Drama and Babysitting and Pacifiers, Oh My: Children and Relationships in Capoeira

19 03 2008

This topic, based on the “Maternity and Well-Being” discussion at the FICA Women’s Conference, has two main parts to it: women in capoeira having children, and relationships between capoeiristas in the same group.

Having been in neither situation…I don’t know how much I can really say about this.  Consider that a disclaimer!

AwwwwwwFrom my own observations, all of the capoeiristas with families that I’ve seen have been pretty good at sharing childcare time (taking turns training, going to different classes, etc.), and the rest of the group usually seems more than happy to help out.  Actually, something I’ve noticed everywhere is that it seems like all capoeiristas are really good with children!!  As someone who dreads playing/working with children even more than partner work (it would be so like me to faire une bêtise and hurt them by accident; and there is nothing more scathing than a scornful young person; and how does one relate to a 6/12/15-year old??), I’ve always wondered why/how this is?

I will say, also, that I have yet to see a capoeirista who has had a baby look like she was ever pregnant in her life!  So I definitely agree with the discussion group people who said the best way for a capoeirista to get back in the game is to just keep training—if they ever stopped in the first place.  I’ve seen women playing and training while at least a few or more months pregnant, so I imagine they must have gotten back into things pretty quickly after giving birth.

If a woman has a baby and her partner doesn’t do capoeira, then I think that capoeira counts as a major enough part of a capoeirista’s life that her partner should care and be considerate enough to take that into account when splitting childcare duties, at least to a certain extent and provided that the partner doesn’t have something the equivalent of capoeira in their own life.  (If that’s the case, then both should compromise to give up equal times of their activity and take care of the child equally.)

And while I agree with the idea that new parents can stay involved with the academy by doing admin work, helping with events, and playing music, I think it’s also important to recognize that this in no way is a fair substitute for actual training!  So while it’s a good way for the parent(s) to stay connected to the academy while they’re physically or otherwise incapable of training, people (namely partners, and friends and capoeira colleagues to a lesser extent) should help out to try and make sure they can get back to normal training as soon/much as possible.

As for relationships between capoeiristas…well, I can see several pros and cons to this.

Pros:

  • You majorly have something in common.
  • You get to see them more often, and will understand each other’s crazy committment to that Brazilian martial art form nobody can even pronounce properly.
  • Training/playing in the roda might be more fun/interesting.

Cons:

  • You might see them too much and have space issues.
  • It might be hard separating the relationship from capoeira life, kind of like people in office relationships have trouble keeping them separated from work life.
  • If it goes bad, capoeira or training might become a source of stress for you, and you’ll no longer be able to count on it as your standard all-purpose stress-reliever.

On the other hand, this reminds me of two things I’ve been told in capoeira.  The first is that when you’re in capoeira, when you’re training or in the roda, everyone else is just another capoeirista.  In the roda, the other person isn’t your mother, your friend, or your significant other; they’re a capoeirista, and moreover a capoeirista you’re currently playing inside the capoeira roda.

The second?  In the all-too-immortal words of one of my capoeira teachers:

“Training solves everything!  If you’re sad, you train!  If you’re happy, you train!  If you’re angry, you train!  Love, anger, sadness, depression…training solves EEEVVVERRRYYTHING!”

Picture source: http://www.capoeirasantabarbara.com/images/cd2-kids2.jpg

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19 responses

20 03 2008
Mariposa

awsome article, Joaninha!!!

When I joined the new Capoeira club I was shocked to see one capoeirista training and playing in the class roda at 7.5-8 months pregnant!!!! She was feeling really good, her moves were accurate and strong, her reactions – precise and fast! I was amazed! Well, after having her baby she is back in class – just two months later! And it’s soooooo very nice to see her husband taking care of their baby while she trains!!!

As for relationships between capoeiristas – honestly I would love to have my partner/husband be a capoeirista! Not that I have one at the moment… but I agree that you want to be straight and not mess up – cause what you really want is to have your classes free of negative energy or unnecessary pressure. But if it happens that you find your “other half” in a capoeirista – that’s the best thing ever!!!

