Googling “Capoeira near me” is probably the first thing you did when you decided you wanted to try Capoeira. When looking for a Capoeira school, the first question you’ll ask yourself is where you should train. Do you go with the closest school? The cheapest school? The best ranked school? Etc. There are plenty of factors that can go into making this decision, so I want to lay out 6 tips that will help you choose the best Capoeira school for you.
1. The Teacher and his/her teaching style
Definitely the most important factor when choosing the best Capoeira school for you is your connection with the teacher and their teaching style? Ask yourself, does the teacher make an effort to get to know the students? How do they act with the students that have been there for a long time? Having this in mind will give you a more clear picture of what your relationship can grow to be like. Nobody wants to wake up one day and regret training with someone for many years because their training method or personality gets in the way of your development. At the same time, you should think about what kind of teacher you need. Some teachers may take you out of your comfort zone, and for most people this is exactly what they need. Striking the correct balance of making you feel comfortable and pushing you to reach your potential is a tricky balance that you should look for in a teacher. You might not agree with your teacher on everything, but it is important to feel confident that this teacher has your development in mind.
Building a rapport with your teacher
Although it’s not necessary, a way to build a good rapport with your teacher is to go to social events. Unlike other fitness classes, this is very normal in Capoeira. Students in your school might organize a day to go to the park, have a BBQ, or just go over someone’s house. These events are great places to ask your teacher about themselves. You can ask about where they grew up, why they started Capoeira, what moves they’re working on, or simply about their plans for the weekend.
American’s are unfamiliar with having a “mestre”, but…
In Capoeira, a mestre is usually the leader of a group and provide a foundation to the teachers and students under him/her. The idea of a “Mestre” is very foreign to Americans and they might not fully understand what that word means to people who are already invested in Capoeira. Many capoeiristas carry a lot of reverence for their mestres and the closest term to that for American is a mentor. The idea is that the mestre guides you on your Capoeira journey and you as a student have trust in their experience and point of view. That’s not to say that you should just listen to them blindly, but having respect for their opinion is part of calling someone your mestre (or mentor) in any field you’re in.
More than likely, if you train at an academy for 2-3 years, you’ll hopefully build a strong rapport with your teacher, however I will add that some people may not want this. You might be the kind of person who wants to get in and get out of class as quickly as possible. This is something you might want your teacher to be cognizant of so they know to give you the space you want.
SUMMARY: Get to know the teacher and their teaching style! Go a couple classes first, and if you enjoyed it, try to go to some social events where you can get to know the mestre a little better. From there you can make a more educated decision about sticking with this particular teacher.
2. The community
Definitely the second biggest factor when picking a school is getting a feel for the students. Even if the teacher is amazing, it might be a deal breaker if the students are very negative or come across as mean. In the same way that you would want your teacher to be someone you trust, you likewise want to seek that from the students in the class. It’s good to gauge the students and see if they’re a group of people that you could see yourself training and spending some time with. Even if there’s one person who you don’t particularly get along with at the class, it’s not necessarily a deal breaker, but if everyone rubs you the wrong way, it’s totally understandable that you wouldn’t want to train at that space. Thankfully this is pretty rare in Capoeira, as most people are very cool and very accepting.
The teacher is reflected in the students
The class culture can also vary a lot depending on the teacher. I’m not super big into the law of attraction, but you definitely see a correlation between the personality of the students and the teacher. This is why getting to know the teacher is so important, but even if they’re a cool person, it might be the case that the students are very different.
Do the students participate in the greater Capoeira community
Do students travel to other events outside of their own school or their own group?! Some schools don’t travel to other schools and that’s usually indicative of a group that doesn’t have good relations with other schools, or they don’t like their students associating with outside groups. Traveling for Capoeira is an amazing way to meet people and get inspired about Capoeira. If students confirm that they travel to events outside of their own group, it’s usually a good indicator of the group and their relations with other Capoeira schools.
SUMMARY: Do you jive with the students? And what does the attitude of the students say about the teacher? Find out if the school you visit makes it a habit to visit other groups in the surrounding area. If at least a couple people do this, it’s a good sign.
3. The Style of Capoeira
The third thing you want to consider is the style of Capoeira you’ll be training. This is probably the first thing you thought about when looking at Capoeira schools in the area. If you ever went on youtube and checked out some Capoeira rodas, you might get an idea of how some groups play and that’s actually a pretty good way of going about finding a style that appeals to you. Do you like the flashy movements, acrobatics, self-defense elements, etc.? There are groups that put an emphasis on all these things to different degrees and youtube is actually a great way to see what your style will develop into after some time training. Not every group has a youtube channel and you might need to do a little digging, but if you find a school of the same group, you can check out their videos and make a few extrapolations about what you might be learning.
