B-Boy Kid Karam — the Indian link to newest Olympic sportDecember 22, 2020
It took three generations of competitive cussedness in a sport-mad family for Karam Singh to become a British national champion. And, as Breaking — a sport where breakdancers, or B-Boy dance-athletes, duel against each other and are judged on skills — heads to the 2024 Paris Olympics, rising global star B-Boy Kid Karam, with roots in Punjab, has put himself in contention.
More so, after he represented the UK at 2020’s biggest Breaking event, Red Bull BC One, which was held recently in Salzburg where the world’s best eight competed.
Karam, whose father is Indian and mother British, grew up in Derby’s rough and multicultural neighbourhood of Normanton. “There being very minimal success stories from my part of the neighbourhood, my achievements led to the award on Derby’s Walk of Fame. I am the youngest to receive it,” says Karam in an interview conducted over email with The Indian Express.
The recognition comes two generations after his grandfather, a wrestler from Phagwara, had to quit his beloved sport while refusing to compromise on principles.
“My grandfather back in India was a famous wrestler in our town. When moving to England, he gave it up because he didn’t want to conform to the rules of losing and winning when told to do so over here. I guess this is where my competitiveness comes from,” says Karam of his paternal family that moved to Derby in the 1960s looking for work and a new life.
It was his father, though, who injected the dancing bug. “In the 80s, my father participated heavily in the dance of shuffling. He would perform in clubs and go all around the UK competing and challenging other dancers with his friends. Similar to how Breakers used to do it back in the day,” he says. His uncle trained children in martial arts after a 4th Dan.
Karam runs, works out in a gym, and swims to improve stamina, agility, speed and power. “My big dope move, which is what I’m known for at times, is a crazy ‘Head Spin Drill’,” he says. He continues his 5-a-side football once a week, and has played “plenty” of cricket when younger, and hockey, which he claims he was good at.
“My favourite player in history is Sachin Tendulkar, but currently it’s Virat Kohli, of course,” says the Manchester United devout.
Smitten by breaking dance crew Trinity Warriors, whom he first saw perform head spins at a fun fair in a park at age 7, Karam told his sister that “one day, I’ll do those spins”. While the crew allowed the underage “Kid” to roll around on stage, his first teacher and mentor B-Boy Foggy told him he was underaged for any of the b-boying wizardry yet. “B-Boy Foggy explained that the classes were for 8-year-olds and up. I waited until my 8th birthday and was at the next class,” says Karam.
In 2008, Trinity Warriors battled Korean crew T.I.P in the World finals. “In this battle, I came out of a bag on stage and at the time I was the youngest person to ever compete in it,” Karam recalls.
As he grew up, Karam set his sights on the UK’s ultimate solo title. “To be crowned the British Champ meant everything to me,” he says of the 2019 triumph.
His Indian roots, though, peek through every now and then. “Some of my top rock moves are influenced by Bhangra steps from family weddings. I really like Bhangra artistes Sidhu Moose Wala and Panjabi MC and carry their energy with me in all of my sets and make videos to their music also! One of my favourite happy songs to dance on is Punjabi MC’s Morni,” says Karam.
It was a trip to India in 2019 though that offered him a different transition than what b-boying in Europe invoked. Flown out to New Delhi to judge and deliver a workshop for the Bharat Jam Competition, Karam experienced a different culture. “For the first time, I was overwhelmed. It was the ‘most pure’ place and I will cherish the memories forever. I cried on the plane back because I didn’t want to come back to the world I live in, over in England,” he recalls.
Breaking in the Olympics is music to his ears. “As a competitive b-boy, the Olympics provides definition. I love Breaking, so wherever it goes, I will go too. With Breaking being an Olympic sport and me potentially getting to be a part of it, it’s a dream come true. I can’t wait for it!” he says.
France has been a second home with most of his wins coming there besides in the UK. It puts Karam alongside Breaking’s biggest names — B-Boys Shigekix of Japan, Bumblebee of Russia and Zeku of the USA — as a formidable contender challenging established champs Alkolil of Russia and Kazakhstan’s Killa Kolya.