What I Get Out of Capoeira

10 01 2009

This post is nearly verbatim from a personal Montreal blog I started for my friends back home. Capoeira doesn’t come up until about two-thirds of the way through, but it was kind of a revelation, and an important one for me about capoeira, so I thought I’d share it with you guys and see if it resonated with any of you at all.  Montreal, by the way, is awesome!  Work hasn’t started yet, but I’ve already started training with a new group, I love my place, my roommates are great, and I love being in this city.

SATURDAY JANUARY 10 | 3:28 am | Musings

So, I moved back into the living room because I’d thought everyone was done but somehow my two roommates had ended up in the living room drinking more wine and chatting, so thought it probably wasn’t a very good idea to miss out on roommate bonding right from the start.

Ended up having a really interesting talk with Annick, that was both slightly inspiring and slightly depressing.

I was telling them how I’ve been coming to realize that a lot of big things I’ve decided to do (living in France, moving to Montreal, going to Brazil) have been fueled by me looking for that life-changing metamorphosis that I feel people are supposed to get from going away to university and that I never got (due to never moving out and my university just being a bigger version of my high school). Not only that, but my life has always been pretty…stable. I’ve never needed an adjustment period for anything—starting university, moving to France, moving back to Canada, moving to Montreal—and these are supposed to be defining events, during formative years. If someone were to chart my emotional/life-living state on a graph, I feel like it would consist of shallow peaks and troughs all the way through, whereas with most other people it seems like there are at least intermittent spikes in both directions.

Take exchange, for instance. Most people I know LOVED LOVED LOVED exchange, and then were genuinely depressed upon returning home. I had fun and enjoyed myself, but I don’t yearn for or dream of France each night (…or at all), and as I said, I slipped back into my life at home within a day—it was, in fact, almost disconcertingly as if I’d never left at all. I was absolutely dismayed when the first thing someone said to me was, “Wow, you’re exactly the same as you were in high school. You haven’t changed at all.” So what was the point? I’m still looking for something big to happen to me, something exciting and if not life-changing, something-changing. So if Montreal doesn’t do it, there’s still Brazil.

At least, that’s what I told Annick. But she said this, something she’s learned now that she’s left her 20’s and gone well into her 30’s, and after working at a job that was going great and leaving it to travel around the world for a year: There is no major change. There is no one big thing that happens to you and then changes the person you are. At the very core, everyone is the same person at 30 as they are at 20, 5, and 90. It’s only gradual little changes that happen to us, day by day, until one day we look up and realize, “Wow, I’ve changed.” But even then, it’s not so much your personality that has changed, as your values and what you want and expect out of life.

But then, what about all those people you knew in high school and then barely recognize five years later? “Well, yes, teenagers they are still changing.”

EXACTLY. So now I’m just afraid that the “same at 90 same at 20” rule only starts applying at twenty. What if your formative years don’t stretch into your 20’s, but include only your teens? It’s as a teenager, after all, that most people start “practicing” for all of life’s major mechanisms: moving away from home (independence), getting their first job (self-sufficiency), dating people (mating? life companionship? perpetuating the species? throwback to Megan: negotiation and compromise?), etc. Does that mean the “window” for truly major change has closed, and that anything I do from now on will have but little effect on who I am, because I’ll always stay who I am anyway? I found the idea of gradual/minute but perpetual change inspiring/encouraging, but this last thought is kind of discouraging.

Plus, I still don’t know if I buy it. I think people can and do change.

Actually, I should take back what I said earlier. I think capoeira has come the closest to doing what I’ve been looking for. During dinner, Annick asked me what I get out of capoeira. I told her all the usual reasons—a good work-out, music, the endless variety, the atmosphere/people, etc. It wasn’t until later that I realized what’s probably been THE reason for my devotion to capoeira, the one thing I get out of it that I couldn’t get anywhere else. I know I’m not the same now as I was as a new beginner. In terms of experience/outlook and character, let alone physical changes, sticking to capoeira has probably contributed more to my development than France and Montreal will combined. If any changes occurred within me while in France, I can name them and they all came from my experiences doing French capoeira, not living in France alone.

