Whoever knows Capoeira, knows what it is capable of. Capoeira is a game, a fight, a dance, a plaything, and philosophy. According to Mestre Paulo, “Capoeira is the only sport that has its own music. It’s the only fight in which men battle women and adults battle children.” In addition, as Mestre Mão Branca says, “Opposites attract: the rich and the poor, the white and the black.”
I and many other capoeiristas believe that Capoeira is magic, and its greatest magic lies in its playfulness and especially in its process of social inclusion.
When we hear the word “social inclusion,” the first image that comes to mind is that of a rich person proudly embracing a poor person, or a black person receiving thanks from a white person. But today there are some mestres and professors of Capoeira who are extending this inclusion even further. I was thrilled to see a photo in issue 31 of Praticando Capoeira magazine of a capoeirista doing a pião de cabeça (headspin) – who had both legs and his right arm amputated. I congratulate Mestre Alemão and mestrando Angola for their work.
There are many other capoeiristas doing this type of work, like the great Mestre Macha and also Monitor Cascavel, both in Florianópolis. I am currently a Monitor in Capoeira and I am developing a project like this. Just over a year ago, I voluntarily began giving a private physical education class to a student in a wheelchair. I became interested in special needs students after watching a lecture from Steven from the Athletic Association for the Handicapped. I used some traditional methods of physical fitness and also aimed to adapt capoeira to the wheelchair.
Today, this student (Bira) is one of the only capoeiristas in Santa Catarina to play Capoeira in a wheelchair – we are so proud of him! I have also been working with mentally handicapped students in my city. I have only a few students, but the results are impressive. In the future, I’d like to teach Capoeira to the visually impaired, as Mestre Mancha does.
But I’m not writing this to bring praises to myself. Much to the contrary, what I want to tell everyone is that I did not take any special course that taught me how to work with special needs students. The only thing needed is patience and careful observation of the movements. A paraplegic cannot use his legs, but he can move better with his arms, and even use the chair itself as his body. For example, I try to show my student that his crutches can represent his feet, and when they come in a circular motion to touch my leg, this symbolizes a rasteira, etc. I used Capoeira angola as a base, which I will also do in the future with the visually impaired.
I believe that many professors and mestres would like to try this type of thing, but they can’t sit there with their arms crossed waiting for handicapped students to show up in their academies. In addition, some think that such students would be a good source of income. Whoever thinks like this is wrong – the majority of special needs students often have less financial capability. Another big problem is that many special needs people self-discriminate, therefore, we need people to guide these future students and show them that they are capable. This is a question of love and solidarity. Many special needs people do not want pity; instead they want the opportunity to have the same rights, to access the same places, and why not play Capoeira?
Now we have a different vision of Capoeira, because the art goes much further than we thought. Instead of worrying about being the best inside the roda, we must have the consciousness and serenity that we need to be better outside the roda. We have to be better in our attitudes, our teaching methods, our friendships, our way of living. In special needs people, we will find a great friend that doesn’t pull you down, but even if all he can do is touch your arm, he will lift you up. Remember that you already lifted him up, when you took him from the cocoon in which he lived, depressed and abandoned.
This opportunity to create an adapted Capoeira will open up a great range of possibilities. Capoeira needs to be more human, we have to show Capoeira in its essence. The most important thing is not just to have special needs students, but instead to make it possible for special needs students to play in the same roda as men, women, children, and senior citizens.
To close, I will use the words of Pastinha: “Knowledge [of capoeira] is a mystery even to the wisest of men.” This is why we have to try to understand a little more about this other side of Capoeira, leaving behind our arguments, intolerance, and vanity. We have to think of Capoeira as a whole. Finally, a quote from Mestre Toni Vargas, who said this when my student received his first cord: “Capoeira has no limits, the teacher playing on foot and the student seated in the wheelchair.”
Capoeira is for everyone…
Check out these videos: thanks to Teimosia for gathering them!
- Capoeira Sem Limites
- Mestre Girafa
- Capoeira at the para-pan-american games
- Mestrando Mulato and his student Tião
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