Eight o'clock this evening found me at the Manila Polo Club, sleazing my way into a Capoiera lesson.
If you have no idea what Capoiera is, then don't worry -- I'm new to it myself. It's a Brazilian martial art, and I've long felt that it's very indicative of their culture. From a distance, you see, it looks a lot like dance. (It's the kind of dance where your partner can easily knock you senseless if he knows what he's doing, but it looks like very rhythmic dance nonetheless.)
I have a horrible track record when it comes to exercise. I needed twelve minutes to finish a one-mile run during my last full physical in college, I foundered my way through Tai Chi for six months (the instructor said that I moved like the scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz), and I hefted weights like Charles Atlas's 78-pound weakling for a little while last year. I'm all for exercise, mind you -- it's just that exercise doesn't seem to like me.
Capoeira seems to emphasize a constant state of motion and flexibility -- or at least, the regular practitioners certainly look well-toned enough to think so. As you probably expect, there are quite a few warm-ups, cool-downs, and water breaks for the newbies. The Dojo Gym of the Manila Polo Club also happens to be the proud owner of some very solid wooden floorboards, so you also have significant incentive to stay upright during the entire exercise.
Forty-five minutes, sixty jumping jacks, thirty push-ups, thirty sit-ups and countless awkward attempts at Capoiera movements later, I was beat. The whole dojo was starting to spin before my eyes, which made for a cool LSD-type effect but also told me that something was wrong. Five seconds later, the instructor moved past me -- walking on his hands, no less -- and I got the feeling that I was waaaay out of my league. :)
I did manage to muster enough strength for the cartwheeling exercises, though. You haven't lived till you've tried a cartwheel; it's one of those little physical feats that just gives an amazing feeling of satisfaction when you manage to do it right. Unfortunately for me, after about five passable attempts, the room really started spinning in front of me, and I was forced to retire to the back of the class. I therefore spent the latter half of the session seated in a Zen Burmese position, just watching the participants sweat it out and occasionally retire themselves.
Now, don't get me wrong here. First of all, I felt just fine; countless attempts at exercise have left me knowing exactly where my stamina threshold is, although it constantly comes up pretty short of the mark. Second, I was pretty proud of myself for lasting at least forty-five minutes; If I'd have wanted to give up completely, I would have done it in far less time. Finally, I'm looking into further participation in the future. Capoeira looks like pretty good physical training, and as long as the instructors don't tire of my face and my snide attempts at humor, I could see myself throwing and dodging kicks like the best of 'em.
For now, however, I'm content to rest the soles of my feet and flex my fingers on a plastic keyboard. Despite my general ineptitude, there are still some forms of exercise where I don't necessarily act like a total moron, and this happens to be one of them. It doesn't often involve such elements as rhythmic dancing or Christie Montero, but I'll take this one any day. :)
Sean's Note: Many thanks to Gem, who was nice enough to introduce and accompany me to this session. And while we're on the subject, Gem, I owe you a bottle of Gatorade. :)
Sena's Note 2: Greetings as well to Ramon and Neva, who I haven't seen in a long time. It's nice to know that I wasn't the only person there who wasn't getting enough exercise. :)