Get your Brazilian kicks

Get your Brazilian kicks

A martial art, created by slaves hundreds of years ago, looks a lot like breakdancing


Practising one of the high capoeira kicks was not easy.
Practising one of the high capoeira kicks was not easy.
Photos: Felix Wong/SCMP

Hwoarang, my fellow South Korean and taekwondo practitioner, was my favourite character in the video game Tekken - Eddy Gordo and his capoeira-style fighting was my second favourite.

With its quick and cool-looking moves combining dance and acrobatics - a bit like breakdancing - the Brazilian martial art of capoeira is something I've always wanted to try out. So I jumped at the chance to try it for Young Post's summer sports series.

After a quick Google search of "capoeira" and "Hong Kong", I found a friendly instructor, Chumbinho. His academy claims to be the first in Hong Kong and China.

The first thing I had to learn was to pronounce "capoeira" properly. I'm still not sure if I'm saying it right - something like "ca-puh-ehra"; I think it's what Chumbinho said.

After an intense warm-up, where I stretched every muscle in my body, I was already feeling tired. Capoeira's emphasis on quick, powerful moves with the legs means flexibility is all-important; you'll know why if you watch any YouTube video of it.

"Ginga", my first real capoeira-related training, is a fundamental movement, where you rhythmically sway from side to side. This constant movement helps with attack and defence.

When attacking, it disguises your strikes with dance-like movement and tricks opponents with fakes and feints. By moving constantly, and not standing still, you're not an easy target; the constant momentum helps you to evade attacks.

We practised ginga-ing, slowly adding increasingly complicated combinations, like turns and rolls.

Finally, cartwheels were added to complete our ginga practice; I was 10 when I last did anything like a cartwheel; I barely managed it.

After feeling totally exhausted from the warm-up, gingas and cartwheels, it wasn't the best time to have to spar with other participants. I could hardly manage to do one ginga. But luckily, everyone was kind and I didn't get hurt at all.

The sparring involved two people facing each other and taking turns attacking and defending. The attacks came smoothly and, thankfully, predictably, using the comfortable rhythm of gingas. The disciplined capoeira practitioners made sure none of their strikes actually landed.

After a short breather, we practised capoeira strikes and combinations. Some strikes, such as front kicks and crescent kicks, were fairly common. But one unique strike involved doing a high reverse kick from a crouching position.

At the end of training, I had a taste of Brazilian culture. All 10participants formed a circle, while Chumbinho grabbed a wooden bow, called a berimbau. He played music, using a stone to control the berimbau's tone, and a stick as a pick; it sounds like nothing that I've ever heard in Hong Kong.

Sparring in the circle, with everyone else clapping and singing a Portuguese song, was an exotic experience.

I've done taekwondo before, so it is interesting to compare it with capoeira. Both styles use kicks mainly, and encourage constant movement, and evading attacks rather than blocking them.

However, the two types of martial art are totally different in their approach. Taekwondo is very direct; feints are rarely used, and both fighters know they are entering a fight.

On the other hand, capoeira's dance-like disguise is its most recognisable feature. Capoeira was developed hundreds of years ago by slaves in Brazil as a martial art. They disguised their combat training to make it look like a dance so that their masters would not find out about it.

As a form of self-defence, I don't think capoeira would be very useful in a fight, simply because there isn't much space in Hong Kong to make a ginga move. The strikes are too disguised, which is fine if you want to trick an opponent, but far too indirect for a real fight.

Yet what it lacks in fighting, it makes up for in dance and fun. No matter how clumsy or unco-ordinated you are, the music, people and its dance-style helps you to make cool and flashy movements - which is great for showing off to your friends.

Special thanks to Formando Chumbinho and Grupo Capoeira Brasil Hong Kong

Performing capoeira kicks is like taking part in a dance.

See what else we're doing this summer

- Canoe polo
- Fly yoga
- Golf
- Ice hockey
- Lacrosse
- Lawn bowls
- Pilates
- Wakesurfing

... and revisit last year's YP does the Olympic Games

- Archery
- Boxing
- Equestrian
- Handball
- Rhythmic gymnastics
- Rowing
- Sailing
- Taekwondo
- Trampolining



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