How to Stay Sane and Healthy at a Big Capoeira Event

  • Earplugs (foam or silicone)! Rodas and percussion classes are insanely noisy and can be stressful after a while, even if you don’t notice the effect for a long time, and keeping part of the loudness away can reduce the overall stress level by a lot! I even wore them during a few of the classes towards the end of the workshop this year, and it helped me to focus on the movements despite being tired and recovering from a headache. Also, think of your kids. I felt sorry for some of the toddlers being carried close to a roda with a bateria that was so load that even with earplugs I thought it was too loud. I might be more sensitive than the average adult, but kids have very, very sensitive ears. Protect them or at least limit their time next to the noise. (Earplugs are good for the workshop party and public transport, too.)
  • Pack/plan your meals in advance. This year I packed almost identical lunchboxes for all days, but you can do as you please concerning variety. Use foods you know you can eat without feeling full or sick during training (e.g. I know I have to avoid dairy and meat before intense trainings). I packed salted nuts, dried banana chips, fresh bananas, hardboiled eggs, cereal bars, muffins, dark chocolate, and some gummy candy (great to chew on when things get stressful or your blood level crushes). In addition I had smoothies for the morning with me – plan carefully which foods have to be consumed before they are out in the warm gym hall for too long!
  • Take some time off around the event, if possible. This year I used vacation time for the first day of the event (even though it only started in the evening) and for today, which is the day after four days of capoeira madness. Best decision ever. Use the time to buy favourite workshop food, take a nap, stretch, look at the photos and others you took, put your feet up …
  • Be aware of your needs. Go outside when you need fresh air or some quiet, take a nap on a mat, hug your friends, say no to tasks you can’t perform without your stress level skyrocketing. Sleep in. Leave early if you don’t feel well or need some people-free time. Skip a class to practise on your own.
  • If you want or have to help with the event, look for tasks that suit you. I prefer documenting the event with my camera, collecting dirty mugs and dry bottles, and helping with some small things when I have time over tasks that involve a lot of people stuff like check-in. If you like to drive a car, you can pick up people and do grocery shopping, if you like caring for people you can prepare breakfast, if you are strong or have energy left over after the event you can carry around heavy stuff or clean  … find your niche. This year I wanted to help with the final cleanup, but I was so exhausted I would not have been of any use, so I excused myself and started going through my pictures, which was accepted by the others far better than expected.
  • Bring a small towel or washcloth to refresh your face or whatever body parts feel sticky and annoying in the middle of the day. Cold water clears the head, too.
  • General advise: Have a backup plan to be more relaxed. If you know you might need medication or whatever kind of help in some situations, let one or two people know. If you e.g. can’t stand being touched by semi-strangers when upset or being overwhelmed by all the noise and chaos of dozens of moving humans, find a few trustworthy friends or teachers who will be able to recognize and handle such a situation and maybe feed you chocolate or take you out for a walk. Identify your needs in advance, communicate, feel safe.
  • Bring your favourite flip-flops or whatever kind of comfortable slip-on footwear your prefer. Some spaces might be dirty or have a cold floor, or you might want to run out for a moment without looking for your socks and putting your sweaty feet into shoes. Bring a comfortable jacket or your favourite cozy hoodie to avoid cooling out between classes or when a mestre loves talking a lot before actually getting to work. Also great as a makeshift pillow or a mini-blanket to hide beneath.
  • Drink lots of water or other healthy beverages. Pro tip: Use the bathroom during class, training rodas, or presentations to avoid queues.
  • Let go of the idea of taking part in each and every class and event. This was so hard for me the first two years, but now I’m more relaxed about this. Let go of the idea that the schedule is fixed – this I learned the hard way this year. So. Much. Craziness. (If you want to know – they delayed the troca de cordas by two days while in the meantime our instructor and his friend got their more or less spontaneous formatura and were made a full mestres! This of course ended in about three additional hours of games, speeches, and samba de roda and a frevo circle.)

Capoeira Update: May 2017

The promised update on my capoeira practise!

