Um pouco de luta e dança… say ‘Hello’ to capoeira!

Um pouco de luta e dança… say ‘Hello’ to capoeira!

Last week I was challenging you guys to do something that is outside of your comfort zone, I was daring you to do something that you wouldn’t normally do, but would like to. I hope you guys did take upon this challenge and, as I said I will challenge myself as well, this article is about the first steps in the world of Capoeira. I expected it to be different, I expected it to be musical, I even expected it to be tough. It was all of this but then much more intense, challenging on so many different levels.

For those of you who are new to it, Capoeira is an art, it is a part of Brazilian pride, it used to be an illegal form of expressing oneself – through dance or during a fight- but that didn’t stop people from doing what they loved. It requires agility, strength and balance on one hand and offers vibrating South American rhythms and joyful singing on the other. Most important of all, it offers the sense that you belong to a community, that you share the same passion and you do it in a playful way.

I was looking forward to describing my first Capoeira lesson as it is the very pleasant challenge that I subscribed to a week ago: one and a half hours of intense training, handstands and kicks, dancing and esquivas, live music and tough demands, even for beginners. There was no time to fear you cannot hold your balance, we had to find our week spots then and there. You could not stay on the sides but had to remain fully engaged – look your opponent in the eyes and “play”. Only then will you be able to anticipate his or her moves and be able to defend yourself from kicks.

The musical setup made the class disconnect from it taking place in Amsterdam. Singing and percussion are live during practice as  participants take turns on each instrument – berimbau, pandeiro, atabaque, agogo and reco-reco. They keep the rhythm and create energy, use music as the glue of the whole group, provide the uplifting dynamics that Capoeira is all about. You get taught to keep your movements fluid, focus on your opponents and anticipate their moves. You learn to be patient as in the end you’ll develop a gift that will make you truly unique.

The most common movement you hear about is the ginga – basic movement of Capoeira and starting point for most fighting moves. You then combine it with kicks, as small movement sequences begin to take shape. You practice individually or in pairs, mirroring your partner as the best way of improving your skills. The playful part of Capoeira is shown through cartwheels and spin kicks known as Au and Armada. As the time would pass, beginners would move aside as it was time for air flips, headstands and suspended poses. The beauty of it is that, even though discouraging at times, you don’t feel any rush but more like breathing in and enjoying the journey. It will take time but, eventually, only your hands and feet will still touch the floor :)

As the instruments are played louder, everyone gathers in a circle for ‘the game’ to start. It’s time for all the Capoeiristas to prove their skills. You challenge your opponent and ‘play’, bring your personality and style to the table as the others sing on the side. Not sure how it happened but I caught myself asking to play a game myself – clumsy, yes, with minimal movements but with the full support of the experienced Capoeiristas. The last 15 minutes are the highlight of the whole session, the essence of Capoeira displayed in a circle of dance and sung out loud Portuguese lyrics.

Last but not least, I have come to the point where I need to round up my promised challenge. Like the logical person that I claim to be, I decided to keep the ‘accident-prone’ part for after writing this post :) Au Batido, beautiful as it may be, is not at all merciful to arms and shoulders. It is a trick that requires a lot of practice, hours and hours of effort. This would be the roundup of my challenge so I wanted to share with you how far I came. 

Deseje-me sorte! :)