A Capoeirista is someone who trains Capoeira. They represent learning and growing in the music, rituals, self-defense, acrobatics, dance, and philosophical elements that make up an art form created by Africans stolen and planted in Brazil. I am a Capoeirista.
After work, one evening in 2006, my journey in Capoeira began. I came to the Abbot Park field house, located on Chicago’s Southside, because a friend gave me a flyer that advertised the class. When I saw the Capoeiristas training their bodies in techniques that resembled a union between breakdancing and fighting, I wanted to learn more.
I loved to play fight and breakdance with my friends as a kid. At first sight, Capoeira appealed to my childhood memories of battles on the block. After my first teacher provided me with a brief introduction to Capoeira’s history among enslaved Africans, I knew I had to try it for myself.
The following day, I showed up early for class. I was eager and excited to start. My first class was fun and hard due to the strength, endurance, and flexibility required to keep up with the pace of instruction.
A lot has happened since I started to learn Capoeira at a Chicago park field house after work in 2006.
I traveled to Brazil on three separate occasions and launched a limited liability company to teach Capoeira. I’ve written a book, soon to be published, about my work with Capoeira and Chicago youth.
Where I currently live in Antigua, I am teaching children and adults. On Mondays, I lead a student club at the university where I work as a professor. Saturdays are often reserved for the free classes I offer to children on a local beach. A couple of weeks ago, I taught an introductory workshop at a beautiful new location called The Shed at Sugar Ridge.
The group of children and adults who attended classes at Sugar Ridge look very promising. I shared with twelve students some of the fundamentals of self-defense, acrobatics, music, rituals, and philosophies associated with Capoeira. No one complained during the two-hour workshop.
I have grown a lot through my practice of Capoeira.
When I started to train, I saw physical movements I wanted to do, but could not convince my body to try. I hated the singing aspect of Capoeira. Eventually, I built the confidence to explore the fears of my mind and body.
I believe activities such as Capoeira have the potential to support boys in their transition to men. Through physical activity, it offers an opportunity to encourage healthy lifestyle choices. A community sustained through Capoeira provides time and space to dissect masculinity constructs and to promote positive behaviors.
Capoeira’s unique history can enable critical discussions about social justice and encourage positive self-awareness.
Each boy and man should have the freedom to define themselves. Constructs surrounding race, masculinity, and sexuality often influence the formation of authentic identity. I don’t pretend to know the solutions to all of our world’s problems, but I believe a lack of self-love is related to many of our challenges.
I am a Capoeirista, and I use Capoeira as a tool to build communities with young and older people. My ability to execute movements, play musical instruments, and explore other elements are skills that I have developed over time. I know the work that I do with Capoeira is a gift and I am blessed to share it with others.
Today, I want to encourage you to leave work and discover an activity that can help you grow into a better human being. As long as we have life, there is time to improve and experience what others may believe is impossible.
This piece originally appeared on The Good Men Project.