The Imprint of Capoeira

Written by Angelo Santiago

What is Capoeira?

Capoeira is a martial art of African origin developed in Brazil. There are different styles of practicing capoeira, with Capoeira Angola and Regional being the two most widely used ones. Lots of elements are different in the practice of the two styles, but what is common to all, if not most, is the use of kicks and escapes in the game. Acrobatic moves are also part of the capoeira vocabulary. Also, indispensable to capoeira is its music–its practitioners sing capoeira songs in Portuguese and play instruments essential to the game. A capoeira game, a jogo, comprises all these elements–the capoeiriatas form a circle (a roda) with one section composed of the instruments, namely the atabaque (a drum similar to a conga), berimbau (a one-stringed musical bow), and a pandeiro (a type of tambourine). The players collectively share their energy (axé) with the roda through singing with the leader and clapping along to the beats. Two players go to the middle of the circle and play. They kick, escape, do cartwheels and other movements, in an attempt to create a beautiful “conversation” with each other. Everyone has a chance to go the middle of the circle to play, with everyone contributing their axé to the group, until the leader decides to stop the game.

Photo credit goes to Joseph Pagulayan of Kadara Capoeira Philippines

Seeing the capoeira game, a spectator might be curious enough to ask–is capoeira a fight? Is it a dance? Or is it a game? I would submit that capoeira as a whole is all three. Plus a lot more. It could be a fight since kicks, among other moves are employed. It would seem like a dance too because of the wide variety of movements used–from headstands, cartwheels, and a lot more. To some, it might appear simply like a game where several people have fun together. In sum, I can only give you a description of what capoeira is. I cannot easily define it without having to go into detail about what makes a capoeira game. It would be best if you, the reader, would experience capoeira to supplement the initial strokes of what capoeira is that I have painted in your imagination.

How did you get started with capoeira?

My best friend in high school did capoeira before. He brought me to a capoeira session one time to expose me to the sport. Eventually, I found myself to have become a capoeirista under the auspices of Kadara Capoeira Philippines.

What are the top 3 things you learned from the capoeira?

Top 3: Different people have their motivations for practicing capoeira. Some would say it is the music that enticed them. Some, the culture. Some want to be able to perform cartwheels and other acrobatic movements. Some join because their friends do it too. Whatever each capoeirista’s motivation is, it makes them appreciate the sport in various levels and degrees. Ultimately, though, the uniqueness of each practitioner leads to a more pleasurable and enriching capoeira experience.

Top 2: Your most formidable enemy here is not your fellow capoeirista but yourself. Depending on how far you want to progress in capoeira, it is up to you how much effort you would put into training, putting into consideration your level of dedication. (Actually, capoeiristas, though they may come from different schools and academies, are never enemies but family as they breathe and share in the same soul that lives in the practice of capoeira.)

Top 1: Bits and snippets of capoeira culture can find their way in your everyday life. Sometimes you would find that you do movements from capoeira outside training sessions (even though you would look silly to some). It is possible that you would realize that you become a better conversationalist in and out of the roda. In other moments, you would discover that you suddenly could breathe calmly, focus, and have a clear mind when faced with a difficult situation. In other words, capoeira could very well be a lifestyle for those who choose practice and live it. In closing, I would invite you to at least try capoeira and see if it suits you. Who knows, you might get to like it. In learning the sport, there are several capoeira schools more than willing to introduce the sport to interested people. Kadara Capoeira Philippines is no exception. For more information about the sport or the group, please visit See you in the roda!

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