Thursday, February 1, 2007

"Vou dizer minha mulher, Capoeira me venceu."

("Go tell my wife that Capoeira has me")

With most sports, there is a notable disparity between genders, and Capoeira isn't that much different. With some very notable exceptions (Mestranda Edna Lima being one of them), it is largely male dominated, especially in higher ranks.

Given the parallels between Capoeira, gymnastics, and modern dance, one would think that there would be slightly less disparity (especially considering female dominance of gymnastics and dance), but this isn't always the case.

All attempts to avoid degenerating into male chauvinism aside, the physical differences are fairly obvious, which is much harder for me to take into account when I am asked for pointers on certain movements. That, and I still have a hard time understanding why it's more difficult for women to do regular push-ups (i.e.: legs extended). While there is the narrower shoulder width, there's also the much lower overall weight to consider. Upper-body strength is great and all, but strength-to-weight ratio should probably be more heavily considered, right?

Given my history with Capoeira (casually studying between 1997-1999, then studying seriously and regularly from 2003 onwards), certain movements can executed with relative ease. For example, it took me a while to figure out macaco lateral (one-handed back handspring), but within a week or two, I could pull it off without thinking. But, it is something that I see some female students struggle with, which is often attributed to having a different body composition.

When considering acrobatic movements, this does have some level of merit. Compare half-pipe snowboarders (ESPN X-Games, Winter Olympics), and male snowboarders often get much higher verticals and larger rotations. Even without a university degree in physics, one could easily surmise that this is due to a different centre of gravity and larger body mass (more force going down the pipe converts more potential energy into kinetic energy, leading to higher speed and verticals).

But on the other hand, considering that people who are not necessarily "naturally" physically gifted, yet are able to perform these movements, it could be a simple (note: that's "simple", not "easy") matter of just putting in the effort and removing whatever psychological barriers are in the way.

One particularly interesting moment occurred when I was coaching another student (one level below mine) on macaco lateral, which she indicated that I was "naturally athletic." Considering that I was always the last to be picked for teams, I thought it was sort of flattering. Yet, after some coaching, I was able to get another student with a much less athletic body type to perform a macaco lateral (albeit with some minor improvements to be made).

In some respects, women have a very distinct advantage, as guys will have a tendency to hold back or "play down" to their level. I should know - I do it a lot too. I remember during a training exercise, remembering not to "hold back" (as I've been told, the person should know to esquiva), I accidentally hit a woman in the face with a godeme (back fist), thinking that she was going to block with cutela alta (open palm block). I felt really, really bad when that happened. As it is, when playing against women, I've made a point of holding back, or at least executing movements with a lot more control than necessary. This is probably why I've been known to get taken down by some female members of my academy.

No comments: