Hong10, a man with a name feared as much as it is revered, is a South Korean B-Boy who has stood at the pinnacle of the breaking scene for years. Back in 2002, he was already winning dance competitions across the globe in countries such as Japan and Germany. Almost twenty years later, Hong10 shows no signs of slowing down; he has consistently won some of the world's most competitive battles, and has undisputedly established himself as one of the most celebrated dancers in the history of B-Boying.
The two-time Red Bull BC One Champion exerts such an influence on the scene that people affectionately refer to his iconic halo freeze move as the “Hong10 freeze.” He humbly attributes his long list of achievements to hard work and consistency. Reflecting on his career, Hong10 says “I pursued most opportunities because I didn’t want to have any regrets... and that’s why there’s nothing that I wish I had done earlier at the beginning of my career. But if there was one thing—to dance professionally means sacrificing a lot of time. Whether it’s time with my family or hanging out with my friends, I reduced my time on that end to practice and enter competitions.”
Following his dominating victory in Taiwan last year, where he won over thirty full rounds back-to-back against Harricane, Hong 10 will be battling against ten of Las Vegas's top B-Boys simultaneously in a historic exhibition battle. Red Bull caught up with him via video chat ahead of his flight to the US to look back at his impressive past and discuss his future ambitions.
1. You have been at the top of the B-Boying game for over 20 years. A lot of B-Boys slow down after their 30’s but you are one of the few who continue to dominate the scene. What does it take for someone to have a lasting career like you?
I don’t think that there’s any one secret, but personally I’ve contemplated a lot on what I could do that others aren’t doing. Whether it’s basic stretching, exercising in general, or practicing daily, the simple answer is to make sure that you’re consistently working hard towards what you want to accomplish. While watching others, I’ve noticed it isn’t easy to have that persistence. So I wonder if maybe that effort helped me excel in my career.
2. You have competed in several Red Bull BC One World Finals. What was the most memorable BC One battle for you?
Ah, BC One… well it was quite a while ago, but for me I would probably have to say the 2006 BC One. My semifinal round was against Roxrite, and the finals were with Ronnie. It was especially memorable because that was my first BC One victory, and there were a lot of iconic B-Boys that advanced in that tournament. The fact that I was able to dance with people like that made me happy, so I remember that year the best.
3. Had you met Ronnie before that?
Yes, I met him for the first time at the 2005 BC One. Before that, I had only seen videos of him. When he was practicing, I thought to myself, “Wow, he is extremely good at dancing; I don’t think I could beat him, he must be the best out of all the 2005 competitors.” It was almost shocking for me. While I had the thought that maybe I was not as good at dancing as [Ronnie], I did think that I could probably beat him in a battle. For me, winning a battle is a different concept from being a better dancer.
4. You recently had a high-profile exhibition battle against Harricane. What was it like going to Taipei to battle in such a publicized event? Did you feel more pressure because of the way it was promoted?
Rather than pressure, I was more curious about whether or not I’d even be able to go to Taipei, given the current circumstances. We talked to set up the battle, but the vagueness and uncertainty was more difficult than anything. But once I was in Taipei, I had a wonderful time thanks to Harricane. Instead of staying at a hotel, I stayed at Harricane’s home and they really treated me like family. I had the opportunity to get close with the family (and his crew as well) for almost a month. I made a lot of wonderful memories during that time.
As for the battle, honestly when I first heard the format I thought, “Is this really necessary? Why do we have to dance for this long?” But after the battle, I definitely understood that I was wrong and that this type of format has potential.
5. Compared to other countries, there are not as many up and coming breakers in Korea. What do you think about that?
There are definitely cultural differences. When I travel to other countries and see new breakers come about, I have wondered why there aren’t as many dancers coming from Korea.
In Korea, there aren’t as many children that start dancing early; the reason for that is unavoidable and is due to the environment of the country. A lot of parents don’t want their children to dance because they want them to study and prepare for a career that will financially benefit them in the future, which usually comes from academics. If they support dancing, it’s mostly just a process to become a celebrity. They think, “Breakdancing? Why would you do that if it’s not going to make you money?”, and do not encourage that type of dancing for their kids. But in countries like Japan and China, I’ve seen parents bring their young children to practice and really support their interests. It’s a simple cultural difference that will really determine if Korea will produce the next generation of breakdancers, or if this culture will stop here.
6. Can you tell us a little bit more about your new crew, Flow XL?
I was originally part of a crew called Drifterz, but last year our leader Ducky moved to New Zealand. Because of that, we were faced with a crisis of what to do with the crew. In the end we decided that we would no longer use the name Drifterz, but we created FlowXL with the people that still wanted to dance and compete together. Actually, the most difficult problem we dealt with was coming up with a new crew name—it took almost six months to decide.
7 Are you preparing for any upcoming battles?
Yes, currently I have Las Vegas coming up [at the end of the month], which is an exhibition battle hosted by Ronnie that we are calling “Hong 10 Rounds: Las Vegas.” I’ll be competing against ten B-Boys. That’s the main one that I’m preparing for. After that, there are a couple of different battles, but it’s hard to tell whether or not they will actually happen until the time comes due to the current situation.
8. Where have been your favorite places to travel?
Madagascar and Norway. I had never previously been to a place like Madagascar. In one way, people might see it as a country that is still developing, but the people there seemed genuinely happy. That’s when I realized money truly isn’t everything. When I was surrounded by all that nature I thought to myself, I really have never been anywhere like this before. We were so deep in, that our phones weren’t working at all.
I went to Norway after the 2016 BC One in Nagoya. Once that event was over, I realized that I needed a break for myself. I requested to see the northern lights, as this was something that had always been at the top of my bucket list. When I got there, it just happened to be the start of the season for dog sledding, so I was able to experience that and I also stumbled upon some filming of whales kind of like National Geographic. After going very high up, we finally made it to the location, but the lights weren’t visible. Thankfully we hung around for a bit, and they ended up showing, so it was nice to check that one off.
9. What is one thing you wish you had done earlier in your career?
If I’m going to be honest, I think I’ve done everything I wanted to. I pursued most opportunities because I didn’t want to have any regrets... and that’s why there’s nothing that I wish I had done earlier at the beginning of my career. But if there was one thing—to dance professionally means sacrificing a lot of time. Whether it’s time with my family or hanging out with my friends, I reduced my time on that end to practice and enter competitions. Since I got so used to that lifestyle, when I look back I find myself yearning a little for those good memories that I could have had with my friends and family. I wish I could have had a bit more of those memories.
10. Now that breakdancing is becoming so much more widespread, is there a piece of advice you can give to people that want to pursue it?
I have been in this scene for a very long time and have come across some exceptional talent, but too many times have I seen some of those people make a strong impression and suddenly disappear. I think “Wow that person can dance really well…” and then you see them working in a completely different field after giving up on dancing. I’ve seen that too often and, in the end, you never know what people are going through and what situation they might be in. They might have even developed an injury. There are going to be a lot of hardships that come your way, but if you really think that dancing is your path and you can overcome those struggles, I truly believe there will come a time where you will reap the benefits of your efforts. I wish that everyone would not give up and keep going.
Catch B-Boy Hong 10 take on 10 of the best breakers in the Las Vegas scene on @DistrctArts Instagram on April 25th.