This is: Phil Wizard
Phil Wizard (The Wizards, United Rivals, 7 Commandoz, Black Market) in Mumbai. Photo by @LittleShao
hil Wizard is one of the new generation bboys bringing his own brand of breaking to the table. Phil's creative approach to breaking is a breath of fresh air in a scene where technical powermoves and tricks are becoming more commonplace.
Over the past several years, Phil Wizard has been steadily making his name known. He became the first Canadian bboy to be invited to the Red Bull BC One World Finals, and won the Undisputed championship in 2019. He was also the 1 vs 1 Champion of The Notorious IBE in both 2018 and 2019.
Beginning under the tutelage of Vancouver's Now or Never Crew, Phil has developed a style that beautifully combines innovative movements with a powerfully raw energy. His arsenal of signature moves allow him to build anticipation and excitement in each of his sets. His triumphs are a testament to the heart of breaking, being original, and have undoubtedly inspired the past, present, and future generations of bboys.
Myth sat down with Phil Wizard to talk about his BC One experience, the future of the breaking scene, and more. Read down below to see our full interview with Phil Wizard.
Phil Wizard at Unbreakable 2019 filmed by @LawkSam
Hey Phil thanks for talking to us today. How have you been holding up over the pandemic?
The first few months were probably the hardest because it was a whole flip in lifestyle for me. 2019 was the busiest year for me in terms of traveling and competing. I was going in and out of Vancouver probably every two weeks. To go from that to absolutely nothing was a big change for me. It was a lot harder than I thought it would be to adjust mentally, in terms of getting my training schedule consistent.
I always thought that I would be able to self-motivate myself, because I love dancing, I love the art of it. I thought that would be enough, but I think because I relied so much on competitions the previous year, it was kind of difficult for me mentally without having something to prepare for. But I would say right now I feel like I'm finally in my groove. I've been feeling really good, especially because of my Patreon (which you can find here) and just having something else that is related to breaking helps to motivate me.
Let’s talk about your Redbull BC One experience. As an up-and-coming breaker that must have been an incredible yet pressuring opportunity. Can you tell us how you prepared for it and what being on the stage was like?
Like most people in my generation, Red Bull BC One was kind of a dream for me. So to be there was really cool and it was amazing to be the first Canadian ever on the world final stage. To be honest, I was very disappointed by my performance. It was one of my worst performances ever, and I think it was due to the mental pressure I put on myself leading up to it. Usually I do the best at the competitions where I don't put a lot of pressure on myself. But I think because this was BC One, I put so much mental pressure on myself that I feel like I really missed out on enjoying the full experience of it; I was so focused on doing well, rather than just enjoying the moment. I was focused too much on winning so I started training in a way that I usually don't, because I wanted to execute well. It ended up backfiring on me.
The actual experience of being there was cool, because Red Bull treats all of the competitors really well. They give you a nice hotel, they show you around the city and whatnot. It was actually my first time in India - it was also a little bit difficult because my stomach was kind of upset for a lot of it; the food wasn't the best for me.
Anyway, I think experience wise for myself, I wasn't happy with how I did and I wasn't happy with how I approached it overall. And I know next time when I'm doing it, I'm going to approach it in a much more lighthearted way and just kind of enjoy the experience fully. But in terms of how Red Bull treats you and stuff - top notch experience.
How was performing on the Red Bull stage compared to other majors like Silverback or IBE?
Last year was my biggest year in terms of going to a lot of these bigger events, so I was used to doing stage battles. The BC One stage is actually a lot smaller than you’d think - I know it looks big on video but it's actually pretty small. But in comparison, again, I think it was just the mental pressure I put on myself that made me more nervous. And I think the mental is like 50 percent of the game.
For IBE I went in not caring about how I did the first year. I had no expectation of winning - I just wanted to make the top thirty two, which I did. And then after that I just kept going up and I was like “oh crap, I won.” The second year I went into it was more like... “oh I want to win this event but if I lose I don't care.” But then I won again, and I was like “cool, I won again!”
