If you spend more than one weekend in Bahia, there’s no escaping the mysticism of the Brazilian-bred martial art called, Capoeira.
Seeing that this is our first blog post, I thought I’d acknowledge the once-illegal art form and our passionate Instructor, Maristela Da Silva Vieira.
For the past three weeks, I’ve been training capoeira with Maristela and a phenomenal group of women from Brazil and other parts of the world. That’s right, there’s an all women’s capoeira class held every Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings at the Filhos de Zumbi space in Itacaré, Bahia. The space, aptly named after the appointed leader, warrior and 17th Century legend Zumbi dos Palmares, is located on Pituba 3 not far from Buddy’s Pousada.
After class Maristela and I walked to her and her partner’s home (aka the aquarium) to discuss her love for capoeira. Although Maristela lived in England for more than a year, I conducted the interview in Portuguese seeing that it’s her native tongue plus I could always use the practice.
How were you introduced to Capoeira and how long have you been practicing? When I was 23 or 24 years old, my husband at the time introduced me to Mestre Railson who was teaching in Arraial d’ Ajuda where we lived. I was hooked; I felt passion for capoeira the first class. I’ve been practicing for eight years … more or less.
What are the most important things to remember when playing Capoeira? Discipline, unity, humility, and respect for people … not only in capoeira but throughout my life. It’s important to be aware so as not to hurt your colleague. Everyone is equal when training and deserves respect. Because of this training, the camaraderie from one group to the next is tremendous.
When did you begin offering classes to only women and why? In 2009, Mestre Peroá asked me to teach his morning class. It was open to all; however, only women attended because it began at an early hour. I taught for one year then took a two-year break to live in London. I returned this year and began teaching all women again. It’s marvelous!
What have you learned about yourself in practicing? Our bodies are incredible. You can do many things with it that you never thought was possible. The flexibility … the force you have extends beyond training and movement. I’ve also learned the importance of lifestyle and diet. I don’t feel the need to drink, smoke or hang out at night because I prefer to wake up with a healthy body and mind to do the things that I love … like capoeira.
(Maristela was grating fresh carrots and beets as she spoke then she said matter-of-factly, “We make our own dog food, I’m going to cook this then add beef. I suddenly wished I was a dog.)
What do you do when you’re not teaching?
Go to the beach to train or just relax, play fresco ball, soccer. Yesterday I spent the whole day on the beach from 9 in the morning until 2 p.m. I like to go in the morning, the water is warmer. I also like to eat and sleep well. (Not sure how she sleeps at all because every six minutes we were interrupted by someone calling her name.)
How long have you been living in Itacaré?
I moved here in 2002 … so ten years. But when I was a child, around 10 years old, my family would rent a house for the summer. We would spend two months here in Itacaré. I was born in Ipiaú, in the interior where there are no beaches so I loved coming here.
Describe Itacaré in three words or less.
Nature. (beach, rivers, waterfalls, and the mountains) Good people. Peaceful.
What do you want for your Capoeira future?
I don’t know if I’ll become a Mestre (Master) but I will always teach until I can’t do it anymore. I’ll never forget my first steps with Mestre Railson. I wish to pass on my love of capoeira and seeds for others to grow. Capoeira is one of my loves, I am very passionate about it and feel extremely grateful to practice and teach. It makes me happy.
You play the best music in class. Please name one of your favorite songs.
Dona Cila by Maria Gadú. The song is about Maria’s late grandmother who raised her. It strongly reflects my feelings for my own mother. It’a about losing a person most dear to you. You can find the lyrics here: http://letras.terra.com.br/maria-gadu/1495932/
It’s obvious that Maristela adores her work. Her instruction is precise and her demeanor is pleasant and warm. What I love about capoeira is the combination of human contact with self-reflection … the adventure coated with trepidation. It is one of the most challenging and exciting activities I’ve done in years. During class, there are moments when I am eye-to-eye with my opponent and feel a part of something huge and magnificent. And then, in the very same class, I’ll find myself meditating and fully embracing all that I am. After 90 minutes of training and lots of sweating, I exit the double doors feeling humble yet fulfilled; and, I’m pretty sure the rest of the women feel the same.