First I’d have to consider all the elements of what would make it livable and enjoyable. Can I make money and survive? Will it engage me? Will I have a space to dance? Will I grow as an artist? Will I be comfortable? Will I engage in struggle and survival in order to learn?

These questions run my mind in this moment in time because I’ve arrived at an important, interesting conjuncture point in my life. Graduated looking for a full time job while simultaneously reaching new plateaus in my dance career. Beginning my professional career while reaching the 11th year of my lifetime as a craft-dedicated, head over heels in love artist.

The point of the adventure is to not have an answer, is something I would tell someone in my shoes. The uncertainty. The excitement. The young, dumb, and full of courage. Staying hungry and foolish as Steve Jobs advised. This is a pinnacle moment to enjoy. These are the blog posts I’ll hopefully find time to read when I’m 34 that will awaken a new creative spirit and drive for life.

I’m lucky to have grown up in San Jose, and to have this home I love as a place to return to. In terms of jobs, versus the rest of the market around the country, this place offers incredible opportunities in relation. All of the major tech companies boom here and no matter how hard others will try to convince me that they’re all leaving the Bay Area, there’s no denying the firey nature of this place. Innovation, creation, success, and ego dominate this landscape. This is a great place to grow. I know I have talents. I may not be a rare talent and exceptionally skilled asset to a company yet, but I do know I have the drive, intelligence, and off-center personality that will allow me to thrive once I put my mind to whatever it is I pursue.

What I acknowledge right now though is that I have a great problem to be thankful for: the paralysis of choice. How much possiblity lies out there for me? Am I salesman? A creative? A marketing guru waiting to hatch and flood your information streams with products I back? Am I a closet coder and engineer? Am I an entrepreneur waiting to blossom under the mentorship of great men and women? Who knows! All I know is that I’m awesome and I solemnly promise right now to continue to remain awesome. I don’t say this to make others feel lesser, or to make myself feel greater. I say it to acknowledge and accept my own self-love and self-belief as I venture into a world that will try to make me do the opposite; to make me feel like I’m not good enough, not smart enough, not skilled enough. Fuck that. I’m the shit. And you are too, whether or not you chose to acknowledge it and let it become a part of your being.

Simultaneously, I would be lying if I said that my mind does not drift to dancing and how far I’ve come and how far I’ve to go. I came home from IBE feeling so much fire to train and improve in all elements of my dancing. To practice house and become cleaner/well-versed. To practice Hip Hop freestyle and bring it back to the Bay. To practice B-boying and become even Nastier, Deadlier, etc. I question where I would want to live because I’ll be honest: If I ever choose to go 100% with dance, I’m moving to Europe or Japan.

Well, as for Japan, that’s the next travel destination I need to hit dance-wise. I have friends and actual fans (that blows my mind) out there I would love to meet, share with, build with, battle against, teach, learn from, etc. Tokyo, Hiroshima, Kyoto, Osaka. I’d tell people I’m Okinowan because apparently I look like it.

Besides that though, I want to be in a place where I am surrounded by passionate, hungry, and foolish people, always driving to be their best. I want to feel that I’m in good company. And I guess…the purpose of this freewrite blog about how confused I am is this revelation: I can extend this hunger to my professional career search. There is so much out there in world for me. This I know. I view dance with such a perspective and desire to live in Europe or Japan because I know this dance life/world so dearly and so well. I know dancing in and out, from a human level to an academic and even a professional one. Do I know everything? No. But do I know enough that it stirs my stomach and makes my bones tingle? Yes.

However, it is not being selfish to say that I would like to find something else I love in this world. A new skill, a new direction, a new vision to inspire me. I would like to find something like this in a more profitable, lucrative, and generally all-around more sustainable professional career path haha. It is out there for me. I know it. And with that said, I need to put my foot in the door at a good company/good industry to begin the journey to find it. I know I’m awesome. And now I acknowledge, accept, and embrace the FACT that I know I can be and will be more awesome tomorrow.  I open my heart to new loves because dancing will always be there for me. Now it’s time to expand. To grow. To struggle. And to triumph in ways I never knew possible for myself.

