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December 21, 2004 > Capoeira - A Dance for Defense

Capoeira - A Dance for Defense

by Lance Dwyer

When Halle Berry displayed her sleek fighting skills in the film Catwoman over the summer, she helped bring Capoeira, an Afro-Brazilian art form, to mainstream consciousness. Although her beautiful acrobatic moves may have appeared too difficult to be learned by the average person, people of all ages and all body-types in the Tri-City area have an opportunity to learn them, said Oscar Baeza.

Baeza is the director of "Raizes Do Brasil," a Capoeira group that has been serving Union City since 1997. The division based in the Tri-City area is just one of dozens that exist all over the world, including New York City, Hawaii, Los Angeles, Oakland, Spain, Germany and, of course, Brazil.

Baeza said that Capoeira offers much more than simply learning self-defense; each student achieves a high degree of self-esteem and an understanding of an entire culture. A Capoeira class means studying a variety of disciplines including martial arts, music, dance, and acrobatics. Additionally, students are taught a great deal of Portuguese, the primary language of Brazil. According to Baeza, many of his students are now relatively fluent in Portuguese.

In addition to teaching classes, "Raizes Do Brazil" performs at various functions, typically within the East Bay. One of their most notable performances was for famed guitar player Carlos Santana.

Most recently, the Capoeira group held their 2nd annual Batizado or "baptism" in Portuguese, on Nov. 21. The Batizado is an event that commemorates the promotion of students to higher ranks. Similar to karate, Capoeira students receive different sashes to designate their rank.

Baeza was very pleased with the event. The demonstration lasted four and a half hours in response to an unexpectedly large group in attendance; afterward, family and friends joined the students for a potluck reception. Capoeira masters from Brazil also joined the group to commemorate the special occasion.

"Raizes Do Brazil" consists of 20 members, ages eight to 34, at different skill levels. Baeza encourages anyone interested in Capoeira to consider taking the class.

Baeza offers two classes at the Ruggieri Senior Center in Union City.

Capoeira Classes
Ruggieri Senior Center
33997 Alvarado-Niles Rd., Union City
(510) 489-6629
6:30 - 8 p.m.
6:45 - 8:15 p.m.

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