Capoeira - Martial arts fuse dance and fighting

By Pfc. Abel Trevino
28th Public Affairs Detachment

LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq — On Sundays and Wednesdays at the LSA Anaconda Fitness Center a capoeira class is offered to those who want to learn the martial art that fuses dancing with fighting.

"It's an African and Brazilian martial art that [spans] from Angola to Brazil," Sgt.

John Burgess, 512th Maintenance Company and instructor of the class, said. "It started with slavery and the [participants] disguised the fighting art as dancing."

The techniques were so convincing that even the slaves' masters would watch the participants, unaware that they were actually training to fight, thinking they were just watching them dance.

Burgess became involved in capoeira seven years ago, after watching the movie "Only the Strong," a movie about an Army ranger teaching inner city children capoeira. He started researching capoeira and took an interest in it.

While the moves and motion are fluid, there is no doubt that what is actually being taught is a martial art.

"These are basically self-defense techniques," Burgess said. "There's a lot of close-quarters moves, a lot of knees and elbows."

The technique also teaches proper footing, good reflexes and fluid motion, for an overall workout.

"It's exhausting," Burgess said. "There's lots of cardiovascular, it's an all body workout. It also teaches balance control, natural timing and good muscular stretching."

With all martial arts, there are things to be aware of before participating.

"The dangers [of capoeira] have a lot to do with stress fractures, ankles and knees," Burgess said. "You have to be in good condition, it's pretty acrobatic."

The students are in varying degrees of training. Burgess works one-on-one with participants to teach them the moves and perfect the styles.

"I've been wanting to do it since high school," said Spc. Ruben Garcia, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division and also a capoeira student. "I walked [into the gym] one day and saw guys doing flips and stuff, so I thought it was pretty cool. I asked some questions and [here I am]."

Burgess has resorted to strange measures to teach his students, but they demonstrate his involvement and commitment to the sport.

"I taught Miguel (Figueroa) how to do his first kick by [telling him to] hold his leg up in the shower," Burgess said.

It worked. Figueroa is currently one of the more advanced students in the class and filled in as the instructor while Burgess was on leave.

 

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(LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq) - Spc. Joseph Bowman, 319th Corps Support Battalion, demonstrates his agility while practicing a leaping kick during the capoeira class Nov. 5. (U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Abel Trevino, 28th Public Affairs Detachment)

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(LOGISTICS SUPPORT AREA ANACONDA, Balad, Iraq) - Spc. Ruben Garcia, Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, and Spc. Miguel Figueroa, 118th Medical Battalion, practice capoeira, a form of matrial arts that fuses dancing with fighting, an art that traces its origins back to Africa and Brazil. (Photo by Pfc. Abel Trevino, 28th Public Affairs Detachment)