Teaching capoeira to ten-year olds

// March 11th, 2011 // thoughts

Practicing capoeira with Tyler in Natal, Brazil

I noticed that when I’m practicing my capoeira moves, sometimes a little bunch of kids gathers around. They didn’t say much at first, just watched. Three boys and a girl, all around ten years old. They started to ask me about capoeira. I was a bit self conscious about singing them any capoeira songs so the explanations I gave weren’t great.

After a bit, the girl asked me to show her how to do a move. I think it was a martelo. A little too difficult for you, I told her, but if you want to start with something more basic…

I taught her to do ginga, pointiera (a high kick) and mei luna de frente (‘half-moon; to the front, a sweeping, kicking cartwheel spin.)

She seemed pretty happy. The next day she came back with the three boys. They were demanding to learn too.

For a moment I imagined my future in Ek Naab as a sort of sensei figure, teaching kids and teenagers to find inner peace and harmony and whatnot in the mastery of capoeira…

That is, until I understood what the kids wanted. They’d heard stories about me fighting, defeating the kidnappers in Brazil with my mad capoeira skills. They’d heard how I broke Simon Madison’s wrist with my trademark mariposa move. Well for a start I wanted to know how they knew, although I guess they heard it from someone who heard it from Benicio who heard it from Ixchel…

Then I had to tell them that I didn’t win a single fight in Brazil, not properly won, I mean. Tyler did most of the hard work. And then they just looked puzzled, then irritated. “We didn’t hear about this Tyler person…”

“Can you teach us to fight like that,” one of them finally insisted. And I said no, that capoeira wasn’t meant to be used as a fight…it’s a game full of mischief and fun and axé (an Afro-Brazilian word that means something like ‘heart/energy/spirit’.)

And that’s when I realised. I couldn’t teach capoeira to these kids. Not properly. Because I’m not a master -  a Mestre. I know some moves and I’ve used them to maybe help save my life. But this is not what capoeira is for. Although once upon a time, it was. I continue to need it that way. One day, I hope I’ll be good enough to just play.

13 Responses to “Teaching capoeira to ten-year olds”

  1. Sonyash says:

    This is awesome!
    I would want to watch that!
    Very-very cool!

  2. Pratchu says:

    Hmmm… capoeira sounds difficult but controlled. I personally prefer kickboxing ’cause its like WHAM! and they are down.

    Anyway, why does Benicio not get your humor about Ek Naab meaning Black Pool?*giggle,giggle*

  3. suki says:

    capoeira sounds really interesting i looked up some videos it looks like a lot of hard work do you know when a good age yo start taking lessons is and also where to take them
    (i live in north oxford, summertown)

  4. Josh says:

    Me too! At least when I lived in Oxford. *sad*
    Try the Abolicao Oxford on Cowley road. http://www.abolicao.co.uk/grupo

  5. Ellenangel says:

    Josh Slow down! So what If you can’t teach them loads? and so what if you are not a master? Teach pepole who want to learn, a bit of what you know, just a small bit, and see how they get on. Explain how it is not meant for violance, and what it is meant for. if they get that, you can slowly teach them a bit more!

  6. mayanwolf says:

    i think Capoeira is really cool and i would like to learn, but i just dont think im physically up to it. still, i’d prefer to learn fencing anyway.(im old fashioned that way).
    i couldnt teach though especialy not physically.

  7. Josh says:

    Yeah, I’d like to learn fencing too. It’s v. cool. Would have been handy fighting those Mayan warriors too. I mean, any experience with a blade would have been helpful. Srsly that was scary, facing up to a sweaty, hench Mayan teenager who wanted to bury a piece of volcanic glass in my chest. And havign ZERO CLUE about how to fight with a blade.

  8. Patrick says:

    Hi Josh do you like Montoyo?

  9. Josh says:

    Interesting question… I don’t NOT like him, if you know what I mean. In lots of ways I admire Montoyo. But I always feel like he’s holding out on me. Like there are things that he knows that maybe I should know too. And because I’m not sixteen yet, he won’t tell. He seems to make my mother happy, so I guess that’s good. Lately I think he’s a bit under-the-thumb. Maybe that’s why he doesn’t tell me stuff?

    • AlexiatheDivatoeverything says:

      Hey Josh, forget Montoyo he makes your mum happy but you dont have to like him. if the mans a Jackass then he is a jackass dont get your boxers in a twist about it.

  10. Boo says:

    after i read your books i started to learn capoeira i already knew somemarshal arts and it seemed fun

  11. Aai Marsh says:

    I’ve always been interested in Capoeira but I never got the chance to learn it.

  12. Lily Jonson says:

    i’d really like to learn capoeira it’s sounds like fun.
    but i dont think they teach it where i live. josh it sounds like u have a pretty amazing life and when i read the books its makes me feel like i’m right there with u!

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