52 Blocks & Breakdancing

Written by Harjit Singh Sagoo

‘52 Blocks’ is a once-secretive style of fighting with roots in native African fighting arts that was developed by African Americans within the harsh confines of US prisons. In this excerpt from an interview with 52 Blocks instructor Daniel ‘Farisi’ Marks of Staten Island, New York, he talks about the connection between street dancing and street fighting.


Daniel, is it true that 52 Blocks has a link to breakdancing?

52 Blocks is the forerunner to breaking, as the dance became its own entity out of necessity. Young rockers found out that you could have more fun dancing and busting moves than going to prison like so many of their older brothers and neighbours. When we get into this part of the story I have to bring in cultural input, otherwise it will not make sense. 52 carries within it rituals of our past, for instance, when we gesture we are indeed invoking things that we as a people have done for years. Slavery has made some of us forget these things, but they are still with us in spirit. Several warrior arts in the Diaspora have survived into the present; the one that I want to speak of is called Kalinda. Kalinda is a song, a dance, and a war art that can still be found throughout the Caribbean and the Southern US (New Orleans). The earliest practice of this art was played with matches using sticks (stick lickin') and due to these dynamics, a heavy focus was placed on evasive movements; shielding, blocking and closing the gap were emphasised. The dodging and ducking made Kalinda practitioners a hard target to hit. So now you have the roots of 52 when dealing with a straight razor, and now the term ‘protect your neck' comes into a different light.