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Capoeira Mechelen – Combining fascinating sports and Brazilian culture

a traditional roda featuring two capoeiristas at play. ©PureImage

Mechelen offers a variety of sports, but Capoeira is definitely one of the most interesting and challenging ones. The Capoeira group Meia Lua de Búzios was started by Mestre Gideon in 1985 in Búzios, Rio de Janeiro. In 2002, the Mestre brought this fascinating sport to Belgium.

Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of dance, culture, acrobatics, and music. It was developed in Brazil at the beginning of the 16th century. The sport is known for its quick and complex movements using power, speed, and leverage across a wide variety of kicks, spins, and other techniques. Capoeira is a game of attacking, defending, and escaping – played by two individuals, centered in a circle of other capoeiristas called roda.

Capoeira surely is a fascinating sport to watch, as well as a very intense sport to practice. You can improve your strength, coordination skills, condition, as well as your flexibility at the same time. Yet, what makes this sport really special is the way it combines sports with culture and music. Mestre Gideon, Capoeira teacher from Brazil: ‘not only physically, but also culturally, Capoeira is an education. Students in Belgium not only learn the movements of Capoeira, but also how to talk and sing in Portuguese and how to work with our art and culture.’

playing music on traditional instruments is a big part of Capoeira. ©PureImage

History of Capoeira
Parts of the history of Capoeira remain uncertain up to date since there are a lot of different stories and theories about its development. However, what is almost certain is that Capoeira’s history starts with the beginning of African (mainly Angolan) slavery in Brazil, at that time colonized by the Portuguese. First, it was probably meant as a dance, expressing religious rituals, ceremonies, and folklore. Mestre Gideon: ‘until this day you can find some connection between Capoeira and religion in Bahia, a state in Brazil.’ However, Capoeira also became applied as a method of survival for the slaves that were suffering from inhumane treatment. Forbidden to fight, the slaves hid their striving to learn and practice self-defence by transforming their movements into a dance.

After the abolishment of slavery in 1888, the situation of the former slaves did not improve as they had wished, and many made use of Capoeira as a help to loot and steal. As a consequence, Capoeira became forbidden until 1937. ‘Capoeira had different stages. During the time of slavery, it was a sort of street Capoeira. After its ban was lifted, it developed rapidly and got more broadly accepted in general society,’ says Mestre Gideon. Today, Capoeira is an embedded tradition in Brazil and regarded as a cultural heritage of the country.

Mestre Gideon: ‘till this day, Capoeira is really difficult, but it has evolved a lot. Coming from many different parts of the world, we still speak the same language because neither the songs nor the sport’s history can be changed. We preserve it and young or old, the doors of Capoeira are always open for the ones who want to learn it.’

Capoeira Mechelen
Capoeira in Mechelen is taught by two of Mestre Gideon’s students, Johan, called Cabeça, and Bert (Capitaõ). ‘Capoeira is not a sport that destroys you – even though it is very exhausting – but that lifts you up,’ says Capitaõ. And even though a certain amount of discipline is needed to practice Capoeira, you will most certainly feel the good and friendly atmosphere that prevails during the training. Capoeira is a lot of fun, you become stronger, more flexible, you will know better what your body is able to do, and, most importantly, you will be accepted into a big family that makes you leave completely exhausted, but with a smile on your face after the training.

Anyone who is interested in experiencing Capoeira is welcome to join the Monday meetings in Mechelen. Practice is done barefoot but remember to wear comfortable sports clothes in which you can move freely. Training usually starts with warming up, followed by a practice session of kicks and escapes, handstand and cartwheel practice, a roda, including plays and music, and ends with some fitness exercises and stretching.

Logo of the Capoeira group in Mechelen; http://www.capoeirista.be/

When? Mondays from 6.30 p.m. until 8 p.m.
Where? Artenova, Hendrik Consciencestraat 56, 2800 Mechelen (just ring the bell or wait in front of the door if no one is there yet); other trainings from the same group are offered in Aartselaar, Boom, and Antwerp
Price: 2 euros per lesson, 20 euros for 12 lessons (possibility of future cooperation with Thomas More sportkaart)
Contact? text info@capoeirista.be or have a look at the group’s website

Be prepared to sweat, but most of all to have fun and enjoy yourself!

Text: Alena Bieling, pictures: ©PureImage, video: Lise de Backer