Capoeira

Working out has never been a particular interest of mine.  I enjoy sports but could never understand the thought of going to the gym daily, walking or running endlessly, while I stood in one place.  My usual exercise of choice involves water sports of a bicycle, however San Francisco’s cold, cold water and steep hills weren’t the best for a casual interest in these activities.  I decided instead to try some new things and capoeira ended up being one of them.  As far as I understood, it is a martial art that involved sparring against others to music.  The verb used is “play”, one plays capoeira.  I figured that sounded much more fun than repeating the same punch every class while secretly screaming “Hi-yah!” in my head.  As I started learning, I realized it was a sport that involved rhythm, balance, coordination, and singing.  All things I have negative quantities of and could stand to improve.  My lack of any of these skills did not seem to be a hindrance and it was a fun after work thing to do a few times a week.  The friendly people in the group just helped make it an activity I wanted to spend more time learning.

I don’t really have much of a plan for where I want to go while I travel, so the slightest inkling in the wind can make up my mind.  This is how I ended up in Brazil.  While perusing volunteer sites I noted that one town in Brazil seemed to be filled with calm, sandy beaches and capoeira.  This is how I ended up in Jericoacoara, practicing capoeira 6 times a week, and later samba for capoeira 3 times a week.

Here's Mestre (Master) Sere sweeping the concrete circle where capoeira classes occur. You can't quite see the beach view that's glaring from the back.

The beach view from the capoeira area. I didn't realize it was there for the first week because I only practiced at night.

I noticed that the attitude of capoeira was very different in Brazil.  Instead of being surrounded by working professionals who needed a hobby, I was suddenly playing with people who had played all their life.  Sometimes capoeira is used to escape a hard life of gangs and drugs.  I was glad it was still playful and no one was out to injure each other.  There is still a wonderful community based around capoeira that helped me as I landed in each place.  The classes in Jericoacoara were more drill based, with the only emphasis on fundamentals of fighting and less emphasis on the music or history.  Playing with others mostly occurred at the daily sunset roda (pronounced hoe-dah) on the beach.  It took me a week or two to get into this, as I thought it was more of a exhibition for tourists than an actual exercise in playing capoeira.

I couldn't get a good picture of the sunset roda. Here's everyone playing on the beach, and one kid looking back pretending to be coy.

I can’t say the constant drills and practicing against a chair are my preferred methods of working out, but doing so many times in a week was certainly wonderful.  I noticed the things I missed from classes back in America: more students of varying levels, variety of activities within the class, professionalism, and my most missed thing, the other students I had been training with at the same level.  I did not realize how much we were pushing each other to learn more.  It took me a while to find a group I liked when I started, and I suspect I should have done more looking in Brazil.  Most of the people I met recommended going to Salvador de Bahia, where there is more history and a livelier culture of dance and capoeira.  My travels are far from over, so I suspect I will see what everyone is talking about.

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