The Capoeira Blog

Can There Be Too Much Of A Good Thing With Capoeira?
May 19, 2008, 11:19 am
Filed under: Capoeira Life, Questions

Photo by tdaenuwy (Flickr)

A few weeks ago, Joaninha gave the warning signs that your capoeira group is like a jealous lover. I think her post was mostly in good fun, but it got me thinking.

When can the excitement and passion we all have for capoeira cross the line and become detrimental to our personal and professional lives?

Have you ever picked capoeira over your family? Over your non-capoeira friends? How did it make you feel? More importantly, how did it make them feel?

Do you ever feel that your capoeira expenses (travel time/cost, monthly fees, long distance travel/batizado costs, gear) can get to be too much, but you follow through with them anyway because you feel that your obligated (instead of because you want to)? Or maybe you feel that you don’t want to offend your group?

Does your capoeira group understand that money and time doesn’t grow on trees? Or do they sometimes look down on you when you can’t fly across the country 5 times a month or come to class every day?

I’ve gone to more than one capoeira class more because of guilt than devotion. I’ve felt the “evil stare” when I say I can’t come to a certain event or if I need to miss class for a while.

For me, capoeira comes secondary to the most important things in my life (family, friends, work, etc). Capoeira is my hobby; it’s not my life (some may take issue with that, which I will get to in the next paragraph). It’s a big part of my life to be sure, and it influences who I am, but it doesn’t define me. It’s no secret that capoeira is a very time and cost intensive hobby, and for some people that is perfectly fine and no problem, but for others I’m sure it can get to be overwhelming (I can’t be the only one in the entire capoeira world who has felt this way).

Have you ever felt that people think you aren’t “passionate enough” about capoeira? That there is an expectation that if you don’t devote a ton of your time to capoeira that you’re somehow unworthy to be a capoeirista? It sucks to admit that I have felt this “you’re not worthy” sense from people in the past, but thankfully it has been in a small minority of capoeiristas I’ve come across.

But, nonetheless, it can start to wear on you. You can start to question things… Am I not good enough for capoeira? Do I spend enough time developing my capoeira skills? Do I travel enough? Do I know enough about the history? Am I less of a capoeirista because I don’t know Portuguese or haven’t been to Brazil?

There are some capoeiristas who devote their lives to capoeira, and who have managed to successfuly blend their personal and capoeira lives (and sometimes their professional lives as well). I think their devotion is amazing, and if it works for them then it’s great!

But, I don’t think it works for every capoeirista out there. And sometimes, it can get to be very overwhelming. There have been times when I’ve spent more time worrying about capoeira than practicing capoeira, and that’s not a good thing.

I’m not sure that I answered the question, “can there be too much of a good thing in capoeira?” but I don’t think I really intended to do it myself. What I love about this blog is the conversation, so I’m hoping that you will have some insight that you can share with everyone in the comments.

Do I make any good points? Or am I just being a whiny pessimist? What strategies do you use to solve the life/capoeira conundrum? Is it even a problem for you?


13 Comments so far
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I used to identify myself solely with capoeira. It was something I romanticized, and ended up believing that it could fulfill everything that I need.

This is not the case, and I will not bother to care that some people think that this makes me any less of a capoeirista. I still train every day, although I have also begun to train parkour, and so have spent less time training capoeira. I am in an intimate relationship, and if this detracts from time with capoeira, I do not mind.

If I feel or come off as defensive in stating that capoeira is no longer my blood and breath, it is not against other people who criticize me, but myself.

Forgive the entirely disorganized rant-like nature of my comment.

I think this is a question every person needs to ask themselves. I think people need to confront why they train, what it means to them. And if you realize that you have other passions in life, like study, research, work, family, or other sports, then that does not make you any less of a person, or even a capoeirista. Maybe the term capoeirista itself is a foolish one to use, limiting, vague, arbitrary, and ambiguous in nature. What the hell does it mean to be a capoeirista?