Upward and Onward. I am powerful.

Lessons: Money, Shame, Failure, Growth, Money.

Sometimes you want to apologize profusely and sometimes you don’t want to say shit because of personal shame. That’s where I’m at right now. I feel like this writer’s space here on wordpress acts as a middle ground for me to say things publicly, but not have it seen by that many eyes unless I share it to facebook or social media feeds.

I have been under a lot of duress lately, namely because I have been spread myself too thin. I’m taking two classes, one of which I have a final for on Tuesday, in order to finish out my degree. Most people have been under the impression that I had graduated already but I still have a few classes to finish out because budget cuts and time at Berkeley did not allow me to fulfill a few requirements. I have a job working with MVBLFeast food truck events which is great, and my biggest project at the moment is taking a lead role in organizing the Style Elements Anniversary with the help of the crew and a few others.

I don’t know why I feel like I’ve been keeping that last part a secret to myself when its been obvious by how drastically my interactions with folks on Social Media has changed. For some reason I did not want to seem boastful, or too forward, but that’s just the life of an event organizer. My aching of mind, soul, and heart come from having made many mistakes in planning this. For one, I was pretty arrogant to think I could do so much on my own for the event, while balancing the other elements in my life, and now I am suffering the consequences of it. It was pretty ambitious to organize a 3 day weekend event with people coming from all around the nation and the world…as my first event since probably high school. I know I’m capable. I know I’m smart. But goddamn was I stupid.

I’m sitting here wishing to apply the wisdom I have now to myself in January. In January, I was mopey, dopey, sadface, and slow. I was so impaired by questions of my own self-esteem, personal worth, experiences in college, and past bouts of shitty character. I was learning a lot about love and loss, and how much I missed certain people in my life. Dreaming of what I gave away to explore the world only to find out what I really had 6 months later that I could no longer have.

Could I have been ready for all this then? Hell no. I cannot fall into the train of thought of judging myself backwards. That does no good, because what matters is the present. Your actions, not your words, but your actions as they are done now. But goddamn I wish I could’ve slapped myself into shape at least by Feb or Mar. I knew I was going to get busy (I was even thinking I could do all this with a 9 to 5 LOL wtf Andy you dumbass). But here I am. I’ve still done a lot of good work. People have been very encouraging but I have messed up so many places that my clear perspective and introspective qualities make quite apparent to me, that I cannot help but get mad at myself.

And that has always been one of my biggest issues: self-directed anger. From playing video games and getting frustrated at levels I couldn’t beat, throwing controllers and breaking them/TV screens/toys and the like, to moments like these where I expect so much of myself and do not meet those lofty expectations. Anger with others, I practice the Buddhist approach and am able to let go fairly easily. I have not been tested so deeply yet so I cannot promise the world Buddha’s character but so far I have been able to practice detachment from such things in most cases. But self-anger, frustration and pity for the self, this is the place I require the most growth. It is simultaneously a big reason for my good work, but also the downfall of my approach in being able to enjoy my work and my life simultaneously. Meditation can help, but I think one of the biggest things I overlook is simply reaching out to people and talking about stuff. I could have saved so many headaches by simply reaching out to members of my crew and local mentors, rather than taking on the brunt of my challenges. I felt like I was bothering them, but more so I felt that I was failing myself by reaching out to people for help. And that my friends, is one of the worst things you can do. One of the WORST. Reaching out for help is not a sign of weakness I have learned, it is a sign of wisdom. I have learned this in the past few weeks, and will continue to learn it all the way through the completion of the Style Elements Anniversary, and for the rest of my life.

But now, what can I do? I will do the best of my abilities and this event will go great because of the people that are there, regardless of the space we use not being as special as I had once hoped it to be, and the grandiose nature of it all being taken down many steps. There will be more burdens and sacrifices because of poor planning and inexperience, but burdens and sacrifices I will be willing to be bear, as I hope those around me will have to as well. Dream big they say, and then cut it down. I guess one element of that is detaching yourself from those expectations of the big dreams because nothing is really real until you get the money to do it in this world lol. That’s probably the biggest, most practical lesson I’ve learned so far. Berkeley gives you this open mind around capitalism and its ills, and you cannot leave the school without some familiarity of Marxism, but when you get passed all that shit, it really comes down to the Money. This world does not change because of your perspective. There are a number of objective realities we must all contend with. It is our worlds being changed by our perspectives on those objective realities, which make all the difference in living the life you desire. These are my conclusions of the day. I should get back to writing this essay and studying for my final on Tuesday.

