As many parts of the world relax regulations around Covid19, how should we train Capoeira?
Firstly, let’s look at the key risks, as surmised by the WHO, surrounding the transmission of the Coronavirus.
Key Risk Factors
Duration of contact
Government rules that attempt to limit the spread vary around the world, but currently in the UK people are encouraged to be at least 1m apart from each other, and not meet indoors where possible. Other relevant risk factors that have been identified are activities that increase risk of droplets spreading between people include both exercising and singing. This was shown in a case in Seattle, where 45 people appeared to contract the disease in one choir. (https://www.latimes.com/world-nation/story/2020-03-29/coronavirus-choir-outbreak)
It’s fair to say that a typical Capoeira roda is not going to be Covid compliant!
So the question is what can we do to get off Zoom and return to training in our groups?
Clearly the first change is to train outside whenever possible. Estimates suggest that the risk of contracting the disease is 20 times higher indoors than out (highly recommend the Science of Sports podcast for more detail - https://play.acast.com/s/realscienceofsport), so this feels like a no brainer, especially during the summer months.
Next would be to reduce proximity and lessen the duration of people being together. It’s early days in designing these new classes but critically we are trying to keep to our teaching pedagogy as much as possible. This means trying to bring elements of the roda to training. A solution would be to do individual exercises and sequences of movements, but another key for us is to keep variety and independence in movement solutions (see previous posts). Here are some ideas we’re trying.
More movement work
We use many co-ordinations from the Fighting Monkey group to help train, amongst other things, rhythm, mobility, softness and body awareness. This is a great time to improve and develop these further. They are also a great way of bringing people back to Capoeira movements slowly, introducing them to range of movement again if they have had a break from training during lockdown
2. Movement work with balls or sticks for interference
We often use tennis balls on a string in warmups to encourage people to explore movement with various constraints in a slightly pressurised environment. Using sticks or berimbaus for this could keep people at a distance, or indeed hanging the ball from the stick.
3. Cone drills
We are trying to be creative with these. Give everyone a cone to stand behind, meaning everyone is distanced. Now set the task. This could be a suggested kick over the cone, or something more vague to encourage creativity and variability. Some example we have used:
Kick a Meia Lua de Compasso over the cone, but end up the other side
Kick 2 Meia Lua de Compassos over the cone, but from different angles
Kick 2 Meia Lua de Compassos over the cone, but with a Au in between. The Au can never be the same twice in a row
Obviously the possibilities are endless, and it depends our prescriptive you want to be. During the practice we make suggestions or question students to give them different problems or aspects to think about.
The drills are then extended by adding another 2 cones. These are randomly spread. Now the instructions may be to Au round one cone, and end at another, or practice 3 Meia Lua de Compassos with each one going over a different cone. We are being careful of instructing people to avoid looking at the cones and creating bad habits.
These types of drills encourage students to move with similar changes of directions and intentions as they would in the roda. At no point do we let them go through the same sequence repetitively. We always aim for repetition without repetition!
4. Physical conditioning
Obviously this is an ideal time to add any strength or mobility work to the lesson, and especially specific strength exercises which could be individualised.
5. Specific Moves
We are asking students if they have specific movements they’d like to work on, so we can add time in each class for them to train their progression. This could be a great way to motivate people to keep coming to class, even if they can’t experience a full roda. It also allows for more individualised teaching.
6. Playing Games
We are experimenting with the idea of people playing in bubbles, so creating to circles which players can’t move from, but are distanced from their partner. Another idea is to have a roda with a coned square in the middle which cannot be entered to ensure distancing (see photo).
A concern here may be that players take this increase in distance to the traditional Roda whenever they return, so it may not be a good idea to over do this. However it does give a welcome sense of play and interaction, and mimics the conditioning aspects of playing Capoeira. A speaker could be used to avoid any singing near the players.
Another option would be to play normally but with masks, but this would be an individual choice.
As mentioned before, we have to take special care with singing in close proximity to others but playing of instruments is an obvious go to keep in touch with the musical side.
In all these exercises we have to be cautious around creating negative impacts on student’s long term capoeira. The distance between players is an example, but without the reference of a partner, the lack of intention in movement, or the perception/action aspect of a Roda, creating bad habits is a concern. Crucially we need to find ways to keep the training variety close to what is found in the Roda, even if we cannot yet recreate it with partners, as well as motivate students to explore their creativity and physical limits. However, with some thought and creativity from the teacher there is no reason students cannot continue to train safely during the pandemic and develop their skills. We are at the initial stages of thinking about this, so would love to hear from other groups on their own solutions.