Filed under: Faisca
There are as many different stories about how people got started in capoeira as there are people who play capoeira. Some are similar, some are very different, but they all have something in common: each of us fell in love with something that would end up changing our lives forever.My capoeira journey began when I was in 8th grade.
I can clearly remember the first time I ever heard the word capoeira. I was hanging out at my house with my best friend when he said that he found this new martial arts style. He had watched a movie about it, and it was the coolest thing he ever saw. I asked him to show me some moves, and he started to do his “version” of the ginga. Instead of the graceful movement I’m now familiar with, he looked more like a bull getting ready to charge.
I promptly laughed at him and told him that this was the most ridiculous thing I had ever seen.
I would change my mind, however, when he showed me the actual movie he was talking about. The movie was Only the Strong. Anyone who has seen Only the Strong knows how cheesey and typically 90’s it is, but at the time I loved it, and I was hooked. I still love it, if only for nostalgia’s sake.
So there I was, faced with the coolest thing I’d ever seen, but with no way to learn it.
Faisca, circa 2002.
Instead of sitting around crying about it, my friend and I decided to learn all we could about capoeira, and attempted to teach ourselves. We studied the moves of Eddy Gordo of Tekken 3 fame, we practiced in front of the TV watching Panther Production training videos, and we printed out and copied moves from Chimp’s capoeira site. We needed music, so I recorded “Paranue” and “Zum Zum Zum” off of Only the Strong onto a casette, and substituted traditional music (because we had no idea where to get it) for breakdancing beats.
We knew that capoeiristas had nicknames, so we wanted some of our own. I bought a portuguese dictionary, and we flipped through it looking for the coolest sounding names. My friend decided on Vispa (wasp), but I couldn’t choose anything from the dictionary. I decided to borrow the name of the world’s most famous video game capoeirista, and I began to call myself Faisca (spark). We knew that you weren’t supposed to give yourself a name, but we figured we’d never find a mestre to train with.
We were wrong.
One day, while out shopping for furniture with my parents, I came across a Brazilian imports store, so I decided to go in and have a look around. I asked the person at the counter if he knew about capoeira, and he said yes. “In fact,” he said, “there is a capoeira school right here in the back of this store.”
My jaw dropped.
He told me to follow him, and he led me through a door in the back of the shop. We entered, I thought, capoeira heaven. There was a huge mural of two capoeiristas on one wall, and floor to ceiling mirrors on the other. Berimbaus and other instruments leaned against a counter, and the school’s logo was painted on the floor. It was awe inspiring.
Faisca at the original building.
The store owner told me when classes were held, and in two days time I would find myself at my first capoeira class.
The group was called CapuraGinga, and classes were taught by a mestre named Loka. He was so impressed with what Vispa and I knew, he asked us if we were Brazilian. I’m sure he was joking, but it made me feel great. To my surprise, he decided to stick with the names that we gave ourselves. Even though I had been teaching myself for over a year, I quickly figured out that I had much to learn. Already knowing the basic vocabulary and movements helped me to progress quickly, but I really had no idea how to play the game.
Take this as a lesson, kids, it is very important that you learn from a mestre or qualified instructor. If you don’t, you may know how to throw some kicks, but you have no idea how to play capoeira.
I trained with CapuraGinga religiously until college, when I could only make it once a week at most. In order to practice while I was at school, I started the Assumption College Capoeira Club. I was a bit surprised, though, that not one other person at the college actually knew capoeira. Many people knew what it was, or had seen Only the Strong or Eddy Gordo, but nobody besides me actually knew how to play capoeira.
Thus is the story of my capoeira journey.
Do you have a similar story, or is yours quite different? Tell us in the comments!
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