A while back (in fact, 8 months to the day!) I saw a post from BJJ Girl on Facebook linking to her blog post "My Journey To Brazilian Jiu Jitsu". The Facebook post finished with BJJ Girl asking: ""Why did you start?" This doesnt have to be Jiu Jitsu specific, you can tell me why you made a healthy life change. Can't wait to hear from you guys" I started this blog post back in August, but now that the bios of the Chichester Capoeira Festival guest teachers are up, it prompted me to get it finished, so here is why I started:
Well, my journey to capoeira begins with Chinese Martial Arts. Martial Arts had always been an interest. Possibly because of the Teenage Mutant Hero Turtles (who weren't Ninja turtles back then, because that was Too Violent for my generation, or so it was then thought). Maybe it was just the fascination with the athleticism and movement. Maybe because they just look awesome!
Naturally, an interest in the martial arts led to an interest in actually taking up a martial art, and with a teenage idolisation of Bruce Lee, what better place to start than the Chinese Martial Arts? I think I was 16 when I first took up a martial art - tai chi with the school Wutan UK - I did this with some school friends, Theo and Declan, and I'll be forever grateful to Declan for the lifts he gave me there. However Wutan offered more than tai chi, and I started doing their kung fu and kickboxing too, and eventually the invite only full contact kung fu classes. I carried on training with them at university.
I loved it all - the fitness, the forms, the weapons, the philosophy, the history. I couldn't imagine anything better. I feel very fortunate for the instructors I have had. Martin who opened the door to my martial arts career with Tai Chi; Mike Tannner for the kung fu and full contact kung fu; the late great Mike McCarthy who taught me tai chi and kung fu whilst at uni; Gary Shadlock who took over the kung fu from Mike Tanner in Salisbury; the many students too, who are also teachers in their own way - however, I fear that by listing them, I will certainly forget some, so hopefully you know who you are; and of course Mister They who headed the school.
After university, I worked in Salisbury for a bit and kept up my training, but I left and moved to Gloucestershire to work in the charity sector, and Wutan did not have any classes nearby. I looked into the kung fu schools in the area, but it didn't feel quite right - I'd just entered the senior grades with Wutan, and to start at the beginning felt demoralising. Other Asian martial arts on offer like karate also seemed a little too similar to where I had come from. If I couldn't train with Wutan, I wanted a very different path to walk on in my martial arts journey.
I got into running to keep fit, but I really missed the martial arts. I'd read a lot about other martial arts too, and so knew of the variety that were out there. I'd seen a demonstration of capoeira at a charity event in Cambridge, and was sure I'd seen it on Blue Peter, but a search of the BFI Archives only finds a record from 1977, before I was born. I was drawn to capoeira, as it seemed completely different from everything else, and that was what I was wanting
I googled "capoeira cheltenham" and found the group.
And I fell in love with capoeira more than the Chinese Martial Arts!
Whilst I really enjoyed the Chinese Martial Arts, and still do, the bits I liked the most are all in capoeira - the physical training; a rich cultural history; a philosophical side. I think there's a martial art out there for everybody - it all depends on what you want from your martial art. On top of that, whilst you can be aggressive, it is very different. When sparring in kung fu, your aim is to hit the other person, and in full contact kung fu, to hit them hard! I'm quite a gentle soul, and aggression in capoeira is very different - the playfulness of the roda, and the mischievous trickery that is concealed by that playfulness are a lot of fun. Capoeira isn't about striking a person and causing them harm, it's about showing them that you could have done that.
But for me, the best part is when you're in the roda, playing capoeira, especially those moments where you just click with the other player, everything else gets forgotten, and you are just there, with a capoeirista and the rhythm of the music. You're not thinking, you're just playing, reacting, the game is just flowing. It's almost like mindfullness meditation - you are after all fully in the moment and without thought - and it's only really after the game has finished that you really appreciate what was going on. It's exhilarating!
So that's my journey into capoeira. How about yours (or into another martial art)? Feel free comment below!