Starting To Practice Capoeira

April 30, 2018

Looking back, I think I started Capoeira by accident. I was a languages student learning Spanish and
Portuguese, and as part of our degree course we spent a year abroad where people spoke these
languages. I was in Mexico and planning to go to Brazil later. In the Mexican University where I was
studying, there was a capoeira group offering a beginners course. I decided to take it so I could meet
more locals and also to find out more about Brazilian culture before I went there.


I remember in one of my first classes, the teacher told me, “My job isn’t to teach you Capoeira, it’s
to draw it out of you.” At the time I was pretty sure that Capoeira wasn’t inside me, sitting there
waiting to be drawn out. After all, I was a tone-deaf, inflexible, unacrobatic, unfit, white British guy
from Oxford. When I was younger I was never good at anything acrobatic, I could never do a
cartwheel, I felt awkward and unable to dance, and I had very little sense of rhythm.


Capoeira is the acrobatic Afro-Brazilian dance fight game played to the beat of the berimbau and the
drums. It was definitely not inside me, waiting to come out… or so I thought.
So, I had taken my first step by signing up for the classes, but what happened when I started to train
and why did I stick at it?


The training was tough, especially for me. I found out about muscles I never knew existed. I found
out about them, because every day after training, it hurt to move. My friend was recovering from a
shoulder injury and had a book on stretching which he lent me. This helped. I started to get more in
tune with my body and enjoy stretching.


The training was still tough – I didn’t like it, but I did like the game at the end of training, when 2
players step into the circle and play the game of capoeira with each other. I could see the connection
and physical conversation between them straight away, and more important than that I could see
that they enjoyed it. This was what got me hooked.


I was called into the circle to play in front of everyone on my first class – definitely way outside my
comfort zone, but the person who was playing with me guided me, and I got through it. The game is
like play-fighting or sparring, and it is addictive. You play together, expressing yourselves through
your movements working out how to react to each other as you jump, dance, kick and dodge. You
have to be alert, on your toes and focused, to see what’s going on. Switch off for a second, and you
will be caught, tripped up, knocked over or kicked out of the circle.


At night I started dreaming about which moves to use to respond to different attacks. I was playing
capoeira chess in my sleep and dreams, and I couldn’t wait to get through the pain of training to be
able to play again at the end of the next session. This is what kept me going during the tough
training sessions.


Through the training, my body was changing and adapting. Suddenly moves that were previously
impossible for me to do became doable and easy. It’s a bit like learning to walk or ride a bike – you
can’t do it, and you keep trying, throwing all your effort into it, until suddenly something just clicks,
and then you know how to do it and there’s no effort any more, and when this happens there’s so
much joy that you just want to share it with everyone.

 

And that’s pretty much what I’ve been trying to do ever since – share the capoeira and the joy I get
from it with others. After my time in Mexico, I travelled to Brazil and spent half a year in Salvador,
the birthplace and spiritual home of capoeira, training almost every day, and then when I came back
to Nottingham to finish my degree course, fate coincided and there was a class starting up there too.

Our teacher in Nottingham travelled up from London to teach us, and couldn’t always make it, so
this is also when I started to teach some classes myself to cover when he wasn’t there. I’ve been
learning and teaching since then pretty much continuously. I’ve taught classes and workshops in
schools, Universities, and community halls and our group has performed at events including Oxford
University parties, Academic Conferences, School Capoeira & Brazilian cultural days, Fetes &
Festivals, Charity Fundraisers, Birthday Parties & even Weddings. Two of my favourite events which
we’ve been involved in were the Fusion Flash Mob and Play for Nepal days, because they were great
fun, and in our own little way, we helped capoeira to reach a wider audience.


So that’s the story of how I started Capoeira. My biggest learning point has been that you really can
do anything you want to when you put your mind to it. Follow your passions, enjoy the journey and
learn how to play again.


I currently teach Capoeira and Yoga classes in Oxford, so if you’re local or passing by and would like
to find out more, perhaps even take your first class with me, you can get all the details on:
www.soulmovement.org.uk

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