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Capoeira, a Taste of Brazil in your own Neighborhood
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Capoeira, a Taste of Brazil in your own Neighborhood



Photo by Grupo GINGA DO CORPO

You do not need to travel to Brazil to find the excitement. Capoeira, the Brazilian martial art that combines dance, music and acrobatics, has become a popular sport in many cities around the world, especially among kids. Capoeiristas - as Capoeira practitioners are called - have set up schools almost everywhere in the U.S. Capoeira schools are springing up in Europe and even Japan.

Children and adolescents are among the most enthusiastic pupils. Julio Pedra, founder of the Grupo Ginga do Corpo, in Geneva, Switzerland, teaches 50 kids aged 5 to 12. In addition to being a capoeirista, Pedra is a specialist in psychomotor development - the notion that a child progressively constructs his body scheme and with proper training can master movement and develop athletic skills.

"Kids come to my classes to learn about their bodies, to learn to move, jump, and play. Capoeira is a difficult sport; it combines music and singing with acrobatic movements. But it is also a game that requires concentration, balance and flexibility", he explains.

Capoeira was invented by African slaves from Angola and emerged in the Brazilian senzalas, slave quarters, in the 16th century. The slaves observed and imitated animal movements, such as the acrobatics of the monkey and the darting sway of the snake, to develop their fighting skills and added music to camouflage their activity from their owners. That is why Capoeira resembles a dance, more than combat. Brazilians perceive Capoeira as a game and use the expression jogar capoeira, which means to play capoeira.

Watching capoeiristas in the streets of Bahia - the state in northeast Brazil where the sport originated - is part of the fun. Players, barefoot and dressed in white trousers, form a circle, called a roda. Music is played and everyone sings and claps while two capoeiristas interact in the center.

Capoeira is highly energetic and difficult to master. The challenge for the player is to combine the flexibility of an acrobat, grace of a dancer, strength and speed of a fighter, and at the same time follow the rhythm of the music.

"That's what makes capoeira a very special sport. Capoeira is not only a martial art. It's about rhythm and socialization. Everyone plays a part and interacts with each other. Most sports place the accent on competition. Capoeira is different, it's about being and working together", says Pedra.

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