By Kim Lyle
The word Capoeira has an intimidating number of syllables for the English trained tongue. But push pass the pronunciation, and you will likely find a warm community of people practicing the martial art in cities across the United States.
Combining elements of acrobatics, music, dance, and ritual, the practice has deeply rooted cultural beginnings. Originally developed by African slaves in Brazil, it was intended to be a form of self-defense for escapees. Afraid of the act being discovered by owners, it was cleverly disguised as a dance.
Hundreds of years later, the art has been kept alive mainly through small community gatherings. Most recently, the city’s capital has formed its own group led by the talented Goran Hobbit.
“The group started as an act of bringing Capoeira back to Baton Rouge,” said Hobbit. “We found that there were actually a number of us who had previously practiced Capoeira both in Baton Rouge and elsewhere. Without an existing group to practice with, we decided to just get together ourselves and start practicing on a regular basis.”
The benefits of practicing such an art are far reaching, contributing to both a person’s physical and mental wellbeing.
“The uniqueness of Capoeira will give your body physical strength, power, and flexibility,” said Hobbit. “It will also give your mind self-confidence, concentration, courage, and creativity. Many people say that Capoeira is one of the best things that happened in their life.”
Of course, there is only one true way to test the actuality of these claims – by experiencing it.
“Anybody interested can join,” encouraged Hobbit. “Since Capoeira does not have age, body type, gender, or experience boundaries, it is a great sport for the whole family or a group of friends. As long as you can walk, you can do Capoeira. Physical strength and skill level are not a requirement because you will learn all of the techniques and build up muscle strength by practicing.”
And there are many opportunities to practice. Capitol City Capoeira has three classes a week. On Wednesdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 6 p.m., they can be found in the North Boulevard Square and City Hall area. On Saturdays at 1 p.m., look for them on the Mississippi River levee near the USS Kidd museum.
While there is a long list of personal benefits to practicing the sport, many also seem to be reverberated throughout the city where it’s practiced.
“It has a strong cultural history based on supporting and encouraging one another through thick and thin,” explained Hobbit. “Capoeira brings together people in all walks of life and binds them together as a family, fostering a better cultural understanding and social awareness of the city.”
It seems that the future of the downtown Capoeira gatherings are just in their beginning stages, with eyes set on reaching out to more of the community.
“We hope to extend the number of people who practice with us and create a big happy Capoeira family in Baton Rouge,” said Hobbit.
An art form once born out of hope for survival in unjust circumstances has become a vehicle for creating and maintaining strong communities, clear minds, and healthy bodies in today’s world.