I think capoeira is inherently imbued with such discursive and conflicting thoughts, maintaining a balance between some serious paradoxical concepts (dance/fight, joking/serious, fast/slow).

The things I love about capoeira have become parts of the rest of my life. Capoeira has become part of my academia/research, it is shaping my future career, it is playing a role in the shaping of my philosophies and perceptions. Capoeira is more than just going to class or playing in the roda. It is life. And in that sense, it pervades every moment of my day.

>sean / descalco

Comment by Sean (Descalco)

Great post. I definitely felt that way in the past. I think it’s only natural for the teacher to ask for these things from her students in the understanding that some will give and others will not. However, it always feel like they are looking at you. Plus if you are a seasoned capoerista, then more is demanded from you because you have to be an example to others.

We also have to remember that for many instructors this is a business, that has to be run in a way that brings them income. So your money and time investment is a unnecessary part, and at times you do feel that it is excessive. I think it’s a process of learning to develop you place in a group and set boundaries.

Comment by Moramor

It’s just like any thing else. It depends on each individual and it takes all types of people to make it work. Some of us will devote our lives to the game, but still others may fizzle out after just a few months. My family and friends know all too well how important Capoeira is to me. They know even more how much I want them to join me in it! However, it’s just not for some of them. I respect that, but at the same time I ask that they understand and support me as much as they can. I really don’t even have to ask, because they do support me at all times. If they don’t make it to my Batizado, or see me practice…no biggy. I know they love me. So I guess for me it’s very much the same as my relationships. TRUSTING. I’ll never ask or pry about where you’re going or have been because I trust you. My family trusts that I will put everything in the right order according to me. If I feel bad about “choosing” capoeira over them one day then that is my burden to bear. But the crazy thing is that because my family and friends see how important Capoeira is to me, it makes them back me up on those choices and everything works out in the end. I’m blessed to have such amazing people in my life and I reciprocate those blessings as much as I can. Thank God.

Comment by Pipoca

Doesn’t it count that I think about Capoeira every day!

This is the rub, Faisca.

I complain that I can’t get to Capoeira class because it is so far away, but if it were not for my number 1 priority in life (my three year old son) then I would make the 100 mile round trip without complaint. The trouble is that with work and travel time this means that my son would almost never see me. I look forward to the time when he is old enough to join me, and hopefully he will love Capoeira as much as I do. I also hope that my game will not have degraded to the point of atrophy.

P.S. At three I have already started teaching him some basic movements, and by god the kid actually looks like he knows what he is doing.

Yesterday I was showing him the Learn Capoeira (Mortal) Training video you posted and he turns to me and asks me, “Daddy, do you like Capoeira?”. Well understatement of the year. 🙂

Comment by Mike

I love the discussion on this, keep it up. This is something that affects every capoeira at some point in their journey, and everyone will have a different idea about it.

Comment by faisca

Hey, thanks for the link. I can definitely relate to everything you wrote about, so this comment might get a little long…

I do pick capoeira over friends and family a lot (which I actually feel fine about, because of how much capoeira means/how important it is to me), but luckily, like in Pipoca’s case, for the most part they’ve learned to accept it…e.g. “Hey, do you want to have dinner tonigh–wait, do you have capoeira? Okay good, do you want to have dinner tonight?” or : “Am I really going to arrange my housewarming party around your capoeira schedule? Yes, yes I am.” 😛 The thing is, also, I make room for them in the other, non-capoeira parts of my life, so it’s not as if it’s always one or the other.

I’ve heard one of my friends say the exact same things you just did about money. I’m lucky that my immediate teachers are down to earth and acknowledge things like that, but the more higher-ups definitely seem to to only see whether you’re going or not, and totally disregard the logistics and practical side of things that you have to deal with. It’s unfortunate, because it does take away from the whole point of doing capoeira as something you enjoy, if the end result of you doing it makes you even more stressed and unhappy than you would be without capoeira in the first place.

