Capoeira: Like Break Dancing On Ketamine

I’m a lover not a fighter, and was a bit worried about joining in for some Capoeira. Turns out that for beginners, it’s as combative as ballet and twice the fun...
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I’m a lover not a fighter, and was a bit worried about joining in for some Capoeira. Turns out that for beginners, it’s as combative as ballet and twice the fun...

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In the past, as a casual observer, this looked to me like people trying to break dance after taking ketamine. And, like break dancing and ketamine, I’d never been keen to try it. But there will come a time when all that is left on my list are sports I’m avoiding (probably all involving dancing) so I found a class at LSE, dug out some pyjama trousers and got stuck in.

Fortunately I couldn’t have asked for a warmer, friendlier bunch of people. I was shown a few basics, which I instantly forgot. My brain said: “Hang on, this looks like dancing? You never said it was dancing. Is it DANCING?!” and promptly foamed out of my ears.

Capoeira, in case you’re unfamiliar with it, is a Brazilian martial art that includes elements of dance and music. When you go to a class like this the focus is on ‘playing’ capoeira as a game – you don’t actually strike anyone. Instead, you practise the application of movements in simulated combat.

With a level of patience verging on the saintly, my fellow classmates took me, very slowly, through each move. I managed to absorb the basic ‘ginga’ step, along with two kicks and two dodges. I could even put them together into a sequence that probably looked a lot like a slow motion film of a ragdoll in a tumble drier.

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For the last part of the class the twangy instruments and percussion came out and I got to see how it’s really done. Having actually tried it, I could appreciate what was going on: A dance, a play fight, a rather beautiful, joyful, flowing game. Of course as soon as anyone gets a bongo out and starts moving freely I come over all Margo from The Good Life and am deeply uncomfortable but that’s useful therapy for me. It stops me being too uptight and British.

My thighs feel like I’ve done 40,000 squats and, judging by the impressive array of rock hard little bottoms in the class, I pronounce this extremely good exercise. If you fancy a whole body workout that will also take your mind away from the daily grind, capoeira may well be for you. Especially if you’re not prone to awkwardness and constant apologising.

Read more of Caroline's alternative fitness capers here at Ditch the Treadmill...