Capoeira: A beginner’s guide and what to expect

Capoeira is everything the mouth eats. — Mestre Pastinha

I am a master that learns, and a student who teaches. — Old capoeira song

He was Brazilian, black hair in a ponytail, shirtless, and dancing. I stopped across the street to see more. His bare feet black from the dirt. The triple backflip, I didn’t expect. The crowd around him grew swallowing the two hand drummers (djembe) sitting down on the grass. Somewhere someone had a tambourine. People in the crowd chanted. I realized they were with him. They had on white too, the chanters. It was the first time I saw a capoeira performance. Capoeira is the Afro-Brazilian dance form that incorporates self-defense techniques. It was created by slaves in Brazil as a way to practice martial arts without it appearing to be martial arts. In Madame Sata Joao Francisco dos Santos as played by Lázaro Ramos uses capoeira in one of the films best scenes. The film, Only The Strong, starring Mark Dacascos, introduced the states to capoeira.

Capoera

Copyright Wikipedia

The dance martial art is easily identifiable by its “quick and complex moves, using mainly power kicks and quick leg sweeps, with some ground and aerial acrobatics, knee strikes, take-downs, elbow strikes, punches and headbutts.”

I decided to take a capoeira class at Washtenaw Community College. The class had five students. We practiced outside the hot dance studio on dewy grass.

The Afro-Brazilian music playing created an intense mood. The main instruments used in capoeira are the berimbau, atabaque and pandeiro.

We started with ginga, the most basic movement of capoeira. All capoeira movements derive from this dance-like fighting position. The most important concept to remember in capoeira is keep your movements fluid. We followed into cocorinha and negativa. In cocorinha you go low to the ground as a way to escape a kick. Squat, knees to the chest with feet close to the ground and lean on one hand for support. You can drop into the negativa from the ginga. You have one leg bent and your weight should be balanced on the balls of your feet. The other leg is stretched with the toes pointing to the side. Out of a degree of difficulty (1 being easy/5 being hard as h#ll) this movement was hard as h#ll.

How-To Go Into Ginga Tutorial

How-To Go Into Meia Lua Pressa & Cocorinha Tutorial

After embarrassing myself, being unable to follow the pattern of movements, the instructor took me aside and gave me personal instruction. We executed Au, a cartwheel and moved into Armada, the standard standing spin kick. He was worse than my personal trainer. Me crying, didn’t matter. Me shaking, didn’t matter. He was more concerned with form and proper execution.

Two hours into class, sweating more than anyone else, legs feeling like I’ve squatted 550 lbs, biceps twitching, I quit and watched my classmates in wonder. Though this was my first class, they had been coming to the class three days a week for five weeks.

Many community education programs (at junior colleges or community colleges and after school programs) and private studios offer capoeira classes to the public. Sign up and get an intense physical workout.Your abs will be poppin’ like Lil Mama’s lip gloss after about a month.

Classes

Tips:

  • Be prepared to workout
  • If you stick with it use sports tape to prevent blisters on your feet. Capoeira is performed barefoot
  • Drink lots of water and eat before hand. You’ll need the energy
  • Wear a bandanna or headband. You’re going to sweat hardcore
  • Be prepared for anything
  • Bring loose fitting pants, a white t-shirt, and water

To learn how to do go to Au Cortado ExpertVillage‘s channel on YouTube.

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