BBOY ETIQUETTE 101

Before I begin, I need to clarify that I am using the term Bboyin' instead of Breakin'. While the term Breakin' pertains to the dance and artform, Bboyin' pertains to the intent and original philosophies and culture which shaped the entire artform. 


In the Bboy and Hip-hop culture, there are un-written codes that were lived by, which have helped to shape the culture into what it is today. However, these codes are now being lost, and it is my attempt to make them re-known so that Bboyin' and hip hop culture can grow better for the future generations to come.

 
Firstly, you have to identify why are you Bboyin'? Is it for the girls? Or if you are one of the few Bgirls, is it for the boys? Or are you just wanting to express yourselves? If so, why not choose modern dance? I would think that modern dance is more self expressive, isn't it? I'm not knocking on these possible motivations, but I'd like to get to the bottom of why people choose Bboyin'?
 
We choose Bboyin'/ Hip hop, because it is a culture that allows you to take all that you are, and exactly who you are, to manifest it into your own craft or skill, and put it to the test against others, thus gaining yourself RESPECT!
 
And that is what Hip hop is all about. 
 

R E S P E C T

 
Respect = Acknowledgement; of who one is, and what they have done, did or is doing.
It is about earning it, gaining it, taking it, learning it and using it.
 
Respect is a universal thing. Every nation in the world values respect.  Each country differs on how they deal with respect.
For example, in America, respect is not given until its earned, but in Asia, respect is given until it is lost. That is why Hiphop and Bboyin' is made for being a world united culture, because its about earning respect.
 
And with RESPECT, comes your name. Without a name, who is the respect going to be given to? And that is where (and why) it really matters about earning your name. Your NAME, is what people will identify and acknowledge you with, as either earning respect, or losing it. So choose your names wisely or wait until its respectively given to you. But it needs to be a name that is easily remembered or you will have a harder time getting your deserved respects.
For example, many Japanese Bboys choose to use their real names instead of making or earning a Bboy/ Hip hop name. There are so many really dope Bboys in Japan, but it's twice as hard for them to earn a reputation because its hard to remember the names!
 
Now that we understand that Bboyin' and Hip hop is all about gaining or losing RESPECT, we can now talk about...

Bboy Etiquette 

etiquette [ˈɛtɪˌkɛt ˌɛtɪˈkɛt]

 

noun
1. (Sociology) the customs or rules governing behaviour regarded as correct or acceptable in social or official life

 

2. (Sociology) a conventional but unwritten code of practice followed by members of any of certain professions or groups

 

 

 

Bboys of today, mainly the younger generation, are unaware or ignorant to the fact that there are certain ways to do things in Bboyin' and Hip hop in order to gain respect.

 
There are no easy ways to trying to gain respect to your name. It takes a lot of patience, persevering and straight up hard work.
 
Many bboys actually try taking short cuts and this in return actually causes them lose their respect, especially from the older generations who may have inspired, or paved the way for us to be enjoying this culture for what it is.
 
So the question is, how does one start from the bottom and properly gain respect through the bboy and hip hop way of life?
 
The answer is:
 
"BATTLES"
 
Below is the proper way about going on with Battles and how to do it in a way that you gain maximum respect for your own namesake. 
 
STEP #1: Identify and differentiate  the three elements of where battles take place and respect is earned or taken away.
  1. Exhibition battles
  2. Competition battles
  3. Cypher battles
 
STEP #2: Choose which element to prove yourself in
 
Cyphers> A good way to get a long lasting impression and respect from those who are in the cypher. Only problem is that cyphers are small, so maximum 20 people will be there for you to gain your respects. But the respect gained or earned will be long lasting. However, there is a lot of cypher etiquette involved.
 
Competitions>A good way to gain  respects a little faster but not as long lasting. Good for making noise or drawing attention to your name. A possibility of going up against bboys of higher status, recognition or respect, without you having to earn it.
 
Exhibitions> At this point, you must have already earned some type of status or recognition to have been asked to be set up in an exhibition. This means that people want to see you matched up against your opponent, or they want to see your opponent matched up against you. Either way, you deserve to be in this battle.
 
 
STEP #3: Identify the status of the person you are battling 
The different status levels are:
 
  • "Wannabboys"- beginners who know nothing about the dance and are just getting started.
  • "Amateurs"- have already started but are mediocre in their skills and talents.
  • "Hometown Heroes"- Made a name in their own region, town or city but never fully proved himself outside of his region.
  • "World Contenders"- Have proven themselves worthy outside of their own territory, and proven they can hang with almost anyone. 
  • "Superstars"- Has beaten the best in the game and wins battles constantly.
  • "Legends"- Long after he/she retires from battling, people will always remember. A timeless style or major contribution!
  • "Pioneers" and "O.G.'s"- Paved the way for Bboyin' to be what it is today but may have never gotten the chance to enjoy what we currently do in todays bboy community worldwide.
 
