Fitness and finesse with capoeira club

Capoeira is a martial art form that originated in Brazil, best known for its elegant dance-like movements. “Capoeira breaks down into actually being a game, a dance and a martial art,” said Chitalu Mumba, a local practitioner of the martial art and president of the club at Bellevue College. While the most well-known aspects of the art are noncontact, they are only a part of it. “There is combat capoeira where there is physical contact, and we actually fight,” said Mumba. “I enjoy the flow and the play aspects of it as well as the slight acrobatic ability that needs to be utilized,” said Justin Cloud, another member of the club.
Despite its outward beauty and simple, game-like flow, the sport as a whole has its roots in slave culture. “[Capoeira] started when slaves were taken from West Africa in the 1800s and 1700s to South America, where they were forced to work at the sugar plantations in Brazil, specifically in Bahia,” stated Mumba. “While they were there, they learned to defend themselves. However, any form of unarmed combat was banned by the slave owners, so they practiced capoeira in the form of a dance and a game, and the slave owners thought they were just playing around, when they were actually practicing martial arts skill which they would eventually use to fight off their owners and escape.” The noncontact aspect of the sport also has its roots in the same culture and era. “As the slaves practiced it, they didn’t want their slave owners to know that they were actually practicing martial arts, so if they saw them, they thought that they were just playing a game. If they did fight, they would fight when there was nobody around just to practice their actual combat training.”
In the present day, the combat aspect of capoeira isn’t practiced as much as it was traditionally. However, the game and dance aspects are one of the most common reasons that people study it. “I first heard about capoeira when my sister was interested in Brazil and she came across it,” said Paul Keene. “So when Chitalu mentioned that he was starting a capoeira club, I was interested, but if my sister hadn’t pushed me to join, I may have been a bit shy about it. Now, one of my favorite aspects of capoeira is when we ‘play’.” Mumba was of a similar opinion. “Personally, I have an interest in kinesthetics or the motion of the body. I practice capoeira specifically because its motions are unlike any [of the] other martial arts I’ve practiced before. It has movements that are subtle, it has this beauty in the way it is practiced, and yet it is so deadly. Its kicks use a lot of momentum, and the way the body moves and has to be conditioned are absolutely unlike any other martial art.”
For anyone curious about it, Cloud recommends looking into the Seattle Capoeira Center. “There is a large global community, and there are a number of places here in Seattle where people can go practice,” Chitalu said. “Community is what capoeira is all about. Originally, the slaves got closer to each other and got to know each other very well through capoeira. Today, if you were to walk into a capoeira academy, you would find people from different backgrounds, religions, of different skin colors and nationalities. They would all just be there, and the energy that flows within the room is amazing.” The capoeita club meets on Wednesday and Friday in the C building courtyard.