There’s No Sorry in Capoeira

To say I’m sore would be a huge understatement. From my legs up to the oddest points in my back are in pain. Even my wrists and left pointy finger hurt.

The culprit? Capoeira

Prof. Simpson Practicing Capoeira on the lawn at Devon House
Prof. Simpson practicing Capoeira on the lawn at Devon House, Kingston, Jamaica

I’ve been lucky enough to see capoeiristas honing their craft all over the world. Their powerful and fluid movements, hypnotic music and crisp white uniforms have always intrigued me, but for fear of looking like an idiot or getting kicked anywhere near my face, I chose to remain a spectator…until this week.

Tuesday night, I joined my friend and fellow travel writer, Janeen, for 2 hours of capoeira training. I’ve done yoga, karate and gymnastics in the past (on a short an inconsistent basis, mind you), so I thought I’d be OK. And for the most part I was and really surprised myself. With the help of our instructor, Prof. Simpson, and very patient classmates, I (semi mastered) the ginga, the fundamental move and practiced a few attacks and defenses. As I clumsily fumbled through the exercises I found myself apologizing for every time I kicked, hit, scratched or bumped into someone until Janeen reminded me that “There’s no sorry in capoeira!” Point taken. I shut up.

Capoeira bateria in Baltimore, MA, featuring Mestre Cobra Mansa
Capoeira bateria in Baltimore, MA, featuring Mestre Cobra Mansa (c) This digital image was created by Sam Fentress, 21 September, 2003)

And then it was time for the roda.  Kicked off by the rhythms of berimbau and pandeiro, the singing and syncopated clapping commenced. Each student had the opportunity to enter the roda with the instructor and then each other regardless of skill and experience level.

After my introductory au, I froze up. Everything I had just learned in the past hour was a big jumbled mess in my head.  I got through it, but I know it was painful to watch. Thank goodness there were no videos or photos!

Overall, it was a fun experience and who knows, with a couple of months (or years) of practice, I just might be able to deliver the perfect bananeira (handstand) and be as skilled as Nailah (a girl can dream). But for now, I need to focus on walking normally again and figuring out how I will survive next week’s class…

Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art heavily inflenced by music and dance.  Grupo Cativeiro Capoeira (GCC) – Jamaica was founded in 2004 after the arrival of Prof. Simpson (Dennis Eckart, Nurnberg, Germany). The Jamaican branch is an extension of Grupo Cativeiro Capoeira founded in 1978. Their main goals are “to integrate and to socialize, respecting the historical, social, economical and cultural background of everyone, so that regardless of race, gender, belief or economic status no one forgets to be nobody’s slave.”

You can see a bit of Grupo Cativeiro Capoeira Jamaica in action in the Blue Grass in the Sky Video, High Grade Love and a Roda held last November in the studio where classes are held (above). Also check out this interview on with Prof. Simpson where he discusses the benefits of capoeira, how he ended up in Jamaica and some of his other health and wellness ventures.

Axe capoeira! Axe Cativiero!