Phil Wizard, Champion Breaker and Olympic Contender, Isn’t Convinced ‘Breakdancing’ Is a Sport

Haha, look at the big shorts I’m wearing! This is in my friend’s basement. That’s where we would go to practice. It’s actually really funny seeing this now. There are certain movements, there are certain shapes, the way that I move is still very similar. But you can see the energy, you can see the hunger that I had at that age. That’s changed.

What do you mean? What’s changed?

It’s always more pure when you start. You dance because you love to dance. Now, there’s sponsors, there’s media. At that age, when I would go to an event, everything was super exciting. I still have the same love, but it’s lost the shine a little bit, for sure.

OK, boilerplate question: Is breaking a sport?

Good question.

You knew this was coming.

It’s a conversation we have to have. Whenever I get asked this question, I say I’ve always seen it as an art and a culture first. I’ve never seen it as a sport. Most of us have never seen it as a sport. It’s self-expression, it’s culture. It’s an element of hip-hop culture. Now it’s going into the realm of sports. To be completely honest, I don’t care what people label it. Hip-hop in general, it can transcend these labels.

It’s kinda funny to me that there are two groups of people who agree that breaking isn’t a sport: the haters who are mad that breaking is in the Olympics, because they don’t respect it, and the breakers themselves. I don’t get the hate, though. What you do is really athletic, it’s really difficult.

There’s also a ton of subjectivity involved. There’s no cookie-cutter “if you do this move, you get this many points.” You have categories like originality, execution, and difficulty. But “difficulty” is a hard one to judge, because you could do something physically difficult, but you could do something equally creatively difficult. How do you gauge those factors? It is still extremely subjective; it is very political when it comes to judging.

Right. And even when this was first announced as a 2018 Youth Olympics event, there was that petition from a B-boy who accused World DanceSport Federation and the International Olympic Committee of exploiting breaking for their own gain. It got over 2,000 signatures—other B-boys, B-girls.

Yeah, some people in the community don’t want us in the Olympics. But there are a lot of OGs and people who are very respected in the game who understand the opportunities that will come from it. It’s not perfect, but nothing ever is. At the end of the day, the positives outweigh the negatives. So let’s focus on that and just do our best.

Just like you said, all of this isn’t just a sport, it’s a culture. And that’s where things get really deep.

Of course. You have to respect that side too. For me, I understand that I am a guest of this culture. I’m just someone who came in after. It came from Black and Latino culture. It came from the hood. It’s grown outside of that. It touched people like me who come from a middle-class family that just saw breaking and were like, “I want to do this.” Same thing with the Europeans and the Asians. If you go to Japan, there’s a lot of kids whose parents see it as something fun and positive their kid can do. I don’t think that’s a bad thing.

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