Gracie Barra Bristol, (Capoeira), Rad Budzicki, Bristol, UK - 10/06/2012
In my second year as an undergraduate at Warwick, I checked out a capoeira class for the first time. I can't remember much except doing handstands against a wall. Over ten years later, the opportunity popped up to take another look at the other main Brazilian martial art. That's because the smaller mat space at Gracie Barra Bristol (where we trained while the main academy was being built) is going to be the venue for capoeira lessons, run by Rad Budzicki. I probably won't be able to make that normally, as I tend to be busy at weekends. However, as I'm free this weekend, I wanted to support the new class.
Geeza made the announcement on Friday that these lessons would be happening, but it's probably unsurprising I was the only person from the BJJ side of things to turn up, as there is also a BJJ class that runs on Sundays. Still, I'm sure it will grow in future. At the moment, the class is mostly made up of Rad's students from elsewhere. I presume he has been training his guys for a while, as they were flipping and jumping all over the place. One of them also had a t-shirt saying something about jiu jitsu (Rad mentioned to me that his original teacher in Poland was both a master of capoeira as well as a BJJ black belt) with the date '2009', which indicates at least a few years of training.
The warm-up had some similarities to jiu jitsu, with running round the room, heels up, sidestepping etc, but then shifted to more specific capoeira motions. For example, a sort of crouch-walk down the mat, both forwards and backwards. That was followed by specific drills, where you face a partner in the capoeira stance (Rad called it something in Portuguese, but I didn't catch the word), doing a half-cartwheel then spinning around to face each other again. I can see this being very applicable to BJJ, as it is great for developing your base, balance and agility. Seemed to work pretty well for Cobrinha, too. ;)
I was the only beginner there, so Rad was careful to help me through some of the steps. His students were helpful too, so I didn't feel rushed or that I was holding anyone up (though I'm sure I was, particularly when we were doing the drills down the mat). Rad's English is good and he creates a welcoming, friendly vibe. There is also capoeira music running in the background the whole time, which further contributes to the atmosphere.
After going through the basic ginga steps (which I vaguely remembered from my first - and up until now only - lesson back in 2001/2002), Rad added in some kicks. It's fun being new to something again, as it means even the co-ordination is difficult for me at this point. I recognised the kick, as it's the same as the inner crescent I was taught back at ZSK, but the timing was totally different, as you're doing it off the ginga and preferably to the beat of the music (I assume). It made for an interesting combination of what I remember from ZSK combined with the way I felt during my brief stint in salsa. There too I often felt clumsy, but it was always cool when a salsa routine started coming together after a few lessons.
Rad moved on to showing how to duck under the kick, dipping your body so the kick passes over your head. Chatting to him later, he said that the style of capoeira he teaches does involve contact, but other styles are all about moving around your partner, so you don't actually touch each other (if I understood him correctly).
We then stretched out, which I assumed meant it was the end of class. I was wrong: when they stopped after that and moved off the mat, it was just to get some water. Class continued with some more complex techniques, interestingly including a takedown that has some applicability to jiu jitsu. This time when they kick and you duck, you sway your body under and around the leg. When you come back up, backstep (I think? I kept going off the wrong foot) and spin around behind them. You can then curl your hand around the front of their knee and pull straight back, in the direction of their heel, knocking them to the floor.
It was then time for two much more challenging acrobatic techniques. The first one was a spinning handstand. I can just about do a sloppy handstand, but not spinning. The initial difficulty is trusting yourself to support your body weight on one hand. I've done one handed cartwheels as a ZSK warm-up in the past, but trying to hold it was a bit different.
The way to do it seems to be put one hand down, kicking up one leg as you do. Use that momentum to get the other leg up straight. It gets much harder after that, as then you're supposed to transfer your weight to your other hand. That other hand is facing the other direction, so the heel of each hand faces the other as you switch. I didn't get any further than that, as I was having enough trouble to ignore my natural instinct to put both hands down to support myself.
Next was a head stand, except that you're jump into the head stand and then lift yourself up with your arms. That was also somewhat beyond me, but I could practice doing a simple headstand from kneeling, making a triangle with my two hands and head, then gradually bringing my knees in before extending the legs up. Getting from there to lifting up with your arms is where it got especially tough: Rad says it's easier to do that in motion, though of course that means you have to be a bit braver at flinging yourself headfirst into the mat. ;)
Then everyone gathered round and did some capoeira sparring. It was cool to watch: the reason I first got into stand-up martial arts back in 1999 was due to the awesome acrobatics of old Sammo Hung, Yuen Biao, Jackie Chan etc kung fu flicks. So, the beautiful display by the rest of the class was very entertaining. When Rad asked if I wanted to do a light spar, it was entertaining in a different way, as Geeza can attest – he was sitting on the side watching me flail and stumble about.
Still, fun to do, especially as I haven't thrown a crescent kick at anybody in at least five years. I was considering throwing in some of the jumping spinning stuff I used to do back in ZSK, but it's been so long I would most likely either fall on my arse or accidentally kick someone in the face, neither of which would be good. ;)
Rad is going to be holding capoeira classes from 11:00-12:30 on Saturdays and Sundays at GB Bristol (address details on the website). So, if you interested in learning how to flip, spin and generally look cool while getting a great work-out, be sure to check it out! :D