Thursday, July 15, 2010

Girls in Capoeira

"Everything that women do is more beautiful."
- Mestra Cigana

Was talking to Ying Wen after training on Tue night, and the topic turned to why there isn't a lot of girls in Zambiacongo sub-clubs - whether HQ, NUS, SMU or ITE, despite it being such a great way to keep fit (Read: lose weight ;p ). A curious thing indeed.. I used to accept it as a given- there's just few girls playing capoeira in general.. but talking to Mestre Luiz, I discovered there are more girls than guys in Zambiacongo Australia. Can't help analyzing this 'phenomenon' in my mind, and here's the result.

Common excuses why girls don't do capoeira, why -in my view- they shouldn't be excuses:

1. Capoeira is a martial arts, and hence it is un-feminine, harsh, unsuitable for girls.
Well, I think capoeira is actually one of the few martial arts very suitable for girls since it balances the 'fight' part with the 'play' and 'dance' elements. In fact, what attracts me to it is also how graceful and lithe female capoeiristas are.. certainly a lot more feminine compared to a female karateka or judoka. OK, I'm biased towards capoeira, but I strongly maintain that capoeira is one of the few martial arts that give females (and males, for that matter) a chance to develop their own playing style, which can be as feminine or masculine as they'd like it to be.

2. Capoeira is a martial arts, and hence girls -and guys,of course- will get hurt, though somehow it's less ok for girls to get hurt...
Hmmm.. having taken a martelo to the face once, plus several other minor hits and near-misses, yeah sure the danger is there. Thing is, capoeira being a non-contact sport, plus taking into account Zambiacongo philosophy, I believe the possibility of getting hurt is minimized compared to other martial arts. Maybe one danger is that we are playing with music, with energy, and when the axe goes up the play becomes fast and furious and the intimidating kicks start coming in. Simple solution that might sound silly: either don't play when you feel the jogo is too aggressive, or play with seniors that you know will watch out for you (and is pro enough to stop their kicks halfway haha.. )

3. Girls cannot do the 'moves' anyway.
There's just so many subtleties and misconceptions hidden in this one sentence that my thoughts are jumbled up here... First, what are the 'moves', mind you? I think a lot of us girls are intimidated seeing male capoeiristas do parafuso, macaco, au sem mao (though I'm not complaining.. Who will complain seeing hot guys do cool moves? ;p ), and do not believe a decent game can still be developed using ground movements and basic movements. I'll leave the more experienced seniors to comment on this, but well, techniques like rasteiras and bloqueios can be an option to develop a beautiful, malicia-filled game without flying around.. (Just my 2 cents' worth..)

Secondly, for those girls who want to do the 'moves' and think we are too weak for those.. Well, the only way is to train.. Haha.. Read that, pound-for-pound, male muscle has the same strength as female muscle, so technically, we're not 'weaker' but 'have less muscle'. Thing is, I used to wonder whether I'd develop bulging muscles if I train with push-ups, wall handstands.. so I read around, and apparently female muscles develop differently than male's, so no need to fear oranges sprouting from your biceps yet!

Ying Wen said something true for me: "I think for girls a lot of time the problem is not just lack of strength, but lack of guts. Girls are more afraid to do the moves." I don't know how true this is for other girls, but personally, I have to train step-by-little-step till I'm confident with each step even for an actually-not-so-dangerous thing like handstand and au.. And though I'm jealous with how the beginner guys are progressing faster, now I learn just to enjoy feeling physically and mentally stronger after each little achievement =)

Mestre said,"When you go into a roda, make sure afterwards people remember you." I admit that I'm still pessimistic and insecure about me as a female capoeirista ever achieving that.. but my version would be, "When I go into a roda, make sure afterwards people think, 'oh she must have trained pretty hard to get here.. she's serious about capoeira."

Long way to go!

Salmao ;p


Bom Garoto said...

A timely post. I hope to see more girls join NUS capoeira next sem ;)

ps: the word verification for this comment was "sadron".

must be because of this line:-
"...there isn't a lot of girls in Zambiacongo sub-clubs - whether HQ, NUS, SMU or ITE..."

Bryan said...

LOL Faizal I get it! ;)

Nice post, something i could never do (even if i had to wear heels and make-up for a week) - Getting into a girl's head.

Most female capoeiristas for some unfair reason gets a +1 score rating automatically in the "grace" department haha.

ps: been a while since i've been to the blog... i really like what i see :)

Anonymous said...

Ladies can be braver by believing in themselves and persevere...
Men can be more graceful by touching and feeling their hearts more often (slow down once in a while. Open your heart and mind to others)...

Both gender can/should learn from each other because we cannot feel or fully understand both perceptions.

I have found out from the Marketability point of view, catching the eye of the fresh public, for men capoeristas they need to do a lot more than just the basic movements, however for the ladies, all they need is the basic movements done cleanly. OK, put the picture in your mind. A man Capoerista and a lady. both jogo with only the fundamental moves done cleanly. To which will your attention draws to?

Van said...

Nice post and good analysis :)Love this (so bad blogspot doesn't provide "Like" button like FB, haha)
Do u wanna share this on ur FB or Capo FB, I think many people would want to read it.
Well, I think it's not only for Capoeira, but for other martial arts. You might see quite a number of girls joining at first, but only a few stay back for long term. That's pretty normal.
I don't know, but for me whenever I tell somebody I like/practice martial art, he/she will "wah", "oooo", "really???", bla bla. It's some kind of mentality that is hard to change. Martial art is for guys, and dance is for girls. Imagine I tell my future mother-in-law (whoever) that I learned capo ... can't imagine what is her reaction. Haha. Take back her son immediately??? probably.

shiela said...

hahaha van,regarding the mom-in-law case, this is the time to go back to capoeira's roots: fighting disguised as dancing! just show her a tame angola game (malicia-filled, of course, but hey she won't know tt ;p ) n she'll think capoeira is a kind of dance haha..
of course, if u martelo her son during a quarrel, tt's a slightly more difficult case.. ;p

@bryan: if u can wear heels and make up for a week.. i will kow-tow n kiss the ground u walked on..huhu..i cant even do those stuff..

@anonymous..hopefully u'll b coming here again haha.. tt's really some food for thought tt male capoeiristas need to do a lot more and ladies just need the moves executed cleanly. gd thoughts!

Anonymous said...

sia la shiela the salmon?


Anonymous said...

eh bias sia guys must do crazy stunts to get noticed.

sigh... looks like i need to learn to triple backflip and disappear into thin air.


Acerola said...

As a female capoeirista who stumbled across your blog I felt I had to throw in my two cents. :)
I've been playing for four years and the moves that you mention are moves that I can do fairly well (there is always room for improvement, but I throw them in the roda), and I know lots of other females who can do those moves as well. There are female gymnasts and many of the more difficult moves just require a good deal of practice.

A few reasons you didn't mention that I think are worth mentioning is that Capoeira isn't always a friendly environment for a female. First of all, all of us feel somewhat "alone" because there is this idea that "girls don't play capoeira". Second among my self and my female capoeira friends, we all feel a little bit like when people watch us play they are more critical. (she played pretty well, for a girl)
Also, there is that feeling of being objectified: the bottle dance, samba de roda, etc. Obviously all of these games are in good fun but sometimes it can be a little embarrassing to have people look at you in a sexual way, and instead of respecting you for your capoeira, they just tell you how good you look when you samba.
With all that said, although there are many men who play capoeira there are lots of women too and I know lots of women who are just breath taking and amazing, with just as much power to their kick as the guys.
Muito Axé!