The power of Capoeira: spotlight on Professor Soquete
Sixteenth-Century Brazil was the era where the enslaved Africans created Capoeira during the transatlantic slave trade. Capoeira has been preserved through four centuries as a cultural artifact and in 1974, it was declared the national sport of Brazil. This incredible mix martial art was created by the oppressed (slaves), for the oppressed, the powerless. It teaches mental tactics for living with domination and serves as a source of hope for the slaves to keep going despite their unfortunate situation. It is a choice the powerless must make: to let things be as they are or to have a sense of control over one’s body, one’s mind, one’s soul…. Capoeira’s nature is to grow, to be adaptable to change, and to resist; it is centered with the philosophy of facing conflicts without submission.
On 26 November 2014, Capoeira was granted a special protected status as intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO. Today, Capoeira is slowly growing in popularity with the emergence of various academies in major cities across the globe. It even made some appearances in few Hollywood movies such as “Meet the Fockers”, “Ocean's Twelve”, “Shaft”, etc….
As a student to Capoeira, I turned to my professor for an enlightenment in regards to practical movements and rhythm patterns. I enjoyed learning about the philosophy and personal ethnography behind it. As I keep exploring and learning more about this mix martial art form, I would like to invite the Healthy is Hot community into this world. Please meet Professor Soquete who has a full time Capoeira Academy in Toronto called Kadara Capoeira. I had the pleasure of interviewing him and I gained a full understanding of his outlook on Capoeira.
Thank you professor Soquete for this interview and for all that you do for your community.
Can you please introduce yourself to the Healthy is Hot community?
I am professor Soquete; I am a Capoeira teacher, passionate about martial arts. During the day, I teach women self-defense and anti-bullying/conflict resolutions courses for young men in high schools across the GTA. In the evenings, I run a Capoeira school that’s been a full time academy for over two years. I moved to Toronto in 2011 with my family and started a Capoeira group ever since.
Can you explain what Capoeira is?
Capoeira is an amazing art that is a fusion, an amalgamation of martial arts, acrobatics, music, history, culture, camaraderie, community, and unity… The enslaved Africans in Brazil created Capoeira. It was created as a way for those slaves to build connections, to create a community, to strengthen one’s mind and one’s body. It was a form of resistance and a way for them to practice combative techniques that might help them to escape while all the time disguising it in a game with music and dancing.
Please describe your journey in becoming a Capoeirista.
I started training Capoeira in 1997, about six months after I saw a film called “Only the strong”. It was pre-google days, so it was very hard to find any academy. When I finally did, I started training five days a week at least, loved it. It was so much fun, so much more challenging than any other martial arts I have trained beforehand. I met a gentleman by the name of Mestre Cicatriz, he is the master that founded our Capoeira Group ‘Kadara Capoeira’ in 2000. I started training with him because his knowledge, experience and expertise were far greater than any other Capoeira person I have ever met before. I trained with him until 2010; we then took a trip to Brazil. I was given the opportunity to train and to teach classes with projects and under privileged kids there. I had the chance to be graded as well to the level of instructor. For Capoeira in Brazil, the motherland it was fantastic. I then ended up moving to Toronto with my wife and my two beautiful children.
With Mestre Cicatriz’s blessing and under his supervision, I was encouraged to start a branch of our Capoeira group here in Toronto exactly in March 11, 2011. From then until now, we have created a wonderful community, an amazing group of students who work together, and train together and support each other.
Our student base got to a point where it was big enough in 2016 for us to start thinking about opening our own academy. We opened a full time academy about two years ago. We have taken students on few trips to Brazil in 2015 and 2018. I took students again this year from our youth class, and we are looking forward to our next trip where everybody gets to experience Capoeira in Brazil.
Your Capoeira group is called “Kadara”, is there a meaning behind the name?
