Breaking News: World champion B-Girl Ayumi: “Breaking made me who I am today” 

B-Girl Ayumi began breaking at age 21. By the time Paris 2024 begins she will be 41. She told Olympics.com what the sport means to her and how she feels about the debut of breaking at the Games. 

By Chiaki Nishimura
Picture by 公益社団法人日本ダンススポーツ連盟

Some might say it’s too late to start competing in your 20s if you want to reach the top of the game. 

B-Girl Ayumi, however, started breaking at the age of 21 and 14 years later she became the first B-Girl to compete in the Red Bull BC One World Finals, before going on to win the 2021 World Championships and claiming bronze at the recent World Games. 

“Three weeks after [beginning breaking] I had my first battle against an elementary school girl. It was a disaster!” the Japanese athlete said in an exclusive interview with Olympics.com. 

Although this first battle did not go well, Fukushima Ayumi - her real name - become more immersed in the sport. And even now, the 39-year-old is madly in love with breaking and excited about its debut at Paris 2024.

“I learnt a lot and made many friends across the world because of the sport. I am delighted that breaking is receiving this attention [because of the Olympics],” she said.

A shy Japanese B-Girl talks to a stranger on the street in Canada

B-Girl Ayumi, who is from Kyoto, began breaking after being inspired by her sister, B-Girl Narumi. At the time, she was on summer holidays back home, taking a break from her studies in Canada. 

"It was hard to overcome the language barrier [in Canada]. I'm naturally shy and didn't speak English well, which made me extra shy," she explained. 

Sometimes, she found herself left out of conversations in the English-speaking environment and tried to find a way to break through.

"When I came back to Japan for the summer holiday, I wanted to start something new, and also wanted to lose some weight after gaining about 10kg in Canada,” she laughed.

As she also had experience of hip-hop dance from when she was a school girl, she began dancing again, but this time the dance she chose was breaking. She had some knowledge of the scene after watching her sister compete, but doing it was a whole different ball game to watching. Fortunately, she fell in love with it straight away.

"Breaking is challenging; even supporting yourself with your hands on the floor is tough for an ordinary girl. But it was enjoyable as I felt like I was evolving every day," Ayumi explained.

Three weeks later, the future world champion was on the stage for her first battle. Standing in front of her was an elementary school girl. However things didn’t quite go to plan. Ayumi found herself forgetting her moves and ended up sitting knees-to-chest middle of the battle.

From these humble beginnings, Ayumi began to grow into the sport and was keen to continue practising it when she returned to her studies in Canada. 

Thousands of miles away from Kyoto, she had no idea about the local breaking scene and didn’t know anyone who practised the sport. However, one day she saw a man holding a helmet walking in front of a coffee shop and stopped him to ask where she could practise breaking. She dared to begin a conversation with him in English, but as fortune would have it the man was Japanese and took her to a place where people practised. 

That moment of courage was the beginning of the B-Girl’s outstanding breaking career. Since then she has competed in many competitions, judged at events, and even claimed a world title.

Finding the balance between breaking and daily life

Although she performs across the globe at the highest level, the world champion also teaches English and dance in nurseries.

"For some, it's now possible to make a living from dance, but in our generation it was commonplace to work while dancing," she said.

Ayumi enjoys combining her two passions and says of teaching: “I do that for a living but it’s also good for finding a mental balance.

"I didn't notice it at the time, but there was a time when I felt like I had to do something, and I was scared to go to a battle," she reflected.

"One day, a friend told me I looked like I was afraid of challenges. That was true. I like dancing and enjoy it a lot. I believe the challenge should be part of the fun. But I realised that I had forgotten about the fun part."

This realisation may be what enables her to perform at the top level in a sport where it is essential to express yourself. 

"Breaking is a dance that is constantly evolving, and that's what I enjoy. But it wouldn't be my style if I left [the enjoyment] behind," she said.

Paris 2024: the ultimate competition

Perhaps because of her mental strength and character, Ayumi hasn’t had many lows in her career. However, two years ago she was injured with a hernia and took four months to recover.

“I used to be able to practice with friends for as long as five hours or more,” she explained, “But after the injury, I took my physical state more seriously and set a limit on how much time I would train.”

Now Ayumi only focuses on one event at a time, however Paris 2024 is making her excited.

"My biggest challenge is to be in the best condition whenever I have a chance to compete.

"I believe that Paris goes beyond any other competition. I love breaking, it had a massive impact on my life and made me who I am today. I still love it even after all these years,” said the formerly shy B-Girl, speaking with the confidence that breaking has instilled in her.

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