In comparison, I approached Red Bull thinking that I really wanted to win - like I needed it because of how big of a career-changing moment it was.
Did you know you were going to battle Kazuki Roc in advance?
They tell you the night before, which is another thing that messed me up. When we were doing the brackets and I was looking at the competitor list, I had thought to myself that I definitely didn’t want to battle Menno or Lil Zoo - but I didn’t think they’d put me against them.
Besides them, I thought the worst person for me to battle style-wise would probably be Kazuki Roc. I think our approaches are similar in the sense that we both have flexible styles. He's obviously more flexible than I am, but I do have a little bit of a flexible style and we rely on moves more than anything else. He would blow me out in terms of dynamic movements; like, I might have maybe a few more details and stuff, but dynamically he blows me out. So I was like, “OK, please don't give me Kazuki Roc, please don’t give me Kazuki Roc. And then they gave me Kazuki Roc and I was like fuck!”
I kind of knew they were going to set it up because we do have similar styles in that sense. It was a fun experience and I know for next time what I need to do.
Phil Wizard competing against Kazuki Roc in Red Bull BC One 2019
How did you first start getting into breaking?
I actually saw it on the streets. There’s a crew out here called Now or Never, and they were my first teachers. Those guys were performing like in the downtown of Vancouver, in front of a big art gallery, which is basically like a free busking spot.
I saw them when I was really young - like summer of grade seven for me - and I was like, whoa, that's really cool. At that time, I just saw it as something cool that could help me get girls or something. Anyway, later on a dancer came to our school because in elementary school here they teach you hip hop and stuff. Turns out that the guy that was teaching us was actually from Now or Never crew. I went up to them and asked if they taught breaking or knew of any classes? He gave me a card showing me where they taught, and so I started learning out of a studio for the first few years. After that, I actually went to some local practice spots like Robson Square and whatnot. From there, I just kept kind of going with it.
At what point in your career did you feel like you were blowing up?
I think the big changing point was when I was first flown out, when I first got my first invite. That was after the Red Bull BC One LA cypher. After that, I think I was starting to get known, like I would get flown out and stuff. But I think I really blew up after I won Undisputed. I think that's when I realized I had gotten to more of the higher end level of the breaking world. So definitely Undisputed. So to recap, I have a few events that were kind of crucial landmarks: BC One LA, IBE (my first major international win), and Undisputed, which was my first world title.
Honestly speaking, I think I won [Undisputed] on the worst year. Everyone there seemed tired and kind of out of it. The previous years looked so dope and hype there, but this year was a bit different - I wasn't happy after I won. There was a practice room there and I literally went to practice after winning the jam.
Typically, Undisputed is very well organized and they treat you very well. I did it again in 2019 and it was amazing. They treated me really well and everything was super dope. But I guess just that first year, the jam as a whole was pretty disorganized. Firstly, the venue wasn't very good - the floor was really wavy, and we're like, “yo, we're not dancing on this.” So a few hours before the event, they had to literally go buy a new floor, and put it down again. I battled Issei at that jam and I felt like he wasn’t in great shape at the time. There were even a lot of people puking backstage. But yeah, it was just overall not the best year for Undisputed. So I feel bad having won on that. But whatever it is, a win is a win, you know?
Being a part of the 7 Commandoz, one of the most prestigious crews in the world, must be extremely exciting. Can you tell us a bit of how you got the opportunity to join? Are there any plans to compete with them in the future?
From what I remember, it was first brought up at the Silverback. I don't remember the year it was when I battled Issei, but I think it was 2018. I was with Hong10 in the guest room and we were all practicing and he initially brought it up at that time, but I wasn't sure if I dreamt it to be honest. I was kind of like, I was like… “did that just happen?”
He was talking to me about crews and asking me about the crews I was in? And he mentioned that they had an open spot in 7 Commandoz and that they were thinking about getting me. And at that time, again, like, I just didn't really process it. I was focusing on getting ready for the battle. So he said that, but it just kind of didn't register in my head.