20 03 2008
hera

I was so torn while at the FICA Women’s Conference!! I wanted to attend all of the groups and listen to all the discussions!! Luckily, there was a summary at the end of the discussion period where we were able to hear the main points addressed by each group!

This discussion topic was really interesting to me because I am a Mother and a Capoeirista. Finding the balance is difficult—especially when you discover something so interesting, fascinating, challenging and beautiful—like Capoeira. I think that Capoeira was a big reason why i left at long-term relationship i had been in. You really discover new parts of yourSelf through training.
((I think I mentioned this before in a comment somewhere in one of your previous posts–one of Capoeira’s skillful abilities is the discovery of yourSelf)).
Once I started training Capoeira, I found strength in mySelf that i never knew i had, i started to SEE things about life that i had never noticed before and I understood mySelf and my contributions to this life a little more clearly ((this continues to evolve with my continued training, of course!)) So one day i looked at this guy i was with and he was annoyed that i was spending so much time training and i realized that this guy wasn’t the guy that i wanted to share my moments with, you know?! It was extremely liberating, awesome, painful and beautiful–much like the jogo…

But with those realizations and the importance that Capoeira took in my life, it was hard to spend time with my daughter, work full-time, try study to earn another college degree AND train–all at once. I had to give up time from each of those things and really dedicate mySelf to training Capoeira—it’s a choice I made, but i really wish I could have involved my daughter more in my training in some way that wasn’t just her sitting around being bored while i sweated for two hours.

The thing i liked about the FICA conference is that REAL solutions were discussed—like making areas in the training space for kids to play in and making the group more open and friendly to having kids around. The discussion really focused on encouraging all the members of the Capoeira group to take on a community role—like if my kid is somewhere on the training floor where she isn’t supposed to be, its OK if someone else says—“Hey, why don’t you play over here with this??”

Now i know that people without kids might find that annoying or whatever, but as part of the Capoeira community, Moms have valuable perspective to add and children have their own special flavor to contribute.

Also, another thing mentioned at the Conference was that just because Women with children might not be able to train as much as single ladies, it doesn’t mean that we are any less committed.

And like you, Joaninha, I’ve seen Women in mid to late pregnancy play beautifully—i actually saw a badass pregnant lady Macaco and fly through the air—it was the coolest thing ever!

Our bodies are amazing things!

This is long–sorry.

On the relationship thing. If you love Capoeira, even some heartache shouldn’t sway you from learning what you love. Those swirls of life–heartache, love, jealousy, bliss, humor—-all those little smudges of life are worth having. It’s how we all develop our own flavor 😉

20 03 2008
xixarro

My wife is a capoeirista too 😀
We were together before we started playing capoeira.

It’s lovely to have someone who understands the passion I have.
But it’s also frustrating sometimes, because she ‘likes’ capoeira and I ‘love’ capoeira. If it were to me, we would practice at home as well. Even if it were only music. But she has not once trained with me at home.

But you learn to live with that 🙂

About kids.
In our group there are several who had babies. They all trained as long as they could and all but one couple came back as soon as possible. The odd couple doesn’t handle it well imho. If one can’t make it, the other stays at home as well. Plus they are over protective towards the baby. They never go out. I’ve only seen them twice in the last half year.

But most do it well.
No one minds them taking their babies along and often they are babysitted during training by parents just watching the training.

What I do mind is people taking (or worse dropping off) kids to training 4-10 years old. Those kids don’t train along and are very often in the way. Especially when you know we have a class for kids only as well.

And on Saturdays I could just kill those annoying little brats when they show up on our floreios training. They can’t do anything what we’re doing and are a constant danger to us and their selves. I can’t believe their parents don’t realise that themselves. I also I can’t believe our trainer doesn’t forbid them to come to those training sessions.

20 03 2008
Cenoura

worying about drama is actually a reason I don’t date people in my capoeira group. but I realize that’s probably harsher than truly necessary. Our capoeristas with children mostly have wives who stay with them while they train(though they make an effort to stay with the kids while their wives do what they do), so it ends up pretty well balanced. I feel like that is a good setup(no kids myself, so I can just guess). The few times we’ve had kids show up at class, if they’re old enough, everyone usually tries to interact with them, and I haven’t seen any problems. Xixarro, that does sound nice, I have to ask whose idea training capoeira was, though. When we get couples that come to our class, I notice that it’s almost never the woman’s idea to train. Which is sort of an issue I have with it-I probably shouldn’t, and should work on being snobby, but I hate seeing the women sitting on the side through the tougher moves watching “their man”.

