Aside from my violin practice, musical exploits for me as a participant are few and far between. Yesterday afternoon, however, I was fortunate enough to get to broaden my horizons both musically and martially in a special martial arts workshop at my school. Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art I’ve written about before, and I’ve also previously noted a brief performance I was able to see.
Trying my hand at this physically demanding art yesterday was exceptionally fun for me – the musical accompaniment that’s as much a part of the art as the spinning kicks is percussion heavy with simple melodies and lyrics that are easy to learn and replicate. Since everyone involved in the art is also involved in the production of music, it makes sense that the musical bar for entry would be low. Most of the time it sounds like rhythmic chanting more than singing – the accompanying instruments in the room yesterday included a tambourine, the berimbau, a drum, and many hands clapping.
The instructor brought several of her students who are already fluent in the movement vocabulary and the culture of capoeira, which is as much the point of the practice as the martial skills the art imparts to its devotees. The art is practiced these days mostly as a vigorous health practice where people can find community and a sense of a shared pursuit. While I have found such a spirit alive in virtually all martial arts I’ve encountered, nowhere does community feel more present and accessible to a newcomer in the world of martial arts than in a Roda (say hoda, like Rhoda with no R, and try an umlaut on the o if you can – it’s Portuguese!).
The Roda is a circle surrounding participants playing at capoeira. The circle of players claps, sings and plays instruments; we all had great fun as we prepared to take our turn in the middle of the circle. My brief round was exciting – I must admit that the basics I had sort of acquired in our practice leading up to the Roda mostly went out the window, so all I could really manage was the basic “fighter’s shuffle” type of movement and a few kicks that mostly mimicked the ones I already know from my karate practice. Of course my experienced partner gracefully played along.
Broadening my cultural horizons is a lifelong love, and the opportunity to do so across musical and martial dimensions simultaneously is about as good as it gets.
Thanks for reading.