Get Into Shape with Capoeira

BY: PATRICE EWELL

Brazilian music thumps through the dance studio as men and women clap, kick and block to the rhythmic music.

 

This is not a typical dance class, but rather a regular evening fitness class at the Lion’s Pride Kung Fu Academy in Long Beach, Calif.  Called Capoeira, it’s a two-hour long game that works almost every muscle in the body. Part martial arts, part gymnastics, part dance and part music all combined into one game, in a Brazilian art form.

 

The game is played between two people at a time. The players exchange defensive and offensive moves, with or without physical contact. The Capoeirists (people who play Capoeira) and spectators create a circle around the two players.

 

With summer right around the corner, time is running out to fight the battle of the bulge. If you are stuck in a fitness rut, don’t sweat it. The game of Capoeira packs in so much intense cardio that those unwanted pounds would be off in no time. We all know it’s easier to lose weight when you are having fun doing it.

 

“If you are a dancer, Capoeira is a dance; if you are a musician, Capoeira is music; if you are a fighter, Capoeira is a martial art; you won't learn anything that isn't part of you already,” said Professor Contra Mestre (Master) Xara, class instructor.

 

People come to Xara’s class for the workout, but eventually they end up learning that it is more than just a workout - it is a culture. It's not just about coming, sweating and leaving. Xara’s main goals are to make sure his students have a great time, learn about the culture of Capoeira and Brazil, meet new people and make lasting connections.

 

“A lot of people have compared Capoeira to break dancing,” explained Amy Klim, CSULB alumnus and current Capoeira student. “It’s not really comparable to any other martial art because it has the dance part, too.”

 

One day at age 14, Xara walked outside of his house in Brazil to go play and saw his neighbor playing an instrument and fell in love with the sound of it. From that day on, he began researching this mystery instrument.

 

He discovered the instrument belonged to the game of Capoeira and is called the berimbau. It is shaped like a hunter’s bow with a varying sized ball attached to it. The berimbau has been used by African decedents in Brazil for hundreds of years and is the most important instrument associated with Capoeira.

 

The music is performed when two capoeirists face each other in a circle made up of onlookers, fighters and musicians. As the moves are similar of dance, the music helps the fighters keep rhythm and adds to the atmosphere of the occasion. At a Capoeira game, there are usually three berimbaus playing.

 

Xara has over 17 years of practice in Capoeira. He has 10 years of teaching experience and has educated beginners as well as advanced students from all types of fitness backgrounds.

“I have taught Capoeira classes, workshops and demonstrations in particular at public schools in Brazil, USA and France. I taught Capoeira at the Projeto Capoeirança in Patos de Minas-MG (in Brazil), a free Capoeira program that helped keep trouble kids out of the streets in a poor neighborhood,” said Xara. He also has experience teaching music and Capoeira to children with special needs.

 

Rebecca Valadao, wife and student of Xara, has trained in Capoeira for the past nine years. She recalled her first time going to class. “I went in a pair of jeans and big T-shirt and I was just like, ‘I’ll just watch, I am not going to do it’,” she said. “It looked like so much fun that I went ahead and participated.”

 

Valadao remembers one of the students who was pregnant with triplets go back to her normal skinny self after playing Capoeira. "We see people change," she said. "We see them build more confidence because of their weight loss."

 

Klim estimates that the average person will burn about 1,000 calories while playing 2 hours of the game.

 

Xara warns participants at the beginning of class to modify the exercise to fit their needs. He also advises wearing loose light clothing such as tracksuit bottoms and a thin T-shirt and/or vest top because it gets hot. Wearing proper footwear is one of the best ways to guard against injury, too.

 

"In Capoeira, we do a lot of kicking, so a bare foot is the best option,” said Xara. “I would advise you not to wear shoes that grip the floor too much.”

 

Unlike other exercise workouts Klim has tried, "Capoeira is not a punishment," she said. Klim summed up the benefits: "My reflexes are sharpened and I think more quickly on my feet."

 

Klim also mentioned that her 40-year-old brother-in-law also trains Capoeira. Valadaro stated a woman also brings her 3-year-old to class to practice. So clearly, there are no age requirements for this workout. Valadaro is nine months pregnant and still practices. She said, “I do what I can,” with a smile on her face.

 

If you are interested in Capoeira, feel free to contact Professor Xara by email at xaracdo@gmail.com or phone at (562)-210-2499. You can also visit the web site at www.cdolongbeach.com. There is also a free Capoeira club here on campus at CSULB.