A good capoeirista would of course like everything about capoeira from the beats, the berimbau and the game itself. The mix of fight, dance, rhythm, gymnastics, and music is all that defines Capoeira and makes it one of the most fascinating aspects of the Brazilian culture. It is a perfect symbiosis of strength, rhythm and agility led by the music and instruments which is what makes it so unique in the world of martial arts.
Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art which combines fighting with performance art. It’s a very recognizable style with its emphasis on acrobatics, attacks from the ground, feints, and spinning kicks, frequently all at the same time.
According to Nilson Coelho, a capoeirista and a master at the Capoeira Arts and Melody school, Capoeira was created more than five hundred years ago by slaves. “Back in the days slaves were not allowed to practice any kind of sport or self-defense technique. Therefore they decided to implement it in a dance form for them to be able to practice while the masters look on thinking it’s a ritual. To make it even more deceiving they added the musical instruments, songs and the clapping of hands,” he narrates.
Nilson says that he learnt Capoeira when he was living in Brazil with his father. After a few years of moving to Namibia, in 2007 Nilson opened a Capoeira school in Windhoek and has been visiting Brazil from time to time for training.
Capoeira as a martial art
Having learnt Capoeira at the age of 10, Nilson affirms that it is similar to any other martial art despite the very few differences. “We kick, we strike and we make different moves in Capoeira like any other martial art. We combine every kick with constant movements and momentum. Basically Capoeira is a bit of everything put together. It does not look threatening, in fact Capoeira is not supposed to be threatening at all but if you are to use it for self-defense you would be able to use it.”
“However, what differentiates Capoeira from any other martial art is that we do not block but rather we avoid. Our kicks and punches are also different. We also have unique movements and music. You play Capoeira along with music. However, the music must be inspiring with high beats that you can dance to with kicks,” says the capoeirista.
Like any other martial art, Nilson says that Capoeira has no age limit, however it depends on one’s coordination, balance and flexibility. “There is currently a programme in Brazil where Capoeira is taught in schools and kinder gardens and that’s what we would like to implement in Namibia as well. Basically from the ages of four to five, a child would be able to learn Capoeira starting with coordination because Capoeira is all about coordination of the body. However, the ideal age to start Capoeira is five because a five year old understands and has the ability to do certain things.”
For one to master and play Capoeira like a pro, Nilson says that it depends on how much time one spends practicing. If you train once a week you are likely to take long to learn, however if you train three times a week it will be faster to learn. Also, there is no perfection in Capoeira one only has to learn the movements and be able to create their own movements because it’s all about the movements. However it is likely to take at least a year of good training and persistence to understand the Capoeira game perfectly.
Capoeira is meant for fitness, self-defense and wellness and therefore has no negativity around it. Of course it would be negative if you get injured but if you are instructed properly it will be easy and safe.
The fun part of Capoeira
“The acrobatic moves and the self-defense part is fun because it’s always unexpected. We believe that a person standing is an easy target but a person moving is not an easy target. And in Capoeira you do certain moves that the next person won’t be able to recognize which is exactly a self-defense technique. The music, acrobatic moves and the whole game itself is fun.
We mostly use South American music which is similar to the Brazilian popular sound Samba along with drums, tambourines, agogo and the berimbau. Every person that does Capoeira has to learn how to play drums because we use all of these instruments to make one sound.
Sometimes we use songs that are written by grand masters or if someone is creative enough to create their own songs, we can use them. There is no specific music or lyrics to Capoeira, you can sing about anything for as long as it falls into the Capoeira rhythm,” explained Nilson.
The Capoeira Art and Melody school offers practice every Friday from 17h30 to 18h30. They are situated at the Pulse Health and Wellness Studio in Windhoek.