20 03 2008
cigana

I think capoeira is the ultimate kid-friendly martial art, possibly because the sense of community and family is so strong in Brazil. While training in both Canada and Bahia my teachers had babies and young children. They were always welcome in class (normally hanging out in the background playing with toys or banging on the atabaque) and during rodas we would all take turns holding the baby (kind of like pass the parcel). I have seen these kids grow up in this supportive environment and I am jealous of their opportunity to absorb all aspects of capoeira literally from conception. One of my favourite capoeira moments was playing an Angola game with my teachers’ daughter when she was 5. This was a girl I had seen grow throughout her mom’s pregnancy, held as baby, played with as a toddler, and then finally I got to meet her at the pe do berimbau.

On a side note, her mom, a capoeira teacher has played a beautiful and intense game throughout all of her pregnancies, right up until the end! I hope my body lets me do the same and I hope that my children can grow up in a supportive capoeira community. Also I met my partner in capoeira and today marks 6 years together!

20 03 2008
xixarro

Cenoura

I’m sorry to tell that it was my idea to start with capoeira.
But on the other hand, I’ve never seen my wife step aside when it got tougher.

20 03 2008
Joaninha

Hey everyone! Wow, it seems like almost all of you guys have come across one or both of these things in one way or another.

Mariposa:

I agree, that it would be amazing to find another capoeirista!! Not to mention that they’ve already seen you at your worst (i.e. covered in sweat and in a completely unflattering uniform)! 😛

Hera:

I can imagine; I’ve been in the exact same position at other types of conferences, everything just sounds so interesting and informative and “must-know”!! So was the “mothers in capoeira” topic the one you ended up attending?

I think that’s great that capoeira gave you the strength and self-awareness to leave your relationship if it wasn’t really fulfilling for you. And that would be really difficult, if you openly couldn’t share all your highs and lows of capoeira with the person closest to you!

How old was your daughter? Could she have trained as well?

Yes, that’s something I noticed about the conference too!! I was thinking about writing about it for my next Blue Snake post, how the best part about the conference was that after all the discussion was said and done, it was all brought back down to earth in *real* actions to take.

And holy cow, what’s with all these amazing pregnant women in capoeira??!?! Seems like every single one of us has seen them do amazing things even when they’re about to give birth. If only we could be so lucky! (Well, you know, if I happen to find myself in a pregnant state one day.)

YES, that’s what I meant by the last two quotes: 1. The other person is not your ex, they’re another capoeirista, so treat them as such. 2. The actual training of capoeira can help even if the source of tension is in the class! Just avoid partnering up with the person, or even if so, just concentrate on the actual motions of kicking, esquivas, etc.! And definitely NEVER let anything like a relationship or another person take away something you love and is as important to you and as big a part of your life as capoeira is.

20 03 2008
Joaninha

(Sorry guys I have to go now, but I will reply to the rest of you shortly!!)

20 03 2008
cenoura

no, fair enough, xixarro, I don’t mean to criticize people I’ve never met. It’s a particularly sticky issue for me, and I don’t entirely understand it. and bonus points to your wife for not stepping aside.

20 03 2008
Joaninha

Xixarro:

Didn’t know you were married! But that’s cool. 😀

Oohh I can definitely see how that would be frustrating…it’s almost like “how can you have experienced it and STILL not be taken in?!” But then again, to each their own. Hahaha, practicing together at home 😛 At least she won’t complain if you ever practice the berimbau!

Oohh yeah, I’m always scared to do anything whenever kids are around (or animals!) because I think it’s too easy for me to just happen to land on them.

20 03 2008
Joaninha

Cenoura:

Yeah, that would definitely be my main hang-up about it, too. Capoeira is so awesome and so great and amazing and such a huge part of your life (well, speaking for myself) that it would actually be the biggest shame in the world, not to mention just absolutely suck if it all got ruined for you just because of one person.