First things first: I’m getting closer and closer to a freestanding handstand. I’ve practised pushing off the wall a little and try to balance my weight before going back to the wall or the floor, as well as stopping right before my feet touch the wall. The wall is great to take away the fear of falling over with too much momentum. On a good day I can hold my balance three to five seconds. In addition I started practising without the wall, both handstand and underarm stand. I’m not yet able to get into a totally vertical position because I’m scared of falling over, but it’s much better than last year, so with building some more strength in my core, arms, and shoulders it should get even better soon.

I had a lot of colds this winter (and right now, because it’s still cold and wet outside – the shops display summer bikinis while I wear half-gloves and my warm, rain-proof anorak) and missed many classes, so I was thankful for the cheap, thick yoga mat I had bought on a whim. When I felt good enough I did some stretching, warrior poses, or even push-ups and planks. The worst was the month-long cough that caused me to lose a lot of core strength because I could do no crunches or similar exercises at all. I regained most of it by now, but my way to a six-pack has to start at zero again.

My knees hurt more than usual when doing lower movements like esquivas and rolés, so I have to be extra thorough with warming them up. I’m trying to loose a little bit of weight to take some stress off my joints (I’m not really overweight, but not in my ideal personal range for intense physical activity either) and eat even better food. I’ve learned to make yummy Thai curries and stir-fried noodles with lots of vegetables.

Some random things I’ve learnt/done: I went to an angola workshop with a friend and learnt a cool way to turn around on one leg – I don’t use it in real games, but it’s fun to throw into the mix in when we do warming up games without kicks. Last week or so I found a video tutorial that included a simple but cool transition from queda de rins to a turn (by extending the lower leg and crossing the upper one over it, standing up with the back to the other person, and then stepping around), which I started to use in slower games. On Wednesday I didn’t play in the roda because I was exhausted from the beginnings of my current cold, but I got the chance to sing two songs (with some help) while the others played, which made me really happy and a little proud.

Work in progress: slowing down/stopping in the cartwheel, getting back into doing more and different push-ups, the aforementioned handstand, not getting angry at myself when I have a bad day*.

If I feel well enough for training tomorrow I’ll try to start learning playing the atabaque in the music part of class. I tried the basic rhythm on my djembe already :)

 

*Sometimes I use my needed breaks to do sketches of capoeira movements, which is a nice way to spend time in class without feeling totally disconnected or useless. You can find some of my sketches and doodles on instagram.

 

Arame Making

Last weekend we cut wire from a discarded car tyre (there was a huge pile of random trash in our street, again) to make arame (wire string) for my berimbau – my old wire snapped a few weeks ago while stringing.

Tools/materials: Carpet knife (not the best choice, a decent serrated knife would have been more effective), cut protection glove, gardening gloves, pliers, sanding paper, trash bag.

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Might sound like a weird way to spend a Sunday afternoon while nursing a headache, but it made me extremely happy and also a little proud. As a friend told me, there are many capoeiristas who have yet to make their own arame. I might not be a very good capoeirista (saw a video of me playing for the first time last week, looked horrible), but I’m pretty motivated right now. A little too motivated, maybe, my body is not happy right now. I’ll elaborate on that in one of my next posts.

The arame is not perfect – too thick wire – but good enough for practising at home.

Ding dong dong.

Anybody home? YES.

Sorry for two months of radio silence.

I’ve been busy getting used to a full time job in which I have to concentrate a lot – during the first month I just came home and went to bed, too exhausted to survive even one full capoeira class per week. Now after a little more than two months I’m starting to build a routine of juggling work, 2-3 capoeira classes/week (one week I even made it through 4 1/2!), household chores (though I still neglect these a lot), weekly choir practise (I cut myself a lot of slack here, too), and much needed down time. We got a sofa and I enjoy just sitting and reading in peace for an hour or two instead of filling my head with random internet stuff. I’m rereading A Game of Thrones so I’ll finally be able to get to the second volume, but there are some other books I started reading as well.

Today we came back from a short trip (four nights), some first photos are up on instagram.com/starfishskies. We hiked up rock formations and down into forests, slept and read a lot, we even watched normal TV. Yesterday we spent the evening in a swimming hall where they have different fun things like a pool that leads outside where they put on fog and lights at night, and a pool with salt water where you can float, watch lights and listen to underwater music (totally my thing, so relaxing).

