Fitness through martial arts

Ancient art incorporates music and dance

EXECUTIVES, in their quest to stay fit and healthy, never cease to be amazed at the various forms of exercise available, besides the popular gym, yoga and aerobics.  

This writer was introduced recently to capoeira, an ancient martial art that incorporates music and dance. 

Well, if you are game for energetic movements like spinning kicks, hand stands, cartwheels and some acrobatics, that's capoeira for you! 

Although it never took the country by storm the way break-dance did, it is not faddish like the former. Since being introduced in Malaysia more than a decade ago, it has drawn a strong following among the young and trendy. 

Fashion retail marketing manager Denise Chen said capoeira is a mix of martial arts, dance and music. “What differentiates it from other martial arts is that it has music and the student must learn to play the instruments and sing songs,” she said, adding that such exercises were good for body toning. 

“But if you don’t want to get so serious into it, you can use the stretching techniques and the dances provide a good cardio work out” said Chen who used to be a gym-goer. 

She said capoeira was one of the best exercises for de-stressing. “I'm more attracted to the social element of it,” she told StarBiz.

Chen, a member of the informal grouping called Bantus Capoiera Malaysia (BCM), said the basic drills helped strengthen the lower body. “You can pull off various stunts and flips and strengthen all the other body parts”. 

Academia Bantus student Denise Chen (right) and instructor Quek Wei Kin demonstrating a regular capoeira attack and defence drill.

Her best stunt is doing some sort of hand-and-head stand. 

Chen admits that after three years, she still wears the “coral” cord - the basic ranking. 

“It is a very difficult sport. I'm still trying to perfect the basic kicks,” she said, adding that she would train harder so that she would move on to the next level faster. 

“My job entails long hours. I am not able to train as much as I like to. I will try to come for training at least twice a week,” she said. Some of her friends train five times a week.  

BCM founder and instructor Quek Wei Kin and two friends had formally set up Academia Bantus in 2005, a year after putting together BCM. He decided to go full-time with the art as soon as Brazilian instructor Rafael Rosario joined the group in mid-2004. 

He said the art had been around for over a decade but was still alien to many Malaysians. 

“It looks difficult to follow. I think people are unsure and don’t understand the art,” he said.  

The challenge to exponents like Quek is to promote capoeira into a more “mainstream” sport through improving the facilities, tailoring the training programmes to suit the Malaysian taste and adding more music and dances. 

A karate exponent, Tan Thoon Ling, believes that the music element made capoeira a unique form of martial art. 

Tan, a former lecturer in information technology and currently pursuing a PhD, finds it easier to relax with capoeira. 

According to him, karate involved more of sharp reflexes and concentration while capoeira emphasised self-expression and emotions.  

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