First Capoeira Class

We all have personal identity stories that we tell ourselves, they can be based on fact (previous history) or they can be self-fulfilling prophecies.  So when we were told our assignment in Psychological Assessment and Individual Differences (PAID) was to ‘do something creative’, I felt panic.  A part of my identity is that I am not creative.  I can’t draw, sing, play music, or think outside the box.  Every personality test I have done (and I’ve done a lot) reaffirms this belief.  I am logical, structured, analytical and objective.  Asking me to do something creative is like asking a fish to tap dance.
After my initial panic wore off, I reread the instructions and got some good tips – think of something you enjoy, try to stretch yourself, challenge yourself, but don’t go completely left field into an area that’s outside your capabilities, and at the same time don’t choose something too easy.  With this in mind, I came up with a short list of things that I like.  I love dancing, I can dance for hours…but…I’m uncoordinated.  I have loved boxing classes – releasing stress and energy in the form of a martial art is extremely rewarding…but martial arts aren’t really ‘creative’ and can’t be easily presented to my tutor/class.  I also love to cook, so worst case I could make something, but considering I live pretty independently and cook almost every night, I figured this was a bit of a cop out.
And then I thought of capoeira.  The Brazilian martial art that combines music and singing with dance-like movements.  And I happened to know someone at work who wanted to take capoeira classes.  So that was that.  I looked up classes, got in touch with a few, and found one that had classes on Wednesdays.
The following Wednesday, my friend Shan and I headed to the capoeira class.  I had absolutely no idea what to expect, and I was extremely nervous.  Physically, my fitness level was really low as I had just returned from 5 weeks overseas, with a lot of eating out and minimal exercise. 
We went to a semi-deserted part of South Melbourne, climbed up some dingy looking stairs, and found ourselves in a small, sparse gym with majority of the space covered in mats set aside for martial arts.
We met the instructor Nano, who came from Argentina.  He had been practicing capoeira for over 12 years and teaching it in Melbourne for the past year.  There were about 6 or 7 students, most of them practicing for about a year, and all extremely friendly and welcoming.
Warm up began.  And I thought I was going to die.
There was the usual run around the room, run backwards, run with knees up, run while touching the floor every so often.  That was fine.  But then there was Monty Python’s Ministry of Silly Walks.  My poor body didn’t know what it had done to deserve doing the spiderman/walking-push-up thing.  Let alone the 15 minutes we dedicated to doing handstands.  Or in my case, failing to do handstands.  Plus the million other bizarre positions we had to assume while moving around the room.
After this, I was ready to go home.  But no the show must go on.  No rest for the wicked.  Etc.
We learned a few of the basic forms in capoeira: the ginga, esquiva`, and martelo.  While everyone else worked on more complex moves, Shan and I practiced these over and over…and over again.
And then came the freestyle fighting.  A circle was created, and pairs hopped in and ‘fought’ freestyle.   For the most part, the fighting was really more like dancing – changing forms/positions in response to the other person, mirroring one another, and moving in for a hit or kick when the opportunity arose.  This particular group also combines jujitsu with capoeira, so there were a few moments when it progressed to actual fighting, but those moments were rare and only a minimal number of actual blows were exchanged.
I hopped into the ring twice, neither were my own choice as Nano made it clear it wasn’t an option.  When I was on the sideline I was certain hopping in was the worst possible idea.  I couldn’t remember any of the moves, and was convinced I wouldn’t be able to do anything other than look stupid in front of these strangers (who were all incredibly agile, talented, and competent, and much better than I could ever hope to be…etc).
When I was in the ring, there were moments where I just focused on my movements and responding.  In these brief moments, I felt curious about what the other person would do and excited when I was able to respond.  But these moments were quickly overtaken by overthinking my movements.  It was still very unnatural to assume some of these positions, and they required thought rather than natural instinct, so intrinsic enjoyment wasn’t really possible.
Afterwards, I felt frustrated and disappointed with myself.  Learning capoeira was like learning how to walk, while being surrounded by people who could run.  I know that my self-doubt and negative self-talk wasn’t helping, but I couldn’t find a way to get better perspective.  The others said that I did really well, but I was certain that it was just them being polite to a newcomer.  I went home tired and disheartened…and wishing that I could do a handstand.

The following Monday, our PAID lecture was on Adler and his theory of inferiority/superiority, and I realised that I was experiencing a sense of inferiority over a task that I had only just tried the one time.  A sense of inferiority with a new task is completely normal and in fact allows us to minimise risks and keep ourselves safe.  With this in mind, I plan to return to capoeira the following Wednesday.

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