When go players talk to each other, we often ask each other how we got into go.
A common vector is chess: Edward Lasker, a German International Master in chess, was a vital early exponent of Go in the West. Another common vector is Hikaru no Go, an astonishingly good manga/anime that Joey Hung 8d estimated may have tripled the world go population. Both of these were important for me, too. My childhood desire to play chess (I learned the rules, but never any strategy) primed me to be interested in go, and it was when my friend Michael Sullivan got me to watch Hikaru no Go on Hulu that I finally decided to learn to play.
But the biggest reason I decided to play go seriously was a movie I saw accidentally, just because a couple friends invited us along to see it. The movie was one I’d never heard of: it was a documentary about breakdancing called Planet B-Boy.
My main association with breakdancing was the guy who carried a ghetto blaster around on Sesame Street in the ’80s, but I probably only lasted a minute or two of that movie before falling in love. The way they film b-boying (as it’s properly called) in Planet B-Boy is one of the most exciting things I’d ever seen, and I was quickly swept up in the loose arc of the documentary, which is about the various teams heading to the Battle of the Year. B-boying is astoundingly physical, a combination of gymnastic prowess with the artistry of dancing; it’s also intensely personal, with emphasis on expressiveness and individual style. Even if you don’t get what’s appealing about b-boying right away, you’ll get what’s impressive about it immediately.
Some of the moments toward the end of Planet B-Boy rival Hopkins (“Selves–goes itself; myself it speaks and spells / Crying What I do is me: for that I came”) or Chariots of Fire in conveying the beauty of pouring one’s whole self into doing something. I was moved: moved and envious. What did I have in my life that I could do so fully or so beautifully?
That feeling and that longing stuck with me. In Hikaru no Go, when Hikaru is both frightened and fascinated by the look in Akira’s eyes as Akira hunts him down, desperate for a second match, I saw a chance to find something I could pour myself into as passionately as the competitors in Planet B-Boy.
That’s why I play go.