Capoeira is not fully understood

This was a comment on one of my Facebook posts. It got me thinking if capoeira is not fully understood, its likely that it’s also misunderstood. I run a full-time academy in Southend that promotes Brazilian culture and activities; capoeira, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Brazilian dance and Brazilian percussion. If I look at our members list over 50% of our students are not English. So is this a cultural thing? I’m certainly not attacking my own English culture, but it has me questioning why we don’t have more English people benefitting from the amazing art that is capoeira. I’ll explain why it's so amazing in a moment.

Another reason why I think more people misunderstand capoeira is fear. Often the capoeira we see in the media is very acrobatic and fast and can seem unattainable. We forget that these practitioners have probably dedicated a large chunk of their life to the art. Is it not ok that they showcase the best they have to offer?

When approaching a new activity we try to visualise ourselves in that activity and how we’ll feel and the benefits we’ll get by doing it. That's brilliant! Visualisation is an awesome tool, but if when you visualise yourself amongst those that have been doing it a long time, chances are your reaction will be negative. You’ll feel out of depth, misplaced, clumsy, uncoordinated. Why would you want to put yourself in that position? Not many of us would.

Let's remember that we all started at the beginning. None of us has the ability to do anything until we practice, dedicate time and learn how to do it. From the moment we were born that has been the way, its tried and tested and there are no shortcuts. First, we lift our head, then we turn, we discover how to sit, we start to crawl, stand up with a little help and finally walk. Once we have mastered those basics we can then start to develop and push our limitations, we learn to run, explore balance and ride a bike. This process doesn’t change with any new movement that we approach. If you have never done a push-up or a squat we should not expect that our body will be able to do it first time. With dedication and consistent repetition, you can master those movements.

So why am I so passionate about capoeira? Its been in my life now for 18 years. It was my hobby and now it's my job and become my way of life. What I have learnt along my journey so far is hard to put into words. Its a feeling that is equally comforting and challenging and those don’t change regardless of the amount of time I have been playing capoeira. Capoeira is hard, there is no doubt about it. It's not hard because of the movements we have to practice. or the instruments we learn to play or the music that we sing, the basics of all those things can be learnt quickly. Its hard as its endless, there is no mastering capoeira. There are endless combinations and interpretations of the game. Capoeira absorbs your personality. So like we are all gloriously unique in life so we are in capoeira. So for every new person that I meet, whether starting for the first time or a dedicated student, I’ll learn something new, usually about myself. This is one of the things that makes capoeira so special. It needs to be a community to be able to practice it. It's not something you can do on your own. You can’t learn it on YouTube. You need to be amongst people, like-minded people, to be able to absorb the electric energy that capoeira radiates. To live in a community is essential for our human soul. No one should live alone and capoeira’s gift to us is a community that encourages expression, creativity and play. All necessary for a happy life.

One of the questions I am often asked when someone wants to try capoeira for the first time is: What activity should I do to improve my fitness before I start? My answer is always the same, none. You should come to capoeira and start capoeira.

One of my missions is to bring capoeira to as many people as I can. She has the ability to be athletic and holistic. She can be as demanding as complex gymnastics or as gentle and mindful in its approach as yoga. She can be aggressive like in a boxing ring or as playful as children. Capoeira’s objective is not to change you, but to enhance your qualities and challenge your limitations. She has the ability to embrace everyone regardless of age, gender and ability, physically and mentally.

I was once asked when I would stop training capoeira. I was baffled as its now so ingrained, capoeira is part of who I am and how I live, much like how I breathe to stay alive. It's not something I can stop, and believe me there have been many times when I have wanted to when things have been too hard, too challenging. when she wasn’t giving me all of the rewards I wanted. Like life, you have to keep at it, find out what works for you, fall down and get back up. Each time you get back up you will learn something new.

To start capoeira you don’t need to embrace all of this, this is what I have learnt so far and yet I still feel like a novice and out of depth, but I keep going, why? because if you are not moving forwards you will be going backwards and I don’t want to be left behind. So to start and begin that forward propulsion you just need to do one thing, take action and just turn up. I promise that capoeira will take you in her arms and guide you along the way. Whether you want to learn to do flips, make new friends, lose weight, increase your flexibility, gain strength, explore movement or just try something new, capoeira has all the answers. Starting is only scary if you don’t turn up if you sit at home mulling over whether or not you want to give it a go. The movements are only hard if you try to run before you can walk.

I reckon that capoeira is misunderstood and not fully understood. How can you fully understand something you don’t do it, all you can do is make a judgement on what it may or may not be.

I know that capoeira has saved my life many times, that its community is awesome and its the best school of learning I have ever attended.

If you experience just a small percentage of what I have so far I know that you’ll get it. You’ll understand it and you’ll embrace capoeira too.

Thoughts, ideas & findings from Brazilarte Co-Founder Emma Gibbs De Oliveira