And then after the event, I kind of went home and was like, “wait, did he just try to recruit me to 7 Commandoz?” A few months after that I won Undisputed, and that's when he reached out to me online and asked me if I wanted to join 7 Commandoz. I had to think about it a lot, but 7 Commandoz... for me, a lot of those guys were my favorite bboys growing up. I loved Wing, I loved Hong 10, I loved Skim, I loved Ronnie. So for me, this is a chance to learn from, compete against, and be in a crew that I kind of grew up watching. I thought it would be an honor - it was more like a respect thing for me. These are some of my favorite bboys, people that have inspired me, so I feel like it was the right move and I said yes. I’ve been to Korea a few times since then and have hung out with them, and they’re super cool. They always treat me really well.
We had talked about competing together and we were going to do Silverback, but obviously Silverback got canceled and 7 Commandoz in general don't compete very much under the name very often. They told me going into it that they understood if we didn’t want to join because they weren’t very active, but again, it was more of a respect thing for me. So just to be able to represent that name means a lot. There aren’t any events going on because of quarantine, but I definitely want to compete with them and I think they want to compete with me in the future. So it’ll happen eventually.
How did the Black Market Team get formed?
So Black Market is more like a super crew, but most of us are really good friends.
I was always really good friends with Lussy and Shigekix. Lussy Sky just reached out to me because he was really close friends with, like Lil Zoo and Sunni. And that was right after they won BBIC, I think. So they won BBIC together as like the “European Dream Team.”
And so those four guys were kind of the core members: Aslan, Lil Zoo, Sunni, and Lussy. They were friends and were like “yo, you know, let's make a super team that wants to go win events.” And like, I honestly don't have anything against super teams because that’s just kind of like the name of the game now. And these are people that I was really close with.
My philosophy is like… well, United Rivals started the same way. The idea was a Canadian super crew, you know. And now we feel like a real crew, we’re family.
So I took that perspective and said yes to Lussy. And now I would say, all of us are friends- I haven't gone to compete with them or anything recently, but I'm excited to compete with them. They’re all people I look up to, especially now - have you seen Sunni lately? Haha. I had never met him previously but we kind of clicked over the year and became friends. So, yeah, the initial intent was a super crew but we’re all homies so it doesn’t bother me.
Super crews might be well known boys, but it formed the same way that any crew forms just from around the world. You know, like when a regular crew forms, you're with a bunch of friends and you're like, yo, let's make a crew we're all friends, we're hanging out, we can push each other. It's the same idea just internationally.
Your style is incredibly unique and original. Where did you draw your early influences from and who do you draw influence from now?
Yeah, for sure. I think I kind of grew up during like… the YouTube generation, so I grew up watching a lot of footage. In terms of inspiration, I think the people that stood out to me the most again were Wing, Hong10 and Skim. Those are kind of like my big inspirations. I also loved Moy and the way that he approaches breaking. Roxrite was also a huge inspiration of mine. In terms of people who are more my age group, it would be Issei and Victor.
But over the last three or four years, it's become more of the people around me and my crews that inspire me. Also the big local guys - so like Now or Never crew, and there's also a guy named J-Bugz who’s a huge inspiration. And there's Complex, Virn, Shan. There are a bunch of like local crews and local people who kind of inspired me. I would say where a lot of my style derives from a combination of all that. And now with 7 Commandoz, I have that inspiration from early on as well as my original crew, the Wizards, and then United Rivals.
So like, yeah, I feel like it started off with me watching a ton of footage and kind of just being inspired, like most other people in my age group. And then it kind of evolved into like the people around me and my crews, stuff like that.
Phil Wizard vs Icey Ives at Battle of Honour 2020. Filmed by ProDanceTV
What is your daily routine? How often do you train and how do you train?
I would say on average I train about five to six times a week. I take one or two days off depending on how I’m feeling on a week-to-week basis. Again, this is all I do right now, so I spend a lot of time training. Usually a day for me is like... I'll wake up and I'll do a morning stretch. These are stretches focused on longevity, so I'll stretch out my shoulder, my wrist and things that are kind of overused, and do a lot of work on conditioning them. And then I'll usually do a calisthenics workout. Afterwards, in the afternoon, I do drill sessions where I work on things like handstands and freezes and things that I'm not very good at.
