That Time I Tried Capoeira

I was watching some guys play Tekken on an Xbox console and one player had this martial arts girl as his character. She had long, braided hair, had these silver pants on and a purple cord as a belt. Her outfit wasn’t the one that got me interested in watching the game though. It was her badass moves. So maybe the guy playing the console was pretty decent at the game, but I was just caught up looking at this female character’s fighting style. She looked fluid as she swayed continuously evading her opponent’s onslaught. She looked powerful as she combined kicks and spins to smack her opponent down. I began to think I wanted to learn whatever fighting style I was watching her execute. And as it turns out, Christie in Tekken does Capoeira.

Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that is slowly gaining popularity across the whole world today. African slaves who were brought to Brazil during the Colonial era combined elements of music, dance and acrobatics to disguise a capoeirista’s ability to deliver kicks and sweeps that could knockout anyone on the receiving end to the ground.

 

In a jogo, capoeiristas exchange kicks, evasive moves and counterattacks
In a jogo, capoeiristas exchange kicks, evasive moves and counterattacks

 

Like most martial arts, it is fast and versatile. It involves power, flexibility and speed. The fighting style emphasizes the use of the lower body to kick, sweep and take down while the upper body supports execution of those movements. It showcases a blend of feints, dodges, and decisive strikes which gives it the perceived fluidity, unpredictability, and choreographed-like style.

 

Preparing for a kick
Preparing for a kick

 

They say you never forget your first and I never did. I started Capoeira two years ago. The Capoeira school, Associaçao de Capoeira Cordão de Contas holds classes in Metro Sports Center during Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays at 7PM. I was able to drag two of my workmates with me to start Capoeira and our first lesson was the fundamental movement in Capoeira – the ginga. Ginga means “to sway or rock back and forth”. It is essential in Capoeira because it keeps one in a state of constant motion, which makes it tough for the opponent to target. My first thought when I was looking at Monitor Cabeludo demonstrate it was, “Uhm yeah I can do that.” But I tell you, to ginga for even just a minute is a cardio workout! I was huffing and puffing in no time.

 

Got Jel & Ken to try Capoeira with me
Got Jel & Ken to try Capoeira with me

 

Doing ginga at the beach
Doing ginga at the beach

 

Next thing we learned was a basic kick called meia lua de frente, which is Portuguese for a half moon frontal kick. We had to start from a ginga position and were given the step-by-step on how to complete the move. Now I’m a fan of learning stuff from Youtube videos but learning Capoeira through a legitimate school is way better because the coaches can simplify a routine in a step-by-step process, demonstrate it, have you do it on your own and then provide feedback on how you can do better.

Next up, defense. The defense in Capoeira is based on the principle of non-resistance, which intends to avoid an attack using evasive moves instead of blocking it. These evasive maneuvers are called esquivas, which combine squats and lunges that allow you to go lower and close to the ground while still maintaining your stability in preparation for a counterattack. This is also another cardio and muscle strengthening workout and it really got us sweating in no time.

 

Defensive move - Esquiva One
Defensive move – Esquiva One

 

When you see capoeiristas performing routine demos, what really gets the oohhs and aahhs of the audience are the acrobatics – cartwheels, handstands, you name it. The basic acrobatic move taught to us that day was or the cartwheel. Everyone was asked to do it in turns and the other tenured students lost no time in cartwheeling across the court. It seemed a pretty natural thing to do for them. But I still remember how I whispered to my workmate, Jelica how there was no way I was doing it because it looked really hard and scary. Turns out, our coach, Instrutor Rabo heard what I said. He stood there smiling and told us, “Oh you ARE doing it because I’m going to show you how easy it is.” And you bet all three of us had no choice but do it. Yes, I completed my first lopsided aù then. And to this day, I can still recall the exhilarating feeling of being able to do something you’re initially scared to do.

 

Staying low when starting aú
Preparing for an aù

 

And it was like that ever since. Our coach would teach us a move. I’d second-guess myself. And then I take a breath and end up doing it no matter how challenging. Because who was I kidding? It was what I came in every training session for: to learn Capoeira and believe that I could do it.

 

Post-training class photo
Post-training class photo

 

Still wide smiles after training
Still wide smiles after training

That Christie game scene may have sparked my interest in this martial art but how I came to love Capoeira is a whole different story.

Capoeira gave way to a stronger, fitter me. It encouraged me to hydrate more – almost always finishing 3L of water daily. The acrobatics, kick routines and stretches gets my heart pumping and gets me sweating buckets so I naturally chug up water during breaks. Drinking more water than I was used to have now become a habit and I’ve seen how hydration regulated my body weight, allowed my skin to detoxify and minimized my allergies. I felt like I was glowing with positive energy.

 

Practicing handstands on sand
Practicing handstands on sand

 

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Ponte (bridgestand) during sunset with Capoeira instruments

Capoeira gave me new friends to cherish, to sweat with, to laugh with, to be frustrated with, to be inspired with. I never thought I’d share a bond with individuals I spend only 3 hours a week with but I did. I mean who wouldn’t? We are people of different walks of life sharing the same passion. Each training day, we’d shake hands, ask how our day went, then hold each other up on partner push-ups, and laugh when we twist our tongues on Portuguese songs. We’d all get scared with doing backflips, get aggravated with flawed moves and be smug when we did great. And when training’s done and were all lined up to close the class, I look up to these people and feel proud of my accomplishments and theirs because at some point we had stopped being students and became one family. Minha família capoeira.

 

Getting goofy with the camera
Getting goofy with the camera

 

Batizado 2016 at Ayala Cebu
Batizado 2016 at Ayala Cebu

 

Got my 2nd cord (dark green) in my 2nd Batizado
Got my 2nd cord (dark green) in my 2nd Batizado

Somebody asked me when it would all end. When would I stop learning Capoeira? Does it end when you’re already perfect at it? And I gazed at that person and smiled. When you love what you do, you wouldn’t want it to end at all. You would strive to learn. And when you think you’ve learned everything there is to learn, you learn some more. Because the thing is, it’s not about being perfect. It’s about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that’s where transformation happens. That’s how change happens. I was a positive, driven, self-confident, badass girl before I did Capoeira. Now, I’m still that girl – just way better. There were loads of times when I would second-guess myself but I learned to suck up my fear and just try again and again and again. That quote where you fall seven times and stand up eight? Well let’s just say I’ve fallen too many times than I can count but you’ll still see me practicing my handstands.

So what do I say to anyone who asks me about Capoeira? It won’t be easy but it will totally be worth it.

 

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