Yesterday was the last day of our capoeira batizado or grading festival. I wasn't going to go, but when I woke up, it was a beautiful day, and so I did.
Darling Harbour, where the grading was held.
The festival lasted about 3 hours. I felt like a fish out of water. 3 hours is a long time to flop around gasping. Surrounded by my happy fellow students of capoeira, excitement and expectation on their faces, freshly dyed new cords around their waists, I did my best to clap, sing and dance along, but the truth is, I felt morose, nostalgic and old. I couldn't decide if it was harder watching my friends do moves I've never been able to master, or moves I used to do easily and no longer can. It seemed like an age since I felt their bliss.
I started training capoeira almost 11 years ago. I estimate a good 3 years of that was spent recovering from injuries and surgeries. I always joke that my body hurt less when I was drinking 7 days a week, smoking a pack a day, drinking red bull on all nighters at the studio, and the only exercise I got was clubbing.
But I have zero regrets. I might have 2 bum knees now and will never trek Machu Picchu but capoeira gave me a lot more than it took. On a physical level, it improved my reflexes, coordination, spatial awareness, peripheral vision and balance which, I'll have you know, is very useful for scrubbing my toes while standing on one leg in a soapy wet bath tub. All good things for an older person, no doubt about it.
On a mental level, it made me face some fears, and while I didn't conquer all of them, I think I made a dent. I learnt how to sing in Portuguese and in public, a very useful skill I'm sure you'll agree, and how to play 4 new musical instruments. Best of all, for the first time since I stopped working 14 years ago, I felt part of a community, met some good people, made some friends, discovered Brazilian churrasco, pão de queijo, feijoada (all food, in case you're wondering), and re-kindled a childhood love of and interest in South America.
I told Cushion before the batizado started that this would be my last one. To my surprise, for someone who laughed at and sometimes ridiculed my obsession with the game (and rightly so, in retrospect), he said he was proud that I had lasted 11 years. That made me sniffle. He didn't think I would even finish the 8 week beginner course. Considering I couldn't do 5 push ups when I started and have the attention span of a gnat, I totally understand why he would have thought that. I have to take this opportunity to thank him for his patience. While I'm at it, I suppose I should apologise to my neighbours for pounding the atabaque
and wailing away to the berimbau
for hours on end.
I have to say, I'm proud of myself for making it this far. I'm also disappointed that I only made it this far.
But I know it's time to hang up my belts, or maybe bin them like my friend Chapeuzinho. I'll still be playing in the park. If I'm lucky, maybe Astro, Cleopatra, Falcao, Sorriso, Louva Deus, Rogue, De'Ouro and other friends who left before me will play with me. Or maybe I'll play by myself at the gym, why not? It's always fun to amuse the other gym members. I still hope to attend classes with my mestre when time allows. But I think I finally understand what the bum knees, hyper-extended fingers, stiff neck, torn quadriceps, sore wrist, fractured rib, fractured toe and split eye have been trying to tell me for years.
And so I thank capoeira for its last and greatest lesson. Accepting that what you want to do and what you can do aren't always the same and that's okay.
I know most of you reading this won't have a clue what I'm rabbiting on about today but I just had to get the hum out of my head. Please feel no obligation to comment. I'm sorry I haven't been visiting. With just a week to go before we leave for New Zealand, I can't even promise to find the time to visit but I hope you're all well. I will try to do an update on the girl whose blog this is before we leave. She seems a bit stressed too, no doubt recognising the backpacks now lying in the guest room waiting to be filled. I miss our conversations, more than you can imagine.
The Typist X
P.S. Parabéns to all my capoeira friends who got their new belts, especially Mandioca! I know you might be reading this, you're the only who does ;) Well done girl! I'm so proud of you.