That's something I never really did in the beginning years of me breaking. It’s something I'm implementing more now, and I think it’s very important if you want to improve. And then at night, I try to go to actual sessions. So it's me just kind of like free styling, creating and vibing with friends.
So I've kind of split up my practices into the actual breaking component, which is at night (like the sessioning, the cyphering component), the skill-building component in the afternoon (where I develop my skills and improve on abilities), and general physical conditioning which I do in the mornings.
I approach things this way because breaking is a unique thing - I see it first and foremost as an art and a dance. But there is a very obviously heavy physical component to it. Because of this, I try to train my body like an athlete, but think like an artist.
Any places you would love to go compete/train/visit?
There are so many places I love. The way I was living before this pandemic was truly like a dream come true.
You know, just being able to travel, meet new people, meet people that I've always looked up to and train with them, and also compete has been amazing. Some of the few things that I would say stand out, like in terms of events would be some of my favorite events, obviously BC One and also Silverback. Silverback was super good and to see that go sucks, but yeah, and again, that ended because of unprofessionalism and shady people. We need to weed that shit out.
IBE and Outbreak are great too - I've done those trips the last two years and I recommend that to everyone. Those events are less about the money; it's not like a huge monetary prize or anything, but it's just a really good vibe. And they really keep the essence of breaking - a lot of cyphers in Europe have a raw atmosphere. Anywhere in Europe is awesome.
So I think Outbreak, IBE, and those kinds of events are incredible. You literally see everyone, all the bboys, all the people you like and have seen on YouTube. In terms of countries I like going to, I love going to Korea. Just the connections that I have there, 7 Commandoz being mainly based out of there are great because they always show me a good time. Also, I’m ethnically Korean, so it's like a second home for me.
Where do you see the future of breaking going?
I've always wanted to make a living out of this, and I think it would be great for people to be able to live off their craft. We put a shit ton of hours into this - like it's all I do, you know? So to have more opportunities, to make money, to have sponsorships and stuff, I think overall is a great thing.
In the very beginning when breaking first started, corporate influence was a huge issue. Everyone was concerned about the exploitation of breaking and it kind of screwed things up. So I think we just have to tread carefully as we move forward and be more professional and be smarter about our approach. A lot of bboys aren't very well educated, and to be honest I think a lot of people think it’s cool to be stupid. People think it's cool to be raw and whatever, but I think it's just a stupid mindset.
I think the scene needs to be smarter business wide; there is a way to preserve the culture while making money off this culture, we just need to know how to approach it. So obviously we will lose some parts of the culture when things go into the mainstream - that's just inevitable. But I think as long as we keep the essence of the culture (and for me that's just like peace, love, unity, hip-hop, and enjoying the craft). I think as long as we keep that, it's OK. And as the scene moves forward going into the Olympics and getting more sponsorships, I think we just have to be transparent about what this culture is about and also be professional in terms of like, you know, having people read over your contracts and make sure you're not getting exploited. But yeah, I think overall we’re on a good path. I want people to make money out of this. And I think it's a struggle for a lot of people.
I've talked to people from all over the world and really high level competitors. It sucks to see people who are so good at what they do, who dedicate so much time to their craft, barely making minimum wage.
Yeah, just kind of sucks to see that. So I think any opportunity for us to grow as a culture, to grow financially is a good step forward.
What’s the next step for you career wise?
Right now I have goals in different areas. One of them has always been financial stability within breaking, and also finding ways for people to make money just in general off of breaking. That's probably one of the one of my main goals, and that's why I started things like my Patreon - so I can find different ways to pursue that.
Competitively, honestly I do want to win BC One. That's always been a dream and now I feel more ready. And I also just want to be able to do this as long as I can - that's why I condition, workout and train every day. I just want to live doing this. I love breaking everyday. I love the community. I love the vibe of it. And so for me, my goal is just to improve every day and create dope shit, for as long as possible.
Follow Phil Wizard on Instagram @philkwizard for the most up to date information