ReFresH Dance

Bboy Mantiis on Biting

What’s up people.  A while back, Jason put up a really interesting blogpost on a note on facebook on biting.  Earlier this week, I had a discussion with a few people on the concept of biting, and I thought that this blogpost did a pretty good job summing it up.  (My views are probably along the same lines as his)

The writer is Bboy Mantiis, a breaker widely respected in the bboy community.  So it mainly focuses on biting and breaking, but I think it can definitely be applied to other styles of hip-hop dance.  And whether you agree with it or not, it’s a pretty fast read and it definitely merits the attention of any aspiring dancer at any skill level.

The whole thing is a must read (especially the second part about ‘influence’ vs. ‘biting’


September 19, 2009 - Posted by | Other


  1. This reeks of traditionalism, with a healthy dose of venom towards dissemination of information no less. Yes, accessibility of material from all fields has bloomed with the advent of the internet. Yes, plagiarism has burgeoned in parallel. Yes… The world has changed and, as I say to all of my conservative friends, get over it.

    From an argumentation standpoint, he perpetrates a common logical fallacy of what I will call synecdoche for want of a better term. For the literarily challenged, that means representing the part for the whole, whole for the part, the general for the specific or the specific for the general; the good old saying, “sit your ass down,” is a great example of using a specific part of the body to represent the whole person. In prose, it is beautiful and thought provoking. In debate however, it is impermissible for a number of reasons, the relevant among them I shall detail here.

    Tucked away in the author’s verbiage is a not-so subtle comparison of present day breakers with leeches and parasites, whose creativity is siphoned from the grizzled, veteran historical breakers who were taught in person by Sensei Splinter in a dark, dank sewer in a congested city. To complete the argument, he then insinuates that all people who learned from the internet, as opposed to being “soned,” are immoral imitators who will never achieve the fame and stardom of the “soned.” In this way, the author attempted to conflate all the GOOD crews he saw in his day with ALL crews in his day, and simultaneously assert that all web surfing breakers are simulacrums of older breakers.

    Tragically, the author would be hard pressed to objectively show that ALL those who were “soned” are “superheroes or video game characters.” He suffers from a severe, irreparable case of sample bias. The only crews he would ever have seen in his day were the ones that made it. Ever been to a chain supermarket and see some impotent, old with paunch, balding black/white person bagging your groceries? Ask him his story, and no doubt this individual will wistfully and tearfully recount his days of almost going pro in football/baseball/some sport. Do note the operative hedge in that statement: Almost. Why is it that you do not know of Joe Shit the Rag Man (not you Joe Kim 😀 )bagging your groceries? I imagine it is the same reason why the author thinks everyone from his day is an exemplary, snow-flake unique breakdancer: He never saw the multitude of individuals who FAILED to achieve stardom despite direct pedagogical intervention. As a corollary, I doubt with utmost sincerity that ALL individuals who use the internet as their primary source of inspiration are unethical, soulless plagiarists who will fail utterly. Perhaps it is only in my mind, but I would argue that the only thing the internet has done is to allow everyone to SEE all of the would-be breakers that were apparently invisible just a decade before.

    I would also like to address one of the author’s closing remarks, which humorously and unintentionally obliterates his intended argument:

    ” Lets assume you are a creative person. Lets assume the person telling you this is not a creative person. A creative person and a person with no creativity could argue about biting forever. The reason is that you cannot explain, tell, or teach someone with no imagination HOW to be creative. This a point that is often overlooked when approaching the subject.”

    “Overlooked” indeed, even by the author himself. In lieu of providing a step-by-step description of how the author botched his argument, a hypothetical situation shall be employed. Let us first suppose that it is impossible to teach an uncreative person how to be creative. Second, let us suppose that you are an uncreative. Now imagine yourself in a grand studio, with all of your breakdancing idols, with an infinite amount of time to “sone” you. Of course, the author has already emphatically stated that creativity is NOT something that can be taught, so NO amount of “soning” in the world, whether online or in person, could possibly turn you into a superhero breaker. In essence, you would be one of those breaker dropouts that the author neglected to mention while he was vigorously masturbating with self-satisfaction and approval that would make Cheney blush. The author has, as a consequence to his saturated distaste for internet breakers I imagine, supported my every argument up to and including this point.

    Finally, a remark about traditionalist arguments in general: They, like Communism, look fantastic on paper. Unfortunately, they are about as tenable and stable as putting two hated enemies next to each other for generations aka Israel and Palestine. Below is a short list of things we DO NOT do, yet would fall perfectly in line with the traditionalist philosophy.

    1) Do not drive a nice car. Older cars do the same thing, and improvements to the old are not to be tolerated in any way, shape or form.
    2) Do not purchase any of the next gen consoles, or Starcraft 2, Diablo 3, Dragon Age, or any other advanced game. These games all had predecessors, and the predecessors are better by virtue of having come first.
    3) Absolutely no contraception, unless contraception is A) a sheep skin sheathed on your dong during intercourse, B) slicing off your gonads or my personal favorite C) killing the baby after its born, which isn’t contraception so much as it is cool and usual in the past where unwanted infants were butchered. Horrible by our standards but hey, the past is where we left Awesome, right?
    4) Please people, stop with the watches, iPods, surround sound speakers, computers, luxury condos, plasma TVs and robotic dogs. We did not have those in the past, and we must adhere to traditional values and lifestyles, because technology is a lie sent by liberals to kill us!

