Developed by African slaves in Brazil during the 16th century, capoeira incorporates elements of dance, acrobatics martial arts and music. Recognized by its fluid and complex manoeuvres that often involve hands on the ground with inverted kicks it is highly stylistic and unique in the martial arts. A deeply cultural practise, those who aren’t familiar with the fighting style hidden within the movements, will find it beautiful to watch and quite mesmerising.
Mestrando Je, who has practised the art for most of his life, explains that one of the reasons why capoeira is so popular is because it can benefit a person on multiple levels. Balance, coordination, a general level of fitness and flexibility as well as a sense of rhythm and body awareness are all developed. These physical attributes can be enhanced and make a significant difference in quality of life.
“It also has a lot to do with the musical side of capoeira,” he explains, “It can make people feel more comfortable and willing to exercise. Training Capoeira also builds self-esteem and helps a person develop a sense of identity as a member of a nurturing community and as an individual because nobody plays capoeira the same as someone else.”
One of the most attractive aspects is found in its roots, he reveals. Capoeira was created by slaves to protect and build themselves up and keep them physically and mentally fit. It was shaped into a formidable tool in the fight against inequity.
THE IMMENSE STRENGTH BEHIND RHYTHM
Imagine the scene: A group of people standing in a circle, with drums (atabaque) and other instruments being played while two practitioners in the centre appear to dance around each other in a swirl of limbs, handstands and somersaults. Members of the circle take turns in the centre, play the atabaque and sing with the music. Slave owners and foremen would have thought nothing of it. They certainly would not have considered that these joyous community dances were preparing the bodies of these slaves to become some of the most formidable weapons in the martial arts world.
For a style that focuses so strongly on rhythm and movement rather than aggressive fighting, capoeira has one of the strongest kicks in the martial arts. This may surprise many staunch combatants, but the capoeira kick was scientifically tested by National Geographic against karate, muah tai and taekwondo. It clearly proved that the kick, while not the fastest (clocking in at 99 miles an hour- which still seems pretty quick) landed with a bone shattering 1800 pounds of force! (Watch Youtube Video)
ALUAIE CAPOERIA INSTITUTE
Mestrandro Je, began training capoeira in the 90s in the project Crianças Carentes (street children’s project) in Londrina, Brazil. In 2002 he began his career as a capoeira instructor in Mestre Fran’s academy. In 2010 he earned his certification as a Capoeira Professor and became a Capoeira Mestrando in November 2013.
His journey has taken him to many different projects. In different capacities Mestrando Je has taught capoeira for children growing up in the less privileged neighbourhoods in Londrina, including Casa do Caminho in 2002, Guarda Mirim in 2003 and Projovem in 2011.
“I also taught capoeira and music in Londrina’s juvenile prison in 2011, and since 2010 I have been collaborating with the NGO Beyond Action in London and Brazil,” he says.
Currently, Mestrando Je lives in London where he teaches capoeira professionally and is involved in a number of different community projects around the city.
The three founders of Aluaiê were originally part of another school of martial arts, however due to philosophic conflicts, they decided to create their own school. In 2016 they founded Aluaiê Capoeira Academy UK with the philosophy of encouraging, spreading and rescuing their culture throughout the Brazilian martial arts. The three masters are Mestrando Je (United Kingdom), Mestrando Marcinho (Brazil) and Mestrando Vagner (USA).
Since Aluaiê school started it is safe to say that this pursuit has been successful as so many people identify their philosophy as their own. Today, Aluaiê schools can be found in different countries around the world such as Portugal, UK, USA, Colombia, Brazil, Spain and Belgium.
The growth of their community has also influenced the creation of an e-book by Mestrando Mercinho and Mestrando Je entitled “Fit and Fight”. In this book they have taken the opportunity to explain the art of combining martial arts with fitness.
“It has been very successful since we launched it on Amazon and Ebay,” he says, “Not only for those interested in learning more about the concept but also as a teaching aid for our national and international students and community members.”
While many martial arts schools inevitably fall prey to becoming too academic and rigid, capoeira is a style that encourages discovery and expression. It is as much a beautiful dance as it is an effective martial art and it always welcomes new ideas and concepts.
“The quality of our school is in constant development,” Mestrando Je explains, “The three of us are continuously travelling and visiting different capoeira and martial arts events, where we enrich our knowledge from experienced people from other different schools.”
This eagerness to learn has helped them develop their schools by always having something new and interesting to bring to the table. The three masters are all qualified in self-defence and have experience in a variety of martial arts. Allowing them to incorporate these aspects in the classes they deliver.
“We also believe that travelling and training has to be combined with studying and reading,” he says, “You can have an excellent physical condition and be very good in your movements however if you don’t study new concepts, you can get stuck on your knowledge. That is what we try to transmit to our students.”
Every business comes with its challenges and one of the first that the foundation faced came right at the start of their AluaiêSchool. Mestrando Je explains that they were coming out of another group and were creating a new vision with a new philosophy.
“This philosophy was unknown by many people so they were unsure about our purposes,” he says, “As time passed though, students became more confident and satisfied with our institute and our approach.”
Another challenge that has to be faced is the burden of every start up business: finances and advertising. It has meant that as a group they’ve had to learn how to make hard decisions and prioritise certain endeavours and projects with a long term vision.
“We have a number of charities that we like to support,” he explains, “We believe very strongly in these but there are times when finances aren’t available or situations where we need to invest that money back into our foundation. Thus enabling us to offer greater support in the future.”
With over four hundred members across all of the Aluaiêschools now being stuck at home during the Lockdown, team work has been more important than ever. They’ve been encouraging members to keep as fit as possible during this time and to practise as much as possible. To achieve this and maintain contact with their students they offer training sessions twice a week on Wednesdays and Fridays via online facetime.
Mestrando Je explains that their main collaborators are the oldest students in the school. They have a “high” belt which is a symbol of the hard work, dedication, and commitment that they have demonstrated over time. In this sense, the belt is the most precious compliment that a capoeira teacher can pay a student and also indicates a very high level of trust. So, when the Mestre is out of the city due to an event or conference, usually the Master names a student with a high belt to deliver the lesson on his or her behalf.
“We provide continuous training to those collaborators,” he says, “We ensure there is always a friendly work environment and acknowledge collaborators achievements and reward them. We teach that positive communication is the key and encourage friendly competition and seek to train them to be a leader worth following. We never forget to train our students on school values, vision and goals.”
PLANS FOR 2020/2021
Being the leader of an international community doesn’t end just because the globe is currently under house arrest. The Masters have a lot to do in 2020 ranging from advertising to social projects and opening new schools in other countries. Then, there is the ongoing fight against social inequality in whatever forms it presents itself.
“Capoeira has always been a symbol of togetherness,” he says, “And it has a long history of fighting against prejudice and the inequalities of society and this fight is a part of its soul.”
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