Tag Archives: Perth

Competition

So rather than talking about competition in the roda (which is an entirely different and probably much longer post) I’d like to talk about competition between capoeira groups. When I first said I was going to start teaching capoeira I could see some of the other teachers looking at me warily. There’s a few schools around Perth, but the capoeira scene is not massive and I could practically hear them thinking about another face on the block competing for the limited number of students. As we’ve continued and shown that we’re not out to steal students from other people and that we respect the art they’ve softened to us a bit (but not all of them).

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I think this attitude is a mistake though – capoeiristas are not in competition with each other (outside the roda) except in the most limited, small minded sense. So let me backpedal a bit and say where the suspicious minds are right: when people have already heard about capoeira and come looking for you, whether they’ve done capoeira before in another city or whether they’ve just heard of it and are desperate to try. In that small case capoeira schools are competing fairly directly (although if you’re too far away, on the wrong nights of the week or etc. that person is not likely to stick around). There’s not a lot of these guys though, maybe 10 per year at most through the whole of Perth? (That’s probably an overestimate.) In which case 2 schools instead of 1 is a big hit, but 5 schools instead of 4 isn’t going to make much of a difference.

So where is the competition? In my opinion it’s between capoeira and all the other hobbies and sports out there. Instead of capoeira people are playing football, volleyball, computer games, going to boot camps… there’s literally millions of people out there that we could be trying to get into capoeira. If we could get our message out to 0.1% of those people every capoeira school would be rolling in students. And it’s not a zero-sum game either. If one of us does well we’re all going to benefit.

I was talking about other things with one of the capoeira teachers here recently, and he made a really good point. “When someone does a show, do you think they remember the name of the group? No, if it they like it or they hate it all they will remember is capoeira. Then they’ll go to the group most convenient for them. Or if it’s a bad show they’ll go away thinking they know what capoeira is now, and that it’s crap.” Pretty much any advertising we do is going to be similar. Putting out crap stuff will give a rasteira to us all, but if we build a great community we’ll all benefit.

We’ll benefit even if the students go to another group. If other groups around you are doing well there will be better rodas to visit, better events to go to, but also if you’ve got a good relationship going then there will be more people to come to your rodas and more people to come to your events. I don’t think there’s a capoeira teacher out there that would rather someone didn’t do capoeira at all than start at a different group, but for some reason we never see it like that.

Speaking for myself as well, I don’t want to pinch students from other groups, or undercut them or similar unpleasant “business” practices. As welcome as all the friends I’ve made here through capoeira are in our classes (and I love you guys) I want to get fresh faces and teach them to play capoeira the way I was brought up in it, to teach them the style I love. I don’t want to retrain styles from other groups, I want every capoeira student out there to train in the style they prefer. Whether that’s Cordao De Ouro style, pure Regional, Angola or whatever makes them happy and suits their body the best.

I know this all gets more complicated when people are making their living at it, rather than teaching on the side (which gives you a much more comfortable viewpoint), but these are my thoughts. I’d love to hear other people’s opinions about it. In the mean time, seasons best wishes to everyone and hope you have a fantastic and harmonious new year!

Expanding the group

I said before we needed to grow the group. As part of that we’re opening new capoeira classes in Perth, in the Bayswater suburb. We got very lucky with some contacts and they gave us the first month rent free, which allowed me to run some free capoeira classes to try and build up a bit of a buzz. So I’ve been spamming my facebook (sorry guys), putting up posters all over Bayswater, Yokine and Mount Lawley (I feel like I’ve been putting up posters over the whole of Perth), I made a meetup group…

Actually I discovered something pretty handy. Meetup groups cost money to set up, but if you go all the way through the setup and stop before you have to pay then after a few hours they’ll send you a 50% discount code. Better than a poke in the eye or a big rasteira. Lobo’s top tip for the day. 😉 Two people have signed up through meetup so far, but neither of them has attended yet. We’ll see if it was worth the investment.

The first free class was last Tuesday and we had 5 new people in to train, so that was great. Not a bad start at all. One of them wrote up a really nice report on his blog (here, lots about martial arts too) which made me smile. Everyone tried really hard, despite the often confusing and apparently unintuitive nature of your first capoeira class, and I was really impressed.

If we could get five students like that who came every week then I know our school would be amazing fun (to run and participate in) and the skill level would rocket. There’s one more free class this coming Tuesday and a few more people have promised to try it, so fingers crossed we can get some regulars going.

One last thing, the posters for all of this were a beautiful example of karma in action. I gave a friend a room in our shared house as a student for a few weeks years ago (it was a tiny room too, basically a closet with a window) and he came back and made me an amazing poster without my even asking. What a gent!Image

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.