Defining Moments in the Life of a Capoeirista

17 02 2008

(Inspired by—read: totally stolen from—a post I read yesterday, titled “Defining Moments in the Life of a ProBlogger”.)

There’s no doubt that for many if not all of us, starting capoeira was a vivid catalyst in life. Maybe you refer to events in your past as “before capoeira” and “after capoeira”; maybe these days you wonder how exactly you used to kill all that time you now never seem to have enough of to train. Looking back over your life within capoeira, though, what are some of the torch-igniting, heart-propelling, or end-of-the-rainbow-finding moments that instantly flicker onto your mental projection screen? Which are the scenes of instant recall, indelible word-for-word, gesture-for-gesture, in your mind?

It’s different for everyone, of course, but I’m going to share just a few of mine here. Feel free to join in, under Comments!

My first capoeira class: “You should take your socks off…”

Attempted bananeira leg switching thing.One thing that I failed to mention in the post about my first capoeira class was a “conversation” I had with a girl there—actually, I don’t remember if it was in my first or second class, which may have been why I didn’t include it. Before I go on, you should know another thing I didn’t include was that for my first couple capoeira classes, I kept my socks on. (Hey, it was in a public place, I was wary of germs, fearful of slivers, and had no protective calluses yet to speak of!)

So halfway through class, one of the higher-level girls (who was also really pretty, and tattooed, so that was like three times the intimidation) came up to me and told me I should take my socks off. I forget exactly what I said, but basically waived her off politely; at any rate, I kept my socks on. Then I was scared I’d been rude, so at the end of class I went up to her and thanked her again for the advice and said I’d kept my socks on because I didn’t want to get a sliver, etc. Her reply?

“It’s better to get a sliver than to slip and fall on your ass.”

It was so <insert name of total underdog reaches the top against all odds feel-good movie here>.  If we really were in a movie, she’d probably have become my mentor, or I would’ve earned her grudging respect about an hour in, after a dizzying montage of intense training scenes, haha.

Anyway, she was/is actually super nice, of course, but that was my first taste of capoeira tough love!

Getting my apelido: “And it only took one year, four months, and eight days!”

Gearing up for macacoFor roughly the first year and a half of my training capoeira, my mainstay was one of our academy’s branch classes, and I only ever went to the academy for occasional rodas or near batizados times. Since my teachers at our branch didn’t speak Portuguese, and I wasn’t really taught, thus known, by teachers who did, I suppose that’s why I never got an apelido. However, I’d started taking dance classes taught by one of the academy’s teachers, and thanks to summer vacation, had started venturing into the academy more often.

We had a major fundraising event on December 10th, and it was two days before that that our dance teacher was taking down names for who would be going (which is how I remember the exact date I got my nickname). She was reviewing the list, and it went something like this:

At this point I interjected with my real, non-Portuguese name somewhat lamely (at least it rhymed)…but then!

“Oi, I thought of a name for you.”

And thus wast Joaninha. 😛

My last capoeira class: “NO, I will not cry for you guys!”

Blurry bananeiraActually, that quote was from after my last roda with my grupo, before leaving home for a while, and it was true because I had cried driving home from my last class, two days before. (By the way, tears and night-time and pouring rain and trying to pass a bus pulling out from the curb all at the same are never a good idea.)

It was the weirdest thing, because I’d been a little nostalgic of course, during the class at our academy, but other than that I’d been fine. It was while saying bye to someone from my main branch class, and telling him to tell the others I said bye and would miss them in case I didn’t finish packing in time and wouldn’t make it to the roda the day before my flight (in hindsight: yeah, right!), that I started choking up, and so suddenly and quickly it actually startled me.

Then while on the way home, you know that line about your life “flashing before your eyes”? I’m not comparing having taken my last class there before leaving to death or anything (even I think that would prove non-capoeiristas right about my sanity, or lack thereof!), but the only thing my mind played on the drive home was an endless filmstrip of capoeira memories, including all the ones mentioned above, plus thinking over everything I got out of capoeira, and how utterly different my life would be if I’d never started, and general things to be missed, such as capoeira friends, training sequences, teachers, rodas, etc.

And I can say with complete and absolute honesty that even after I was away for months, even though I have great family and friends, the only thing I missed about home was capoeira!

Getting my second belt: “Did he call my name???”

Unfortunately, this shot is based more on good camera timing than muscular strength!I suppose getting my first belt was kind of a big deal, but to me it seemed more of a formality than anything else. To be honest, I’m not sure if I can even remember who played me on the stage, and I suppose it didn’t hold as much significance for me because I knew anyone could get the first belt just for three months of regular attendance; it was only based on “participation marks”, in other words. My second belt, however—I never expected to receive that when I first started capoeira, and when I did receive it, I hadn’t been planning to let myself start hoping for it till about 6-12 months later.

There I was, watching my friend play for her corda on stage, my hair figuratively and literally let down, when all of a sudden one of my main teachers comes up to me through the crowd of students:

“Hey, do you know your nickname?”
“Yeah; Joaninha, right?”
“Okay, good.”

And without another word, he melted away into the crowd—leaving me in complete mental turmoil! “Wait. Did he mean…? But no…but then, that would’ve been really cruel…so…okay…what?! Okay…I am so glad I have a hair-tie on me right now!”

Then even when my name was called, I wasn’t sure. I definitely did not want to go up there only to find out I’d heard wrong, so I grabbed my friend’s arm (apparently a lot harder than she thought necessary) and frantically whispered, “Did they call my name?? Did you hear my name??” She didn’t know and told me to ask our head teacher, who had luckily just walked past us (the orixas must have been smiling on me that day; who knows if I might actually have stayed in the wings if I hadn’t been able to get confirmation that I was supposed to go up there?). So, I ran and grabbed his arm: “Did he call my name?? Am I getting my second belt?? Did he call my name??” (Meanwhile, the line of other students getting their second belts is shortening; I have absolutely no idea how any of their games went.)

Of course, at this point, while I’m probably leaving finger nail-shaped bruises on his arm and nearing critical peak panic point, our head teacher, in true capoeirista fashion…makes fun of me. “What do you mean, did he call your name?? Nobody here has those names; they’re all fake names!”

Long story short, I went up, I played, I got my second belt. And I think that’s when it became real, not just trying something new, and for good, not just a phase: Alright, so I guess I’m really doing this now.  Of course, that still didn’t stop me from expecting my belt to go poof into thin air or find out it was all a big mistake throughout the next few weeks!

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