For a new approach to martial arts, try capoeira. Born in Brazil nearly 500 years ago, capoeira combines elements of martial arts and rhythm for one unique and soulful workout. In Boynton Beach, Contra Mestre Betinha, a capoeira master from Brazil, and his wife, Sara, teach the practice at Capoeira Karkara. “Capoeira is a martial art unlike any other because it incorporates self-defense, dance, music, acrobatics, culture and family in a very interesting and exciting way,” Sara says. We asked Sara to explain the basics of the Brazilian practice.
PBI.com: How is capoeira a reflection of Brazilian culture?
Sara: Capoeira is a reflection of Brazilian culture because of the community aspect and how you practice capoeira by “playing” together instead of competing and fighting as in other [forms of] martial arts. The playful and joyful nature of the sport mimics Brazilian culture in general. Also, the music is so crucial to the art form, just as in Brazilian culture. The Portuguese language is a huge part of capoeria since all of the names of the moves, the words of the songs and even the nicknames given to each student are all in Portuguese.
How is a typical capoeira class structured?
A typical class is always done to music, typically a recorded version of the live music that accompanies all capoeira gatherings. The class begins with a warm-up and stretching, followed by a series of drills, some individual techniques, partner sequences and/or movement combinations. Students practice each technique, then sometimes do push-ups, sit-ups or other exercises before transitioning to the next segment of class. A typical class is about an hour.
What are some of the core practices or techniques of capoeira?
The core technique is ginga. It is the most important move of all. The ginga—which means “swing”—is the basis for all movement in capoeira. To ginga, one must rock back and forth, stepping back and up, alternating legs, and arms always protecting the face. Other core techniques include the basic straight kicks, sidekicks and spin kicks, as well as the basic dodges and movements such as esquiva, rasteira, negativa, au (cartwheel) and bananeira (handstand).
What about self-defense movements?
Capoeira uses mostly kicks as a way of self-defense and various ways to be sneaky and move away fast to avoid an attack. There are several typical sweeps and takedowns that are used reguarly, such as rasteira, vingativa and banda.
Do beginners need to come with any base knowledge of martial arts or dance techniques?
Not at all. Any prior experience in martial arts, dance, yoga or other sports can only enhance the experience of the beginner capoeirista, but it is not at all necessary. Capoeira is a great way for anyone to increase flexibility, coordination and fitness levels, no matter how unfit or uncoordinated you may think you are.
What level classes are offered at Capoeira Karkara?
We offer free intro lessons for true beginners, beginners classes for recently registered students, and intermediate/advanced level classes for our students who have been training with us for a few years or longer.
How large are the classes?
A typical class at our studio has about 15-20 students.
What do you see as the single biggest benefit of practicing capoeria?
It is so hard to find a single biggest benefit; the major benefits, I would say, are fitness, confidence and community.