 

Berimbau Stringing

On Monday I finally made some progress with stringing my berimbau! The bottom third of the verga is very thick, so for the last week I had been struggling with it, despite trying different angles and techniques. But after practising for a while, using the method a friend had shown me, I was able to bend the verga far enough to string it so tight that there was some space between biriba and arame to move a small stone back and forth a little.

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I think it should be a little tighter still, because the cabaça sits a bit too high (not visible in this picture, as it was taking at an angle from slightly above) and I would like a little bit more space to move the stone. But it made some nice ding-dong-dong sounds already :)

Random Capoeira Content

I wanted to share another inspirational capoeira video with you, but it’s not available in my country anymore without a detour. If you want to have a go at trying to watch it, you can click here.

Meanwhile, have this rather accurate description of view points:

Well, okay, my family doesn’t think I’m in some street gang. But the last picture somewhat sums up what I look like when trying to do advanced movements and not having the strenght to come back into a standing position.

Capoeira Update – Goals, Progress, and Inspiration

It’s been a while since my last capoeira update, sorry for that. In late autumn I was sick for a few weeks and lost a lot of the muscles in my back and my arms and a bit of the flexibility for which I had worked so hard during the summer. As I stated a few months ago, one of my goals for 2016 is the ponte walkover. It’s still on my list, but I still have to work on regaining said muscles and the flexibility of my spine (and straighten my arms more) before I can think of starting to work on the actual walkover part. I’d love to be able to do at least an assisted walkover by summer, so I could do it in the park on the green grass where I started working on this move. Before Christmas break we practised the aú de frente (mix of a cartwheel and a front walkover; some people in our group call it aú amazonas, which I think is confusing, considering it is also another name for the aú batido) in one class. I tried it a couple of times after that and today we practised it again. It’s a really pretty movement and takes more courage and flexibility/balance than raw strength, so this is on my “learn before summer is over” list as well, especially since I’m already half way there. So 2016 is going to be my walkover year ;) This includes trying to get to a free standing handstand, which would make many movements a lot easier and more balanced. And as I’ll finally, finally get my very own berimbau in just a few days if all goes well (when I asked him today, contra mestre said he’d try to prepare a médio for me by Friday or Monday from the materials he brought back from Brazil recently!), another goal would be learning at least one new toque.

I didn’t make a lot of further progress concerning the basic techniques – apart from a faster and more precise martelo maybe -, but I started to learn and/or use a few new movements. The aú de frente I already mentioned above, but I also did my first few rather miserable attempts of an au cabeça no chão (sort of a cartwheel with the head on the ground). Additionally I’m working on including more ground movements in general, e.g. different rolês and fintas of  low kicks. I can hold a handstand for a few seconds after pushing away from the wall sometimes, or hold it for a longer time while touching the wall for support with only the toes of one foot. And my last macaco today seemed to be good enough for the contra mestre to nod and walk away instead of giving tons of instructions. I’m still not able to do one starting with my left hand, though.

My newest inspiration are the videos by Andrea Cazotti. He combines capoeira, acro dance, tricking, and a lot of heart and soul to create beautiful movement art. These are two of my favourite videos by him (narrations in French, but with English subtitles):

I’ve also started to read Tao of Jeet Kune Do (Bruce Lee). While it isn’t about capoeira at all I can relate a lot to the ideas and the mindset described in this book. Sadly the book on Capoeira Conditioning (bodyweight training with capoeira movements) hasn’t arrived yet. It should have been here by end of December.

How have you been, capoeiristas? What are your goals for the next few months? What is your inspiration?

Learning to Play the Berimbau

So today was the second time I had the chance to practise playing the berimbau, after I was allowed to hold one for the first time two weeks ago. I have a lot of trouble holding even a very light one due to problems with my finger joints (mostly the metacarpophalangeal joints), but today I managed to play at least for a few moments without any cheating. Last time I had supported the berimbau by leaning it against my forehead, which worked for me but weirded out some people, so today I heeded the advice of a friend and just kept the cabaça against my body most of the time instead of moving it back and forth, producing only muted sounds but not having to worry about the verga wobbling around in my hand all the time. 

I was also very happy when I discovered I have already internalised São Bento Grande de Angola far enough to sing along the chorus of a few easy familiar songs.