The Warrior Dance
Capoeira is a demanding physical activity that beautifully blends the art of self-defense and dance...
A group of people were standing in circle on a beautiful beach in the afternoon. They seemed to be having a great time talking to each other when suddenly a high note from a string percussion instrument called a berimbau filled the air. The leader of the group started singing a soulful Portuguese song, and after a verse, all of them sang together and clapped their hands to the beat of the berimbau. This hypnotizing ritual eventually started the roda – they were about to play Capoeira.
Two persons then moved into the middle of the circle as the tone of the berimbau regulated the pace or the style of the game. Capoeira consists of a lot of kicks and acrobatic movements, but the participants should never knock down their opponents. In fact, they have to collaborate to show the skills of the other Capoeiristas. Kicks are launched in slow motion only a few inches away from their opponent to show superiority without making contact and causing any injury.
Born out of a resistance against all forms of oppression, Capoeira incorporates songs with martial arts and dance movements, and is performed and transferred from Capoeira masters to their disciples all around the world. It is originally from Brazil, but is believed to have been developed by West African slaves with Brazilian influences in the 16th century as a defence against the armed colonists who were suppressing them.
By the end of the 19th century, slavery was banned in Brazil and things started to go down. Capoeira began to be misused for crime, as a lot of Capoeiristas were hired as hitmen and bodyguards for the warlords. In fact, a group of Capoeiristas raided the city of Rio de Janeiro, which eventually resulted in Capoeira being prohibited in the whole country in the 1890’s.
But by 1920, Capoeira started to make its way back, and since 1970 Capoeira mestres began to preserve this cultural heritage. Now Capoeira attracts foreign students and tourists to Brazil, and renowned Capoeira mestres even teach this martial art abroad and establish their own schools. Known for its acrobatic and complex movements, as well as an unpredictable pattern of kicks, spins, and other techniques, Capoeira was acknowledged as one of the world’s Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity in 2014 by UNESCO.
A Beautiful Synergy
The good news is that Capoeira classes are now available in many areas of Bali – in Ubud, Seminyak, Jimbaran, and Sanur. If you want to burn all those calories from the extensive food and beer you have consumed, Capoeira is what you should be doing at the end of your day, as classes are normally conducted in the evening.
The method of practice in Capoeira is pretty simple. For beginners, the master will teach you all the basic moves, which are almost the same as with other martial arts. And you will get a lot of lunges, believe me.
The key to Capoeira is to never stand still. You have to be constantly moving or rolling, or at least simply swaying your body from the left to the right the whole time – this works your core muscles as you have to be engaged with your abdomen and lower back to stay strong during the game. Not only that, if you keep on moving it will be easier for you to avoid attacks, to mislead and trick your opponent, and to strike back when your opponent leasts expect it.
Kicks are mostly launched to attack, but you can also use your hands to distract your opponent. Just remember this one thing; the essence of Capoeira is to show superiority without getting bloody. Around 98 percent of the game is based on evasive movements that combine launching and avoiding attacks in slow motion – which explains why watching two persons battling in Capoeira is like watching a choreographed dance with beautiful synergy.
Do not be fooled by its graceful movement though, as Capoeira also has some deadly movements in its arsenal. There have been a few cases where a fighter has been knocked down directly after successfully beating the opponent.
Just like other martial arts, Capoeira also has levels, also called as cordao, and each level is marked by the color of the belt. Most Capoeira schools have their own levels of color for the cordao, but white is normally for the beginners after their inauguration in a ceremonial roda also known as the batizado.
In Capoeira, you will also learn about the instruments and the songs, as well as Brazilian and Portuguese culture, and Samba – so it is not just about the martial art. There are no limitations as to why you should learn Capoeira – whether you want to learn self-defense or the Brazilian culture, or just want to stay healthy, Capoeira is surely fun!
Magazine issue > Action&Attraction