From this flow of consciousness streaming across space and time,

A

From Poison to Flame: Style Elements Win at Massive Monkee Day 2013 by A-Game

Massive Monkee Day 2013 Top 4 Battle: Style Elements vs. TheM Team

I find myself late at night, on a Friday, poison ivy slowly dying away in my thigh and left forearm, with that feeling to write again. It’s been a whirlwind week of emotional rollercoasters, itching turning to burning in my body, and the onslaught of work you leave at home when you leave to another city to fulfill a dream.

Two Sundays ago, I went to one of the most amazing weddings of my life up in Humboldt County, at the Avenue of the Giants. The person who I knew first (and got to know their amazing partner later) is the definition of healing and light in one person, so you can imagine the beautiful souls she’s collected in her life that she considers close coming together to celebrate. I left that weekend fulfilled in spirit, my body set free with the music and no judgment in movement, and a poison ivy rash on my hand…

and then I scratched my eye.

Then my face exploded.

4 days before the biggest b-boy event of my life, I had somehow, in the freeness of frolic and frivolity of freedom amongst the great redwoods of the north, gotten poison ivy all over my body. All over.

I had to go to a doctor and get the right medicine, and then, through a series of stand-by flight configurations, took a plane on Friday morning to Vancouver, rented a car, and drove down to Seattle to make it in time for Massive Monkee Day 2013. At this jam I would fulfill my dream of battling as a crew with Style Elements Crew (SEC), alongside more of my heroes: Crumbs, Machine, Ronnie Ruen, JayRawk, Frankie Flave, and good ol Stunner, Ricky RocANY (it stands alone! — Miss you Midus!).  I just needed to get my head into the game and off of the rapidly depleting tube of hydrocortizone I had brought with me.

Bas1 and Artson, SEC’s two MC extraordinaires, Lex, and Dev1 (San  Jose) flew themselves up for the event so we definitely brought the family. Massive Monkees, old time friends and fans of SEC, hooked the crew up with a fresh ass loft right next to Safeco Field where the Mariners play (we caught a game on Sunday).

SEC IG MM DAY

It’s one thing to be down with your heroes, but there’s also the part after the fandom of getting used to everyone’s crazy, unique personalities haha. I found myself feeling more like family this weekend, which was a first for me (and I got a few true Bas1 stories now–which means I’m completely legit). Being separated in San Jose from the LA and worldwide fam, I tend to go insular but this moment was all about connection.

Day One’s performance however, did not feel like this. We struggled with vibe, and the battle, though lauded online, felt incohesive. We had the important talk right after and reset the game plan, reacting to the moment. Day two came and a laughter induced comfort dressed the air as we waited for the 5pm call time. I was in the company of experienced veterans who are all too familiar with the ‘morning’ of the jam.

My rashes went down significantly as I hid behind a goatee and my blue krama adorned on my head. The benefit of having character in your dance is that people tend to view you as the whole silhouette of movement (at least the people you want respect from). This was the first time in a while I was nervous to battle–not because of the competition but of the moment I was about to experience; almost too much to comprehend except for the true, honest feeling of being surrounded by such behemoths in this dance game, the MONSTA SQUAD.

