For a pre-Olympic workout, we decided to visit Grupo Axé Capoeira Arizona at 1650 North Scottsdale Road in Tempe.
Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art with strong roots in Africa. As the only martial art in the world that is completely set to music, we were attracted to both the athleticism and graceful dance-like quality of the sport.
We sat in on their Tuesday mixed adult capoeira class at 7:30 p.m. and were pleasantly surprised that the skill level present included complete beginners. The class had both men and women of all heights and sizes. We spoke to one of the instructors, Isaias "E" Gallegos, and he assured us that even people with no athletic background can (and should!) give capoeira a try.
The school is run by Professor Jay "Camara" Spain. Grupo Axé Capoeira is an international entity started in 1982 by Mestre (Master) Barrão. Spain was his first student in North America and in 2003, Spain opened the school in Tempe.
"I decided to move to Arizona from Vancouver, Canada in 1999 to start a new branch of Axé Capoeira," Spain says. "I fell in love with AZ when I visited Sedona on vacation in 1988."
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In the video, instructor Alex "Pirulito" Abdur-Rahman led the exercises and Tizoc Guerrero explains a couple basic moves in capoeira for us. Then we watched the roda (pronounced: hoh-da) or "circle", where students practiced their moves in real-time fights.
The class ends with a discussion of positive moments in the class and improvements that need to be made.