It didn’t matter that I was soaked with sweat and out of breath — I was flying. A collective heartbeat, a rhythm, was sweeping me up. I was channeling the energy of everyone around me, the capoeristas that were singing, clapping, and playing the berimbau. As one of the two people in the middle of the roda (the circle of people that defined the game), I received all that energy, basking in its glory. Surrounded by that axé, I could do ANYTHING. And I did — we did. We kicked and flipped. We leapt, we dodged, coming within inches of each other, both of us moving fast, aggressively, purposefully avoiding contact by the smallest of margins. In the roda, it wasn’t about what I, the individual, could do. If I had been actively trying, I wouldn’t have moved with grace and calm. My fear, my head, my hang-ups would have gotten in the way. But I wasn’t in control any more. It was the energy, the axé, the spirit moving through me, and it knew what to do.
I saw flashes of my opponent. He moved fast, like a blur, forever out of reach. Occasionally he splashed me with his sweat. Eventually, my ego got in the way, with its need to make a statement. I saw a nice foot-sized opening on my partner’s body and BOOM! I whipped my leg out, a straight kick right to his chest. I showed the kick without making contact, an act meant to humiliate, letting the whole world know that I could have gotten him. Little old me did that to a high level capoerista. At first I told myself, “You go, girl!” But then I started to get nervous. “Did I really just pull that off?” Next thing I knew my head was bouncing off the concrete floor. I hadn’t seen it coming. There was a huge “Ooooh” around the roda.
This is capoeira. People say capoeira is an Afro-Brazilian martial art that combines music, fighting, dancing, and acrobatics. For me, it’s a way to connect with my homeland. My family doesn’t live nearby, but a little piece of Brazil is inside every roda. It’s also that exhilarating feeling I get when I ride collective energy and push into the unknown. Some moments I’m on top of the world, other moments I’m being humbled. Either way, I’m going much further than I ever imagined, all because of my community. We show up and build on the energy in the room, collectively pushing each other up, up, and up, to that place where anything’s possible.