Tag Archives: Cordão de Ouro

Capoeira in the land of Bruce Lee

I don’t think many people are going to argue that getting to know your piano teacher better will help your fingers get around the keys, but that’s precisely the claim made for capoeira. I believe it, which is why one Thursday morning recently found me getting off a plane in Hong Kong rather than my usual routine of a quick warmup and checking my emails.

 

It wasn’t an entirely capoeira centric trip. I’d wanted to check out HK for some time, especially since a couple of friends had moved there. They’d managed to bring our teacher over for a workshop, so with the promise of that plus checking out the sights the signs were aligned nicely.

 

Hong Kong is a crazy, bustling place. There doesn’t seem to be a building below 10 stories and everyone has somewhere important to get to. It’s impressive to see but after living in chilled out, stretched out Perth for a while I couldn’t imagine living there. Homem de Ferro and Zoinho seem to be doing pretty well for themselves there though, and we spent the days checking out the big Buddha, Bruce Lee’s statue and so on, the evenings playing capoeira and the nights talking (or partying!) til 5am.

HongKong

The workshops were great, it always feels good to train with M. Parente again. Most of the HK capoeira students are relatively new, but their dedication and energy were amazing to me, they were very advanced for the length of time they’d been training and put so much into every roda. I’m sure it helped that there is a legend like Mestra Jo teaching there and I liked the style of the other teachers I met too. It was a real inspiration and definitely gave me something to aim for with our little group here.

 

It was also just great fun hanging out with my teacher again and talking capoeira talk. It’s fun, it’s interesting and you do learn things that will help your game. We all know that capoeria is more than just a bunch of cool movements, and talking with someone who lives capoeira every day is a great way to pick up on the extra snippets of culture and malandragem. Mestre Parente always talks about how important it is for students to talk to and interact with visiting teachers, sit with them at dinner and chat away (assuming you share a language) because you can learn so much. It’s also true about your own teacher, and if you get the opportunity it’s well worth while. Capoeira is such a social activity, and that manifests in so many interesting ways. If nothing else, you can guarantee that any capoeira teacher worth learning from will have some crazy stories.

Adventures in starting a Perth capoeira group

So it turns out that starting a capoeira group is quite hard. Who knew? Well, basically everybody I’d talked to about it in advance, so at least I was prepared for that. My teacher Mestre Parente has quite a few students teaching for themselves now, both close to him around Liverpool and Manchester and far away in Paris, Oslo and Russia. It’s cool to be a part of that little group, as well as the bigger Cordão de Ouro family, but it also makes me aware of how painfully isolated we are here in Perth. Nearly all my capoeira contacts are spread across the UK and Europe and it’s not such a short trip. Still waiting on the teleportation devices. Still, this is my little story about the troubles of setting up our Perth capoeira group.

So let’s go through what it takes. First you have to have somewhere to train. This is actually one of the hardest parts, because nearly every good venue has already got some sort of club or dance group renting the space at the best times. It takes a huge amount of emails and phone calls to find somewhere, but I eventually managed it. The first couple of places we rented were set far too late (7.30 pm, so by the end of a class it was 9.30) and I think this caused some problems. Also, you’re committing to paying for somewhere before you have anyone guaranteed to actually show up! Which leads to the second problem:

Finding people to come to your classes. Now first I am a little lucky here. I’m not trying to set up this group on my own, I’m getting help from my friend Monitor Quebra, a French guy with years of capoeira experience and some fantastic acrobatic skills. Having two people means a circle of friends about twice as big to mine for anyone who might be interested in capoeira (or even more since I had basically just arrived and hardly knew anyone yet!), but even better it means that on the inevitable weeks when no one comes I wasn’t just sitting there on my own. I had a training buddy! Quebra’s also pretty handy with a computer and made our website www.capoeirawa.com and our first flyer.

From the first set of flyers we received precisely one student. Luckily he has also been our most dedicated and regular student, so the flyers definitely paid for themselves several times over both in money and less concrete value.  We received a few people attending thanks to our website as well, which is always nice, as well as a few friends who have come along (and who will always have a place in my heart as a result), even if they have a bad habit of leaving the country soon after.  It’s interesting – a single good turnout for a class and I find myself ecstatic, but those inevitable days where nobody comes are very depressing.

So the next step is growing the class, establishing it and training up some people to the point where we have a nice community of capoeira players. The whole point of starting the school instead of just attending other people’s is that we want to train in the style we love, so me and Quebra are lucky that our teachers M. Parente and CM. Estrangeiro have similar visions for capoeira. Even the other Cordão De Ouro school here in Perth (and the only other one in Australia!) have a different style of playing. As part of that though we want to be in the local capoeira community. One of the best things in capoeira for me is playing new people and playing against different styles and visions for the game. It introduces a whole range of experiences and game situations you don’t get if you only stick within your own school, plus it’s just nice to meet new people! We’ve been to visit a couple of the other capoeira schools around here so far and they’ve all been very welcoming. That’s good because I was naturally concerned about getting kicked in the face. Hopefully we can keep that friendliness going and work together to Imagemake a happy and fun community, but we’ll see how it goes. Capoeira can be pretty individual and suspicious of outsiders, but I don’t want much, just to attend as many exciting and skilled rodas as possible.

Anticipation

In 1 week I’m off to Brazil. 3 weeks of capoeira and Portuguese lessons (I may practise putting bits of Portuguese on here) on my own, then Mel’s coming and we’re off travelling for 3 more weeks. I’m a little bit excited. Actually very excited, but sitting here it doesn’t quite seem real yet. Especially since, as I type, I haven’t told anyone at all about this blog (hi there, I hope the future is nice).

The plan is to immerse myself in Portuguese, as I think I’m too lazy to really learn a language properly otherwise. I’ve got various basics already (thanks to years of hanging out with Brazillians, some effort on Livemocha.com and a few helpful lessons from Mariana), and I have no idea how much further it is practical to get in 3 weeks of study, but my hope is to be able to converse at a basic level by the time I come home. The theory is that I can then get better by using the language naturally (talking, typing and reading) after that. From what I’ve learned so far I think that tenses and conjugation are going to be my main enemies.

At the same time my capoeira school Cordão de Ouro has its headquarters only a few kms away from where I’ll be studying. I’m hoping to get some serious training and adventures in at the source!

I’d like to see if I can keep this blog going after as well, as I occasionally get the urge to write down my thoughts about capoeira. Less because I believe I’ve got some particular insight but because it helps to crystalise my own thoughts when I have to order them and type them out. This first post is going here so that when I do eventually share it around people actually have something to read. Next post: flying for 30 hours to a strange city where I don’t know anybody or speak the language – yet.