The day did not happen like a flash as you might have expected me to say. I’ve learned to live life more present oriented over my past few years of traveling and I was savoring each moment. My memory of that jam is in full detail of each chapter. There was a moment in particular that I found incredible. After the hypest battle of the night with TheM team (video at top),  we stood by the bar together in the far corner of Showbox Market, bouncing around and staying warm, when JoRawk of Massive Monkees began to speak. The monologue, memory, and feeling he was accessing in his tone was very familiar to me, because it was the same tone I assumed when I spoke about my heroes. He had that spirit, that connection you strike to someone who has influenced you so deeply and you barely even had to know them.

appreciation award

Crumbs on the mic accepting on behalf of SEC

Unsuspecting to the entire crew, they announced a Massive Monkee Day appreciation award to Style Elements for the influence they had on the Seattle-based, World Champion crew. We walked up to the stage to receive the award and I had a moment of clarity. I stood back and applauded my crewmates for their accomplishments, because that is not mine. I felt so small among them, yet so monstrously large amongst them. Here was a crew that had changed so many peoples’ lives that in turn changed mine (I am a few generations down from when SEC first blew up). These guys are my favorite b-boys’ favorite b-boys; now my mentors; my heroes; my friends; my family.

The final battle came and an incredible spirit took over the entire jam. DJ Lean Rock played 90s hip hop throughout the entire final battle and the vibe went crazy! Bas1 said on Friday that SEC always did their best when the opponent didn’t matter, and all that mattered was our vibe between crew. The energy was so powerful it infected the entire room in conjunction with all the efforts of the beautiful souls in the building. Every person that danced that night, every Massive Monkee Celebrating, every Bboy jam first-timer utilized us as conduits to their collective spirits, and in conversational exchange with Vancouver’s/Korea’s Now or Never Crew, we spirit bombed the shit out of that fuckin place. Lean put the icing on the cake with the most well placed Wu-Tang track in recent history, which set off the entire jam to go apeshit. Inspiring.

Strife.TV’s top sets from MM Day (see end 3:20)

We won the jam, danced together on stage in victory, took photos, smiled, and watched Artson burn a footwork cypher as the final music faded out. Each piece, perfectly fitted as it was meant to be. A smile overtook me for the rest of the night. I had the conscious moment of telling myself to enjoy this as it is happening, as I always try to do; to be fully present on the low dips and at the greatest peaks.

* * * * *

Coming home and dealing with my poison ivy this week has been difficult. Trying to hold myself to the standard of every mother and father out there who although being sick still find time to love, parent, and bless their child with their energy, I told myself I should be able to do work while my body is in pain. I failed miserably. Maybe I’m underestimating being poisoned but I wanted to do more. I found myself tonight, when I started writing this blog piece, in an upswing of positive momentum back into my hustle. It’s been nice to lounge about at home but now it’s time to get it in.

I left Seattle with more fire to organize the Style Elements Anniversary, having seen the quality, care, and professionalism of the work that Massive Monkees do. They’ve branched into private, public, non-profit, commercial, and really all fields, and in an upcoming StylelementsTV interview will share with you the wealth of their wisdom on how they do it. I had an enlightening conversation with Jeromeskee for the first time the Sunday after the jam, and it left me with a true sense of what a great event should be. It’s not about the prize money, or the number of attendees, it’s about the quality of experience for the people and the dancers that will leave them talking about it for ages to come! It’s about that spirit that culminated in that Wu-Tang cypher at the end of the jam. That’s what I want to bring to San Jose this coming June 21-23, 2013 weekend. That is my mission. To serve the community that has given me my spirituality and happiness, and to uphold the grand legacy that Style Elements built for me to expand upon. Expect the greatness y’all. The fire is lit.

Style Elements 19th Year Anniversary June 21-23 Weekend FB event page

Top 8 vs Moon Patrol

Top 4 vs TheM Team

Finals:

Bonus: THE INCREDIBLE BAS1 STYLE ELEMENTS/FURIOUS STYLES CREW

Strange times bring you back to places like these.
You know, places like this white blank; background a
hollowed space filled with thoughts lingering,
the sole desire to fill in the voids in time
When everything doesn’t seem to add up.

Watching
the series of events unfolding before me
as I settle into being back in my own city.

Unexpressed manhood, the bubbling frustration.
At the club, I thought I was supposed to see bubbly,
but all I see are bubbles in their blood as it drips from their lips.
The standing man takes one shot to the dome
to pay for boots bloody mary’d on another man’s face;
You pray no man will shake the shooter
in this scene so palpable you have to swallow.