As for going to class, I this this is where we defer, actually…I’ve never *not* wanted to attend class. So even if there’s pressure to go, in a way it doesn’t matter for me because I’d already be wanting to go, anyway. I do believe capoeira is a part of who I am, and if not defines me at least helps, or partially does…and that’s exactly why I won’t give up capoeira for another person, because then it’d be like giving up a part of myself, like giving up writing or literature, or dropping out of school. Having said that, there are two things that I will always prioritize: career, and my studies (which is kind of related).

I’m sorry to hear about the “feeling you’re not worthy” part; that really sucks. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced that; capoeira friends might be disappointed, and teachers might be disapproving/not understanding, but they never actually look down on you for it, or suggest you might as well quit. One conversation sticks in my head though, where I was talking with an advanced student, and just in passing, without meaning or implying anything whatsoever, she went, “–and you can’t really call twice a week training–“, as casually and naturally as anything.

There are two things on my blog that I want to refer you to here:

The first is a story Shayna wrote to me, when I was going through an intense inferiority complex phase: “Perspective in Capoeira: Falling Behind on the Journey”

The second is a post I wrote that addresses the question of how you can merge enough of everything important to you into one balanced, fulfilling life, and I listed a bunch of amazing mestras/mestres who have managed to do exactly that:
“Battle of the Titans: The Internal Struggle between Capoeira and…Everything Else”
I’m nowhere anywhere nearer to solving this conundrum, actually, but I think one thing that really helps is to just do what you can, go with the flow, don’t let people (as in other capoeiristas) tell *you* what’s important in *your* life, and if anything does take you away from capoeira…just know it’ll always still be there no matter what, ready whenever you are.

As for the original question, yes…but funnily enough, usually the “too much” doesn’t come from capoeira itself, but because extraneous things have taken over it–pressure, time, money, being made to feel obligated and underperforming, etc. Otherwise, barring batizado burn-out and stuff like that…never!

Comment by Joaninha

Hey Joaninha, thanks for the comment, I wish I had been thinking about your posts when I wrote this, I could have used some examples. But they’re definitely on the topic of what I’m talking about.

Just so everyone knows, I’m not writing this cuz I’m about to quit capoeira or something (it seems like you’re directing your answers at me, trying to make me feel better or something, which is not the case). I was just thinking about the whole concept of life and capoeira, and I’ve thought about it more in the past, so I decided to write about it.

Maybe I look too much into things when I talk about “getting looked down at.” It’s entirely possible that I’m making more of it than I had to, and putting too much pressure on myself.

Comment by faisca

hey faisca. I think this problem – that sometimes you have a trade off between Capoeira and the Rest of Your Life – is not a pure Capoeira-related problem.
Every hobby and every activity which needs a certain amount of devotion does also force you to cut back in other parts of your life. It is definitely a matter of priorities and when Capoeira is not your priority number one then it is ok like that. Actually, for most of us, work and family are much more important. And when it comes down to the point This OR That we might choose against Capoeira. That does not mean that you stop doing Capoeira completely and it does not mean that you are a bad Capoeirista. Man, some of the bigger Mestres did get back into Capoeira after Decades (e.g. Mestre Pastinha and Mestre Joao Grande)! What were they doing in between?
Well, they were definitely not sitting the whole time and waiting for the next Capoeirista to take them to a Roda. Of course we are not Mestres and are also not living in an environment where Capoeira is somehow everywhere, this means that the average European/North American does have to commit himself a bit more to get better in Capoeira. But as I said. When you are a good Capoeirista and for a certain time you do NOT go to class or to a certain batizado or whatsoever that actually does not mean you getting worse as a Capoeirista. Actually, sometimes some offtime does help improve your Capoeira!

Comment by Angoleiro

Great topic, Faisca!

I would not say that I felt pressure from my peers when I miss a Capoeira class but I certainly feel it: my body does not move the same way, my game is not so good, I feel less confident!.. As if my body needs the “Capoeira pill” at least 3 times a week!

