Capoeira (cap – oh – air – ah; I know, it’s a mouthful) is a Brazilian martial art with African themes that imitates fighting in a peaceful and often playful dance. Aimed for all
skill levels, Capoeira has a theme of openness and community that can be understood by even the most basic of beginners. This martial art has history, dance, music, fighting, philosophy, and an intricacy of people combined into one fluid form of expression. Above all, it’s beautiful to watch and exhilarating to take part in.
In class the instructor, Skher, informs the group of Capoeira history as they sit comfortably in a circle. Originally brought over by the slave population, Capoeira developed as a way for the oppressed to learn defense in secret, so as not to gain suspicion by their masters. This martial art used to be played in the streets, had as many styles as it had participants. Master Pastinha and Master Bimba, over 100 years ago, regimented Capoeira. They set standards and founded an official Academy, adding legitimacy to the practice. These uniforms and customs consequently impact much of what Capoeira is today. Capoeira turned from a version of streetdancing to an authentic cultural art. Goucher’s group practices an Angolian style, which integrates all aspects of the culture. Movement, dancing, fighting, and a heavy emphasis on musical instruments are woven into the sessions.
“When you’re moving to music you help create, the energy in the room is so different,” said Sea Sloat ‘14. “You really get to feel the energy that comes from the community … Capoeira strengthens you as an individual, which encourages the community, which is something that you don’t get in American culture … The community helps build you.”
The practice is incredibly community-based. You work in pairs, staring down your partner, trying to predict their next move, but it’s more of an exercise in trickery and friendly competition than actively trying to destroy your opponent in battle like with other martial arts.
“Since Capoeira is such a relatively small practice, as opposed to Tae Kwon Do or Karate, you feel a part of something. It gets into your soul and being and focuses you in a different way. There’s a great flow of energy,” Sloat continues.
The class covers the entire spectrum of talent and experience. From advanced members, people who have been doing this for years, to the freshman who just decided to wander into a session, there is a universality to it. There is a wide variety of expertise, and it is not physically demanding. You move, you jump, you kick, and you have fun.
Sloat says, “One rule is you never stop moving.”
Capoeiristas end sessions panting, faced flushed, but smiling. The goal is not to get toned or built, but to move around and enjoy a new form of expression. You learn how to look completely awesome while doing half-moon kicks and more advanced moves. Students enjoy it so much that, due to SGA budget cuts not being to afford it, they’ve funded themselves going into Baltimore to break the Goucher bubble and take lessons. In Baltimore, students are able to practice with people who know more advanced Angola moves and to help their own progress. Capoeira really is a beautiful martial art and simple to join. The movements have the fluid organic nature of Tai Chi, but with an edgy fighting twist. There are so many individual components that make up a successful ‘fight’.
Trez Robbins ’14, says “The movements themselves can be seen as a metaphor for life. If you’re rigid and unwavering, you break your stance, and you fall. If you are flexible, and move with your partner, you can bounce back.”