Twenty years ago while living in Boston, a dear friend of mine invited me to come observe his capoeira class held at the Dance Complex in Central Square, Cambridge. I watched him practice the slow beautiful movements enamored by the combination of acrobatics and athleticism and fluidity of dance.
It’s origins are based in Afro-Brazilian slave culture. The slaves disguised precise kicks and strikes in dance. Always accompanied by music, capoeiristas “dance” and “play games” in a roda, a circle of players and musicians, singing rhythmic call and response songs in Portuguese that lead the pace and movement of the game. The berimbau my friend carried (a single string instrument essential in capoeira music and practice), imitated an appendage that when not being played was carefully carried on his back.
Unlike in sparring matches of more traditional martial arts, there is little contact and lots of smiling and community.
The Roda at Waterplace Park in Providence, RI
Fast forward 20 years….
My five year-old son loves music. He loves to dance. He started karate and acrobatics at age 3 and was actually quite good at both. The karate was not quite the right fit (not enough freedom of movement and physical expression) and dance classes were also not quite right (not enough freedom of movement and physical expression). What is going to work? I envisioned my friend…
I showed my son a few videos and enrolled him at the only children’s capoeira program in Rhode Island offered by New Wave Martial Arts. New Wave is affiliated with the Rhode Island capoeira group Grupo Ondas.
My son is not an easy sell for anything. It was a challenge getting him to go to class at times. He is quiet, stubborn, intense, ritualistic, visual, physical…once he was there, he loved it. Capoeira is not just learning a martial art. It is learning about a culture of community and discipline married with peace and joy. When participating in the roda, capoeristas bring energy and laughter. Little Guy lives for the roda…
After a full year of attending class, he earned his first cord, the corde crua, this weekend, inducting him into the capoeira community. It was a big moment. He was nervous. But, he was proud and inspired by watching all the masters, mestres and professors that had traveled from different parts of the country to honor the initiation of new students and the changing of levels for the experienced students, both adults and children.
Little Guy receiving his cord
The celebration went on for hours…the energy was infectious! One of the most beautiful aspects of the practice is the joy the capoeristas bring to the practice.
Beginning a game…
The power, athleticism, and beauty of the movements are addictive to watch.
We stayed for hours…
On the way home I asked my son if he wanted to continue with capoeira.
He emphatically in that “what are you silly?” tone replied
We will see the New Wave family back in class next week after a short break this week (just don’t tell Little Guy)