The Telegraph
| Sunday, August 25, 2013 |


Here 'n' There

Published on Sat, 24 Aug 2013 18:24:20 IST

Fitness fetish

  • Reza Massah started the Centre for Capoeira India, the first Capoeira school in the country, in Mumbai in 2006 (Photograph by Gajanan Dudhalkar)

"It's a workout that demands the fitness of a martial artist, endurance of a marathon runner, co-ordination of a dancer and the flexibility of a gymnast. That, in a nutshell, is capoeira," says Reza Massah who started the Centre for Capoeira India in Mumbai, the first Capoeira school in the country, in 2006.

Capoeira (pronounced cup--vera) is a fitness regimen that has recently found many ardent followers. It had reared its head in India some years ago, but didn't quite make the cut with fitness enthusiasts back then.

Massah says: "From a single centre in Khar in 2005, we have gone to 14." That's 11 in Mumbai alone and one each in Goa, Pune and Bangalore. Of these, three centres were launched in the last one year. Today Massah has over 600 members learning Capoeira.

A combination of martial arts and a Brazilian dance routine, capoeira is said to have been developed by African slaves in Brazil. Says Parikshit Sadh, capoeira teacher, Centre for Capoeira, Dadar: "It can be best defined as a non-violent martial art. And unlike other martial arts, there is a slowing of energy, where a kick comes towards a person with full force and then stops or swings out of the way."

Massah explains: "Rather than a fight, it's a dialogue between two people where they show their movements rather than a routine of kicking, punching, hitting and violence."

  • Parikshit Sadh defines Capoeira as non-violent martial art (Photograph by Gajanan Dudhalkar)

Though seemingly fluid, the classes are intense and promise manifold benefits. Says Roy: "You can achieve any fitness goal with capoeira. It works on the body in different ways -- whether it is strengthening, flexibility, losing weight or toning."

Capoeira movements include everything - cartwheels, head-stands, hand-stands, kicks, you name it. Massah discovered capoeira 13 years ago in Israel. He heard drumming in a dance studio and saw people practicing what he thought was yoga with music - was hooked and decided to learn it. He did, and soon started conducting classes and subsequently opened up a studio in Khar.

Music is integral to a capoeira class -- and more often than not, played live. However, some instructors also go with recorded music. The music is a heady mix of drumbeats played live on an atabaque (large drum), the berimbau (a single-string instrument like the iktara), the pandeiro (tambourine) and Agogo (single or multiple bells). And here's an interesting bit. Aparna Shekhar Roy, who trained with Massah in the early days of his launching this fitness regimen, says: "Every student also must learn to play the music besides learning the ropes of capoeira. It's all part of the drill."

Capoeira incorporates the best of all the martial arts -- the kick for instance from Taekwondo, which moves from inside to outside, finds a place in capoeira as does the back bend of Kung Fu. But unlike the other martial arts, the movements are fluid.

A typical class starts with warm up exercises, which include stretches and a session of imitating the movements of animals like a monkey or a giraffe. This is followed by actual capoeira movements. The students stand in a circle (roda, in Portuguese), some start playing the musical instruments while another two 'play' capoeira -- for you play rather than fight, capoeira. The movements are agile, swift and non-jerky.

  • While choreographer Ronica Jacob stresses on how Capoeira can help combat Asthma, fitness consultant Kiran Sawhney (right) sees it as a fun way to lose weight (Photograph by Rupinder Sharma)

Ideally the class lasts for 50 minutes and can cost between Rs 500 and Rs 3,000 for a month.

Sadh who worked out at the gym six times a week before he enrolled for the capoeira class seven years ago, says he lost six kilos within three months of joining the class. He was so impressed with it that he decided to become a trainer himself. He has been training in capoeira for the last two years now.

Choreographer Ronica Jacob who uses capoeira to keep her team fit and also in her dance moves, believes it's a complete body workout. She says: "Every single muscle is used in capoeira -- the abs when you hunch, the biceps and triceps when you save a throw and the back muscles when you bend." Besides these, capoeira also works on the muscles that cannot be targeted easily like the hands, arms and the core muscles.

Sadh concurs: "When you start with capoeira, in the initial days you discover new muscles everyday. For, a muscle which you never knew existed, becomes sore," he says with a laugh.

Jacob on the other hand says it helps her immensely in dealing with her asthma. She says: "It helped me in strengthening my lungs to a point where I can limit my asthma attacks to an extent."

Capoeira enthusiasts also swear by what it does to them mentally. "The vibrant, live music and interacting with other people is liberating and tends to have a transforming effect on people," insists Sadh. Jacob adds that unlike other workouts, capoeira leaves you feeling not just light-footed but also light-hearted.

Image makeover and fitness consultant Kiran Sawhney of the Delhi-based fitness centre, Fitnesolutions, learnt capoeira at the Idea World Fitness Convention, San Diego, USA, in 2000. She says: "I prescribe it to people who are musically inclined and want to shed weight through a fun regimen rather than running on the treadmill."