Introduction to Capoeira

Craig: So in Capoeira, the roda is this circle that most people have seen, where you have two people in the center, and if you don’t know what you’re looking at you think they are playing or dancing. Can you kinda unpack what’s going on there a little bit?

Paul: [00:01:00] A little bit. Usually you have a circle of people singing and dancing, clapping as well, call and response singing, and two people in the middle doing all sorts of inversions, and swirls, and spins, and it looks very choreographed, because you don’t see contact, generally speaking. The roda is the place where Capoeira lives. It’s the place where all of the training that we do is brought to its actual state.

Two people start together with the instruments, paying respect to the music. Then, based on the rhythm [00:01:30] and the words of the song, and the direction they’re receiving from the people running that circle. They have a conversation in movement, a dialogue back and forth with a call and response, just like what you’re hearing from the song, but it’s all with movement, physical movement. With attacks, with escapes, we call them attaque, and esquiva, and floreio, which is the flourishes, the pretty movements that people really think of when they think of Capoeira. It’s a dance, it’s a fight, it’s a game, and more [00:02:00] than that it’s a microcosm for life, and a place to escape the rest of all those things.

Craig: Okay, so obviously you love Capoeira, and I know you’ve done it for off and on in the beginning, but basically 15 years of this. So what happened to the love of your life there?

Paul: As and why did it stop, or how did it start?

Craig: Yeah, how did it stop?

Paul: Okay, Capoeira was the place where I learned social interaction. I was an Air Force kid. I moved like 30 times now. I’m 34. I moved all over the place, and [00:02:30] there was a movie many years ago, first got me into Capoeira. I didn’t get to try it until I was a senior in high school. At that point I was a complete loner. I had no external social skills, but everything I saw in Capoeira was fascinating to me. It fully engaged me, so all through college, and then as I started my career in San Antonio, and continued, I loved Capoeira, it was a big part of my life.

In that, I also learned about politics, and about things not working well. So there’s a lot of human interaction pieces to it, that were very challenging for me. [00:03:00] I felt the system I had been taught, and the things I believed, did not remain consistent. The things I had been taught 10 and 12 years before, were not where the art was at that point, or especially in my community. I felt like there was no chance I would ever reach a place where I could be teaching, which had been a goal at one point in my life.

Craig: Oh, okay.

Paul: I kind of lost the connection, the-

Craig: Yeah, the joy-

Paul: The incentive, the carrot disappeared for me. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be that thing anymore, [00:03:30] and I didn’t know where I was in it. There was some specific social things that happened, and a relationship that ended that kind of made me have the conversation with myself of why am I doing this. The answer was that, there wasn’t a good reason, other than that I had always done it.

Craig: It was just the thing that you have been doing for so long.

Paul: Yes. Capoeira comes with a literal baptism. You get baptized into Capoeira. It’s called Batizado. That’s your first big event, and we have them every year, and all the guests come. It’s a baptism of earth, because they put you on the ground. So it’s very [00:04:00] much a thing, and that’s also where you first receive your Capoeira name, your apelido, your nickname in Capoeira, your alias of Capoeira. I was “Spaghetti”. I was tall, thin, and white. Not much has changed. That name is the name I went by, and still many people called me nothing else from about the age of 19 or 20 … wow yeah, more than 10 years. That identity was who I was. Leaving [00:04:30] that was pretty traumatic for me, and at that point I started going by my middle name. That was when I became Paul. So it was kind of a big moment for me. Leaving that was very difficult, and I was left not knowing who I was, or what I was going to do, but I ended up in parkour.