Article by Erin McGann, who’s trying out a different kind of Vancouver martial arts class.
A Different Take on Vancouver Martial Arts
I’m watching a man swing his leg around in a sort-of breakdance move, then squatting, switching legs without standing, followed by several high kicks. Someone else is shouting instructions in Portuguese good naturedly. Now I have to do the same thing in front of eight others, standing around the room, not including the two people standing outside in the pouring rain watching through the windows.
For some reason, I’m not even embarrassed. It could be the fact that I’m too tired to be shy, or that everyone has been respectful and friendly here. Regardless, I give it a go and am rewarded with a round of applause. After another half hour of gruelling drills involving similar sweeping moves, we gather in a circle to sing songs in Portuguese, laugh and practice these crazy moves in pairs.
If I told you this was a Vancouver martial arts class, would you be surprised?
So Much Laughter
Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art originally practised by African slaves, who camouflaged their drills as dancing. Hence the singing circles, called the roda, where we ‘play’ – in almost any other martial art it would be called sparring. But here, when you’re as new at this as I am, it’s more like a kind lesson in how the flow works. When the more experienced get in the roda, the legs fly all over and there is some contact – usually followed by a smile.
I think that’s what I enjoy about capoeira in comparison to kung fu, for instance, which I studied for a couple of years. Music is critical. Along with learning how to walk on your hands and do hands-free flips, people looking to progress up the ladder learn how to play the instruments and sing the songs. There is so much laughter. If you’re looking for a Vancouver martial arts class, it’s what sets capoeira apart.
It’s definitely not all standing around singing and smiling however – this is hard work. It’s a good solid two-hour training session that you spend mostly bending into a squat over and over and over. It took me nearly three days to get my legs to behave properly after the first one. I am a big fan of working towards learning something rather than attending an ‘exercise class’, and I can honestly say capoeira is my favourite to date.
It’s not surprising that kids are great at capoeira. My instructor, Rasta, has two little ones of his own, both of whom started learning after their first birthdays. This capoeira club has classes for children as young as five years old. I can only imagine how much my son would love the dancing, jumping and singing at this Vancouver martial arts class.
Some clubs are more focussed on the more competitive, fighting aspects of capoeira, so it’s worthwhile to do a trial class first. The classes I attend are held at the Coal Harbour, False Creek and West End Community Centres, as well as Ammara Dance Studio in New Westminster, organized by Abada Capoeira Vancouver.
Erin McGann is a writer, mom, amateur cellist and keen cook. Having spent seven years living in London, England, she’s learning how to say apartment instead of flat and drink coffee again. She blogs at Mummy & Monkey and tweets as @erinehm. She’s also one of our Top 30 Mom Bloggers for 2012.