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 and Weakness

I don’t really know how to write this post.

The last few years haven’t been that awesome health-wise. I started my capoeira journey a few months before an all-time low, a time that involved a lot of sleeping, brain-fog, headaches, and crying on the gym floor. There were people who still took the time to teach me. I’m still incredibly loyal to them and wouldn’t want to miss them.

I’ve grown stronger, my overall fitness is better than in the past, but the demands have grown with it. Demands from my instructors, from my group, from myself. So now every new low brings more frustration and more self-doubt. People tell me to give my best, to go faster, while my body wants to lie down and sleep. It makes me feel bad for my instructors – they spend time and energy on teaching us -, for my group – I hold others back -, and for myself, because I can’t be who I want to be. Dizziness comes and goes, some days my muscles hurt, sometimes I just feel like I’m far away and my body doesn’t listen to me. When I have a cold it takes me weeks to get back to my old level afterwards.

Most of this week I spent sleeping, because I’m down and out with a really nasty cold. The doctor told me my blood results are perfectly fine and I just have to deal with getting sick easily and not being as fit as others. I’ll just have to go slow with sports, which isn’t easy with capoeira.

But I don’t want to give up what I have – something that brings me joy, makes me stronger (as long as I don’t add stress on my body by going five times a week), and helps me connect to wonderful people. I’m just scared of telling people I’ll have to go even slower in the future, scared of their remarks, their looks when I take care of myself instead of going all in, scared of seeing others succeed and moving on while I linger. I’m scared of more self-doubt when I see the gap between me and others grow, of seeing others wearing brown and green while I don’t know if I ever will.

Today I went on a walk with my camera to escape from my self-pity and black thoughts. Taking pictures by the lake (just five minutes from our apartment) in the fog helped me clear my head and respiratory system. I brought home some cool seagull pictures I worked into a black and white series: https://starfishskiesphotography.wordpress.com/2016/11/25/seagulls-in-the-fog/. Maybe I will never be a really good capoeirista, but I can do my best when I feel well and take pictures on the other days, learn the music, contribute and participate in some way. I just hope others will accept this and help me, instead of looking down on me or adding to my frustration in some other way.

 

Walking.

After a few very emotional and stressful weeks I woke up yesterday feeling good. I enjoyed taking the train and travelling alone the half-hour distance to the countryside (for family stuff). I felt so good I decided to drive a car for the first time in months. Wonderful feeling.
But after listening to table conversations for some hours last night and today I felt drained. I just wanted to get up and leave the restaurant. Now, in the afternoon, I felt myself drawn to the outsides, to watching the farm cats. Finally I just felt the urge to move. So I wandered off, just walking and walking, following a dirt road. I felt a bit guilty to leave some preparation tasks to the others, but after some minutes of walking I realised how important selfcare is. I didn’t get up from the table early, I tried to stay calm and help with some stuff, but at some point I risk running on an empty tank, risk crossing the line to just reacting to things without being in control anymore, which at some point won’t be helpful to anyone anymore.
Sometimes you just have to walk and see things from a distance before getting back into the middle of things. So if you feel the urge to walk, don’t just ignore the feeling.

You can train a little bit everywhere

I’m looking forward to capoeira class tonight. For two weeks in a row I was only able to go to class on Monday and train a little, then struggled with illness for the rest of the week so I couldn’t go. I didn’t work on my handstand at all and only a tiny little bit on the ponte. Naturally I felt squirrely after just a few days of resting. My body craves the exercise by now. I don’t do big sets of exercises and I can’t stick to workout plans, but I enjoy integrating some small exercises into my daily routine. When I pass the living room door and feel like it I fool around with the pull-up bar in the door frame. When taking a walk around the lake I like hopping onto some of the bigger stones next to the path and do some balance stuff. Other things I do for fun without really thinking about them are walking up stairs in different ways, stretching and moving across the bed in funny manners, doing small leg lifts or ballet positions (just the feet) while standing somewhere, kicking at people (only those who can handle it and won’t get mad at me, of course, mostly it’s the Nerd or one of my guy friends) while passing them or standing somewhere together, and generally stretching a little bit every now and then when I feel stiff. Yesterday when I was stuck at a train station with the Nerd and some other guys for an hour I did a set of push-ups with my feet on the lower bar of a guardrail out of boredom. Afterwards I did some stretching, also using the two bars of the guardrail. One of the guys even joined in by doing a few yoga stretches himself.

Train everywhere, make creative use of whatever you find when you have to wait somewhere.

Benefits of Bad Mood: Decluttering!

Due to a headache I’ve been in a rather bad mood since yesterday. While this is not very pleasurable for me and my immediate environment, I’ve noticed that in this state it is easier for me to part with things – a cluttered apartment amplifies my bad mood, because I feel trapped and crushed. So I want to be able to breathe again, making me more willing to “sacrifice” a few things.

So far I’ve prepared a few items for departure:

– An old pair of running shoes my parents had brought me on their last visit: I had forgotten their existence for several years and they aren’t even comfortable, so they’ll end up in a donation bin.

– A plushy that had been waiting in the give-away-box in our study for some months will be picked up by the co-owner when they come to this city in a week or two.

– Body lotion sample I bought but don’t like, a book I don’t think I’ll read again, cardboard mask base, butterfly hair stick: A friend might like these, so I’ll take them with me the next time I meet them.

– Hair dye, assorted samples of skin care products, metal hair clip and hair fork that won’t hold in my hair: I’ll soon be meeting up with some girls to talk and trade stuff like this, therefore these items went into a bag, ready to come with me next Saturday.

– A scarf I stopped wearing two or three years ago: A friend really liked it when I bought this one and when I asked her today she said she still would be glad to have it, so I squeezed it into an old envelope and to the post office it will go on Monday!

Not today but a few days ago I already sent an old hair conditioner sample to someone I met on the internet. Finally I got rid of this weird smelling piece of solid conditioner without throwing it in the trash!

Three cultures in one week.

Living in three different worlds, three cultures, all separated by nothing but half an hour of walking, three bus stops, a trainride to the other side of the city. European mainstream culture. Church. Capoeira.

Body image – objectification, purification, celebration. Make-up and diets, prudery and hiding, samba de roda and rejoicing in movement for its own sake.

Music – sex and money, worship and encouragement, community and fuelling the game.

Clothing – fashion, modesty, convenience.

So many other points, like cultural behaviour, that I can’t even begin to describe with just a few words. Language. Forming relationships. The view on history, politics, and globalisation. Sense of self.

I step in and out of cultures, I dress their way (more or less), I try to mold my ways of communicating to what is comfortable and acceptable for the people surrounding me at a given time. But in my heart, all three are present all the time. I’m more than the sum of the cultures and subcultures I’m part of. I’m still growing and learning to navigate this inner maze, deciding which paths to add to my map and which landmarks to reject for being misleading.

 

 

teach me in silence. (renga)

without any words
speak to me in clarity
guiding hands and gaze

as you move in eloquence
I’ll be your young reflection

~

Some things are learnt best by imitation. First I had to learn (and I’m still learning) the art of emulating complex movements and heeding tiny signals – a flick of the hand, a line drawn by a gaze, a quick wink or smile, a beckoning head-tilt. Watch, interpret, try, fail, try again. Eventually I became more fluid than I had ever dared to hope in this silent way of teaching more than what is conveyed in words. Still I can’t see everybody equally clearly, but some people are “visible” enough for me to be able to follow their lead in a way that makes me feel comfortable and safe. I’m always glad when I get to spend some time learning from one of them. Sometimes I wonder if these are people who used to be a little like me when they were younger.