Saturday, September 5, 2015

What I have learned from capoeira

I have stopped doing capoeira. Maybe forever, maybe for now, but I doubt I’ll ever be as serious about it again as I once was. In some ways the choice was hard.  That’s what 2015 has been about for me: Stripping things out of my life, to find out what’s left and what’s really me. Trying to find out what choices I’ll make with some of my assumptions gone. And capoeira was something that not only took up a lot of my time, it constrained my choices - for example, where to live. A friend on Twitter posted something about taking the lessons from your past and moving on. Most wisdom is trite until it hits you when you need it, right? So here is what I learned in five years of capoeira. Some of it I thought I already knew, but apparently I had to learn it again.
  1. My body can do more than I thought it could.
  2. Those with less natural talent are often better teachers than those abundant in natural talent.
  3. Portuguese.
  4. When people’s actions contradict their words, believe their actions. 
  5. Most of your friends are friends of convenience. Whether its because you train together, work together, or are neighbors, when the mutual activity stops, the friendship does too. If you find someone who remains your friend, hold on to them.
  6. Hardly anyone uses every muscle in their body properly. If you’re active, it’ll catch up with you by your 30s, when it’s still easier to fix it. If you’re inactive, it’ll catch up with you when you’re elderly.
  7. Capoeira has a huge problem with male teachers preying on female students. I’ve seen all of the following:
    • A male teacher engaged to a female teacher, who hits on another capoerista.
    • A male teacher living with a female student, who hits on another student, offering to move to be with her.
    • A male teacher sleeping with several of his female students, not serially.
    • A male teacher in a supposedly monogamous relationship with a female student, but also being in another second, also supposedly monogamous relationship with:
      • Another female student at a different school.
      • Another female student in the same school.
    • A male teacher who regularly cheats on his girlfriends with a female capoerista (not his student).
    • A male teacher sexually propositioning students who have shown no interest.
    • A married male teacher making out with a female capoerista.
    Patriarchy is a real dick, and capoeira ends up losing about 80% of the women who have been involved in these scenarios. Another 10% switch groups but remain in capoeira.
  8. You need to be honest with yourself about why you’re involved with something. If you deny it to yourself, you’ll end up frustrated because you’ll likely pick a group that gives you what you claim to want instead of what you really want.
  9. Never date someone who thinks they deserve to be excepted from what even they agree is ethically correct. Don’t even be friends with that kind of person.
  10. Even someone totally untalented at music, like myself, can improve. 
  11. Never look down on the person whose priorities change today, for tomorrow that could be you.
  12. People may choose to forgive people who have hurt them, but it’s never your business to tell them they must.
  13. People rarely share scuttlebutt with those who most need to know it.
  14. If you’re bothered by the way people are treating you, make sure you’re not treating other people in that same way.
  15. People at the top set the tone. If the leader makes Mistake X, so will the followers. If the leader doesn’t do Mistake Y themselves but doesn’t make stopping it a priority, some of the followers will Y. 
  16. If someone seems unhappy, see if they want to talk, even if you aren’t close. If they don’t, of course, don’t push it, but far too often no one at all is willing to get involved.
  17. Breathing and not looking at the floor really help when doing cartwheels.
  18. I have no problem eliminating people and things from my life when they offer me nothing. I have a lot of difficulty eliminating people and things when they are just okay but standing in the way of truly good.
  19. As Thich Nhat Hahn said, there is no such thing as a perfect sangha; one must simply strive to be the best member of the sangha one is in.
  20. Fresh papaya is really delicious.
So there you have it. I think all of that was worth the five years I invested in it.

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