STEP #4: Identify the generation of the person you are battling
Are you from the same generation of bboys? Or was he or she before your generation?
 

CIRCLES and CYPHERS

STEP #5  Identify; is it a Cypher? or a Circle?
Circles...
 are about having fun, and a positive exchange. They begin naturally and unforced. It usually starts when people are having a good time, like in a party atmosphere. There are usually different types of dance styles involved, possibly even drunk people that are going in. The main purpose is to just have fun, and show off, adding excitement and energy to the party. Even if a battle starts, it is usually not taken it seriously.
Cyphers...
 are serious. Its about finding out who is the best on that particular day, and in that particular circle. You and everyone who steps into the cypher is mandatory to put all your confidence into it, because it is your confidence that everyone in the cypher is going to try to take away from you. It is like an informal but respectful form/kind of battling everyone. Naturally, the two best in the cypher would end up battling eachother. Or two bboys who are alike would also end up battling, naturally and unforced. Or if two people have beef, they will eventually settle it on the dance floor.
 
STEP #6 Identify what kind of a Circle or Cypher
If its a Circle, than there is only one kind. Just have fun. Don't try to turn a fun circle into a cypher! You are completely killing the vibe.
Exception: if you see someone that you really have beef with. You can definitely handle it in the Circle in front of everyone. At least it is natural, you don't have to fake it.
 
If it is a Cypher, before going in, get a feel of, watch and determine what kind of a Cypher it is. Is it aggressive or chill? Is it an all powermoving or trick cypher? Or is it a Foundational? Is it a style cypher? Whatever it is, make sure you are adding to the conversation of the cypher. 
Exception: Sometimes there is only one cypher, and especially if it just started, you might be determining what kind of a cypher it is going to become.
 
STEP #7 Throwing Down in the cypher
Everyone who throws down in your cypher is subliminally saying that they are the best. So it is natural for someone to watch what anyone in the cypher does, takes it and shows a better or different variation. This is part of a cypher mentality, and is the way of conversation to show who is the best. 
Sometimes, two people in the cypher are masters of a certain style, technique or move. This is how a battle might start, by each person continually trying to top one another that their confidence starts getting affected. 
 
Cypher Etiquette: TAKING TURNS
When two people dance at the same time, its called ROCKING. Bboyin' has evolved to where the people battling RESPECTFULLY take turns. One of the main reasons why Bboyin' evolved this way was because there isn't enough room for two people to do floorwork at the same time!
 
- If you and another person enter the cypher at the same time, if he or she is at a higher status or generation than you, show some respect and let him go first! Don't worry, you can go in right after and smoke his/her round and show your better. Maybe he will then call you out, and more RESPECTS TO YOU!
 
- If you see someone keep trying to get into the cypher, let him go in, unless the person doesn't understand Step #6 or hesitates! 
 
-If you and another person of equal status or generation enter at the same time, let whoever touches the ground first, go in.
 
- When you are done your set, the moment someone steps in, GET OUT OF THE WAY! By trying to stay or stand in the middle, it makes you look like a jerk, like you have no respect for the game.
 
 
Cypher Etiquette: CALL OUTS
If you are going to call out someone in the cypher, first identify the reason why you are calling them out.
  • A> Similar styles or moves being thrown down in the cypher (There can only be one!)
  • B> Out of Respect and Acknowledgment
  • C> Personal beef, grudge, or disrespect
 
Next you must identify the status and generation of the person you are calling out (as well as your own).
 
  • Similar Styles or Moves being thrown down in the cypher is the most fairest and positive way to call someone out, or get called out.
    Its part of the game and nobody takes it personally unless you are trying to call out someone of a Legend status or older generation. You do not call them out, they are the ones to call you out! If they are the ones who call you out, then there is SO MUCH RESPECT and ACKNOWLEDGEMENT given to you in the fact that they called you out.
 
  • Out of Respect and Acknowledgement, you can call someone out who is on equal status than you.
    Likewise, as you get older, you can call out someone that is from the same generation as you. Part of the reason is that older generation of bboys are not young anymore. They are prone to injury, they may even live off of their dancing. They may have even contributed a lot to the dance in some shape or form, and you need to acknowledge that the fact that bboying might not be where it is today without these contributers. These older generation bboys are not in their prime, and its not right to challenge someone, especially if they have been out of the game.
 
