Core Movements

There will be some emphasis in the training on what may be termed "core movements" in capoeira conditioning. "Core movements" in tills contcxt means dial they are the essential building blocks of this training system. Another way the word "core" is used in relation to training is when we talk about the body's "core," which usually refers to die abdominal muscles and die muscles of the lower back. Coiiicidentally, some of the core movements will condition the body's "core" very effectively, but that isn't why they are called core movements.

The core movements represent basic, simple exercises that will work the muscles and joints you would mainly be using during the game of capoeira. As core movements, if you did absolutely nothing else, these movements alone, done in sufficient quantity, will keep you in great shape both for playing die game of capoeira and for living life.

The core movements are:

(No, 3) Cocorirtha (squats)

(No. 25) Au Normal (cartwheel)

(No.33/34) Plantanda Bananeira (handstand) and Bananeira Push-Up

Later 011 you will find a Training Effects Chart to guide you to particular exercises that emphasize different areas of overall conditioning. Exercises that relate to core movements will be shown in bold print and in parentheses. If numbers other than (3), (14), (25), and (33/34) are shown in bold print, it is because they are exercises closely related to the core movements. For example, although No. 14, the Ponre (back bridge), is the core movement, No. 15 (a Ponte back bridge with the heels raised) and No. 18 {Ponte back bridge push-ups) will also be shown in bold print, as they arc such close relatives and may be useful for those who find bridges with heels down difficult, or who want to up the ante with some moving bridges.

Cocorinha Squats

The squat increases energy flow, and helps free up tensions in die pelvis and perineal floor. It gives a gentle stretch to the body's major muscles. The squat is highly regarded in bodywork systems such as "polarity theory." It is used to ground us to the earth and indeed forms the basis of the "polarity" exercise forms. The "utkatasana" or "hunkering posture" is recorded as one of the 32 asanas that arc-die most important in hatha yoga. The way it is sometimes done, with raised heels and the knees a little apart, is perfect for people whose ankles are too right to handle the full cocorinha with heels pressed into the floor.

The cocorinha squat can also be utilized to give us an incredible leg and cardio workout. Many combat/sport systems base exercise sessions on the squat Ken Shamrock is known to use high-repetition squats of up to 500 to get his fighters in shape in his training headquarters, "The Lion's Den." ''The Hindu Squat," a special and highly effective variation, has been popularized by die catch wrestling and kung fu world champion Matt Furey.

In arts where amazing leg strength, suppleness, and springiness for jumping are needed, such as ballet, high repetitions of the half knee bend (demi plié) and ful! knee bend (grand plié) are vita! for building dynamic power in the thighs and buttocks, and for strengthening the Achilles tendon and ankle too. Many worldwide folk dances and styles that require extreme athleticism and agility also emphasize thigh power derived from squats. To name but two: Russian Cossack dancing and the Norwegian Hailing dance, which feature leaps, very high kicks, and somersaults, include many variations of the squatting position as tiieir integral characteristic. "Pivoine tries," the training system that is used where jump height is increased for sports like basketball or die high jump, also emphasizes the type of leg conditioning that can be built from squats, jump squats, bunny hops, and exercises of that type.

In other words, if you want great capoeira conditioning, make friends with the cocorinha.

Ponte: The Back Bridge

The back bridge in capoeira conditioning prepares the body for many movements within the game (such as moenda, macaco, gato, and walkovers). For those who don't do capoeira itself, the back bridge may be familiar if von have tried judo, gymnastics, yoga, or Wrestling. In India it's cailed ehakrasana ("wheel posture") and is said to be one of the most therapeutic postures in yoga. One ofMestre Bimba's entrance tests at his Capoeira Academy was the prospective student's fitness to perform a back bridge.

It will enlarge your rib cage and increase thoracic mobility. It helps trim away fat from your abs and thighs, and is beneficial for the nervous system, glands, and reproductive organs. It will also build strength in your ankles and wrists and because of the strong arch to your spine it will stretch out the whole front of your body and strengthen die hips. There are variations of this movement in capoeira conditioning, though it is the static arms extended back bridge that is the core movement to concentrate on.

Au Normal (Cartwheel)

The basic cartwhccl is one of die first "acrobatic" movements many people in capoeira (earn. It is a natural movement of the human body, as is witnessed by its popularity among young children, who throw themselves about with it almost as soon as they have learned to walk. It is a playful movement and seemingly simple; however, rhc au is also very subtle and versatile. By turning this inverted wheel you can build coordination and balance skills, build stamina, trim your waist, strengthen the arms and shoulders, and it forms the basis of many other types of au in the game of capoeira—from aii batendo, to au coicc, aii que brad a, au espinha, and many others. Au batendo is a cartwheel with a downward '"martelo"—hammer kick—in the middle of the movement. Au coicc is a cartwheel that delivers a two-footed "mule kick." Au quebrada means an au with a smash, wherein one straight leg is kicked forward and inward toward the capoeirista's body, while diev are inverted on one hand. This is sometimes called "bico de papagaio" too. The au espinha is an au wherein the spine and hips are rotated during the movement so that the hips are centered and lacing upward and forward.

Plantanda Bananeira (Handstand) and Bananeira Push-Up

These arc more of diose universal movements that break down barriers between different disciplines. The handstand forms die basis of any number of gymnastic and acrobatic movements and is an essential component of the game of capoeira. Players who can't hold a full, static handstand will nonetheless often do movements dial uti lize, however flcetingly, the position of the bananeira. The handstand is a key component of gymnastic training, and the handstand pushup is one of die best exercises for total torso and shoulder strength. Gymnast and author Dan Millman described in Way of the Peaceful Warrior how he built his strength back up again after breaking his leg in a serious motorcycle crash: "I began a program of exercise, slowly at first, then more intensely- ... I carefully pressed up to handstands, then pumped up and down, again and again, puffing with exertion until every muscle had worked to its limit and my body glistened. .. .*** He went on to bccome a National Collegiate Gymnastic champion and World Trampoline champion.

Once again, the movement is used in yoga, and is known as the "balancing tree posture." Banancira comes with good credentials, and if you want to get strong with a capital S without laying hands on a barbell, this is the movement for you.

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