2 The History of Tricking

The following is a slightly edited version of Dave Cheatwood’s (“Dave C”) “history of tricking” post on his personal webpage. I would like to thank him for allowing me to use it here and for all of his efforts to help the tricking community.

Tricking- A brief History

Origins of a Movement

Once upon a time, in a far away, legendary place called the late 80s and early 90s, there rose up a man of epic proportions. A man with no fear. A prophet, if you will. Also, he was in Surf Ninjas. That man’s name was Ernie Reyes Jr.

After spending some time doing films and stuntwork out of San Jose, California, Mr. Reyes formed what was then known as the West Coast Action Team.

Meanwhile, in Martial Arts competitions worldwide, a storm was brewing. Steven Ho was already turning heads at the North American Sport Karate Association (NASKA) competitions by busting what we know today as the 540 kick in his forms.

Clearly this is only a sample of the times – for more oldschool forms videos, check out OldSkoolKarate’s Youtube Page and check out the earliest uploads.

In a fashion similar to the spread of rap music, within a matter of years, under the influence of Mr. Reyes, several splinter-groups rose up along the West Coast, with San Jose at the epicenter. The two most notable of these were Loopkicks, founded by Chris DeVera, and Zero Gravity Stunts, spearheaded by Tony Chu. Over the course of the next several years, these two teams formed what would become the basis of the modern Trickster as we know it.

But the West Coast wasn’t the only one getting in on the action – the East certainly began taking notice as more and more Californians brought more and more intense tricks to competition. An arms race had begun between the two sides of the country, and things were only going to escalate from here…

Chapter 2:



It turns out the internet isn’t just good for porn! No. That’s a lie. However, if one was extremely obsessive and lived in the days of dial-up, they could probably find some other just-as-obsessed nerd on the internet. Or, even better, if a group of significantly obsessed nerds lived near to each other, they could host a website for free on GeoCities or AngelFire or some crap like that and share their home-movies with EVERYONE! And by everyone I mean the 20 or so other obsessed nerds.

That happened.

In the beginning, there was no such thing as a sampler. A sampler would have been insane, cable internet was too expensive, and video encoding was so shitty that downloading anything would have taken days and be prone to random disconnections, which destroyed the files instead of just leaving off in a nice place with the option to Resume. Unless you downloaded programs for that shit. That’s another story.

We had clips:

That was it! All you get! Hundreds of tiny clips like this to watch repeatedly. Where from?

Yellwboy, aka Tom Duong, one of the original West Coast Tricksters with what would be Loopkicks, hosted a ton on his website. In the meantime, more pubs of Martial Arts were turning towards tricks Some of the originals being Jubei’s MA Zone, Bilang.com, Yellwboy.com, and a little later, TricksTutorials.com

To begin with, this was probably one of the first samplers ever made. Downloading it took the entire night, and it was totally worth it:

More and more NASKA competitors were joining together through the common bonds of the internet and a love for Martial Arts, and this wasn’t just happening on the West Coast anymore – it spread, and it started infecting everyone. Videos started popping up on file-sharing networks like Kazaa (after Napster of course. What, you don’t know what Napster was?):

(don’t let the bilang title sequence fool you into thinking this came online any later than 1999)

On internet forums like those hosted on the above-mentioned sites, average people decided to do the above-average, for no reason other than they saw it on the interwebz.

OxPasture – One of the first sites to feature step-by-step tutorials:

1999 – Go ahead and search the name on youtube – 99% of what you’ll find are single clips

www.bilang.com happened. It was a revelation. I wish I could remember when Billy Bilang actually launched that site, and if anyone can remind me that would be great, but all I could find was the Alexa demographic description:

Based on internet averages, bilang.com is visited more frequently by males who are in the age range 18-24, have no children, are college educated and browse this site from home.:

Bilang was a place of great honor. Billy painstakingly browsed the internet after becoming a fan of the West Coast Action Team and beginning what was, at the time, basically a huge fansite. Eventually, as more and more Tricksters started filming their forms and training sessions, Bilang became the Oscars of Tricking. Getting your video on Bilang was like being nominated for a Grammy – before they became shitty. Like a Grammy in 1967 competing against Elvis.

Don’t I know that black guy from earlier in the thread? And who’s that Lego Man he’s throwing down with? Dude’s on strings!


(In the following chapters, I explain to my friends that I learned it in my backyard – alongside hundreds of other kids)

If there are any issues with this content, feel free to comment and I’ll be sure to amend it as necessary!

Unfortunately, Dave C has yet to officially release the second half of this historical account, but luckily, this is where my own personal knowledge of tricking history becomes relevant.

The Backyard Tricker: As sites like Tricks Tutorials (and eventually tricksession) became more popular, they made the sport of tricking accessible to a new group of people- Backyard Trickers. Backyard Trickers are trickers who have no martial arts, gymnastics, or acrobatic background before starting to trick. Up until the early 2000’s, almost all the people who considered themselves “trickers” started out in some other sport before migrating to tricking. The rising popularity of the tricking forums allowed an online community to develop and support these backyard trickers who were looking to learn how to trick.

below is an example of a backyard tricker named Ben Atkins (AKA “towels”). The first video is one of his earliest, demonstrating how he literally learned in his BACKYARD. the second is a more recent video… I bet you’ll be impressed.

growth of samplers as self expression: With Youtube and facebook increasing the traffic and attention given to tricking videos, the videos themselves (samplers, as their called in the community) began to change. The overall style and quality increased greatly to the point where there are now even different “genres” of samplers. Below are three examples of relatively recent samplers, and you can see that they are far more elaborate and artistic than early tricking samplers.

Gatherings: As the sport grew, so did the gatherings. What started as small get-togethers of people who literally met on the internet eventually became huge international events (some with more than 100 trickers at a gathering!). Below are two examples of modern gatherings:

Loopkicks (San Jose California, 2011)

Holy-Land Gathering (Israel, 2012)

Looking at all of the changes that have occurred within the tricking community throughout the past 20 years, it is clear that the sport is rapidly growing.

The Future: Looking at how quickly the sport has been growing over the past few years, I would not be surprised if it reaches the same level of notoriety as free-running or parkour. Although I see the sport expanding further, I do not expect the online community to play as significant a role as it did in the past (or at least not in the same way). Within the online tricking community, we are already seeing a drop in popularity of the tricking forums and an increase in traffic on websites like Youtube an Facebook. It seems that features like subscriptions on youtube and groups on facebook are encroaching on territory that was once controlled by forums. This means that the community will likely play less of a role in driving the sport, but I doubt it will ever really disappear.



  1. Hey buddy! Dave C here. Think you could shoot me a message – I got a favor to ask ya! 😀

    • Hey Dave, Thanks again for letting me use your research to put together this page. It was just for a school project, but you really saved me some time. Whats the nature of this favor you need? I’m afraid real life is catching up to me pretty quickly, but I’m happy to help out if its something relatively simple.

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