  • Personal beef, grudge or disrespect, KNOWS NO STATUS OR GENERATION.
    If you have a real personal beef or grudge with someone at all, you are free to settle it in the cypher, anytime and anywhere. But if there really isn't any  REAL personal beef or grudge, then what it is, IS PURE DISRESPECT.
 
When you call someone out in a cypher, they are going to wonder why you are calling them out, especially if its someone of a higher respect status  or older generation.  They will think, do we have similar styles or moves? Does the person acknowledge who I am? Does he have a personal beef or grudge with me? And lastly, WHY IS HE DISRESPECTING ME?
You can then expect this person to be pissed off at you. He and almost all Bboys who understand bboy etiquette will have lost all respect for you, except for the newbies that don't understand the way of the true bboy.
 

Cypher Etiquette: Don't do's

 
1. Don't touch anyone disrespectfully or bad intentionally.
Exception is, if your willing to fight!
 
2. Don't talk trash.
Exception is if there is personal beef, or disrespect involved.
 
3. Show respect after a battle (shaking hands, giving props).
Exception is if you feel the battle isn't finished!
 
 

COMPETITIONS and TOURNAMENTS

 
STEP # 8 Identify the Rules and Judges
  1. When you decide to enter a bboy competition, you are bound by the organizers rules and regulations and your fate is in the hands of the judges. Competitions are very different from Cyphers, especially in the sense that you are expected to perform when its your turn to battle, whether or not you are ready, warmed up, or feel like dancing. Further more, you only have a few rounds to prove to yourself, your opponent, the audience and especially the judges that you won your battle and are the best on that particular day.
  2. If you do not like the Rules, or the Judges, you can contact the organizer before the event and voice to him or her your concerns and opinion.
  3. If it remains the same and you still are not satisfied with the Rules or the Judges, do not enter the battle.
  4. If you enter the battle, do not expect to win.
  5. If you do not win, do not be upset, and do not complain. You knew what you were getting into.
 
After feeling robbed, you can easily refer back to the Cypher Etiquette for Call Outs!
 

Competition Etiquette:

  1. Don't Touch
    If you have to resort to touching, it means you can't handle it as a bboy.
    Exception: If you don't care to get disqualified or lose all your respect, and your willing to fight after the competition! 
  2. Don't Steal Rounds
    In a cypher, there is no time limit so its ok to steal rounds, it shows that you have more to give! But in a competition, there is a set amount of time or rounds which needs to be equal for both sides. Stealing rounds shows that you are desperate.
    Exception: If the other team hesitates going in, you can steal the round. 
  3. Don't Interfere
    The moment the other team starts dancing, MOVE OUT OF THE WAY! Getting in the way shows that you are afraid to see how your opponent will react to you and possibly burn your round.
    Exception: If the other team starts stealing rounds and for some reason the host or organizers seem to be allowing it, you can interfere. 
  4. Don't Mimic Moves When Its Not Your Turn
    In a cypher, you can do what ever you want really, except cyphers are usually too small for two people to be doing the same crazy move at the same time. Just because in a competition, the floor space is much bigger, doesn't mean when someone is doing a move, to go and do it at the same time. It makes it really hard to judge and makes a big mess of the entire battle. If you can do the same move or better, wait till the person is done and go in right after! That is called burning or smoking someone! The crowd will go even crazier, and it will make it look like your winning the battle even more!
    Exception: no exceptions 
  5. Trash Talking
    In a cypher, trash talking begins when there is disrespect involved. However in a Competition, it is part of the game to keep it hype and have a lot of energy. You only have a few rounds to win so you need to do everything you can to take away your opponents confidence in a short period of time or rounds.
    Exception: If you trash talk, do it tastefully. Don't talk personal things. Everything said should pertain to the current battle only.
    Exception 2: If you and your opponent have a large mutual respect for each other and want to make it a clean battle on skills a lone, don't trash talk.
 
 

EXHIBITION and MATCH UPS

If you have been asked to do an exhibition battle, or get matched up against someone, it is because YOU HAVE EARNED this battle. It is an honor, not a right. It means that people want to see this battle and you have already gained respect and acknowledgement in some shape or form. At this point, depending on your respect status, you may ask for some type of compensation for putting your reputation on the line which you have worked so hard to build. Unless you are unknown in the place that you are battling, you might decide to choose this battle to further prove yourself to the world. Both of you are on equal grounds. You both should have ample time to train for the battle and should be in tip top form. You know what you are getting in to.
 
 
STEP #9 Identify the Reason for Battle
No matter what, your reputation is on the line. But what is the reason this battle is being set up? 
 