That’s interesting Cenoura, I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like that! Either a couple starting together (usually it’s just one person) or…well, actually I might’ve seen women watching their boyfriends train, but I’m pretty sure in those cases the woman wasn’t in capoeira at all. Why do the women in the couples sit on the side? And how does the teacher let them?

20 03 2008
Joaninha

Cigana:

I completely agree!!! Like I said, it seems like pretty much every single capoeirista I’ve ever met has the magic touch with kids. It’s cool, but I don’t understand it (and wish some of it would rub off on me)! That makes sense too, that it’s due to the Brazilian culture.

And definitely hear you on the envy thing…I can only imagine what kind of person a kid would turn out to be growing up in a capoeira environment and learning capoeira…they’d be unstoppable, in anything!!

Awww…that’s so cool, about seeing the five year old grow from the womb to the pe do berimbau! Honestly, in what other sport/art does that kind of thing happen?

Congratulations on your 6-year anniversary! That’s awesome!!

21 03 2008
mree

I agree with your comment about being capoeiristas being great with kids. I have identical twin 5 year old daughters and they have become like the little mascots of our grupo. The contra-mestre enjoys their presence in kind of a gruff, grandfatherly (but secretly charmed) way, and they clamber all over my regular instructor like he was their beloved uncle. When we had a special jogo in honour of International Women’s Day, CM and other members thanked not only us ladies there, but “the future as well”, talking about my girls.

When I have a car of my own (right now husband and I share one), I do plan to let them train, as they already love the music and kick around and do their own version of playing in the background behind the roda. I hope that eventually I will be able to meet my daughters at the pe do berimbau and relate with that special bond–the capoeira bond, the family bond.

As for my husband, he supports me in my new obsession, but doesn’t really have a great interest in training with me. We have had issues in the past about not giving me space in my interests so that I feel I have nothing uniquely my own, and we both think it’s healthy to have something that’s completely separate from each other. If we do every single thing the same, we won’t have as many new, fresh things to share.

Plus, he hates working out. He’s naturally thin, and if he didn’t have to run and strength train for the Navy, he wouldn’t do a damned thing. Damned skinny boys. =D

25 03 2008
Joaninha

Hi, Mree! Nice to hear from you again. 🙂

Aww, that was really sweet of your instructors and contra-mestre. There’s really nothing like seeing a huge, bulked mestre or contra-mestre taking over the roda one moment, and laughing with a small child in each arm the next!

Wow, I think it would be amazing to play capoeira with your daughters…I can’t even imagine what such a moment would be like; no one else in my family does capoeira and frankly most of the time I think they just think I’m crazy for being so into it myself! 😛
Haha…I agree that it’s important to have your own space and own “thing” as well. Kind of like how my sister has her “thing” (badminton), and when the same didn’t work out for me luckily I had capoeira to turn to. =)

Thanks again for commenting! Did you say you were moving soon, in an earlier post? How is that going?

26 03 2008
Soneca

About relationships in a group, coming from someone that was involved with not one but two ppl in her group (at two very different long in between points in time- is that gramatically correct?), it’s a tough, tough but beautiful thing. In my first experience, we didn’t talk about it in class, and in class we were just Capoeiristas. In the roda there was no special treatment, no fooling around, we both had/have an intense respect and love for the art and nothing could ever take its place or come between it.

In fact, when we realized we liked each other we were both afraid to get involved as we didn’t want it to compromise our training… in the end we promised each other that no matter what we would keep training and neither one of us would leave the group. Although it was tough to keep our feelings separate from training it was an experience I would not trade in for anything in the world. Like hera said above, it is these things that give flavor to our lives….

When we broke up it was extremely painful for me personally to go to class, it was like one day we broke up and the next day we had training. There was no healing period, we saw each other day in and day out. Trying to get over someone romantically and seeing them everyday is a really hard thing to swallow but we had both made a promise- I would not be one of the girls that left the group. I would go to class and act like nothing was wrong, take everything out through training, leave, feel better, and do it again the next day. The experience, looking at it years later, made me stronger. I know now what I can face, and just how strong I really am emotionally… at the time I said I would never date someone in my group again or even a Capoeirista at all, I kicked myself for doing it- but once it was all said and done, I would never ever take it back. It was one of my most enriching, rewarding, bittersweet, heart-breaking, defying, beautiful relationships with a human being. period.

