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Image: Capoeira or the Dance of War by Johann Moritz Rugendas, 1825, published in 1835
Shaking up the gym routine – I tried capoeira and got knocked out
Vowing to start a new exercise regime for the new year is such a tiresome idea I can barely bring myself to say it. However, one of my new year’s resolutions was to have more fun – and since I already do a reasonable amount of exercise I decided that this should involve more fun in the gym (note, not that type of ‘fun’). This urged me to try new classes, and one that I stumbled upon the other day was capoeira.
Capoeira is a type of martial arts originating in Brazil involving quick and flow-like moves that incorporates rhythm, dance and music, as well as full-on acrobatics such as cartwheels, handstands and flips. Central to capoeira is a rhythmic movement, known as the ginga – much like a choreography it’s the basis from which everything flows. Also, it looks really cool.
I’m in no way an Abercrombie model, rather I’m the really skinny flat looking type – but I do consider myself quite fit nonetheless. I normally squeeze in a few CrossFit WOD, Nike Training Club, Bodukon, and/or Yoga classes every week – so I thought I was in reasonable shape and approached capoeira with a fair level of confidence. So on the day I flounced in dressed in paisley jersey shorts and a pastel tri-blend top thinking ‘yeah I got this’ (I was envisioning it like a scene from Step Up 2: The Streets, obvs).
Capoeira as a workout focuses on functional strength conditioning and flexibility – kind of like a sports based training. A lot of the movements are similar to yoga; bridges, downward dogs, etc, but they are orchestrated in a much more dynamic way. For instance, at one point the class was asked to sway back and fourth whilst in a high bridge – I nearly died. And of course, it only uses your own body weight, which I generally prefer.
Part of the training also prepared you for walking handstands that is really fun unless you have a fear of falling over. The rest mostly consisted of really flowy martial arts moves using various kicking motions – and much were done in deep and wide squatting positions.
I’ve seen capoeira performed quite a lot, thinking it looks hard but totally manageable. In reality it turned out to be more difficult than I could have ever imagined. Even the ‘warm up’ was hard – ten minutes in and breathing was becoming an issue.
Towards the end of the class sweat was literally dripping all over my paisley shorts and you could barely make out the colour of my tri-blend top. I deserved that for being so cocky, but luckily everyone else was equally deflated so I didn’t feel too out of place. Obviously the instructor was fine, who I swear must be some sort of super human.
It was really hard but also really fun and I will definitely be going back next week. It’s a bit of a cliché to say, but muscles I didn’t even know existed were sore the next day. It really gives your core a good workout, and it emphasises ‘the side’ of the body a lot more than other workouts do. We all know that side-crunches are the worst, but the obliques are fundamental in getting those unattainable abs – well, they’re pretty unattainable for me at least!
Whether capoeira is suitable for you really depend on your goals, if you want to loose weight or bulk up it might not be efficient to solely practice it. My suggestion would be to have it as a useful complement to whatever it is you want to achieve. And more importantly, it’s really good fun which I value highly when it comes to any type of exercise.
However, you do have to be comfortable with the prospect of looking like a graceless idiot in front of strangers, but they are likely to look equally ridiculous if they are new to it as well.
The class I took is available at Gymbox London; Mondays at 6pm Farringdon, Tuesday at 7pm Bank and Tuesday 12.30pm Holborn.
There are of course an abundance of classes available across the country and the globe.