If there's a martial arts style that exists in the world, you can bet that there's a studio or instructor in Chicago that teaches it, particularly at the Tandang Garimot Martial Arts and Wellness studio, located on 2940 N. Lincoln Avenue.
Staffed by four instructors that teach Kung Fu, Tai Chi Chuan, Muay Thai, Fillipino martial arts, Brazilian Ju Jitsu, and other forms, this studio is a great place for novices and seasoned practitioners to learn more about the self-defense styles of the world.
One of the four instructors, Rhodora Derpo, hosted a introductory course on February 8th that taught the martial art 'Abada Capoeria'. During this class, students learned it's basic movements, defenses, and kicks, a bit about it's rich history, and how to perform these martial arts forms in sync with traditional song and rhythm.
Capoeria, pronounced 'Kha-poo-era', is a martial art created by the descendants of Brazilian natives and captives from Africa, and for most of the 19th century was the choice combat method of escaped slaves fighting for their freedom. To keep the practice of this art from being noticed by plantation owners and authority figures, song and dance was added as a disguise, and eventually became an integral part of Capoeria as an art form.
After a series of stretches and warm-ups, Rhodora first showed students the basic stance of Capoeria, the 'Ginga', a constant defensive movement where people step from side to side, bringing one foot back and ducking down, to maneuver around and dodge enemy attacks. She'd come back to this form again and again throughout the class, reminding students to keep their backs straight, and their arms swinging in front of their heads to protect them (one of the quirks that distinguishes her 'Abada' Capoeria from other schools of it).
Next, she demonstrated how to shift from the 'Ginga' into alternate defensive postures, collectively referred to as 'Esquivas', which translates to 'escape'. One of the 'Esquivas' taught was the 'De Frente', which involve squatting extremely low while in the 'Ginga' to dodge kicks, the hand opposite your rear leg touching the ground to support you.
To memorize these defensive forms, she had her students 'Ginga' from one corner of the practice floor to the other and back, crouching down every few seconds into an 'esquiva' while she set the rhythm with beats on a tambourine. Around this time, those without a background in ballet or yoga soon felt the strain in their thighs from rarely used muscles getting exercised.
Next, she demonstrated three kicking motions that could be initiated from 'Ginga' or, 'esquiva' motions, such as the 'Queixada', where the two legs cross together before the kick to add power and reach.
Lastly, Rhodora had her students put together all the techniques they learned inside traditional venue of Capoeria practice and competition–the 'Roda'. She gathered all the students into a circle, then took up the traditional percussion instruments played during a capoeria match– the tamborine and the 'Berimbau' musical bow– and beat out a syncopated rhythm that alternated slow and fast. Two students each took turns practicing the basic moves of capoeria in tune to the rhythm, maneuvering around each other with the 'Ginga', and occasionally throwing out a slow motion kick so that the other could practice their evasive maneuvers.
Rhodora Derpo's Capoeria course left people exhausted, but also impressed at the athleticism and artistry it involved. Afterwards, Rhodora wished her students a safe travel home through the blizzard snow, and invited them to come back for future classes and study more of this unique Brazilian martial art.