By: Dan Tres Omi
There was a time when I would drive three hours to another city, train Capoeira for a few hours and then play for another hour, get a bite to eat, and then drive another three hours to come home and get ready for work the next day. My body did not need any time to recover. All I needed was a good night's sleep and Monday was not a thing. What is Capoeira? It is an African Brazilian Martial Art that incorporates music, acrobatics, and fighting or “luta.” Capoeira forces the practitioner to use muscles he or she has never used before. One class is a full body workout. Keeping track of all of the movements and sequences boggles the mind.
We have a saying in Capoeira: “if you get kicked it is your fault.” So on top of just trying to keep up with class, one must be weary of a stray kick or two. It is definitely a young person's game. When I attend a breakdancing workshop or a Capoeira class, I am usually the oldest person in the room. One would think that at 44 and not yet a grandfather, this would not be the case. Most of the other participants are still in high school or old enough to be juniors in college. During a workshop, one does not have time to share your everyday struggle. Most of us paid good money to learn new moves or new approaches to movement and time is money. I surprise myself most of the time. I can keep up with my younger counterparts. I am not winded at the end of class. While my stretches aren't as deep and it might take me longer to get something down, I can make it to the end of class as easily as someone twice as young as me. However, when I get home and I don't take that epsolm salt bath, the rest of my week will be full of aches and pains. Twenty years ago, I never thought of soaking in a hot bath to soothe my body. Self-care was not even a thought.
I remember Crazy Legs, “one of the most famous b-boys on the planet,” stating that the kids these days who enter the breaking cipher have “rockets up their asses.” When he initially said it, I chalked it up as an old fogey that was washed up. This is no slight to the mighty Crazy Legs. In his fifties, he is still as spry and fast as when he appeared in the movie “Wild Style” back in the early eighties. It was not until several years later when I battled a younger comrade, B-boy Squirt “I shouldn't call it a battle - he easily plastered me.”
They say that many boxers who are in their prime and lose their first fight, go downhill after that. It is not a physical thing. They are at their peak. Boxing experts say it is a mental thing. Once they lose that first fight, their perception of themselves begins to diminish. Physically, they can accomplish all the things they need to in their field, but emotionally they start to see their shortcomings more vividly. Looking back to that battle with Squirt, I wondered if I was doing the same thing those boxers were. Maybe it is all relative. To the average person, a boxer is at his or her peak physical condition. They can still move faster and hit harder. They can run for miles on end. They can take way more pain then the average person. To another boxer, they can be slowing down. Another trained professional can sense when someone is beginning to fear that they are losing their touch. When one is younger, they feel invulnerable.
As a young man, the dangers I might have faced were never even a thought. When I visit NYC to see family, I am reminded of all the dangerous things I did as a child. I ran across train tracks. I rode in the back of buses and jumped off when it was time for me to get off. I climbed fences and abandoned buildings to paint my name on the walls. I fought and ran. I traveled to dangerous places to party. Back then, I did not see the real dangers that I might have faced that many have and did not survive. Some of these things, I am afraid to tell my children and my students for fear that they might try it. A word we still haven't explored when it comes to aging is (doubt.) Is it the fear a result of doubt? Does it creep in and plant itself in one's brain? Should we ask is this how a dream is deferred? Is this what Langston Hughes was referring to?
Dan Tres Omi
Son, Husband, Father, Teacher, Afro Latino B-Boy, Author, Capoeirista, T-shirt Model, Pro-Feminist, Hip Hop Diplomat
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