Breakin Visual Barriers: Bboy Shadow Kid on Visual Impairment, Dance, and Life Struggles
The Origins of Bboy Shadow Kid's Visual Impairment
Shadow Kid was born and raised in Hong Kong and has been dancing for over 13 years since the summer of 2008 after his friend Stamina demonstrated a headstand to him. With no official crew, he strives to be the first representative for visually impaired bboys in the urban jungle.
His visually impairment started at 10 years old, a hereditary disease from his mother's side. He is known to be the youngest family member to be diagnosed with the disability, with others starting from 18-22 years old. His left eye has 5% while his right is below 2% for his visual capabilities. Being a Grade 5 student with an eye disability was a critical moment in his life, as it was the transitional period to enter high school.
Prior to his visually disability, he was always a top-tier student who played various sports such as basketball. However, it gradually became a struggle due to accidentally blocking his own teammates during matches.
Reading menus, finding bus numbers, and other ordinary tasks, morphed into a daily nuisance for Shadow Kid after age 10.
He now solely focuses on Breakin' but still indulges with other normal activities like yoga, fitness, and hiking.
The Day in a Life of a Visually Impaired Bboy
Being visually impaired in the Breakin' scene definitely has its downsides. Achieving daily tasks takes a tremendous amount of mental patience to get throughout the day. Despite being physically ready for evening practices, he's mentally drained from the day to push further during a session.
Breakin' relies heavily on finding your center of balance. When you switch from various footwork positions or transitioning through powermoves, this strenuous artform is not something to take lightly. But Shadow Kid explains, "Imagine closing your eyes and walking in a straight line. It's kind of difficult to maintain right? That's how I feel when I'm trying to dance or learn new moves."
Ironically, his dance style revolves around freezes. But he mentioned that he could have elevated his style further if he wasn't visually impaired. He has to grasp every detail he could take, in order to learn the correct technique or avoid crashes during a cypher or battle.
During a jam, kids or physically disabled dancers may receive more props for entering a battle for their show of courage and determination to be on the battle stage. However, Shadow Kid feels stuck between the ordinary and disabled spectrums. He looks totally normal to the ordinary eye, yet he isn't visibly disabled for people to notice that he is pushing the limits.
In his 13 years of being in the Hong Kong Breakin' scene, he struggles with the social aspect of getting to know other breakers. People may come up and catch up with him, but he has no idea who he is conversing with until he asks his close friends who that person was.
Despite these disadvantages, there is surprisingly some upsides to this. His friends went to RF Jam in 2017, one of the best jams in Singapore, and witnessed Victor taking the 7 to Smoke championship. They reported that Victor's facial expressions were so intimidating, that even they feared his battle presence as a spectator in the crowd. But Shadow Kid believes if he battles Victor or any person in general, their facial expressions won't work on him — he literally can't see them.
Every battle he enters, it's not a battle against the person. It's only a battle within himself.
How He Overcame His Identity Crisis
Being visually impaired puts Shadow Kid in a weird position. Outsiders think he's an ordinary person, yet he's not physically disabled enough to be recognized by other disabled stereotypes i.e. blind guy wearing shades and using a walking stick.
Kind of like the classic Disney TV show, Hannah Montana. He's stuck between two worlds.
After years of reflection, he came to the conclusion that he doesn't need to fit in with anyone. He created his own path. A visually impaired person who is a Bboy, social worker, and a fashionista. A hybrid of his own personal identity.
A Message to the Breakin' Scene and other Disabled Breakers
Shadow Kid emphasizes on the importance of style. "Since I can't recognize people's facial features, I rely on knowing who's who by their movements. I can see clearly who is who by their style alone, but may be difficult to differentiate if their movements are similar to others," he explains.
He would also love to raise awareness on his visual impairment, but remind others not to treat him any differently. He wants to be treated equally, not be given extra props just because he "can't see clearly." If he smoked someone, it should be based solely on his skills, not because he is a visually impaired person.
Shadow Kid leaves his final words for any breaker with disabilities,
"For me, the battle is not the most important aspect in Breakin'. Self-expression is at utmost importance. Through self-awareness, you get to discover more about your physical capabilities, how you feel about the music, and what brings you genuine happiness. Being truly yourself in a cypher or jam, delivers more happiness in the long run."
Being close with Shadow Kid for the last few years, this was a piece I've been wanting to share for a long time. I hope this could inspire you in to keep pushing your boundaries, despite your circumstances in life. I wish Shadow Kid all the best in his future endeavors. Follow his journey on IG: @sharedopekid.
I'm sure you will see him smoke you in a few years time.
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