EVEN though Capoeira Cork is celebrating 10 years this October, it is perhaps one of Cork’s best kept secrets.
Operating out of St Vincent’s Secondary School in Blackpool, the dance and martial art form caters for all ages; from infants to adults.
I went along to meet the head coach, Paulo Farinha. Born in Portugal and then living in Toronto, Canada, Paulo always had a passion for Europe.
My first impression of Paulo is that of a high-flyer - an incredible acrobat who gives out energetic, positive vibes. Before finding out about Capoeira, Paulo tells me a bit about himself.
“I am Portuguese born and Canadian raised, and started training Capoeira back in the summer of the year 2000,” says Paulo.
“In 2010, I decided to do some travelling across Europe, and after visiting some friends in Ireland I ended up getting a job here and I liked it so much, I stayed!
“At first, I didn’t start teaching Capoeira because I wasn’t sure how long I’d be staying in Ireland. Then, after a few years in Cork, I saw a lack of the type of Capoeira I was used to training.
“In late 2012, I started a small class which only lasted until April, 2013. I took a break from teaching. I ended up moving house with two friends who were very keen on starting Capoeira with me, so I set up this incarnation of the school in February, 2014 and here we are today.
What was that first year like?
“In that first year we held our first big grading event, (called batizado). Grading events are a celebration of the progress any one individual makes, and it involves where your understanding of the art form is at. This applies whether you are 20 or 50.
“Minus the pandemic, we have held at least one grading event every year. Last year we had an incredible event, which was our biggest to date. It displayed incredible energy.
“This year our event in late October will be a celebration of 10 years of Capoeira Cork, and is poised to be even bigger and better. We already have some incredible guests and teachers confirmed from Brazil, Canada, right here in Ireland, and from across Europe.”
What is Paulo’s own role?
“My own role in the club is that of founder, head coach, teacher and admin (marketing, programming etc.).
“We also teach Brazilian percussion and I am responsible for putting all the shows together when we do performances as well as teaching the drumming.”
Paulo is set to get the show on the road.
“We are hoping to put together a great show this year as part of the 10 year celebration.”
For Capoeira, nimbleness and flexibility are key assets, with kicks and spins featuring prominently. It combines elements of acrobatics, music, dance and fight.
Paulo fills me in on the ancient art form.
“By the way, I forgot to mention that in Capoeira we get nicknames,” he interjects. “Mine is Curioso which means curious because I ask a lot of questions!
“Although Capoeira existed here in Cork, I wanted to train in the ways I was taught, and I felt that I had a lot to offer.”
Professor Curioso brings with him more than 20 years of experience, training, teaching, travelling, performing and organising events.
“I originally established a small Capoeira in Cork city in 2012. However, due to several factors the group only lasted about a year.”
Paulo got a second wind.
“After a trip to Brazil, I came back to Cork and was re-inspired to start a group in 2014, with the help of two very enthusiastic friends and students.
“From there, the group has grown exponentially and went from two adult classes per week to a school that now has nine weekly classes for toddlers, kids, teens and adults of all ages.”
Capoeira is historic.
“It is an Afro-Brazilian art form that was developed by Afro-descended slaves in Brazil over 400 years ago!” explains Paulo.
“Originally it was developed as a martial art hidden as a dance. Today it is so much more.
“Capoeira is best described as a game between two participants where they use martial arts, dance, acrobatics, cunning and wit to try and outplay one another while maintaining a smooth flow.
“In class, we train various movements to try and incorporate them into the game,” says Paulo.
“We practice kicks, dodges, acrobatics and sequences to learn how to combine these things. All the while we’re trying to learn some musical instruments, history of the art and the Portuguese language.
“Fortunately, we have an incredible community of teachers, experienced students and beginner students who are all encouraging and willing to help you become better every day!”
Capoeira is very much community based.
“At our foundation, we are very much a community- oriented organisation,” says Paulo
“We strongly believe in fostering a positive and encouraging environment where all members help one another. A big part of learning is to learn from your peers as well as from a teacher.”
Fun is an important element of Capoeira.
“We are also there to encourage one another and have fun while training hard!” says Paulo.
“It very much takes from the philosophy that working out with your friends is far better and more motivating than working out alone. This makes Capoeira so much more than just a fitness class. This philosophy of a positive environment with community input is the last piece of the puzzle that makes Capoeira complete and good for the mind, body and soul.”
Can I come along to class?
“You may not walk on your hands but you will eventually get to do a cart-wheel!” says Paulo laughing.
Susan Russell, who is a volunteer coach with the local Capoeira club in Blackpool, says: “We have recently expanded our class offerings and would love to let the people of Cork know more about our amazing community.”
What can I expect from a class?
“For adults that have never trained Capoeira before, we offer a one month beginners’ course that teaches all the basic movements of Capoeira. The course runs for an hour and 15 minutes one night a week and is kept to small groups so you can ask questions and not get overwhelmed by a large group,” says Susan.
“We have a fantastic community of existing adults’ training so as soon as a new person comes in the door they will be greeted with a warm smile and welcoming conversation.
“The beginners’ course will warm up a little with the more experienced students to ‘break the ice’ - warming up with fun body movement exercises to get rid of any nervousness that might be there - there are usually lots of giggles during this part! Then the beginners separate to learn he basic movements in their group, working with one another to master the skills and learn they had more in them then they gave themselves credit for!”
Paulo has been teaching for more than 20 years so he has multiple ways of adapting any part of the class in a variety of ways if needs be to compensate for an injury, movement restriction or simply just to help someone build confidence in themselves.”
“Capoeira classes are like going to a party - if someone misses their regular class we say, you missed the party!” says Paulo.
Go along to the party, have fun, and become a high flyer!
Capoeira Cork, St Vincent’s Secondary School, St Mary’s Road. Cork. Phone: 085-1546502.