Friday, February 23, 2007

O cordão está pesado

("the belt is heavy")

Over the past few months, I've been wrestling with myself on several levels, mostly due to changes within the academy's structure, especially in regards to class attendance. At my current level, amarelo escuro (dark yellow), there are many more levels to go before attaining any level of authority, which is not to say that a 6th level belt is anything to sneeze at. I realize that it wasn't earned overnight, but I have to do certain things in order to maintain my level.

Separating knowledge and feeling becomes fundamental at this point. One class, I bore witness to a younger student having difficulty executing matelo de angola (kick launched from the front leg in a crouched defensive position known as esquiva de frente). In frustration, he punched a wall. I came up to him, asked him to relax, and pointed to my belt, saying, "I didn't get this overnight."

In some respects, his frustration mirrors my own, which is something I realize. Capoeira is an incredibly solid metaphor for life in general. Within my own rank, executing basic movements is not a problem due to muscle memory. This is based on the principle that through repetitive movements, complex body movements no longer require conscious thought in order to do them. This is why it is important to practice movements to the point that they are second nature, so that when one is in the roda, one is able to pull out an appropriate movement without having to dig through the library, as it were.

But, more on my frustration. As nothing in life is static, so is the enrollment. As a result, there are times when despite my level, I end up being the top ranked student in any given session. This is a lot of responsibility, as this student will often be the one used as an example. Also, considering the closer proximity in rank between a novice student and an advanced student (rather than an instructor), the advanced student will be more likely approached.

This is where I lack the appropriate "muscle memory" (read: experience) to act accordingly, but am working on changing. It is important to do so, as the situation is not necessarily going to improve in the near future, as I rise up the ranks and the dynamics between students change (new students come, old students leave).

The solution to simply train more is a tempting one, as it's the simplest solution, although not necessarily the brightest one. Given my age, my body no longer heals as fast as it used to, so aches and strains require a certain amount of time to heal. But, it is also tempting because of the addictive adrenaline and endorphine rush I get during and after a class.

But, brute force solutions will not usually fix the problem, as I will increase the likelihood of injury. After talking to an older student and making an off-hand comment about how 95% of my doctor's appointments were to treat or diagnose a condition related to Capoeira training, she pointed out that at one point I was training almost every day for a month. Considering how much time I've been forced to take off due to injury (2.5 weeks from my hamstring tendon injury), it would probably balance out between a more regularly spaced training schedule.

So, how DOES one deal with the responsibility? Acceptance would probably be the first step. Realization that there are limits to what I'm physically capable of doing, and that I'm human, and by nature, I'm going to mess up a few times. And, while I may be the most advanced student in the class, I'm still not the instructor. So, while it is imperative that I set a good example, it should be an example of trying my best, rather than getting it perfect.

But more importantly, I should step back and figure out why I'm doing Capoeira in the first place, and for who I'm doing this. I didn't necessarily get into this so I could teach (although it is something I've developed an interest in). I didn't do this so I could compete or work in Hollywood (although I would consider it if the opportunity came up). And, I'm not necessarily doing this to impress anyone.

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