Changing gears a bit today to write about the experience of training capoeira. I've experienced a lot of ups and downs, injuries, celebrations, breakthroughs, plateaus, and even boredom over the almost-decade of training with my group. Throughout it all, the part I'm most thankful for is that I've had the good fortune of having wonderful training-mates in our group. As I looked for photos of training sessions for this blog post, I realized most of them were taken some years ago, but most of the folks in the photos are still a part of my life. I've made life-long friends through something that seemed so simple at the time when I first started. I also never would have imagined capoeira becoming a part of my "career" path - I felt so awkward and un-athletic. The thing that kept me going was being surrounded by positive, supportive people who were all interested in some way to improve, learn, and grow together.
If exercise isn't your favorite hobby, capoeira can still be an important part of your life, and even fun! I've always been "active" in the sense, I played sports casually (like swimming, basketball, and rollerblading) but really never made a habit of going to the gym once I went to college and had less free time to play outside. I don't particularly enjoy jogging/running either - unless I am stressed out, then it's a really effective way to let off steam.
Capoeira caught me by surprise. I knew from the outside that I wanted to do all the cool moves, learn the music - but I had never tried anything like this in my life, not even gymnastics. During my first class and seeing everyone move so smoothly, I was inspired and knew I had to be a part of it. But I was scared too - I knew it would take a lot of commitment to make progress. Still, I was cautious because it felt "too powerful". But then I started learning to dance, and playing Brazilian ukulele called the cavaquinho. I started to slowly get enveloped by the cultural foundation that capoeira is rooted in, and before I knew it, I found myself traveling by myself to Rio de Janeiro barely a year after I stepped my bare foot in my first class.
I think the only explanation is that I fell in love with the art. Brazilian culture is so rich - the language, the dances, the music, the people - I quickly became a statistic. Like so many before me, I became a Brazilophile.
Now, I don't expect that everyone will have the experience I had or the chance to just escape for a couple months to wander Brazil. But capoeira in isolation is just a bunch of movements. Capoeira within its context is so much more than that - and that's what makes it fun (for me).
We train hard in class - because the movements require strength, flexibility, courage, focus. All these take practice to acquire and maintain. And it is not easy by any means. However, when we keep in mind the final goal - playing with friends (or rivals!?) in a community, it drives us to learn for the future, not just for the present. It gives us the drive to persist through difficult training, even if it takes a year (as it did for me) to do a proper handstand.
The FUN comes from the joy of attempting new moves, supporting and cheering on our friends, celebrating victories (as small as they may be) and building our knowledge. Every training session, we may not feel like we made a "breakthrough" but we did our part to maintain consistency, which is ultimately what it takes to progress. Sometimes, the fun comes from the adrenaline kick we get when we are playing in the roda.
Like any activity, training the same thing can get boring or at least, not totally fun. When that happens, it's time to change things up a bit - and there are SO MANY THINGS to learn within the capoeira/Brazilian world, you will definitely find another way to get excited about learning again. Variety is important to learning, and change is necessary. It's totally fine to take a break on learning a particular move and come back days or weeks later. Our brains and bodies are still processing the practice experience much after we do it, and you'd be surprised how something "clicks" even without having drilled continuously for days.
So I hope you've got a little spark to train with less pressure and more openness. I'm happy to share that our little capoeira family is growing, and I welcome you to join us at Hyper Active Monkey Fitness at 8pm and all Mondays until Dec 18, 2017. Hope to see you there!
Let's get moving!