As for costs, workshops and other activities: well, I go with what I have and what I can afford. Being a single mom raising 2 children I have managed to integrate Capoeira and have a pretty good schedule to ballance my passion with my responsibilities.

However, I feel pressure from some of my friends, who have developed a “hearing blackout” every time I mention the word Capoeira… I wander how are you guys dealing with situations like this?

Comment by Mariposa

I am writing from a forasteiro’s point of view.

There are many people in my life who are involved in capoeira; some who I have very close relationships with and some who I have met along the way. I find capoeira to be beautiful and have found many-a-time me talking to my friends, family, co-workers and even strangers about it. I research, I read, I watch, etc. It started as me showing my partner support. This now developed to my own fascination and has helped me in my own personal endeavors . (At this point, some of you are wondering, “Why hasn’t this person joined? Well, sometimes I ask myself the same thing, :-P).

However, there did get to a point where I asked myself the same question as stated above “Can There Be Too Much Of A Good Thing With Capoeira?”. There was a point where I was that person having the “hearing blackout” mentioned above. I love the passion, devotion, and all around wellness it has provided for those involved in it. However, it did get overbearing. It was all I heard, all I saw, all I felt exuding from those within. The love I myself had developed for it had turned bittersweet. Even more, I started feeling guilty and torn because I wanted to be fully supportive as I originally had been but was having internal conflict because I felt (like anything else in life), that the world should not just revolve around one thing: in this case, capoeira. It ran through my mind: “How do I explain this to someone involved in capoeira w/out sounding as if I hated their passion, was being selfish or just plain clueless and not understanding?” I fought a battle within me to the point I felt like I was going through a divorce w/capoeira that I didn’t want for it to occur in the 1st place. Eventually, this conflict was resolved :-).

I write this to shed insight of the minds of outsiders who love the capoeiristas in their lives. We are supporters of your “capoeira life” and therefore, part of your “capoeira life”. The same way one upholds the “capoeira life”: practicing to advance in ones game, working and/or saving money to go to classes and events, accommodating time for it and so on…is the same way that in order to keep a healthy capoeira relationship with a NON-member (friend, fam…etc) and therefore, prevent blackouts or more importantly, in relevance to this blog, a detriment in terms of personal life, is to acknowledge and upkeep the relationship OUTSIDE of a capoeira context as well. By doing so, we become postively involved WITH capoeira instead of “against” it.

Comment by Forasteira

I respect every capoeirista that comes across my path. However I do strongly dislike people with a bad attitude, just because they recently went to brazil to train with THE mestre, or those who claim certain beginners, or ‘undevotees’ are not capoeirista’s.

I concider myself very devoted to capoeira, I’m one of the only people in my group to be there every class. BUT at times, like now, I just can’t go to workshops and that kind because I have to study. I think my future is very important too.

Can you be too devoted to capoeira? I encountered one capoeirista that was, he cared nothing about other capoeirista’s because he was only looking to improve is own game. He got lonely and alienated from the community. You can… but you have to try very hard 😉

Axé! I love this site, it taught me how to make my own arames, and I’m very proud of that now! And I’ve seen there’s no guide how to make a caxixi here, or anywhere on the web… I might make one over here in the future when I finally find another cabaça 🙂

Comment by Dourado

Hmmm I’m a newbie but I thought that part of the essence of capoeira was that it should be part of everything in your life.
I was just reading how by nature you take capoeira with you whenever you do something. When in other sports capoeira is there influencing your movements. When in a relationship it lets you understand the game that goes on similar to a roda.
So from that kind of understanding it can’t be too much of a good thing. Because it doesn’t get in the way of life but enhances life, and is used in life whether capoeira related or not.

Sorry just got done reading the little capoeira book^^

Comment by Jonsul

that SOUNDS great! but the reality is that even though we take capoeira with us in our hearts (which I think the author would agree with) we can’t always go to all the classes and events Physically which can cause a strange dynamic between you and your group.

Comment by 21

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