    The list goes on, and on, and on, and on…

    If you managed to get this far, then congratulations, you too can be an internet superhero!

    Comment by 2chix1cup | September 19, 2009 | Reply

  2. There is a problem with the first response to this post. Mantiis never states anywhere that Internet bboys are inferior to bboys that were mentored by someone already well versed in the game. Therefor a majority of the argument is attacking the wrong point.

    He merely states that bboys who learn on the internet are not taught the unspoken rule of not biting and it leads to a change in the culture. He has nothing against Internet bboys (he actually states that for the first couple of years he was dancing without a mentor), but rather against the general philosophy of biting that Internet bboys tend to have.

    In my opinion, whether or not a person wants to bite is their own decision. I will never call someone out for biting any of my innovations because I know that the idea’s true origin. However I do lose a lot of respect for any bboy that I see biting. I was lucky enough that the person who introduced me to bboying harshly criticized me for biting within my first few months. It showed me how frustrating it can be to have an idea that you nurtured for months or years just be copied and used by someone in a few practice sessions.

    Whether or not you want to bite is your own decision to make. Just think about whether or not you want to be a collage of other bboys or your own creation.

    Comment by direntropy | September 20, 2009 | Reply

  3. I think a lot of what both of you guys said is addressed in the actual blog discussion in the link Joe posted. I agree that in principle biting can be considered wrong, but it’s simply not a binary issue of “biting is wrong and if you’re not biting you’re completely original and therefore good”

    There are gradations of originality, depending on whether you’re being influenced by the people in your crew that inspire you, by your competition who’s always trying to knock you down, or even by the kids you teach your style to. The way that I learned bboying was from some guys who let me session with em. They would help me get along by teaching me a move or an exercise that had helped them master something. By copying that move or exercise, I would struggle through it, and almost always find a different step, combo, or transition that was more natural to me personally, thus creating my personal style. Furthermore, the take on the so-called “Internet bboy” was that you can bite whatever steps you want, if you see it on the internet or in a circle, but do it in the privacy of your own personal practice. That way, you can see what other people do, and discover new directions to stretch your own style.

    The trouble is finding that distinction between bboys who just grab moves from youtube, and the ones who are really into the art. I believe that this sort of argument pops up in any kind of artistic pursuit, whether it be bboying, choreography, music, or even painting. After a lot of talk with artists of all kinds, I’ve come to the belief that trying to draw a distinction between “truly original artists” and any other categorization is simply impossible. Unless you can be telepathic enough to understand the entire creation process that took someone to where they are, assuming that they belong in the category of the unoriginal, or “biters”, is prejudicial, short-sighted, and borderline arrogant.

    Finally, even if you could make that judgment, what do you do with that knowledge? Oh, he’s a biter, he’s not worth my time. Or do you run up to him and shove it in his face, dissing his biting and humiliating him in front of everyone? Or do you just battle him straight up, toast him and hope he comes to his senses? Attractive as these options may sound, I disagree with every single one of them. I believe that if you have the opportunity, you should get to know them. Help them session, see if they want to put in the effort and train. See if they’re hungry to get better, and see if you can help them. Then you’re in the best position to help him discover his own path to originality, and to help steer him away of whatever made you think he’s biting in the first place. OR you may end up in the best position to help yourself discover that you judged him incorrectly. It’s happened to me, that’s for sure.

    Who knows, though. That’s just my take on it. It’s one of the main principles behind why I founded ReFresH to be a completely open community. No matter how wack you may think someone is, you can’t know them until you actually know them.

    Comment by chiapet | September 21, 2009 | Reply

  4. So as I was writing my comment, Ntropy and Tactic both commented meaning I had to re-read their comments first. Then after a discussion with matt, I have resigned myself to pondering and then sleeping on some of this stuff and then writing a response.

    Comment by dreamstatecheung | September 21, 2009 | Reply

  5. I want to start off this by saying VW Scirocco TDI… *EXPLOSION*

    Travis haha, I think you are living proof that the internet can be a form of teaching, but also inspiration and creativity. And then I’m sure there are people who have been mentored, yet all they do is copy their mentor. What I would argue is that no method is inherently bad, yet depending on how you use it, can lead one down the road to biting. I’d argue that it’s easier to watch things off the internet and steal moves that way because in person, someone can call you out and be like, “hey, that’s so and so’s move” whereas the internet holds no one accountable.

    Addressing what Ntropy said, I think biting is something we need to call people out on. If it is a disrespectful thing (and I’d go as far to argue that it is actually harmful dancing wise to the person biting), then we don’t want our friends doing this kind of stuff, it is the helpful and positive thing to do.

    Chiapet is right, we’ll never fully know anyone’s story or situation. And for us to label someone based on our limited understanding is in a sense judgmental and almost always based on assumptions. And nothing is ever black and white haha. Of course there’s a difference between an isolated incident and trends. The only way for us to notice trends is to get to know that person and find out more of his story.

    I said this on my facebook comment, but the most important part about the blog post for me was the part about having a story and a progression to your dancing, how you grew, how you developed, milestones, etc. I don’t think a legit story is “oh first, I took this persons move, then I added it to that persons”

    Comment by dreamstatecheung | September 22, 2009 | Reply

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