Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art combining music often played out on basic drums with participants singing and clapping in a circle. When done properly it resembles a slow-motion fight scene between two people in time to music, every shape done by one person conversely reflected by the other.
Having seen Capoeira performed a few times I was aware that there was a lot of ducking and leg sweeping and, being on the slightly-taller-than-average side, was just hoping not to get kicked in the nose.
I came to the class door to find a few people gathered around on the floor ‘stretching out’. I half-heartedly leaned here and there and did a few knee bends, sussing out the crowd.
Our enthusiastic Brazilian trainer came in with a little alice band holding back his curly mop (one of very few people who can pull this off). The warm up already had me inching towards the door as it mostly involved leg squats and being on all fours with straight legs while pivoting and twisting our legs.
Next we got up and started with the Ginga (pr. jing-ga) – the basic four step rocking movement that forms the platform for all capoeira moves. I struggled a bit with the rhythm as it was not the consistent beat I’m used to. (Click him to watch him ginga)
We then learnt a series of moves including a sweeping kick and a half cartwheel (crumpled in rather than up straight). The final 15 minutes involved cartwheeling across the floor and crab-walking (stomach facing up and walking on hands and feet), and lastly partnering up to practice performing and dodging a kick.
Having failed massively at cartwheels in school I was worried about embarrassing myself all these years on. But luckily in the early stages, everyone does ‘my kind of cartwheel’, so I blended straight in.
In fact if I was worried about being embarrassed in the class I shouldn’t have been. Not after, when trying to take heed and stretch afterwards, I went on to the ‘stretching machines’ in the gym. I waited for a big guy plus tiny vest to finish. With tired arms and legs I knelt on the padded platform with other leg in front, bent and foot on the ground, released the lever and slipped flat into the splits. Where I remained for a minute tossing up between catching someone’s eye and leaning over enough to fall on the floor and remain in foetal position. Until Mr Testosterone walked back, put down the imaginary melons he was carrying and pushed me back up. I collected my shame and left quietly.
A few hours after the class I can feel my legs are burning but a good burn. I’m not sure if Capoeira is for me in the advanced stages, but a very good work out and way to build muscle strength and tone.
- Cost – £
- Energy – This is a very physically demanding hobby from the get go.
- Sociability – Pretty good I’d say – the nature of the martial art is a very social one – the more advanced stages done where two people are surrounding by jovial singing and clapping where anyone can join in.
- Equipment needed – Traditionally Capoeira is done bare-footed, in white trousers with what looks like a roped curtain tie back around the waist. But to begin with regular gym gear is completely fine.
Want to give it a go?
I did my class at the Swiss Cottage Leisure centre, £7 for non-members. This class is held every Sunday 1-2pm, and a more advanced version on a Wednesday evening.
- Capoeira Ceara – Weekly classes, drop in £10, around Harrow and Seven Sisters.
- Capoeira Agora – Various around central and SE London, £12 drop in.
- London School of Capoeira – Finsbury Park and Richmond, 4-week classes only from £40.
- Capoeira canal – W11, drop in classes for £13, 4 weeks at £44.