Thursday, August 17, 2006


I'm not usually that good at starting new things, but after a few weeks of umming and ahhing a lot, I bit the bullet and started Capoeira classes. If you don't know anything about Capoeira, it's basically unique combination of fighting, dancing and music, that was developed by African slaves in Brazil as a method of self-defense that could be practised without their Portuguese masters punishing them for actually fighting - because while it involves lots of fighting-like moves (kicks, punches, headbutts, trips, you-name-it) there is actually little actual physical contact. It's all set to a unique Brazilian music, and you can find loads more info here.

It is phenomenally popular in Brazil but has now expanded worldwide along with the travels of Brazilian expats. London has several schools, and I decided to join Capoeira Canal, a small school which meets near me in West London - partially because it's so close but partially because it offered structured beginner classes, rather than the "beginners turn up to any class" attitude of other schools.

What can I say? I'm hooked! I love the combination of aggressive, purposeful movement, the strangely hypnotic music, and the fact that you don't really get hurt - although my leg muscles were aching for a few days after the first class! I particularly like the non-stop movement - many martial arts seem to emphasise rigid control and focus, whereas Capoeira encourages you to become absorbed in the constant movement and the rhythm of the music.

So far I've had two lessons and learned the ginga (pronounced in English: 'jinga'), which is the basic movement which underscores all of Capoeira, a few simple dodges (esquivas), and a couple of kicks. I've also learned two really important moves, the rolê and , which let you step and cartwheel across the ring (the roda) and to keep moving, which pretty much the central tenet of Capoeira.

It's great fun, I'm really enjoying it, so expect more updates as I learn new moves and how to play the berimbau, the main instrument. If you're lucky you may even get to laugh at a video of me falling over!

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