Do you want to turn your weaknesses into strengths? To improve even while you can’t train? To get the most out of every class even if you’re sick, injured, or otherwise incapacitated? Well then, dear reader, continue on!
One of the best and most unique parts of capoeira for me is the fact that as far as passions go, you couldn’t pick a better one that will never run out of steam on you. There is always something new—or old—to learn, to work on, to improve, and if you feel you are weaker in one area (say, the actual atheletic ability part), there are so many other ways in which you can become a master (such as music, singing, or language).
With that said, you can leverage this versatility of the art to ensure, despite whatever happens to you, whether you’re injured or not, whether you can even make it to class or not, that you can only ever improve in capoeira.
Unless you’re made of steel, a bad injury or powerful cold can knock the axé right out of your poor, ailing body. What’s a capoeirista to do? Well, the first option is to continue training—since not only is capoeira extremely multifaceted, but so is each facet that makes it up, like, in this case, training movements and sequences. A capoeirista in my grupo broke her arm once, and she kept training all the way through its recovery, doing everything on her uninjured side and modified movements if that wasn’t enough. I’m not saying you should go out and break your arm, of course, but imagine if it were your good side that were injured, and all you could do was train capoeira on only your normally weaker side for two months: you’d be completely ambi-capoeirous afterwards!
Even if you’re not injured or sick but just plain unable to do a move, that can turn out to benefit you, as well. When I first started capoeira, I couldn’t practice bananeira at all. I was too scared to just kick up, thinking I could crash down and really hurt myself, and I was also too scared to kick up against a wall, thinking something could go wrong ending with me breaking my neck. So, I practiced for months in a very narrow hallway at home, that was narrow enough for me to climb up one wall, and walk onto the opposite wall, letting me practice balancing in between, safe in the knowledge that I had support on either side. Then once I could kick up against a wall, I was still too scared to kick up into thin air in case I overshot and crashed, so I practiced on a thick carpet in the basement until I could land from bananeira into a bridge with at least some modicum of control. Then I could practice bananeira like normal, on any surface, and without even thinking about it, I’d developed a super flexible back that would help me in future training sessions. My point is, there’s more than one way to string a berimbau, so get creative, and find it!
Get in tune with the art:
If you’re too sick or too injured to do any training at all—now that’s where the fun begins. Attend class anyway, and call dibs on the berimbau, atabaque, pandeiro…oh wait, you won’t have to, because everyone else is training! If ten minutes a day is enough to become competent on the berimbau, imagine what 120 minutes a day would do for you. The Bahia Philharmonic, anyone? Moreover, you’ll get a really good opportunity to practice playing instruments or maybe even leading a song in an actual roda while everyone else plays, since if you were well, you’d probably be too busy buying into the roda yourself!
Watch like an eagle and soak like a sponge:
Now, what if you can’t train or play the instruments, for some reason? Brief digression here: During my first half-year of doing capoeira, even though I went “only” twice a week, that still seemed like an extraordinary amount of time to devote to just one extracurricular activity, especially since it was 2 hours each time (plus commute), and moreover each on a school night (eating up all my
procrastination homework time). So it seemed even more amazing to me that people would attend class, in their uniforms, even when they were sick or injured and couldn’t train. I mentioned that to someone once, and I’m pretty sure I even said something like “…since it seems like you’d have better things to do…” (I know, blasphemy! )
Of course, I know now that even if you weren’t just addicted to the environment and capoeira music blaring out of utility speakers, plain observation is a great way to improve in capoeira. You can watch people playing each other and learn from their triumphs or mistakes, taking note of what you’d do or not do in their place. Practice looking for vulnerabilities in people while they move, and still pay attention to the teacher’s tips and directions. Even when I’m training normally, I like watching or listening in when the teacher corrects other students, because either I’ll probably need that same correction myself, or if I don’t, it’ll remind me to make sure I continue not needing it! A good idea here is also to have your capoeira notebook on you, so you can take down tips, observations, sequences, or other ideas that you want to keep in mind for future reference.
Think like a capoeirista:
Finally, how do you improve in capoeira if you can’t even make it to your capoeira class? In tons of ways! If you drive a car, keep capoeira CDs (note the plural’s lack of an apostrophe) in it so you can practice the songs (no apostrophe here, either—it’s a simple concept!) wherever you go. The same goes for your iPods, CD players, etc. If you’re stuck in bed at home and have access to the internet, try picking up some basic Portuguese, using sites like Portuguese for Capoeiristas (how convenient!). Another good idea is just to read about capoeira, which will develop you further as a capoeirista intellectually, philosophically, and maybe spiritually. The capoeira publishing industry seems to be growing by the month, and of course, a certain feminist capoeira blog will always be worth checking out…
I hope you find at least some of these tips useful for the next time you find yourself out of commission (which, knock on wood, will not be for a very, very long while). As I discussed in a previous post, capoeira never stops; now, neither must we!