I learned that you should never say never (I know- can’t help the cliche here- I apologize!) because years later I dated someone else I trained with, and it still is a beautiful relationship/interaction.

When you think about it, Capoeira itself is so intense- it’s so filled with emotion- and there are people around you that go through those emotions with you- it’s almost inevitable that you form these crazy bonds. These ppl see you at your worst, at your happiest, they know and understand struggles that you face more so than anyone else in your life- and if you get along and you’re attracted to each other- what could be so wrong about that?

There are ppl that strictly just date Capoeiristas or want a “Capo” relationship, this in my opinion is wrong, but if both people have mutual respect and love for each other, as well as for the art- there’s really something amazing in that- and should not be overlooked. On the other hand, you should not get involved if it means compromising your training or jeopardizing staying in your group.

Capoeira should be your first and most important love, after all it is what brought you together in the first place. Phew… what a mouthful- sorry guys!

26 03 2008
Soneca

One more thing, about the children in Capoeira… one of the most beautiful things I’ve seen in my life occurred at Chicago’s academy in Philadelphia, Low Country Capoeira. He had a workshop and while he taught the adults the children of certain Capoeiristas were given mini practice berimbaus (with cabaças made our of cans) and they played “playing berimbau”. These were toddlers, running around with “berimbaus” actually keeping the Angola rhythm- I was in awe! And although I am kind of afraid to be around kids (Joaninha I totally understand your sentiments), it moved me to the point where I looked forward to having kids so I could pass on this beautiful tradition.

26 03 2008
hera

Soneca—thanks for sharing your experience here—it really is about the highs and lows and the beauty in between, isn’t it??

And i just wanted to agree with you about Chicago’s school in Philadelphia–Low Country Capoeira Angola Society. I’ve visited him a few times and there is such a wonderful energy there—kids all around, interacting, sharing their energy… As well as all the challenging workshops given by Chicago! I am always inspired every time i visit with him—which reminds me— i definitely need to visit soon!

I have the sweetest memory from this past summer–I was sitting on bench in his beautiful training space in between the workshop and roda—and there was this little boy about 5 yrs old playing a small berimbau, and a smaller toddler tugging on his sleeve, wanting to play it as well. The ended up chasing each other around the yard.

What a wonderful, natural and organic way to learn Capoeira Angola! 🙂

27 03 2008
Joaninha

Yes, Soneca, thank you so much for sharing that 🙂 I think you and the people you were in a relationship with went about it really well and maturely, deciding ahead of time not to bring it to training, and that neither would leave the group, etc. Your story was educational as well as inspirational, and I’m really glad to see that you came out on top and better than before even if it didn’t work out, in the end.

And yeah, I agree that it’s maybe not the best policy to say “I’m going to date capoeiristas and ONLY capoeiristas” since it definitely narrows your outlook and possibilities…on the other hand, I could kind of understand it if someone loved capoeira SO much that they wouldn’t be able to handle their partner not knowing exactly what they were talking about and experiencing capoeira along with them.

To Hera and Soneca…Awww…those are some really cute stories you guys have! Although to be honest, even though I LOVE capoeira, I don’t know if I love capoeira to the point where I’d be willing to have a kid just so I have someone to pass it on to…I think there are enough capoeiristas out there who would be willing to take care of that part XD

16 10 2009
Morango

Hello!..
My husband and I practice Capoeira..
We were together before we stared playing but I did capoeira for a short time 6 years before but couldn’t continue.
We started together, at the begging my husband thought that it was too difficult and he wouldn’t be able to do all the movements, but I encouraged him to keep trying (without forcing!) and now he love it too and we’re committed to it.
We play almost everyday beside the regular training, we practice together and correct each other, it’s really nice to have somebody to encourage you and at the same time tell you that you’re doing it in a different way that it should be =)
We don’t have kids yet, but we’ll see how we can adapt to the situation.. I don’t think that would be a problem and hopefully our kid would love capoeira as much as we do.

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