Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Capoeira: Second Encounter

 A year after the first installment, I am finally getting around to writing the second. Some of the details are a bit foggy, but I did my best to recreate them.

"Outside?" Brian asked, eyebrows punctuating the word.

"Yes, outside," I replied. "The weather is beautiful. A walk would be nice. Isn't that the whole reason we moved so close to the square?"

"Well, yea, but you normally dig in your heals anytime I suggest an adventure of this nature."

"I know. But today I feel different. Don't question it. Let's go."

The meds were doing their job. It had been nearly a month since I started taking them. My fear was starting to subside. For the first time in over three years, I craved being near people. I wanted adventure. I wanted to see what was out there in the big scary world.

He stood, no longer questioning, and began ushering the children to their bedrooms to get dressed.

“Cartoons!” they protested.

“Simmer down. They will be here when we get back,” he retorted. “However, who knows how long your mom’s mood will last.”

He had been very supportive through it all, watching me shift from scared of my shadow to extrovert back to recluse during our eight years together. The last few years I had been adventurous, but the adventures were left to the characters that whispered in my head and became words on page.

The doctor’s visit and medication came after a sudden realization that my fraidicatness was not just hurting myself, but also my children. My four and eight year old stayed inside most of the time, because I was terrified of what was out there lurking for them. Irrational fears that paralyzed our lives--not just mine.

I recognized the fear. The last time it was present, my daughter was a fresh, fragile bundle of joy. I knew it could be overcome, and I knew that I could pull myself back out of this. I just needed a little jumpstart.

We stepped outside, the sun’s rays hugging our skin.

“I’m hungry,” the boy whined upon making the first turn out of the neighborhood.

“Then we will eat,” I replied; now at least finding direction in this impulse decision.

“Can we go to Raging Burrito?” asked my oldest daughter, pushing her chestnut hair from her face.

“That sounds like a great idea,” added Dad.

We walked the distance to the restaurant. We ordered, we ate, and we drank. The waitress had just rested our second round of margaritas on the table when the children became restless.

“Uh, it’s frozen—I can’t kill it,” I said, my voice mirroring my youngest at his worst. I was beginning to regret this decision.

“Miss, can we have the check and two to-go cups for our waters?” Brian asked the waitress.

As she walked away, I asked, “Why would we take our waters?

He winked at me.


He poured the pomegranate and mango margaritas into the styrofoam and helped wrangle the kids. We stepped back out into the sunshine, our eyes readjusting and our brains swimming a bit in our skulls.

When we had only walked a few feet, we heard it.

“Shh, listen, kids,” said Brian.

“Is that?”


I wanted to run towards it. A large crowd formed around a dance studio. I could hear the twang of the berimbau, but I couldn’t see it. We pushed up closer to the crowd.  The spirit of the berimbau was pulling us.

Inside the studio, we saw the circle of capoeiristas. The watchers were tightly packed in the wide-spread glass doors, half wondering what they were watching and the other half glad to see it once more.

My son tried his best to see, his height barring him from full sight. A tattooed man wearing the all-white uniform, covered in grass stains saw this and smiled at me, eyes asking permission, and then reaching for the hand of my youngest.

A caramel skinned girl, with a long ebony braid, and the most honest, open face I’d ever seen turned her back on the circle for a moment and walked over to us. She took the hand of my son and led him to the circle. He followed, smile hugging his ears.

The circle opened, making room for the boy who was half the size of the next smallest—a boy about nine with a faux-hawk.  They invited him to play. Having watched their movements and trying to mirror them, my son cartwheeled right into the center alongside of the tall skinny man, who appeared to be their leader.   He moved his limbs similarly to theirs, and managed to duck a kick and throw one of his own.

My son beamed as he walked back towards me.

The tattooed man still standing next to me, extended a colorful flyer towards my clasped hands. “We have kids’ classes.”

I remembered my wish from my first encounter with capoeira. If I had only found this when I was younger. It was too late for me, but he could have it. He could love it. I could love it through him.

I bent down to the boy, “Would you like to learn how to do that?”


“Can I try it too?” asked my daughter, eyes sparkling at my side.

We gathered down the time, the place, and all the other information that would bring this beautiful art form into our lives.  So what if it was only vicariously through our children?  

I still had no idea what transformation lied ahead. No idea what we would all become. That a simple, extended Brazilian hand would later give me a new name, a new identity, and a new life. This was the baby step. A simple stroll in the sunshine.

Share any thoughts, perspectives, etc. I'd love to hear from you. 

Some background on this piece. I am embarking on a journey of studying the culture, social movement, and communication of Capoeira. In order to move forward, I felt it was important to look back. I hope to role out additional pieces based on my past with this beautiful art form that has grabbed a hold of me and changed my life.

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