As a kid in the seventies, that was CB talk. Truckers were the bikers of the seventies, heroic gypsy rebels of the highway. How things change…

In the eighties, breaking was something the really weird poser kids did. In the nineties it was a laughable relic of the past. The advantage of getting older is that all your shame is decades behind you. Or at least, you can pretend it is. So when I heard that breaking was still happening, and there was this “Battle Of The Year” thing that was going on. I dug a little deeper…neat.

I was in the middle of shaking up my personal world of martial arts. I’d had a blinding, brilliant revelation at 4am one morning, and in twenty minutes wrote out the entire 5×5 drill and teaching system. I was so excited I texted it to my fiancee, and called my best friend, waking him up. It was brilliant. The next while was spent experimenting with it and making changes, but the end result wound up being identical to what popped into my head that night.

But as I taught the drill and it became a regular part of practices, something started to kick lose in me. I usually worked with Justin Ring. We’d been fighting together so long we knew each other’s habits enough to take risks. I felt like there was something beyond the usual martial arts skills, the patterns I’d learned and developed over the years. In the space between one punch and the next, I started to think beyond what I knew.

The beauty of the 5×5 drill is that it gets into your deep combat programming on every level. You get to lay out your flinches, reflexes, and instincts and put them in a clean laboratory for experimentation. For me, something wasn’t clicking. Or more likely, things were really clicking. Within the context of the drill, I was finding it easy to do things that formerly seemed impossible. It seemed easy to kick a knife out of someone’s hand, or disarm them as I wrote about before. Double leg takedown against a fast jab? No problem. What else could I do?

I dug up my decades-old notes on Silat and Capoieria. We’d already been heavily incorporating Savate, la Canne and Mendoza into the drill. I started to look into what was possible, what the range of human motion was and how it could be applied combatively. I checked out the Tricking guys, but it left me kinda cold. Digging deeper in Parkour was fascinating, and from there it was only a tiny jump to Breaking and Ballet. I started to bring back some fun things to class. But we needed to fitter, faster and stronger to access the things I was thinking about, so we started to add in the gymnastics exercises (man, the grumbling and whining…)

The gymnastics exercises were great, but we were using the static positions for building strength, and I wanted more strength in the full range of motion. Gymnastics routines would work, but required a skill level that was far too specialist for my interests. Cartwheels were good, but still too limited. I found the answer when I sucked up my shame and started to try out some of the basic breaker moves. The 6-step move was the key. It was like an organized wrestling sit-out/scramble drill. The 3-step added more explosive speed and strength to the mix. It sure added a dose of fun to the class, anyway.

The weird thing started to happen about a month after we started adding in the breaking drills. I started to notice that when students landed from falls, they were starting to do the spider-man thing, landing in a pose. They were starting to instinctively use the now-comfortable low positions of the 6-step as a safe landing base, instead of breakfalls and rolls. This had the advantage of giving them a sound platform for movement after a fall. They were falling and coming down into a stable movement base, and had inadvertently drilled-in the correct follow-up response. The entire movement dynamic of the class was changing, which led to the creation of the 2×2 and chain drills.

It pays to keep an open mind. And to lose your fear of trying new things that make you look and feel stupid. It’s not so bad to look stupid. It’s only a moment or two. If you persevere through the shame, you might be surprised at what kind of value you can find in things you dismiss.