She screams because her friend has stumbled
her protection effective as group grinding on the dance floor.
But her yells don’t penetrate the chatter–

the sounds are too loud in this place.

The walls of young mens’ minds filled with soundtracks
scored by trap dreams and dreams
of being trapped.
Her friend cannot get up
after rhythmic stomping
so she, in a split second,
decides her night on a kamikaze.

She gets thrown to the ground.
and I see him, staking his shot.
No honor, no manliness, no machismo.
No value, no reward, no real power.
Just bubbly, burning, blood.
He sprints 10 feet across the floor,
and sucker punches her, launching her from atop her feminine heels
to the ground where gender apparently doesn’t matter anymore.
Her stumbled friend still laying bloody on the ground.

This takes me beyond monkey’d madness,
alpha silverbacks testing iron resolve.
This is only a violence man can create,
that soaks its roots in emotional frailty.
Reminding me of the city I saw growing up.
Many boys who just need to be held.

HUZZAH!

So I finally sat down, gritted my teeth, and finished the second draft of my paper.

— In Medias Res — Cutshot to beginning of film —

In the first journal entry of my Asia journey in 2011, while I was in Taiwan, I wrote down in my list of life goals that I wanted to contribute back to B-boy/B-Girl culture in a form other than just dancing. I’ve been able to do that with some teaching here and there, but I still don’t view myself that highly as a teacher. I always begin my workshops by saying that I’m just a kid with an interesting perspective, who had a lot of time to think. In this same journal entry, I pondered the idea of writing a paper on the evolution of modern breaking. In April 2011, after a series of epiphanies and events, I embarked on that journey. Over that year I would travel the world, live in Korea, work for R-16, interview my heroes and pioneers, finish my last semester, get into and out of my first relationship, and eventually turn in that paper as my final to a class about sociological research methods. By the way, my degree is directed towards International Development as in a liberal arts degree specializing in the developing world and how shit gets exploited all the damn time. This paper was out of my element and training, but I went for it anyways.

Although I got an A (what what!), it still just wasn’t finished. My professor had done her extensive work with women who had abortions, single mothers, and other affected communities. She was amazing, but hadn’t in the slightest clue much about hip-hop, so her voice didn’t carry the authority of someone who could devastate me with her feedback (unless she gave me an F, which would’ve sucked lol). Over my research period I had met some of the eminent scholars in the break-field, who encouraged me to send them my work for them to review and give me feedback. I was too afraid so I said I’ll send you my second draft. I procrastinated, kinda hard. I was traveling to Cambodia to finish my sister’s band’s music videos, and around the US and Canada for workshops, battles, and judging. I didn’t necessarily waste my time, but I didn’t make the most productive use of it–pushing this monstrous paper I had been working on to the back of my mind for a while.

Just today, after some prodding, as well as rounding out the low curve in a spiritual, mental slump (I’m on the way up), I sat down and finished my second draft. I sent it out, to a lot of people. I’m a bit selective about who I share this work with but if you’re super seriously so-totally interested, then send me a message or leave me a comment, girlfriend. At this point, the paper has become less about academic ambition and more so about personal understanding of my approach to the dance and the culture of hip-hop as a whole. The basis of the workshop I have been teaching in the last half of last year entitled “Perspectives: Foundation and Originality” is essentially based on this paper and all of its research. The paper helped me solidify the workshop’s talking points and major ideological foundings. So to receive feedback on this paper from people I respect and admire, is to shake up the foundations of my understanding, and with their questions and contentions, build it stronger and lay more atop of it. This is an exciting prospect, and one befitting the lay of the land I have painted for 2013.

I’m a half relieved and half nervous. There is so much to do and expand upon. For now though, I’ll be content here and continue my job search. These works and others will take to the wayside until that feedback returns, and my mind begins again to revolve around pondering the nuances and subtleties of this b-boy/b-girl culture I love.

So with that said,

HUZZAH!

 

 

“Intention lines the pages of our great stories, but action impels their thick binding.”

