As we all know, Stony Brook offers hundreds of clubs on campus, therefore, we’re all bound to find at least one thing that we like. Over the various involvement fairs that we’ve had since the start of the spring semester, I happened to come across the Capoeira Club, and decided to give it a try.
What is it?
Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that was created by the African-slave population in Brazil, dating back to the 16th century. Similar to laws pertaining to American-owned slaves, Brazilian-owned slaves were not allowed to learn how to read, write, or practice combat as it was seen as a threat to their superiors. The most interesting thing about Capoeira is the idea that it is combat disguised as a dance, which made it easy for the slaves to practice it without getting caught.
The movement of Capoeira is fluid like a dance, yet controlled and direct. So yes it is fun, but you can also do some serious damage if executed correctly.
The Capoeira club on campus is an interesting mix of culture and movement. After finishing the first class, I came out with an experience that I wasn’t expecting to get, which turned out to be a good thing. Aside from the grueling pain that I experienced the next morning, I ended up learning a few words in Portuguese, some customs of the practice of Capoeira, and the basics of the actual combat.
I attempted to pick up as much Portuguese as I could; however, being that after taking 6 years of French I can barely hold a conversation, the threat of the instructor saying that he stops speaking English after a while was unsettling. The most that I was able to pick up were the names of the basic movements that we continuously practiced; a little Pavlov conditioning at its finest.
The first word I learned was “ginga”, the continuous rocking back and forth. Ginga is not only the basic combat stance of Capoeira but also the motion that the fighter goes back to after making a move on their opponent. The next word I learned was “meia-lua de frente”, a half-moon kick. The kick consists of the fighter starting in ginga and bringing their left or right leg across the body, making the shape of a half-moon. I also learned “aú”, a cartwheel. This type of cartwheel requires the fighters to have their knees bent so that they have more control over where the cartwheel goes as well as keeping them close to the ground.
After learning a few techniques and practicing them with partners, you actually have to put them to the test by participating in what is called a “roda”. This is a circle that is almost like a “match ring” created by all of the members in the class along with a few students and the instructor playing Brazilian instruments. While they played the instruments, we had to clap along and sing a call-and-response song with the instructor while two people combated within the circle. The instructor explained that the purpose of the music was a tradition of Capoeira, to give the fighters energy as they put their skills to the test. I’m not going to lie, the music actually did help me keep in rhythm with the movement that I had just learned and created an enriched cultural experience that I’m not sure I would’ve ever had if I hadn’t taken the class.
I think you can tell after reading this that Capoeira is a lot of leg work, which is why if you decide to try it. I recommend stretching both before and after the class. The stretching before will allow you to be able to move with a little bit more flexibility, and the stretching after will help to avoid some of the aches and pains that will come in the morning. Also, bring water to keep you hydrated and cool you down. The room used for the club doesn’t have the best ventilation in the world, and we don’t need anyone passing out.
Capoeira is one of many clubs on campus, but one that I do recommend that everyone tries at least once while they’re here. If you do end up not liking it, you can at least say you gave it a try. But if you do end up going back and continue to participate, you’ll get to learn about self-defense, culture, and even acquire a few belts to show off.
Capoeira is free and meets on Fridays from 7pm to 9pm in the Recreational Center, room 125.