Sunday, February 9, 2014

Capoeira: Grupo Agua de Beber: Montreal, QC

Background:  Capoeira. Brazilian Dance Fighting. A Martial Art without teeth. This was what I thought of Capoeira all those years ago when I was first exposed to it. I had just started training and with the typical arrogance of someone just beginning their Martial Art journey I knew my style was the best. While I was training to throw down they were singing songs, playing on instruments  and dancing “against” each other in a circle. It was silly and a waste of time.
One of the players shoots past me with a cartwheel.

My Sifu, John Hum, was thankfully much wiser than me and encouraged me to look beyond my own limited vision. He pointed out that they were in fantastic shape and the coordination it took to do Capoeira. Not quite understanding the depth of his opinion I pointed out that this "Brazilian" Martial Art really wasn’t designed for combat. With a smile and a raised eyebrow he laughed at me. “They used to cut Capoeira fighters hamstrings. They don’t do that to fighters that aren't effective.”

Over the years I learned that my original observations were largely mistaken. I looked into this Martial Art that convinced the authorities of the time to maim its practitioners. My name of “Brazilian Dance Fighting” was given in ignorance. I hadn’t realized that Capoeira had a history and culture that traced itself across the Caribbean back to Africa. This “dance” disguised the players and kept them safe on the streets.
I practice a scissor technique as Derek hopes over me. 

Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has become the proving ground for Martial Arts. Whether you are a fan of the sport or not it is impossible to deny that a Martial Arts’ success is judged by its champions, at least to the layman. Having been a fan of MMA from the early days of the UFC I have watched many Martial Arts be declared as “useless” or” ineffective” only to see that position reversed once they began to claim wins. Capoeira is no different and suddenly exploded onto the MMA scene with a series of brutal knockouts in the last few years. I had to choke on my previous words about their fighters and reverse my position. Thankfully, experience allowed me to realize how foolish my original position had been and abandoning this viewpoint was no hardship.

What did I learn: Training with Grupo Agua de Beber taught me a lot of lessons on body mechanics. Fights can often come down to which fighter has more “heart.” This is a generic term often used to describe a fighter who shows great determination to keep battling through the punishment that he has received often claiming victory from a superior opponent while coming from behind. Although that explanation is the storyteller’s definition of “heart” the truth is that it comes down to cardiovascular and muscular fitness. The fighter that can throw effective strikes for a longer period usually wins.
 I play in the Roda working on my cartwheels. 

Jeroo Jamaji’s class is a wonderful way to test your fitness level. I like to think that I have really good cardio because I can spar and drill for hours. However, my performance in Capoeira was laughable when I started (Author’s note: It was still laughable when I left, just slightly less.) and I have never been so sore. Because Capoeira is fought low it is comparable to doing squats for an hour and a half. Couple that with all the cartwheels and prone positions where you are supporting yourself with your arms and you quickly come to the realization that your endurance isn't quite what you though it was.

Despite the techniques being so physical Jeroo makes sure you are drilling proper form. All my kicks have gotten crisper and I am burning much less energy. Due to the demands that Capoeira places on you as a fighter every small inefficiency begins to add up. It was the hardest physical workout I have ever had and it tests you so much as a Martial Artist to keep throwing techniques even when you are on the verge of exhaustion.
Siamak ducks down below my crescent kick. 

What was similar: “Think guys! In Capoeira you have to be tricky!” This is the call that Jeroo repeats to us all. I loved it. Many Martial Arts hold themselves to the principle of honourable combat. You are to best your adversary in an honourable and straight forward manner. Capoeira is not held down by this view. Not to say that the Capoeira players are rude or disrespectful to each other. Rather they are extremely polite but once in the Roda they are encourage to trick the other player and catch them in elaborate traps.
Capoeira is tricky and played at every conceivable angle. 

This is my kind of fighting. At 6’6 I have never been a graceful fighter. I lack the polish and poise of many of my peers. Many of my Kung Fu forms look just downright ugly. However, what makes me a good Martial Artist is pattern recognition and the ability to trick people. I use body language and theatrics when I fight because it unnerves people. Therefore getting to play with fellow tricksters is a treat. Jeroo and the players from Grupo Agua de Beber taught me an awful lot about how to be even more tricky and cunning.

Conclusion: Capoeira is an amazingly fun Martial Art and one of the most muscularly demanding arts out there. The music and theatrics that accompany it are simply a trick to the casual observer. Look at Anthony Pettis of the UFC and you will see a champion who has training videos of Capoeira. Grupo Agua de Beber embodies this. You would still wondering about their playful jokes and goofy grins as they set you up to be hit. A good group and a fun school that I hope I will have the opportunity to visit again. 
A great evening of training with the crew from Grupo Agua de Beber.

Best regards and keep training,

Martin "Travelling Ronin" Fransham 

If you are interested in training together I would love to get together with you. Drop me a line on facebook and we can connect. I would love to learn from you. On Facebook:
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1 comment:

  1. Great article! I have wanted to try Capoeira for a long time, but don't think I have the physical ability and stamina to do it.... or the spare time and funds....