From Asia to the United States, Kong Mun-chai’s breakdancing journey has taken him to prestigious competitions around the world since he began his dance career. Now, he has his sights set on what could be his biggest stage yet: the 2024 Paris Olympics.
“I didn’t expect that breaking could be a sport in a world event,” the 34-year-old, a breakdancing instructor and a senior manager at the non-profit Youth Outreach’s School of Hip Hop told Coconuts. “But it’s happening.”
For the first time in history, the street sport will be making an appearance at the Olympics when the games kick off in France in less than three years’ time. As one of the most decorated B-boyers in the city, Kong, also known as Cha Cha Kong, believes he has a shot at representing the city at the Paris Games.
But the road ahead, Kong admits, will be challenging. The life of a professional athlete in Hong Kong is not easy—not least for those practicing a still-nascent sport. Without government support, breakdancers self-fund their way to competitions and lack access to resources like physiotherapy sessions and world-class coaches.
“Hongkongers are used to relying on ourselves,” Kong said.
Where outsiders see a niche—possibly even unsophisticated—form of dance, the born-and-bred Hongkonger sees catharsis. Since discovering breakdancing over 20 years ago, the sport has provided an escape from the mundanities of daily life and a chance to unleash his creativity.
One day, when he was a secondary school student, he passed by a street performance in Tsim Sha Tsui. There, he watched as dancers expertly swirled their bodies across the floor and held one-arm handstands.
“It looked so cool. I wanted to use it to attract girls,” he recalled of his teenage self. “I just went over and asked them to teach me the skills. Surprisingly they did. After that, it became a game changer in my life.”
Soon, Kong began practicing with his new friends, picking up the 6-step—the basic footwork sequence—and graduating to tougher acrobatic movements requiring both strength and agility. He watched videos of accomplished breakdancers religiously, learning and infusing the moves he found coolest into his own repertoire.
In the years since, Kong has participated in numerous contests around the world. One of his biggest achievements came in 2018, when he qualified for the prestigious World Bboy Classic competition in the Netherlands.
Kong took trips to the US over the past two decades, learning from dance gurus like Ken Swift in New York City and Moy Rivas in Houston, Texas. He also joined a course at Broadway Dance Center in New York City. But the trip was about more than just brushing up on his moves—he gained a deeper understanding of the history of hip hop, including the roots of breakdancing and graffiti, and his English also improved tremendously.
Being a full-time breakdance instructor and a key manager of School of Hip Hop, Kong has to juggle teaching, planning fundraising events and reaching out to schools for collaborations. He makes time to practice his breakdancing routines whenever he can, and also does Thai boxing workouts to train his strength and endurance.
For Hong Kong breakdancers to compete at the Olympics, they must rank locally and make it through qualifications organized by the World DanceSport Federation, which will be held a year before the Paris Games, according to George Yip, president of Hong Kong DanceSport Association.
To Kong, the hundreds of competitions he’s participated in over the past two decades has led up to this very moment. A veteran of the sport compared to his younger peers, Kong said he doesn’t feel “super stressed out.”
“I encourage myself a lot with positive thoughts, like ‘you can do it’ and ‘keep up the good work,'” Kong said.