Sweat In The City: Capoeira Angola

There are a few things I wasn’t prepared for when I entered my first Capoeira Angola class. I wasn’t prepared for just how beautiful it was (and how ugly I could make it); I wasn’t prepared for how cultural the class was going to be and how passionate the students were about the history of this art; I wasn’t prepared for the singing, and I had no idea just how much of a boss I’d feel like when the class was over.

Capoeira Angola is a Brazilian/African martial art that mixes dance, music and acrobatic fighting. I go to a lot of exercise classes, but, I have to say, capoeira scared me more than my previous adventures because it seemed so athletic. And I don’t have an athletic bone in my body. It also appeared to involve a lot of rhythm and coordination (other areas in which I sometimes feel lacking). Another factor that scared me was that I suspected I might have to conquer my fear of being upside down, which has long blighted my progress in yoga.

The class was, without a doubt, the most informal I’ve ever taken. Everyone started limbering up without a word from Phu, the instructor. My fellow students stretched into some incredible positions and performed inversions that outshined my best efforts in any yoga class I’ve taken. I pointed and flexed my feet “good toes, naughty toes” style and tried desperately not to look awkward.

As I suspected, the small crowd gathered for the class was a cool one; there were headscarves, dreads, harem pants and a whole selection of exotic-looking musical instruments. Introductions were made, and everyone was very relaxed about the fact that I was a beginner (the only one) and the class would be adjusted to suit all of our needs (i.e. slowed down in deference to my ineptitude).

We began with a slow sequence of moves based around a basic side step, mirroring Phu the whole time. The sequence, with the accompanying drum-led beats and Phu’s Portuguese instructions, proved strangely hypnotic. When I could keep up with the movements, I found myself unwinding like I never expected I would in such an intense class.

Next, we paired up and Phu gave me some easier moves than the rest of the class, who were impressively standing on their heads and avoiding their partner’s kicks whilst making it look like a beautiful ballet. As an introduction to some of the more complex moves, Phu helped me into a handstand against the wall, before I freaked out and had to come down. He also helped me manage getting into and out of bridge pose by pushing up from one shoulder and flipping out of it. This one tiny achievement felt huge to me, despite the fact the rest of the class was bending backwards into its bridges from a crouched position.

By that point, I was exhausted, and thus relieved that the last half-hour of the class was spent on the musical side of capoeira. We were each given an instrument (I had the scraper) and were shown the rhythm in which to play it. There followed a lot of singing and calling back. I was asked to join in and roar a little solo performance but, after briefly having braved going upside down and managing a turn into and out of bridge pose, I felt as though I had no more courage left. I kept my mouth shut and played my scraper a bit louder. I vowed to roar in next week’s class – because I will be going back. Capoeira may be the most intense, difficult and scary class I’ve ever attended, but it was definitely one of the most thrilling as well.

Difficulty Rating: 5/5 Beginners are welcome to the class, but it would definitely help to have a basic level of fitness and preferably some gymnastic or yoga experience. It’s not essential, though.

Body Talk Studio
2nd Floor Maneeya Centre (takes a bit of hunting, but it’s there), Chitlom BTS
Wednesdays 7:30 – 9pm, Saturdays 5 – 6:30pm
089 206 9495

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