Today, instead of having classes on "The History of Art and Protest" and "Intro to American Studies," our professor, Dr. Nancy Watterson, brought in some friends to demonstrate Capoeira, which we were learning about. Capoeira is a martial art first and foremost, but it is also a dance. It was exciting to be out of the classroom for a couple hours and getting a good workout.
Originating from Brazilian Karate, Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian tradition. It was outlawed in Brazil for a while, but that never stops people from doing what they love. Our instructor Ron Wood introduced us to the instruments used to create the musical background for Capoeira.
He told us the instruments had a certain tune for when the police were coming. When one heard that certain strum, they would be like ‘Oh No! It’s the cops… RUN!’ It was certainly a very efficient signal at the time.”
Students in a Cabrini College Living and Learning Community watching a Capoeira demonstration
As we started, you could see the fear in the class's eyes—the fear of participating that is. No one really wanted to go up against these professionals, especially on our first day, but Ron took it easy on us; well, easy for him, hard for us.
In Capoeira, they are taught not to take it easy on the students; otherwise they would never learn. Ron started us off with some simple stretches, like step lunges. Then, he got to the hard stuff, at least for our group. We went into some basic steps for the “martial-dance.” These consisted of cartwheels and hand stands. At first it was tough, but with everyone cheering you on, it got better for everyone.
After the stretches and the basic steps, we moved into the Ginga. This is the swinging or rocking back and forth, and the useful defense in Capoeira. At first it seems difficult, because they show you in full swing, but once they break it down in slow motion it is really simple.
We paired up with classmates to practice this new move, secretly whispering to each other, “If you hit me, I'll kick you in the face.” My partner Maria was a little rough around the edges, but after watching me for a couple of minutes, she looked like a pro. Then, they started adding in kicks to the Ginga, which made things interesting. Now, you have people throwing up kicks, trying not to destroy each other. One kick we learned, which was by far the best kick to do, was the armada. This was basically a round kick aimed at someone's head.
With only 15 minutes left, Ron decided we would have a quick duel, and, of course, I was the first one to go. GREAT! The match starts off with both players facing each other in a kneel, then giving each other a nice handshake, and then cartwheeling into the circle. With everyone else around you singing the traditional songs and clapping to the beats, you can feel the intensity. Kicks were thrown, dodges were used, and moves were shown off. After everything, Ron gave us his reasons for joining Capoeira, facts about his business, and some great words of wisdom. All in all, Capoeira was a great experience for everyone in the Voices of Justice Living and Learning Community. Although this experience fits into our Living and Learning experience because we live together and learn together (obviously), this class provided more than that for us. It got our LLC out of the classroom for two classes to experience the content we were learning (talk about a breather from learning!).
Capoeira got us to interact with each other and find out our weak points, along with our strong points. After learning these points, our LLC seems much stronger than ever. I can honestly call this great group of people my second family. When I was coming to college and they told me that I was in an LLC, only one thought crossed my mind, “There is no way I’m going to fit in.” The complete opposite happened. I made great new friends, we act as a family, and even look out for each other. My college experience has been everything I expected it to be times 10 all because of the teachers, this class, and my new family: The Voices of Justice. It’s like what Ron Wood said, “Capoeira has no fixed patterns, when we kick it’s for real. When you're doing Capoeira, your mind has to be open and aware of your surroundings.”
I believe that Ron not only told us this to be careful in Capoeira, but to live by this, because if you always assume, then you're not going to have an open mind and will be miserable coming into a new thing. So if you are going into an LLC, please have an open mind, because you will love it. You will have some of the best memories of your life and will meet some of the most amazing people ever.