I just got back from my first 2 hour after-work capoeira class. Wow…what a fantastic full body workout!
I started researching local martial arts schools a few weeks ago when I finally accepted the facts that a) my fiance’s martial arts school was too far away from my office for me to get there on time for the 7:00 pm adult evening class, and b) it would drive me INSANE to have Chris telling me what to do in a physical activity-based environment.
Small of me, but true, I’m afraid.
So I looked online for some alternatives that were closer to my workplace so I could go on the way home. One chain school offered Tae Kwon Do, karate and Krav Maga and was relatively close by. Another more traditional Chinese style school seemed to focus on Kung Fu. And there was even a Brazilian jiu jitsu school available.
However, none of them was as close to work or as interesting to me from a physical challenge standpoint as the Brazilian capoeira school that was a mere block away from the old location of my company. Who knew?
I checked out a class on Friday night to get a feel for what skills the students eventually developed, and was extremely impressed by the gymnastics, movement, and dodging skills I saw. Every student I met was very open and friendly, and the atmosphere was very informal compared to what I’ve observed at my fiance’s more traditional Korean moo doe school where much bowing and serious expressions are the standard. At the capoeira school, I was introduced to the other students and got a hug from each one as they introduced themselves using their capoeira nicknames. I also met their Mestre Lazaro who invited me to try a free class out this week.
I gave the evening class a shot tonight because I believe in jumping into any program while my interest is at its highest. Also, I hadn’t done my TT workout or intervals this morning, so I needed to get some kind of exercise in before going to bed.
We did drills for most of the class after a pretty rapid and heart rate raising ballistic stretch sequence and follow-the-leader around the room run (forward, backwards, and sideways). The drills included lots of kick variations but also a LOT of basic gymnastics moves–cartwheels, a modified backward cartwheel from a squat position, handstands, etc. Very fun and challenging! Then there were ginga/kick drills based on the students’ skill levels followed by free form sparring in the roda circle.
The difficulty level of the class was medium-high if you actually performed all of the exercises correctly and didn’t sit anything out. I never quite ran out of steam or found any of the beginner level moves completely impossible, but I went in already able to do a cartwheel (leading with either arm, and also one-handed), several years of regular high intensity cardio, and more upper body strength than the average female. My biggest issue was with remembering when and which leg to kick in the ginga drills.
Still, I don’t think this is a martial art for the couch potato.
Anyhow, I’m looking forward to taking two classes a week as a substitute for boring machine cardio as well as an alternate form of flexibility and strength training combined. I think I’ve finally found a martial art that will take advantage of all the strength I’ve built up in a functional way instead of allowing it to atrophy as I’ve seen in less acrobatic disciplines. The more laid-back attitude of the school also suits me better than the formality of the other systems I’ve seen. I feel like no knowledge or skill is withheld from lower cordel students. If you feel that you can handle something, most likely a higher cordel student would be happy to help you with it.
Besides, when you advance in capoeira, you get to learn how to play the traditional capoeira instruments and SING. And the uniform for the girls (hipster loose-legged pants and cropped sport tank top) is much cuter than the usual karate gi worn in the Asian disciplines. Shoot, I default to a similar outfit whenever I’m at home anyway! And don’t forget the aerials and back handsprings! Karaoke, sweat-wicking uniform PLUS a kickass workout!