I have heard people say that we shouldn’t wait until New Years Day to set new intentions (ie. Resolutions), that we should be acting in every moment to create ourselves into who we desire to be. This sounds like the sort of statement that would be hard for me not to agree with, but there’s something special about a new year that makes me pull away from doing so, at least in this moment of time. It’s not the astrological significance, the numerical imminence, or the turning of the final calendar page. It’s that we all share the common denominator of setting these intentions together.

Most people I have met are unaware of how powerful setting intentions can be in your everyday life; how powerful it is to create and control your thoughts thereby reclaiming your authority over your experience of reality. Some have found it in the wisdom of books/videos like “the Secret” (personally, I’ve never read or watched it), while others have made dreams happen based out of sheer willpower and focus of thought, no mind manipulation needed. To me, it is the power behind prayer, a powerful act that has intrigued me since childhood as I grew up with no overt religion in my house, and simply a curious young mind to the diversity of faith around me in East Side San Jose.

It is tradition to set New Years Resolutions for oneself, and/or as a pact to friends and family. In this social media age, we often fire off these resolutions into the electronic abyss of the digital social sphere we indulge, receiving likes and comments from friends and strangers (and friends who feel like strangers and strangers who feel like friends). Each comment is normally positive and encouraging, as it is rare to find the honest cynic on these public forums. But as it is said, when you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back into you.

Despite twisting Nietzshe’s phrase a little, it is interesting to ask what do our resolutions say about us. They say we desire to change–that a part of us knows that our individual destiny does not include repeating the same mistakes for eternity. They say that we believe that with a new year comes a new us, a recycling of the self at the turning of the world.

Well sometimes I wanna be the Wind damn it!

Well sometimes I wanna be the Wind dammit!

Famously however, resolutions are often failed, and never completed to their end. Richard Wiseman’s study in 2007 says that 88% of us fail to achieve our lofty goals. He argues that cognitive overload occurs within the brain as people set vague and extremely high expectations (lose weight, quit smoking, get buff, etc.), and the brain cannot handle these new demands on its habits and operational functions. It is the equivalent of taking on a bench press of double your weight without having lifted weights at all in the past or at least for quite a while. His advice for those interested is to create short term goals to meet that will eventually form into habits–such as smoking one or two cigarettes a day, losing a pound a week from exercise, going to the gym two times a week, etc.

This is where intention and action become critical in changing your reality. Does saying your resolution/intention out loud to yourself and writing it down help make it real? Maybe. Does announcing it online increase its likeliness of becoming a reality? Some would say no.  Does believing in its inevitable fruition with 100% of your being make it more likely to happen? To my experience 99.9% of the time, Yes.

But what is it that makes New Years so powerful, that, at least around Dec-Jan, I would encourage myself and others to embark on setting intentions and outlining actions? It is that the energy of hundreds of millions around the world are compounding on a single window of time to create change and self-improve. That we and our friends and family may hold each other accountable and share in the challenge together. The pain, sweat, sacrifice can be shared, whether it be hours worth of training or a short conversation on a better decision you made that day. Set realistic, short-term, specific goals and celebrate each moment of anguish and victory on the long road–the yellow bricks of which you lay after every step on your way to Oz.

It is easy to succumb to the demons of self-doubt and denying to ourselves how powerful the infinite beings we are can be. I’ve been doing it my whole conscious life. And my ability at self-sabotage is the topic of laughter in the best of times and quiet rumination in the darkest. But as a person who’s done much of his growing alone, on lone backpack trips across the world or head deep in books at university, it was always the return to the great people I’ve been able to keep around my core (or within the proximate periphery) that set my balance as it should be.

*aside* I have a tendency to isolate myself (I’m an Aquarius-Pisces cusp, kinda written in my code) which as you can relate to or guess at, is a double edged sword, but I will always cherish my friends, crews, teachers, and family for the greatness they have bestowed upon me by simply being there for me when I do muster the courage to speak on that which truly matters.

Great stories have great characters, the main of which is you. Set your intentions, line up your actions, and have faith that you will see it through. Intention lines the pages of our great stories, but action impels their thick binding. May your pages be many and your ink set deep.

Cheers,

A