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High kicks and Brazilian songs: lecture center Capoeria class

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Last month on my way back to my dorm, I saw six to 10 students sitting in a circle, doing stretches. I wondered what exercise they could be doing, after a long day of school work, no less. When I dropped in on the class and asked what they were doing, I found out it was stretches for a martial art that I have never heard of before called capoeira.

As a result, I sat in on that and another capoeira class on November 13, in the Lecture Center. I observed approximately six to ten students performing stretches, calisthenics, and various footwork and kicking maneuvers, some with less complexity than others.This all occurred within an environment filled with music and tradition consistent with capoeira.

In these classes, students sat in a “roda,” Portuguese for “circle,” and listened to Portuguese music produced by a berimbau, an archery bow-shaped instrument with a gourd on it. Then, they performed their moves.

Students new to the club practiced “ginga,” stepping forward and backwards with both legs alternatively. More advanced students learned other kicks and acrobatic movements, such as “negativa,” getting into a low position, with one leg forward, the other leg supporting one’s body to “refuse” being attacked.

Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that originated from African slaves in the 16th to the 19th centuries. When slaves worked on Portuguese plantations in Brazil, they disguised martial arts as “folk” dances. This was to prepare for eventual revolts against slavery and to maintain their culture.

However, that wasn’t all capoeira eventually became. According to instructor  Nick Moskwa, capoeira developed into various styles over time, allowing it to be preserved. In the early 1900s,  Mestre Bimba opened a studio and taught capoeira regional. Regional is a form of capoeira that has fast, athletic play, in contrast to the original capoeira derived from the African slaves of the past. Capoeira continued to keep on kicking when Mestre Pastinha taught capoeira Angola, another form of the martial art that kept many of capoeira’s traditions, such as students participating in closer spaces with one another.

At this Albany club, it wasn’t just the instructors who emitted passion for this near four to five hundred-year-old martial art. Two students named Amy and Soundarya commented exercise was their motive for attending the capoeira class.

Even though the students present may have enjoyed the capoeira classes, prospective students who may not due to the classes’ duration between six and eight p.m. on Tuesday nights. However, they can participate in it at any time on Tuesdays between the two-hour time slot, if they choose to do so. For example, Soundarya’s “first class” was on November 13th.

“Capoeira Mata Um”, one of the songs sung by the group, is translatable into “capoeira kills one.” Perhaps capoeira might be able to kill people’s fear and uncertainty about any recreational activity not as well known to the UAlbany community as football or frisbee.

If anyone desires to join or observe the capoeira group, the classes congregate in the Lecture Center next to Argo Tea Café between 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesdays.

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