One of my friends said that you don’t grow if you’re “comfortable” (a.k.a. “stable”) all the time. And I’ve had an almost shamefully comfortable childhood, in all senses of the word, and been comfortable with pretty much every major transition in life, including both inter- and transnational moves. But I’m pretty sure I have never, in my life, been more uncomfortable than during that first class at the community centre—followed by first roda-viewing at the academy—and probably every capoeira class following over the subsequent year.* So, if discomfort equals growing, then within the context of capoeira, I’ve grown a lot.

(*Actually, a berimbau-stringing incident my friend refers to as “getting banished to the storage room” in France might eke out a win in that one, but it was still capoeira.)

So, I think this is how I’ve finally put my finger on what it is about capoeira that completely sucks me in and holds me fast. But not even just clear, overt and internal personal growth/change, but also constant acknowledgement and affirmation of it, from your friends, your capoeira teachers, other capoeira students, and perhaps most importantly, yourself, empirically (i.e. by actually doing something you wouldn’t’ve been able or even dared to do at an earlier point in your life). What do you get out of capoeira? Why do you do it, really?



17 responses

10 01 2009

I have done quite a few martial arts, learned to surf, driven a motorcycle way faster than anyone should, crashed it twice, have broken bones or bled doing everything I enjoy, climbed mountains (albeit small ones), road raced like an idiot, been to college, failed college, joined the Air Force, been deployed to far off places, learned how to play all sorts of instruments, been in love without being loved back (as far as i know), been loved and missed it, seen death in a dying man’s eyes, witnessed life first hand, and I am only 24. I haven’t even scratched the surface of what I plan to accomplish in life. At the top of the list waiting to happen is truly mastering and understanding a martial art. Another one that will probably be the last (if at all) accomplished is to become fully spiritually aware of my existence and be comfortable with where I am in it.

Capoeira has given me more happiness than any other martial art I’ve endured and I’ve begun to pursue it with vigor. I’m planning a trip to Brazil in January 2010 whereupon I want to travel to various cities in Brazil and learn from the different schools. Mainly i will stick with Muzenza since it is the group I belong to, but wherever possible I will learn from every capoeirista i meet regardless of age, creed, experience, sex or color.

10 01 2009

Oh crap, I forgot to answer the question! lol What I get out of Capoeira is a sense of uplift I’ve only experienced during deep meditation or spiritual turmoil. It’s tough to explain but Capoeira is almost like an outlet for my soul. I know it sounds silly to some but I don’t care. I love it!

10 01 2009

Well, Capoeira is fun, and beautiful. That’s why I’m in it. I think the search for a good and smooth game, where you look back and say, well, that’s was a really awesome game, is one of the pulling factors. Just that simple : )

On the other hand, as a Singaporean, life can’t be even more stable for us. Ask Bambu, and you’ll know. (Un?)Fortunately, I’ve really come to cherish this stability, given that instability can come in both negative and positive forms. I add colours to my life by finding kooky activities to learn. So far there was rock climbing, unicycling, and juggling.

10 01 2009

I get a sore body from doing it. it hurts.

10 01 2009

And why do i do it? Why not? 🙂

11 01 2009

I started training capoeira because it was something new (I had never trained any type of martial art before), sexy and exotic and something that none of my friends had ever heard of. In a way, I felt I could kind of claim it as ‘my own’, which was exciting.

Also, just from a practical standpoint, being a student and working and studying music doesn’t leave much time to do other things. I found that capoeira incorporated everything I loved: music, fitness, expression through movement, learning about another culture, learning a new language… And I could get all these things in one place! Convenience.

The reason I have stuck with it is very similar to what you describe, Joaninha. Since high school, I’ve had this immense fear of moving nowhere with my life. I have a lot of potential to be successful in many areas, but I have absolutely no idea where I will end up. That is frightening. University hasn’t been a challenge for me. I live at home with my parents. I have been given lots of opportunities… I keep looking, waiting for transcendence… And it hasn’t come. In capoeira, though I have only been training for 9 months, I can already see the huge changes that I have made in my game, in my body. It has changed the way I feel about myself and the way I think. It is exciting to see my evolution through capoeira and that is why I continue to train.

