Brazilian flair brought to UM through Capoeira classes

By Rebecca D’Attilio

For those who opt out of paying high gym membership prices or club dues, there is now another option on campus for students trying to stay fit while having fun.

Capoeira, a mix of martial arts and dancing, is now being taught as a class through the Student Association for Multicultural Brazilian Alliance (SAMBA) on Monday and Wednesday evenings from 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. in Flint Hall.

No experience is necessary, nor is any cash for this free class. Students do not need to sign up previously to begin the class, either. The only necessities are some comfortable clothes you are not afraid to sweat in and enthusiasm.

The classes are taught by Enio Ximenes, also known as “Toddynho,” a junior management major who learned Capoeira at Artes-Das-Gerais in Framingham, MA.  Although the moves he taught initially resembled an up-tempo version of tai-chi, they progressed into a full cardio workout. Between quick breaths and sips of water, student Calvin Archibald, said “It was great…little bit fast paced…looks easier than it is,” but that he would “definitely” be returning the following week.

Ximenes taught step by step in order to make sure every student understood the moves. To the sound of traditional Brazilian music, students learned combinations of moves such as the meia-lua (a round kick in front of the body), and the au (a cartwheel). While teaching, Ximenes explained the significance of each move, and how it could be incorporated into a fight, but continued demonstrating them to the beat of the music.  When he asked, “Does anyone know how to do a cartwheel?” there was silence until he said, “Well you’re going to learn today,” which was followed by a nervous laugh from some of the students.

However, those who appeared to struggle at the beginning of class were keeping up with the rest of the group after just the first half hour. Even Ximenes said,  “I looked pretty bad [when I started], like a robot,” but there is room for everyone to improve. Ximenes also taught the class the proper way to fall so that they did not hurt themselves, and reviewed what they had learned at the end of class.         

Alyssa Soares, a senior communications major and the president of SAMBA, said that the organization hopes to have some of the students perform at the annual Brazilian Carnival held by SAMBA next semester. However, students are not required to perform simply because they attend the class, and that those who do perform would not need to choreograph a routine. She explained that it would be similar to free-style sparring, but without any body contact between the students.

Ximenes described Capoeira as “Brazilian martial arts with African roots involving elements of dancing, gymnastics and yoga.” The history of Capoeira, he said, dates back to a couple hundred years ago when it was created by Brazilian slaves in order to fight. Some would sneak off plantations in order to learn it, but most were captured and returned to their owners.  They were able to continue practicing without their slave masters noticing by incorporating the moves into one of the few activities which they were allowed to engage in: dancing, which is why there is a musical element to Capoeira.  Ximenes described it as an “underground railroad for Brazilians… a way to liberate themselves.”

Students do not need to be Brazilian, or have any familiarity with Brazilian culture in order to enjoy themselves in Capoeira classes. When asked who he thought would enjoy the class, Ximenes said with a smile, “just students overall, anyone looking for a real good workout.”         

Anyone who is interested in finding out more information about Capoeira or SAMBA can join the Facebook group “UMASS Amherst Capoeira SAMBA” or send an e-mail to [email protected]

Rebecca D’Attilio can be reached at [email protected].