Capoeira: Sing, Play, Live



A few quick beats get things started. Those standing and chatting shuffle toward each other, forming a circle and begin to nod their heads in time. Hands come together and a percussive energy settles into the group, building as time passes.

Two eager capoeiristas settle down in front of the bermibau, crouch, shake hands with huge smiles on their faces, then cartwheel into the center of the circle, moving their feet in time with the music, syncing their movements to the energy of the group. They begin to play…

One of my earliest memories takes place in a park in the UK. It involves hanging from a climbing frame with a set of bars, set up as a horizontal ladder. I’d swing from bar to bar, like a monkey, from one side of the frame to the other. My family won’t shy away from telling you that I was always keen to jump around and climb on things. (And occasionally fall off them too.) I’ve always had an interest in this kind of athleticism and much of my appreciation for martial arts started with an appreciation of break-falling and agility.

This past weekend, I got to scratch an itch I’ve wanted to for a while now; to practice Capoeira. I looked into classes in Kingston some time ago, but none existed, so the interest was placed on the back-burner. Thankfully, Mark Ross (a Capoeira instructor from Peterborough, Ontario) attended a training event I was also attending and took the time to expose the group to a bit of this Brazilian martial art. As I fully expected to, I enjoyed it greatly. What I took away from the exposure, however, was a lesson in energy and teamwork.

Capoeira is primarily practiced in the form of a bout, called a “roda.” Two capoeiristas cartwheel in to a circle to start things off, and then begin to rhythmically move inside the circle in a movement called a “ginga.” The circle is made up of other people, who are clapping and singing along with music to build the energy of the game. The capoeristas who are playing respond to each other’s movements, throwing kicks and performing acrobatics. The history of Capoeira explains why this is the case. For me, the important thing wasn’t so much the movement itself, but the role that the training energy had in the practice.

Because everyone has their part to play. Those clapping, singing and playing instruments are contributing to the beat and the energy they give determines the intensity that the capoeiristas play with. I could not help but think of other martial arts, in which the energy of the room is unspoken but immensely important. I truly believe that constructive training is only available when there is life within the dojo. In Capoeira, that energy is just far, far more apparent. The art literally cannot happen without it.

The nice thing about giving energy to training is that it does so much for you. It makes you sweat, makes you smile, takes you out of your own head, reduces insecurity, it pushes you to train harder, concentrate more, appreciate more. As it is in martial art, so it is in life. When you step into the roda, you must listen to the music, give your all, and you will be a better creature for it.

 “The flame of this beautiful art is now in your hands. You can dampen it, you can burn yourself or your brothers and sisters, or, afraid of its heat, you can let go of it.”

~ Mestre Accordeon

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