11 01 2009

Another great topic, Joaninha! Why do I do capoeira? There are so many reasons.
1) For the way I feel after a great game–when the moves just come out of my body
without thinking
2) For the way I feel after class-so relaxed
3) For the sense of accomplishment
4) For the challenge
5) For the game
6) Because it’s fun and because I love it

7) And I agree with what other have said. You don’t grow unless you push yourself out of your comfort zone. This is true in capoeira and in life : )

11 01 2009

I think I had come to some of the same conclusions about life, do you know? I’m still basically the same person as I was in high school, and the acquaintances whom I haven’t seen in years will say, “You haven’t changed a bit!” Regardless of the years passed by and the experiences we all have had. You can only imagine the pouty face I’ve got at that thought! But then again, if I’m the same at 90 as the way I am today, I’m going to be the coolest old guy in the world. in. the. world.

And I’ve thought about this question you asked, Joaninha, before today! Certainly, capoeira pushes me beyond my comfort zone*; it also gives me a great workout and exposure to some amazing music; I get to learn a new language; it’s fun and I love it… These are by-products for me! Why do I love it? I practice capoeira, I play capoeira… Because it gives me a sense of purpose, it lets me feel comfortable with who I am and the person I get to become. During the struggle of my capoeira class, and the exquisite enjoyment of a game, I become a better person for those two and some hours that I do not get to be outside of capoeira.

I have the thought that were I to not think as much as I do, I easily could have joined a group similar to the MS-13. And instead, I have joined a different world-wide group of dangerous people of a questionable past who have a mission to make the world better.

* Just because I had a side story… My uncle Manhoso taught us “au de coluna.” Before this, my game was more straightforward… During Michigan’s open roda in December or November, my brother Cabeção told me that he looked over at me and saw me spinning upside-down and said, “That doesn’t look like our Leão over there!” Just that one little move that I had to practice over and over to make comfortable changed everything! So it is definitely nice to be able to do something previously un-doable and do it enough that other people take notice.

12 01 2009
Norberto - Start Playing Capoeira

Capoeira does an awesome job of pushing my comfort zone. Just having to go to class when it’s freezing cold outside pushes me from the warm, safety of home. Thus it definitely produces huge changes in me, not just the body but the mind and spirit as well.

As for staying the same and changing in life, it’s the same as capoeira. You may not change much from some activities like traveling, but that maybe just because it’s comfortable to you. Personally, I constantly look at my life and find things that make me uncomfortable and push the boundries on them. If you look honestly at yourself there’s all types of stuff that you haven’t tried that, you would suck at just starting it. Those are the exact things you try and grow from.

Age is never a factor for stopping changes. I was just talking to someone about this yesterday. I know people whose parents and grandparents easily over 70 are getting into new activities and growing in different ways. If we truly reach the point where we can grow no longer, we’ll be at the level of Buddha and Jesus, until then, we’ve always got things to learn.

15 01 2009

Why do I do Capoeira?

1. new friends
2. a great workout
3. gives me self-confidence
4. pushes me to my limits… and then beyond that…
5. it’s so so fun!
6. lifts my depression


7. it makes me see the minute changes in myself. I appreciate more all the little positive changes that I make within myself.

21 01 2009

I started doing capoeira because it was always something I’d wanted to do.
At first it was because everything looked so cool, I liked the idea of flipping, spinning, and jumping all over the place. That’s when I was younger. As I grew older and felt a need to explore more aspects of my African heritage, Capoeira became a way for me to embrace an aspect of my roots I’d never experienced.

What I get from it is a feeling of unity with my heritage, and a feeling of release from the physical demands it places on my body. I like the feeling of accomplishment when I do something write, or even when I learn. I like that I’m not in alone and have made many friends through Capoeira. What I’m waiting for is to see how Capoeira will make me change as a person, outside the roda.

22 01 2009

Oi joaninha… So I just moved back to Montreal after 3 years away (six months last year in Brazil) Nice to see you started up this blog! So I don’t know if you are an angoleira, but we have a group opperating out of Concordia University… The teacher right now, also works at Chapters! Maybe you know him? Ron (or Cana Brava)… We are unofficially connected to FICA, and working at making that connection stronger so that we can eventually bring the mestres to Canada for the first time! Anyhow, get in touch with me if you like… It’s always good to know your community in a new place!

