Local Martial Artists Series #2: Capoeira

This month, the Local Martial Artists Series is taking a Brazilian turn, in honor of the Rio Olympics, and highlighting Capoeira.  I’ve interviewed Garrett Boardway, who teaches Capoeira at Capoeira Uma Terra in Bangor to find out more about this unique martial art.

Monitor Gafanhoto watches as his students perform a paired drill.CH: What is Capoeira?

GB: Capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art that incorporates aspects of dance, acrobatics, music, and culture into a playful game of kicking and dodging.

How long have you been practicing Capoeira and how did you get started?

Monitor Gafanhoto does a headstand with his knees bent.It’s been 16 years since I started Capoeira.  I was first exposed to the art via a movie made in the early ’90s called “Only the Strong”.  In 2000, my first Mestre (Master), Mestre Geraldinho, came into my father’s Karate school looking to start a class.  My father knew I liked Capoeira and wanted to get me involved in the martial arts again, so he told me about it.

So, do people need a certain level of martial arts experience or physical fitness in order to practice Capoeira?

No.  Capoeira is for anyone who wants to play.  Physical ability, strength, flexibility, and coordination are all improved through training.  Like learning an instrument or a trade, in the beginning you know and can do very little, but through training you get better.

Which means this is something everyone can do?

Yes, again, ability is improved through training, and Capoeira can be modified to fit anyone’s circumstances.  I have seen Capoeiristas who are blind, only have one leg, have developmental handicaps, and much more.  I even had a student who had Multiple Sclerosis.

How old does a person need to be to start practicing Capoeira?

Any age — as young as they come and as old as they get.  I offer classes for kids as young as 6.  My almost 2-year old daughter has picked up bits and pieces from watching my home practice.  So, really, any age.

Monitor Gafanhoto walks around and coaches students as they move down the room.What do your classes look like?

Classes run about 2 hours twice a week.  We greet each other with the word “Axé”.  The first fifteen minutes to half hour of class is warming up and conditioning.  The next section of class is usually individual movements worked alone, followed by pairs or group work on sequences of movements.  Once a week, we have an open Roda (pronounced “hoe-da” — the circle in which the game of Capoeira is played).  This gives students the opportunity to apply new movements or to explore new ways of using movements they learned previously.

How do your students address you?

My students address me using either my title, “Monitor” or my title and nickname, “Monitor Gafanhoto”.  Either is appropriate.

As a teacher, what do you want your students to take away from your classes?

I want Monitor Gafanhoto demonstrates a movement while the class watches him.my students to have a better sense of self.  Self awareness has been shown to do some amazing things for people, from helping to improve balance and coordination to fighting depression and social anxiety.  It can give people tools to be self motivated and improve themselves and their lives.

If you could tell people one thing about Capoeira, what would it be?

That it is for everyone.  Its benefits go far beyond the obvious and anyone, any age, from any walk of life can find benefits in Capoeira.

Where can people go to find more information about your classes or about Capoeira in general?

For more information about my classes, people can email me at bangorcapoeira@gmail.com or find Capoeira Uma Terra on Facebook.  Finding more information about Capoeira is easy in the modern era since we have the Internet and Google.  The trick with the massive amount of information available on the Internet is sifting out the quality information from the hype.

Photos by Susan Hall

Catherine Hall

About Catherine Hall

Catherine lives in Bangor, Maine with her family. She gained her appreciation for food and cooking from her grandmother and learned most of her technical knowledge from watching the Food Network. When not in the kitchen, Catherine can be found outdoors attempting to grow vegetables (not always successfully), practicing yoga, and taking Capoeira classes in downtown Bangor. Catherine can also be found walking around town with her Guiding Eyes guide dog, Caleb.