The martial art form from Brazil has found a small but growing following in Kerala

People of Brazil and Kerala share an avid appetite for tapioca and an enduring love for football, though oceans and continents separate the two civilisations.

Pele, among many football legends from the land of Samba, is a household name in both cultures and cassava a major ingredient in their respective traditional cuisines.

Now, something more intrinsically Brazilian than soccer and cassava is finding favour with the youth in the State. Capoeira, a martial art form that integrates elements of dance and acrobatics with striking low-level kicks and sweeps, has found a small but growing following in the State. Its current practitioners in Thiruvananthapuram include two IT professionals, one the chief executive officer of a Technopark-based firm, a government employee, an instructor and a practitioner of Yoga, an experienced Kalaripayattu exponent and a physical fitness instructor.

Together they have formed a team, code-red. Its sole woman member is Anjali Menon, a professionally trained freelance photographer.

Twice a week they meet at the fitness studio of Faisal to perfect the complex Capoeira routine of spins, kicks, back-flips, sweeps and somersaults.

Raam Kumar, Kalari exponent, says “ginga,” the swaying and continuous back-and-forth movement involving legs and arms that characterises Capoeira, lies at the heart of the martial art.

The “ginga” is the starting point of all assault and evasive manoeuvres. It allows for low- and high-level attacks, feints and counterattacks akin to Kalari techniques. The exception is that Capoeira is purely unarmed combat and does not envisage the use of blunt or sharp weapons, Mr. Raam Kumar says.

Ingrained in the apparently hypnotic swaying movements of Capoeira is the history of an enslaved people who triumphed over slavery and colonialism. Under their colonial masters, Brazilians were forbidden martial training. Legend has it that Capoeiristas, as the masters of the fighting technique are known, disguised its martial component with dance-like movements to escape persecution.

The origin

The art rose from the slave ghettos of the 16th century colonial Brazil to become one of the most popular icons of the country and, arguably, its best ambassador after football. The “techie members” in code-red are K. Santosh and Badushah Gulam. J. Shyam is a Revenue Department employee and national-level Taekwondo player. M. Baiju, 45, is a Yoga man and the senior-most member of the team. They are training for Capoeira demonstrations scheduled in Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kozhikode this year to popularise the art form in Kerala. Their motto, emblazoned on their sportswear, reads “Espirito Da Capoiera.”