Let’s keep in mind that the enslaved Africans created Capoeira, and that these enslaved people came from various places in Africa. The word Karada is a Yorouba word from the Yorouba tribe in Nigeria. The word means destiny. When Mestre Cicatriz, the founder of Kadara Capoeira international decided to create the group, he thought long and hard about the name of his group. It was clearly part of his destiny to share and give Capoeira to people outside of Brazil as a mechanism for resistance, for strength, for community, for unity. He decided that was part of his destiny to do that and he could not think of a better name but the Yorouba word Kadara.
What valuable lessons did Capoeira teach you ever since you started your journey?
Capoeira has taught me so many lessons. Micro lessons…and macro lessons… Music is filled with metaphors, stories, history and lessons that can be interpreted, listen to and understood. There are lessons about me being able to control myself so that I can stay in control of a situation, or in control of my opponent. There have been lessons about the science of movements or the philosophy of a play, the philosophy of combat…. Lessons about the interaction between human beings because when you are playing Capoeira the action and reaction are so quick that it’s almost impossible to hide your true personality. So your instant reaction is always your honest reaction. Learning to understand people and learning how to best approach them and how to get the most out of them has been a huge lesson. Learning to fall and to get back up humbly and keep moving forward and keep pushing forward has been a great lesson for me.
As a follow up to that question, with regards to your students, what is the fundamental mentality that you try to install in them?
Joy, passion, and playfulness…these are things as parents or adults that we often forget …we forget to be playful. We can take our schedule and ourselves way too seriously and miss some of the simple joy there is in just playing. Whether it is jamming with your instruments making a song and having a little bit of fun; or whether it is trying to out cartwheel, or out flip, or out trick or outplay your opponent. To just have a communication with them that is not relying on one person being the victor and just having a journey. Joy is really an important thing, so are attitude of thankfulness, togetherness. To understand the fundamental movements and then to be able to create a game that is smart and safe where if I want to play strong I can do so; if I want to play hard, I can do so; if I want to play nice I can do so. Always staying very humble and hardworking are things to keep in mind.
Toronto is a melting pot when it comes to culture, how is the Capoeira community in this city?
The Capoeira community in Toronto for the most part is very connected and really passionate. Compared to some other giant and super popular art forms, it is a very small community but it has been around for at least twenty years here in the city. Most of the groups get together at various events; they play each other with some competitive nature but also with some camaraderie. The music, the vibe at those events are super high because it is always more fun when there is more people around. We always support each other’s events and make sure that we are looking after the art form, which is the most important thing. It’s not about me or it’s not about one of the other group but it’s all about the art. We have to remember that: that is what we are doing; we are supporting the growth of the art.
Compared to other martial arts, Capoeira is often seen as the underdog; as a teacher what is your hope for Capoeira in the future?
Capoeira is seen as an underdog for couple reasons. Is it because people don’t see it as a legitimate martial art? Is it because people don’t appreciate the other side of it? People don’t usually come to Capoeira because they want to fight. In Western civilization, there are so many different art forms for people to train (fight) if that is what they want to do. People are interested in Capoeira because of the art, the culture, the acrobatics, and the combative nature without a destructive priority.
My hope for the future for Capoeira is that it continues to grow. I hope that it continues to reach out and positively affect people with the patience and the passion to keep pushing forward and pass it on to the next generation so that the art continues to live on.
As a final question, how did Capoeira change your life? Who do you think you will be today if you did not have Capoeira?
[…laugh…] It is an impossible question to answer; then there is a lot of self-incrimination if I go into it…
Well then we will keep it light.
Yeah! […laugh…] Well Capoeira is an amazing art form that has given me growth and perspective. It has brought me friends and has given me opportunities in work, in life, in love that I would probably never have had without Capoeira. I had so many opportunities from working in stunt shows and doing live action stunts and being involved in that industry. Capoeira also though me how to properly love myself so that I can love others.
I met my wife through Capoeira and we have two amazing kids. Moving to Toronto and having this wonderful academy is because of Capoeira. I can honestly say that everything positive that happened in my life is mostly because of Capoeira. How it has affected me as a person, how it has given me so many opportunities and how I then made different and wiser choices from that point on.