In his martial arts studio in a strip-mall in Bensalem, Ryan Wagner, 29, is better known as "Master Ryan," the teacher who gives out gold stars to "A" students and drills disciples on core values such as humility and respect for parents before teaching them how to, gently but firmly, slam an opponent to the ground.
In very different circles, though, Wagner is better known as Napalm - a b-boy (the preferred term for break-dancer) who's among the best in the world. On Saturday, he'll compete against 15 of the best breakers from the U.S. and Canada in the Red Bull BC One North America Final in Orlando, the premier one-on-one competition in the country.
The winner of the competition, which will be streamed at 8:30 p.m. on www.redbullbcone.com, will go on to a world championship in Rome.
How a kid from Levittown (not exactly the epicenter of hip-hop culture) became a top b-boy is a story of growing up in the Internet age, Wagner explained over the shouts of his "Lil Dragons" - 3- to 6-year-olds who line up each week in red-and-black uniforms to enter fierce combat against pads held by junior instructors.
Wagner, who was himself a child-size tornado when he was their age, said his parents put him in a martial arts class when he was 7.
"I was really shy in public, but at home I was really hyper. So my parents wanted me to get more confident and also to get a little more control of my energy," he said.
At 13, he started break dancing, after seeing another martial-arts instructor trying a dance move. He went online to learn more, and soon he and his friends were watching clips, analyzing and deconstructing the moves, and becoming self-taught b-boys.
A year later, he entered his first competition. A few years after that, he was in a commercial for MTV.
Along the way, Wagner assumed his nom de break, Napalm.
"I was in eighth grade, and we were learning about Vietnam that year," he said. "I decided, 'I'm going to be Napalm because napalm was used as a weapon against Vietnam.' I don't like to hurt anyone, but when I battle against people on the dance floor, I want to burn them. I want to take them out."
He's been training seven days a week since getting invited to the Red Bull competition, with that goal in mind. That includes his standard workouts and tang soo do drills (he's now a fifth-degree black belt in the Korean martial art) and experimenting with old and new b-boy moves, such as upside-down spins, one-arm handstands, and other actions that defy brief description.
"As a kid, I would lay in bed before falling asleep at night and think up moves. I would have a notepad next to my bed, and if I thought of something, I'd write it down," he said. He recently moved, and he found a dusty box of notebooks filled with his ideas.
But some of his signatures, such as a gravity-taunting wriggle called "the Napalm walk," he discovered by accident, losing his balance and then recovering with panache.
"You can literally fall into some cool stuff," he said.
He's fallen, as well, into travel opportunities from France to Japan, and won some major international competitions along the way.
Still, b-boying - unlike the alternative sports that came of age alongside it, such as BMX riding and skateboarding - has limited career opportunities. Now, with Red Bull backing the international competition and the advent of the Pro Breaking Tour, Wagner sees more possibilities opening up.
"With the things we do to and with our bodies, we deserve to make the kind of money that professional BMX guys do and skateboarders do. The amount of work that goes into creating what we create is incredible," he said.
He sees a new generation getting interested in the discipline.
And, at 29, he said it's almost time for him to give up competition and focus on teaching future b-boys (and b-girls). He's already been teaching a break-dancing class for a few years at his Ryan Wagner's Martial Arts & Fitness, which he bought in 2010.
Joann Morlock of Bridesburg said the appeal for students was mostly Wagner himself. Her son Nicklas 11, has been attending classes there for seven years.
"They look up to Master Ryan. They idolize him. If Nick acts up, I say, 'I'm telling Master Ryan!' And he says, 'No! I'm sorry.' "