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Featuring: Stephen the Wunderkind

July 17, 2010 Leave a comment

Some things don’t make sense the first time you see them.

In my research for 90 degree pushups, I saw a video title claiming to show someone breaking the world record. Clicking on it, I saw what looked like a fifteen year old doing 13 reps of the most difficult push up out there.

I knew that no fifteen year old could do this (save for Giuliano Stroe, arguably). Was this supposed to be some kind of joke? I didn’t see a punchline or anything. I clicked on some of his other videos.

I knew that no 15 year old can do one handed planche negatives. There is no…

AHHHHHHH! IT HURTS! IT HURTS JUST WATCHING IT!

Has to be fake. No way that’s real. I looked for clues to visual trickery, but since when am I an expert in visual fraud? The commenters on youtube were just as perplexed as I was.

Is it easier for a kid to do these things? Maybe, but most athletes can’t pull these things off. Geoff Craft has only been able to do nine 90 degree push ups, and he made a tutorial on it. The world record is set at eleven reps, for heaven’s sake. Unless Stephen was trained by shaolin monks or bitten by a radioactive spider, I’m watching something that shouldn’t exist.

I contacted StephenConditioning and tried to get some answers. Yes, he really is fifteen (although he stressed that he’ll turn 16 in two weeks). The videos aren’t fake. He simply trained his strength from an early age, trying to imitate the power moves of bboy Junior (the most impressive bboy out there). Stephen recorded his feats with a web cam, which explains the low quality of his videos, but recently acquired a camera. He’s already posting more clips of his incredible tricks.

He’s become a new friend of the website, and a personal inspiration. I have no excuse for not training my handstands and push ups variations now, and I will look to Stephen whenever I feel that I can’t push my body further.

To read the interview transcript with Stephen, click here.

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Raw interview: Stephen the Wunderkind

July 17, 2010 1 comment

This is the interview transcript with StephenConditioning. I’ve inserted my comments in brackets and some links to the mentioned bboys. Read my feature to see his incredible moves.

When did you begin to train, and when did you start with bboying?
I started doing handstands, back flips, and somersaults in 2002 [ca. 8 years old] after I saw one of my pals do a back flip. I was fascinated and tried it. So I learned more and more and tried more and more. I didn’t train daily, just on the side, but now I train every day.
I started bboying in 2006 [ca 12 years old] after a class mate told me to watch some breakdance videos on Youtube. The first video I saw was with bboy Junior. I was so thrilled by his moves, freezes, and his musicality that I immediately tried it myself. I used Youtube to teach myself these tricks.

How can you pull of this amazing feats of power? Is there some special reason?
I can do these power moves because I tried to imitate Junior’s moves. It leave you breathless when you watch him dance on his hands and making it look so easy. His finger-push ups (with his feet in the air) impressed me the most. I first thought they were fake, but then I tried it myself [the exact same reaction I and others have with Stephen’s video clips.]. At the beginning of 2008 I started to train daily, and it’s working out pretty well now.

What are the reactions of your friends and family. Have people started talking about your talent?
My friends and family are indeed impressed by my talent, and everybody in my town knows me.

What is your strength training and bboy training. How do you practice each day?
My training is divided into separate blocks. I mostly train my strength with push-ups, hand-stands, and other power moves. Then I train my balance. Also, some new moves, freezes, top rocks etc.

Have you already started dancing. Do you already go to battles? Do you already have a dancing name?
Unfortunately, I live in a small city with no dance schools. I don’t receive any support from anybody because I am the only one doing this sport in my area. I would like to go to battles, but I don’t have a crew. Neither have I found a dancing name.
[Stephen the Wunderkind doesn’t really sound cool and exotic to native German speakers. I’m not sure that Spiderman really cuts it, either.]

Who are the best bboys in your opinion?
Junior’s the best bboy in my opinion because he introduced a lot of new moves to the bboy scene and he’s very creative. In addition, he is very musical and does his dance to the rhythm of the music.
Actually, all bboys who are creative and who develop their own moves are good. This includes Junior, Lilou, Physicx, Hong 10, and others.

What is your opinion of the German bboy scene?
It isn’t very good in my opinion. Most German bboys have the flexible style, like Rubberlegz, Lil’ Amok, or Salajin. These guys practically have no toprock moves, they just want to impress with their moves.

What one advice would you give to all those who want to become bboys?
My advice is to never give up and believe in yourself.

Describe your recent meeting with Junior and Cico.
My meeting with BBoy Junior was simply awesome. I’m a very big fan and waited a long time to meet him. I asked him some questions, like how long he has done this dance/sport, if he has a favourite bboy, what his sources of inspiration are. Also, I showed him some of the moves that I learned from him. Junior isn’t just one of the best bboys in my opinion, he’s also a very nice person, and I hope to meet him again. Cico was also very nice and showed us some of his tricks. At the end of the event, both gave a really impressive show!

[I think he’s referring to this event (posted by Stephen himself). Both Cico and Junior are so impressive in this clip. It made me gasp in some parts.]

That concludes this interview, but I’ll keep everyone posted with this new friend of the site. For regular updates of new interviews and articles, press the RSS feed button.

Youtube and pornographic cooking shows

July 10, 2010 Leave a comment

These are just some personal thoughts that relate to the typical traits of performers and entertainers. Click here for all of my other ramblings.

Let me warn you of a behavior that may hold you back in your progress. It feeds on a human characteristic of dependence that we all have, to a certain extent. I like to call it the pornographic cooking show effect.

Let me explain. Most people who watch cooking shows don’t do it to learn new recipes. They watch them to have to a pleasant cooking experience without having to buy groceries, prepare the food, and wash dishes. Yes, they didn’t cook anything, they can’t eat the food, or even smell it, so it’s a weak substitute for the real thing. Nonetheless, people are willing to accept this because there’s no cost and no hassle. It’s the same principle with porno, a pale imitation of the real experience where you don’t take part in the activity (let’s not discuss details). Still, it’s instant gratification with no hassle, no demands from another living person, at nearly no cost. Billions of dollars each year in that industry attest to that principle (it is probably recession proof, for all I know).

Dance clips can have a similar effect, because they reduce your incentive to practice the dance yourself. With today’s wireless internet, Youtube, and the laptaop (or the iPad), you can watch the greatest battle events at any time, at any place. Instant gratification anywhere you are, no matter who you are, or what your own dancing skills are.

Yes, you weren’t there, and it wasn’t you who wowed everyone with your sick moves. But you didn’t need to practice the drills. On days where your energies are low and you’re flooded by self-doubt, you can watch the same clips on Popin’ Taco over and over again. This helps you feel better after not being quite able to execute those arm wave like you wanted to. Hell, on your laziest days, you can just imagine that you are Salah, and that it was you at at the final round of Juste Debout. They feed your fantasies, just like pornos do.

This wasn’t an option back in the 1970s/1980s (or even less than a decade ago to a large extent). If you didn’t dance and meet up with other dancers, then you had no other substitute for the experience. Hell, there were little options for entertainment in general (especially for the poor urban youth who invented popping and bboying). There simply was less chance of gratification of any kind without effort. This made you hungry, as Otis Funkmeyer told me in our interview. It spurned you to improve your skills, because you had to rely on yourself for gratification, not on technology.