Youtube is good, but… it’s not gospel
This advice should come with a warning because even though you might see a video of Cordão de Ouro in Germany and you’re planning on going to one of their classes in New York City, the classes could be very different. Again, the teacher holds a lot of power here and they’ll be deciding what is taught. The other thing to note is that just because you see a video of a guy doing flips, doesn’t mean that you’ll be learning that in a class. So again, take what you see on the internet with a grain of salt. Maybe this goes without saying, but I think it’s important to point out that seeing a class in person is the only real way to see the style of Capoeira that is taught.
Go to class and watch the most advanced Students
If you do get a chance to go to a class, take a look at the more advanced students. They are probably the best indicators of the quality of class being taught and what things are taught. If the students are flexible, then flexibility is probably well trained in that school. If their music is really strong, then the school probably puts a lot of emphasis on learning the music.
SUMMARY: Do you enjoy the style that you are learning? Think about what you want in a style of Capoeira and see if the more advanced students embody this in any way. You can also ask them about the style of the group and school.
4. The Quality of the Class
Speaking about going to the class, the quality of the class was my biggest concern when starting to train. Of course it’s hard to know who is a good teacher and which classes are best for you. This is a very subjective category because everyone learns different but a few things that help gauge the quality of the class are the following.
How you feel after class
You should feel amazing after Capoeira class. The classes should push you and inspire you to keep coming back. Whether you physically can is another story…
The intensity of the workout
Capoeira is notorious for being an intensive and full body workout. If you’re interested in the health benefits of Capoeira such as developing strength, mobility, and creativity, feeling a little sore after class is par for the course. Don’t let this scare you though. A lot of people get really sore after their first class and think they can’t do Capoeira. Just like anything else, you have to get used to the movements and until then, the class can seem really intense.
Clarity of instructions given
The way the teacher gives instruction is the difference between understanding the movement and feeling completely lost. Although it’s very natural to feel lost the first time you do anything, a good teacher can provide some guidance and give a feeling of direction despite the chaos of the first few classes.
SUMMARY: How does the class make you feel? Did you get a workout? Did the instructions come across as clear?
5. Check out their Social Media
Check out the reviews as if you were buying a computer
In 2019 this should be a no brainer. Look for reviews in the usual places. You can start by looking at Yelp, Google, and facebook. Going to a Capoeira class in 2019 shouldn’t be too far off from buying a computer. Reviews can tell you a lot about a class, including little details that you might not know unless you spend a lot of time training somewhere. People who submit reviews usually like to write about their first experience going to a class or talk about things that were impactful to them – the good and bad. Reading a few is a good way to get a few insider scoops without actually going to the class.
Instagram, Facebook, etc.
Social media account can be a real eye opener about an organization. You can usually find an Instagram account for the school and for the teacher as well. Most people who own businesses have two Instagram accounts – personal and business. I like looking at an academy’s social media account to get an idea of what the classes are like and any other kinds of activities the capoeira school participates in. It’s also helpful to get a feel for the mestre.
This goes back to the first point, getting to know the teacher. Social media can give you a glimpse into the personality of the teacher and the way he or she handles the class. Some teachers use social media to post updates about classes, like cancelations or reminders to the students about events. Facebook is used in a similar way. Teachers will often organize events on facebook and post things like photos and videos to their page’s wall. Facebook might actually be more informative than Instagram because a lot of Capoeira teachers tend to use it as their makeshift website – especially those without a website developer on hand. Use facebook to do the research you normally would on someone’s website. You’ll be surprised about how much is shared and it’s a great way to help you make a decision about whether you want to train there.
SUMMARY: Check out the school’s Facebook page, their Instagram, and any reviews from Google, Facebook, or yelp that you can find and get the inside scoop.
6. What about the website….?
Ok, so I just spent the last paragraph explaining how Capoeira teachers can be website illiterate and how its easier to go on a social media page like facebook and Instagram. Even though this is by and large true, some Capoeira schools have thorough and well developed websites. These tend to be the most well established groups; which I don’t think has any real bearing on the quality of classes. For example, there are tons of good restaurants with crappy little websites. A good website has little to do with the quality of the product. But I do think it speaks to the organization of the school. Some are more structured than others and that is very pronounced in their website. This may be super important to you, but personally, I don’t see the polished nature of a website as important as some of the other things on this list.
You can search the group’s website for basic information about classes. If there’s an about page, you can get a quick overview of the teachers background as well as the story of the group he/she is associated with. Those pages are usually good to read up on because afterwards can then go on a Google bonanza on the history of the group, the head mestre, and other bits of information that might interest you.
SUMMARY: Check out the group’s website. This is where you can learn about the school and class information.