A> Similarities in style, moves or technique
 
B> Beef
 
C> To make a spectacle or for crowd entertainment
 
Whatever the reason is, should affect the way you battle in an exhibition.
If you are matched up because of A, then you should concentrate on your battle response strategy.
If you are matched up because of B, forget about putting on a show. Its really between you and your opponent and as long as you are really attacking each other, everybody will love it. The energy will be REAL, natural and unforced.
If you are matched up because of C, then go in and do what you do best! If you are a powermover, don't try and footwork, and vice versa. People wanna see what you are known for!
 
STEP #10 Identify your Opponent
Firstly you must know what your opponents status is, as well as your own. This will help you determine if you should even accept the battle, and how much compensation you are entitled to.
 
Anytime that your are matched up against someone who is of a higher status than you, you should automatically accept, but you are definitely entitled to get something out of it! Also if you both have beef with each other, why not settle it on even terms and get compensated?
 
A. If you are a "WannaBboy" or Amateur, you have to work your way up to become a Hometown Hero.
Nobody wants to see an amateur or wannabboy in an exhibition battle... unless there is serious beef involved, they would want to see you get served, smoked and burned!
 
B. If you are a Hometown Hero, you should definitely accept any challenge from another hometown hero from your own area.
Unless you are the number 1 Hometown Hero, the only one that has a right to challenge you is the number 2 Hometown Hero. Your goal should be to become the number one Hometown Hero, and in doing so, you now have the support of your region, and you can now represent where your from in foreign places. This is your journey to becoming a World Contender.
 
C. If you are a World Contender, you no longer have anything to prove against a Hometown Hero, except maybe that he/she is not a World Contender.
The Hometown Hero has something to gain, and you have something to lose, so if you accept this battle, make sure you are compensated. 
As a World Contender, you will have already proved yourself to be ready for an international level. Your goal is to be the best of the best in this current time and generation, through cyphers, competitions and especially exhibitions! When you do beat the best of the best, you now become a Superstar.
 
D. If you are a Superstar, you are the top, and have nowhere else to go but down.
Right now you are shining, and promoters and organizers are inviting you because everyone wants to see you battle. World contenders will be challenging you for your spot and you have to accept, but you are entitled to good compensation. You can make your own rules and choose the amount of Rounds. You have earned this right and respect, but remember that stars fall. Your new goal will be to prove that you can stay at the top, and that you and your style can last through the continuous generations. Even after many bboys have watched and studied you, taking your moves and techniques to new levels. The truth will come out to see if your style is timeless, or if your contributions will forever be remembered, making you into a Legend.
 
E. If you are a Legend, you now have nothing left to prove.
You have accomplished what everyone in Hip hop wants to do, which is to leave a legacy. Even if you lose a battle, you never really lose! You eventually will realize that your prime has long gone, but you should feel satisfied with all your accomplishments and how you have affected bboying forever. Nothing can take away your status, unless you do something wrong to lose your respect. If you choose to do an exhibition, you will only be giving a great honor to the person battling you, thus you are definitely entitled to be compensated! However, if any other Legend or even someone from your own generation challenges you, you should accept, of course with compensation. In time, Legends eventually become O.G's, especially when new legends are born, and known for a similar style or technique which you have contributed first. But even tho, your name lives on.
 
F. If you are an O.G or Pioneer, you do not have to lift a finger.
Everyone should respect or Acknowledge that you had a major part or contribution in the "History of Bboying" and should show sincere gratitude. Even if you do something to lose your respect, you will always be an O.G or Pioneer of the dance. Some O.G's were never Legends or even Superstars, but the fact that they continued to be loyal to this artform and culture should always be acknowledged and appreciated from the future generations to come.
 
 

Bboy Etiquette Don't Do's

1. Don't call out someone, outside of a cypher, especially if:
- You don't have personal real beef with him/her
- If he isn't ready or has no idea he/she is going to be called out
- He/She is on a higher respect status than you! You did not earn this!
- If deep down you are seeking quick fame
 
Once anyone steps into a cypher, they are FAIR GAME. That is what cyphers are for! A cypher IS A BATTLE. If you are the best in a cypher, even if no battles went down, you inadvertently beat everyone there! 
 
 
2. Don't try to turn what should be a Cypher battle into an Exhibition battle. 
- Cypher battles are for free. It is raw. Only the people in the Cypher can see it. There are no rules or time limits. 
This is truly where a bboys style, technique and confidence is put to the ultimate test.
- Exhibition battles are for the audience. They pay to see good battles. So the Bboys performing must be 
compensated in some shape or form!
 
3. Don't stop learning about this culture.
It is like knowledge, it never ends and keeps growing. Through this universal culture of Bboyin' and Hip hop, we will learn how to respect others, and how to gain respect in return.
 
-This blog was edited from the original post made back in 2011 after being disrespectfully called out in France.