I don’t know who you are training with, but mestre Jogo de Dentro is coming in February to Collette’s school (Semente de Angola or something like that?)… Google Capoeira Angola Montreal if you want more details on the workshops and rodas.

Obrigada! Jess

23 01 2009

I’m into it because Capoeira is the only martial art where both players smile.

27 02 2009

Thanks for the post – it really hit home!

I’ve also engaged in a transnational move of my own, also expecting a major change and ending up with…stability! (dang).

It’s all incremental and playing capoeria has really helped me cope with this. It’s taught me patience and settled a mind so used to looking for that big life changing thing!! I feel calmer and more in touch with myself and all that is around me. I agree with Pipoca – It’s definitely been an outlet for my soul.

22 08 2009

Capoeira to me…was love at first sight; I was wrapping my fists for the Muay Thai class when the studio door opened and i saw the guys moving to this entrancing music (there is girls they just weren’t there then dammit ! lol) … next thing i know my eyes turned into those of an anime kitten

Why do i do it ?…
Coz capoeira, especially in the roda, is similar to the moments when you are going to say something that disagrees with everyone at a board meeting, or when you go to a guy or a girl you really like and just let it show, no bullshit….

it shows who i am in ways that are otherwise impossible for others to see, and most of all me.
Because, to me, i see who i am for what i am whether i’m busting out a neat batido (that’s my utter coolness) or flat on my ass…

It shows me who i am, simply

20 12 2010
Capoeira Crazy

Great blog, first of all 🙂 Nice writing. I don’t know how you manage to write so much! I find I have to make little sub-heads first and then “fill them in” but you seem to be able to write a LOT without the help of sub-heads. Anyway, I enjoy your writing.

What do I get out of Capoeira? The rhythm of the movements feels native to my body. When I Ginga along to the Berimbau, I feel natural. Sure I feel tired (because I’m still very new to it) but I feel natural.

And when I watch others in the roda, and they ginga and then, out of nowhere, comes a Mea Lua or Au Batizado, it just “fits” with my idea of me. That’s about the best I can explain it. It’s not something intellectual. It’s something instinctual.

Of course, there are also the physical changes. I’m enjoying watching my body transform into something resembling what I would call “sexy” 😀 Looking good nekkid is fun! My wife agrees. (She does it with me)

We were both super-unfit when we started and after just 3 lessons and some practise at home, we’re looking a lot better and feeling a lot better.

I’ve always found that exercising makes me feel good about myself. On the one hand, you feel more tired but, on the other, you feel invigorated, alert and unbeatable. It helps me cope with work, financial stress and everything life can throw at me.

Capoeira fits in there nicely because it’s a) incredibly intense exercise involving moves I would normally never THINK of attempting and b) a shitload of fun! 😀 Dumbbells are boring. Cart-wheels (or cart-wobbles, as that’s what mine look like) are fun!

What else? Well I won’t lie, I enjoy seeing the gorgeous girls around me in tight pants. They look stunning and, at the same time, I have so much respect for them because they’re so agile and incredibly strong and powerful. That combination of sex-appeal and power/strength makes a woman more attractive, to me at least. I see it in my wife also. After just a few lessons, she’s enjoying her body more, feeling more confident and just generally happier.

And, heck, dancing is awesome. Whether there are kicks involved or not, there’s something primal about moving around to a beat that just resonates with me and makes me feel alive!

Since the first time I saw a Capoeira demonstration, I just knew that I wanted to do that! I knew I wanted to look that good doing moves that crazy. I’ve got a long way to go but, hell, this journey is fun!


13 01 2011

I just had to add that I’M SO EXCITED THAT CAPOEIRA CLASSES START AGAIN IN HALF A MONTH! It’s been excruciating having to go through December and January without getting inside a roda and playing. I promised myself that I’d keep fit and do pushups, situps and squats to keep my body in good condition but that barely lasted a week! 😛 Now I’m going to suffer again but I can’t wait! It’s a good pain – you know what I mean? *bounce bounce*

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