Don't Quit! Build Resilience Through Training Capoeira
Don’t Quit Capoeira! The vast majority of people who start Capoeira will never reach a high level. Almost every school’s student base is a pyramid comprised of mostly beginners. A small percent of those beginners advance more than a few levels, so it’s a little lonely at the top. Even at intermediate and advanced levels, students run into issues that make them consider dropping out. I've persisted in the art since 1992 and observed thousands of students entering and leaving. Let’s examine some of the most common reasons for quitting Capoeira and see where you can overcome obstacles and build resilience.
1. The workouts are too hard.
This is one of the first unavoidable hurdles a new student is forced to deal with. Depending on fitness levels prior to joining Capoeira, the movement intensity can be daunting. This is likely the main reason people bail on Capoeira within a few classes.
How to overcome: Plan for pain, but also know you can throttle down a little during a particularly tough workout. We want slow and consistent, not fast and gone. If your teacher is calling out new students for lack of effort in a workout, consider trying a different school.
2. Training Capoeira is confusing
“I don’t know what I’m doing out there.” “This doesn’t really make sense to me.” “I feel stupid trying some of these moves and sequences.” This will happen to EVERY new student who steps through the academy door. Capoeira is a super complex art comprised of many elements. It’s a unique mashup of several spheres, and the way it all fits together is a puzzle for sure. You will be lost sometimes in your first few weeks or even months of training.
How to overcome: Commit to a set amount of overall training time before you really assess your progress. Some schools ask for six months, some even a year! Every Capoeira teacher understands that things may take quite a while before they start to click. Make a promise that you won’t judge yourself until a certain date.
3. An aspect of Capoeira is intimidating
When you reach the intermediate level, the focus shifts from just understanding the basics and improving your base fitness levels. Now you will start being asked to participate in more of what makes Capoeira beautifully unique. You will start to integrate the aspects dancing, fighting, and singing. You will be asked to play percussion instruments in small groups. Capoeira almost always has SOMETHING that everyone finds intimidating.
How to overcome: First, anticipate this happening in advance. As a beginner, understand that when you level up you will unlock the greater word of Capoeira. Letting things marinate for a while can help soothe the shock when it actually happens. The next thing to do is to attack the problem. Spend more time working on what you’re struggling with than what you’re naturally good at. What doesn’t challenge us doesn’t change us, so go after it. Always communicate directly with your teacher and explain to them how you feel and how you’re dealing with it. Remember that you don't have to be world class with the dancing, fighting, and the music. There are just some basic concepts you have to understand to be a complete Capoeirista.
I have been training since 1992, and have seen very few serious injuries. And most of those injuries were generally due to negligence. That being said, I consider Capoeira an extreme sport, and if you stick with it long enough the injury bug will bite. This often hits at the intermediate level. You’ve survived being a beginner, worked on your basics and overall fitness, and now you start trying some of the more physical aspects of the art. At this level
you start learning takedowns, acrobatics, and being more interactive with other practitioners. Most of the injuries are related to strain. Fitness growth is basically done through constantly breaking your body down in tiny ways, and then building back a little stronger. Sometimes though, we go a little too hard in a single session, and it takes longer to build back.
How to overcome: DO NOT TAKE TIME OFF!
I cannot stress this one enough. Due to the complexity and multiple facets of Capoeira, you can train even if you aren’t being active on the mats. Ask your teacher if you can work on playing berimbau, atabaque, or pandeiro during class. If your injury allows, stretch, this is a great time to finally work on getting those splits you’ve always wanted! Also injury permitting, do body weight exercises such as crunches. Design your own little fitness circuit around your injury. If all else fails, simply come in and take notes. You’re a valuable part of the team, so be present. We want you there.
5. Impostor syndrome
When a student is advanced to an upper level, they are usually very excited. It is a massive achievement! Typically though, doubt starts to creep in once the excitement wears off. Students start to compare themselves with their peers. He/she can do these things, but I cannot. Sometimes they’ll even compare themselves with lower level students and conclude that they do not deserve their belt.
How to overcome: Understand that this is actually super common, and should be recognized as a potential pitfall heading into this level. First, think about how big Capoeira is, and know you likely won’t be elite at every aspect. Everyone has things they’re best and worst at, that’s just life. Seeing weaknesses in your Capoeira doesn’t mean you don’t deserve your belt. Control from within, don’t be controlled from the outside. Other people are awesome, and so are you. Care about improving yourself, not that someone else is better at something. The saying “Comparison is the thief of joy” is so accurate.
6. There's no one my level/I’m not getting pushed
This one is fairly straightforward and also really common. Most Capoeira schools do not have a huge student base, and even those that do oftentimes do not have many elite level practitioners. It is a little lonely at the top. Students who have reached an upper advanced level often feel that they just arent getting pushed any more or that they’re regressing. Most of your friends from when you started are no longer training (for many of the aforementioned reasons), and it’s just not the same energy with beginners. The old camaraderie of training hard, competing with, and advancing through the ranks with your peers is gone.
How to overcome: Connect with the greater community. In the modern era, you can instantly be a part of the bigger world of Capoeira. Social media, in spite of all its flaws, has allowed us to communicate and bond with like minded people around the globe. Take advantage!
Important action: Go and participate in events. The internet will allow you to find the myriad of Capoeira events happening all the time. There are batizados, open rodas, and workshops constantly taking place. Likely some of these are near you. Always reach out and connect with the host beforehand, but stay active. You will find a peer group similar to what you had when you first started. Enjoy the new phase of your Capoeira journey!