The Art of Breaking and Its Place in Hip-hop Culture

FRESNO, Calif. -- Breaking is well on its way to becoming an Olympic sport in 2024, and it's been a part of the hip hop culture of Fresno for decades.

"There are people that are involved with this community that want to see it go further," said Charles Montgomery, also known as B-boy Goku. The Fresno native has been breaking for 26 years and has won numerous awards, traveling to every continent except Antarctica and Australia to compete.

He's also been teaching classes out of his Central Fresno home for 11 years at the SCMX Hip Hop Academy.

"Charles is qualified, more than anyone that I know to be teaching this dance," said Cody Bender. He and his brother Wyatt have been taking classes with Montgomery for about two years. "And I was like I don't care if it's in his backyard, or if he teaches me in his front yard. If he's going to teach me and he's willing to, I'm going to take that opportunity."

"I never danced before in my entire life when I showed up here," Cody said.

While it's commonly known as breakdancing, all three said that's not the correct term.

"We are b-boys, and we break," Wyatt and Cody said. "We are not breakdancers, we do not breakdance."

"Breaking is part of the culture of hip hop and breaking started in the Bronx, in the early or late 70s," Montgomery said. He believed it was important to keep passing the art along after he was inspired by the local Hmong and Latino communities.

Since opening the studio, which sits in the back portion of his house, Montgomery has taught about 200 students. The class we attended was his last for now: after 11 years, he's closing the doors until he can raise the money to open a studio elsewhere.

"It hits hard for me," Montgomery said. "Because there's kids that come in here that, you know, come out of the doctor's office, they're getting labeled ADHD, learning disabilities... and actually leaving my school the top student. Changing lives, man."

Montgomery, a father of three, said he needed to focus on his home life and providing for his family for a while. Once the money is raised for a new studio, he plans to teach again.

"It's just being around so that when these kids in these neighborhoods need somebody to talk to them or they need somebody to get down with... that you're around man. And that you you give back to what hip hop actually helped you become," he said.

"This dance is a universal language, this culture is a universal language and it has saved my life."

Montgomery has set up a GoFundMe account to help raise funds for the new studio.