Capoeira displays its Brazilian and African martial arts roots in dance and music

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EL PASO — In the Capoeira Quinto Sol studio in Central El Paso, dozens of people recently
practiced gingas, aús, and escorpião kicks to the beat of an exotic wooden bow-shaped instrument called berimbaus and a drum called atabaque. The dancers were preparing for the worldwide Brazilian batizado celebration.

Capoeira is a type of martial art with roots in Brazil and Africa and was developed by the African slaves that were brought to Brazil in the 16th century to work the sugarcane plantations by the Portuguese.

Because Capoeira uses elements of dancing in its execution, the African slaves used the ruse of dance to avoid being punished by their Portuguese masters for practicing self-defense methods.

Although Capoeira was, at first, developed for self-defense, it can also be practiced for many different reasons. Some do it to practice a martial art, some to better themselves physically, and others for spiritual reasons.

“I didn’t chose capoeira — it chose me,” said Capoeira Instructor Eduardo Galvan, 37, also known by his nickname Contramestre Animal.

“Capoeira is a living force,” he said with a grin. “People that make a living out of Capoeira were chosen by this force.”

Galvan, who grew up in Las Cruces, is trying to start a group in Phoenix to play Capoeira. He is passionate about the art and feels a strong spiritual connection with it. He feels that Capoeira not only is healthy physically, but it is also healthy spiritually, mentally and socially.

“Capoeira keeps feeding me and develops my soul and spirit. It was developed through and for the struggle; it’s the art and fight of the people,” said Galvan, AKA Animal.

Capoeira Quinto Sol Studio

A look at the El Paso Capoeira Quinto Sol's studio in Central El Paso, where capoeira players are stretching to prepare themselves for the Batizado activities. Photo credit: Joshua Espinal

Although the modern-day Capoeira is different from the traditional one, students and instructors respect and keep the traditional overtones of the old style through songs, movements, and instruments while mixing in a more contemporary feel.

Practitioner Kris Lay, a 24-year-old Army soldier born in Louisville, Kentucky, said he became interested in Capoeira as a young boy when he watched the 1990’s movie, “Only The Strong,” that showcases Capoeira, and became fascinated by Brazilian culture.

Stationed at Ft. Bliss, Lay said that one day he was bored and went online to see what was available to do in El Paso. He discovered a Capoeira studio, attended one of the training sessions and was instantly captivated.

Joining the group was like “going to a family reunion and seeing a family that you might not see every day but when you do see each other it’s like you haven’t missed a thing and it helps grow the family bond,” he said.

Lay now practices Capoeira to stay fit as a soldier and because it brings him piece of mind. At the recent batizado, or initiation into Capoeira, he demonstrated his abilities against a mestre and rose in rank to earn his green corda, a colored cord that designates level of ability. “Capoeira is sometimes more physically demanding than the PT we do in the Army,” Lay said.

While participating in the batizado, students of Capoeira display various techniques while under the supervision of the instructors.

In the batizado, new members are inducted into the class and previous students have a chance to rise in rank by showcasing their skill against an instructor, called a mestre or contramestre, to gain a colored corda that recognizes how knowledgeable a student is in Capoeira.

Students of the Capoeira Quinto Sol learn all the fundamentals from the traditional to contemporary, starting with the basic stretches. They also learn Portuguese songs, and extensive maneuvers that require serious athletic skill and ability.

In the batizado, students as well as trainers celebrate newcomers, those moving up in rank, and have a festive time “playing Capoeira” with each other.

“It feels good to share something we love with new faces. Teaching Capoeira gives me purpose because without students we wouldn’t need teachers,” said Galvan, as he recently oversaw the studio packed with a few dozen people.

“Some people here I trained and have gone on to move to other cities but have come back to take part in this batizado,” he said.

Lay added: “If you can play beautiful Capoeira, you are automatically family. Like they say in Portuguese joga bonito,” play beautiful.

For more information about Capoeira contact Capoeira Quinto Sol at:

1931 Myrtle Ave

El Paso, Texas 79901

Phone 915-252-8258

Website : http://www.capoeiraquintosol.com

Portuguese key:

Atabaque (at-ah-back-eh) – tall, wooden Brazilian hand drum

Aú (ow) – type of cartwheel used in Capoeira movements

Batizado (batch-e-zado) – Portuguese for baptism

Berimbau (ber-eem-bow) – wooden bow Brazilian instrument, with a steel string tightly strung from end to end usually played with a small wooden stick and a stone

Corda (cord-ah) – Portuguese for cord, colored cords are used in Capoeira to designate skill level in studentsEscorpião (es-cor-pi-ow) – Portuguese for scorpion

Ginga (jeen-gah) – fundamental Capoeira move where you rock from side to side

Mestre and Contramestre (mess-tri, contra-mess-tri) – titles given to instructors in Capoeira, literally meaning master and foreman in Portuguese. A mestre is a master of the Capoeira art and a contramestre is a master in training.

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  1. Really nice article. Martial arts is something everyone should study, it has many advantages. The moves shown in the video with dancing is really amazing. Thank you for posting this wonderful article.

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