Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays I have the opportunity of participating in a Capoeira class. Capoeira is defined as “a system of physical discipline and movement originating among Brazilian slaves, treated as a martial art and dance form”. It is well known throughout all of Brazil and allows me to be a part of a national cultural tradition.
Since the class is held in Morretes, a small town of about 16,000 people, it is not held in a large gym, but behind someone’s house in a small workout space. For me, this makes the class much more intimate and exciting. This place is where I feel safest in all of Morretes. Not in terms of physical safety, but in terms of feeling safe and welcome to be myself.
The teacher is a very large, slightly intimidating-looking man whose name is Lindomar. The literal translation of his name is “beautiful sea”, and it could not be more fitting for this man. He is one of the most caring, helpful and generous people I have met in Brazil thus far. Anyone who walks through the door of this gym can bet that no matter what situation they are in, Lindomar will help them and treat them like family.
On Wednesday when I went to Capoeira, I experienced this caring firsthand. There was a graduation ceremony for all of the students that had been training hard to receive their new belts in order to move up a rank. Fight after fight, students received wristbands and certificates to show that they had earned a new rank or perfected a skill they had been trying to master.
At the very end, the last fighter was a man in his thirties with special needs. This man, Etzel, was not treated any differently in the skills he had to perform to earn the next rank. He had worked hard and had finally perfected his technique and sets, so he was ready to take the test and pass.
It was because of Lindomar that he had been able to reach his goal and get his certificate. After his fight, Lindomar made a speech about Etzel and his dedication and work ethic. He described the training he went through. It was the same training everyone else had done, Etzel just needed someone to believe in him and work with him a bit more closely. Upon describing how proud he was of Etzel, Lindomar said, “when you walk through that door, you enter a safe zone. Here, everyone is family and îf you want to reach your goal, the people here will help you do it. When you walk through that door, you have to have the mindset of I am allowed to, I want to, I can, I will try. After that, no one can keep you from reaching your goals.”
It’s hard to always try to act a certain way for your host family or on the street to fit in, but at Capoeira I can just be me. Here, I know that I can make a mistake in the movements, or with my Portuguese, but I will never be put down for it. For that, I am eternally grateful to Lindomar, because just like he has helped Etzel reach his goal by being patient and caring, he is helping me as well.