Shaolin Break Dancing

Rock Steady Crew members Mr. Wiggles and Ken Swift have often pointed out that the spinning moves of breaking were inspired by movements gleaned from martial arts flicks. Jackie Chan is one screen fighter who has been specifically cited by Wiggles, and I have seen at least two Jackie flicks that seem to insinuate the foundation of the move known as the "continuous" backspin.

Rock Steady Crew

Crazy Legs, an early member of Rock Steady, is often documented as the 3rd major contributor to the development of the floor move that we know today as the backspin. But the first b-boys that history records as employing the move were Jojo (who founded Rock Steady in 1977), followed by another guy named Mongo.

Crazy Legs, who joined Jojo's crew a year later, took the backspin further by extending it into the continuous spin, which is much more popularly known today as the "windmill."

Interestingly, Jackie Chan's Drunken Master was released to theaters in 1978, the same year that Legs joined Rock Steady. This has made me think that it may be plausible that the move that led to the continuous was adapted from Jackie's star-turning final battle in Drunken Master.

Or maybe it was his final fight from Snake in Eagle's Claw (1978)...or Fearless Hyena (1979).

The Eight Immortals

As an aside, I think it's also worth noting that the film's "8 Drunken Gods" fighting styles were based on the Eight Immortals of Buddhism-infused Taoism. But I point this out only because a buddy of mine rags on religion endlessly, and I can't help but be amused at the irony: The footprint of religion can be found on nearly everything he loves, including martial arts and ostensibly even breaking–by less than six degrees of separation.

Anyway, as a Martial Arts Movie-Watching Grand Master™, I've studied well over one hundred martial arts flicks. This rambling post has now actually got me thinkin' that if I put my highly disciplined mind to it, I could probably come up with five or six kung-fu movies that show the fighting moves upon which several b-boy floor moves are based.

But this thought could also be a sign that I'm severely sleep deprived.

Still, one film that quickly comes to mind is Holy Robe of Shaolin. I readily acknowledge that this film was released in 1985, when the spinning floor moves of breaking were already firmly established. But it still offers an exceptional example of what I like to think of as the "Shaolin backspin." (See below)

Holy Robe of Shaolin

Unfortunately, the YouTube poster has embedding disabled, hence only a sad screen capture. But the full clip (which you can see here) is just over a minute long, and features several quick displays of the famous fighting styles for which the Buddhist monks of the Shaolin Temple are known.

"Buddha's name be praised." – Shaolin and Wu Tang (1981)


hardeep said...

No doubt an influence, the first time it clicked was seeing a headspin in I think Rebel Intruders, could be wrong...

I also remember reading once that Bruce Lee was a champion latin dancer!

Great post!

St. Paco said...

Thanks, Hardeep!

I haven't seen Rebel Intruders. Gotta check it out.

And yeah, Bruce was indeed mambo king (so to speak).