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Capoeira (pronounced Cap-ooh-wearer) is an incredible dynamic martial art that is rapidly growing in popularity in the UK and all over the world.

The hugely successful MMA fighter Conor McGregor is partly responsible for bringing this high intensity, but elegant martial art form to the limelight. His distinctive, versatile and unpredictable fighting style has been forged by a mammoth training regimen, part of which is Capoeira.

Capoeira has influenced other exceptionally cool disciplines such as Breakdancing where some moves have been transferred. You can also see that acrobatic elements in Capoeira has contributed to the development of relatively new aerial disciplines of Tricking and Parkour.

Even though Capoeira is relatively unknown to many in the UK it is Brazil’s national sport alongside football and now recognised by UNESCO as a cultural heritage.What is CapoeiraThat still doesn’t make much sense…..What is it?

It is so hard to describe what Capoeira is in words…

Imagine two breakdancing kung-fu monks sparring with each other to afro-latin rhythms, in a circle of people who are clapping and singing uplifting tribal choruses.

This description still does no justice and you’re better off just accessing youtube.


By the way – none of that is choreographed!

Capoeira has inspired me

Capoeira is so fun and creative. It feels great to move around and be spontaneous in the moment, AND it looks incredible at the same time.

But it is so much more than that. Capoeira has inspired me to go adventures around the world; I have been on some incredible trips to Brazil and South America, and to training camps in Italy and India.

In doing so, I have met so many wonderful people! Capoeira is a friendly and community inspiring sport and has led to creating many long lasting and close friendships.

Capoeira has had a large part of to play in the career change that I have recently been through. As you can see, Capoeira is incredibly demanding on the body and so throughout my Capoeira career I have had all sorts of pains and prangs.

Naturally, I wanted to reduce pain and allow me to continue with training so I wanted to understand and acquire more knowledge about the human body, injury, and repair. This has led to a passion for the human body and movement which then felt right to study further and I became a physiotherapist!What is CapoeiraA lesson that I have learned is that Prevention is better than cure….!

High-level sports come with high levels of stresses and strains throughout our bodies.

This progressively increases the more advanced we get.

In order to do this safely, we need to train to become conditioned to the stresses that we placing upon ourselves. If we do too much too soon or take too long out of training then we are susceptible to injury.

Early on in my training, I had problems with my left shoulder that required the attention of a physiotherapist. I then went on to have problems with my wrists (my left in particular), my left hip, left ankle and I have had lower back pain (I hope this isn’t putting any of you off though).

I think most of these were caused by trying to force my body in certain ways before doing the necessary conditioning to support the movements that I wanted to do.

For example, to do a great, safe and useful back bridge we need not just flexibility and a great range of motion of the; hip flexors, low back, thoracic spine and shoulder complex, this needs to be coupled with core strength and stability and solid joint strength. In other words, we need more than a strong body, we need a mobile body.CapoeiraImportance of Mobility

Mobility – the ability to control the movement through the range. This requires many elements of movement; Muscle length (flexibility), soft tissue movement, joint congruency, healthy joint capsule, good neural dynamics and motor control.

Mobility is an indication of how efficiently we move and is really important if you want to reduce likelihood of injury.

Mobility allows the body to biomechanically work in the way it’s supposed to, allowing structures such as the appropriate bone surfaces to take the brunt of the loads transmitted through the range.

Kinetic chain – when we move our bodies actively there is usually more than one joint moving on its own. We have a whole series of joints moving along the kinetic chain, and subsequently a whole lot of muscle and soft tissue.

Lack of mobility means that other structures in the kinetic chain could be compensating rather than the forces being transmitted through bones and the joints surfaces designed to take the loads.

There are some joints that can commonly lack mobility – hips, shoulders, knees, and back. Limitations in these areas can tie other areas up and effect biomechanics up and down the kinetic chain. Non-optimal movement repeated over time with high loads is likely to lead to injury.

Increase your mobility, decrease the chances of this happening.What is CapoeiraHow do we address mobility?

Mobility drills work on the strength throughout a dynamic movement and tend to be more functional as opposed to traditional weight lifting which may be quite static or on one plane of motion. For example, bicep curls make you really good at bending your arm with a weight.

Gymnastics, Pilates, and calisthenics are movements of the full body requiring strength throughout a larger range of movement of multiple joints. Therefore their training regime involves many mobility drills and for this reason are ideal as supplementary training to any high-end sport.

Soft tissue work – Soft tissue is the collective term for tendons, ligaments, fascia, skin, and fat. These structures need to be able to glide and move freely, without restrictions in order to have optimal movement, or be fully mobile.

Within muscles, there is also connective tissue made up of strong collagen fibres. Of occasion, there is a build-up of this collagen in response to injury or reactive to regular, repeated loads or stresses. Often we refer to these as fibrotic ‘knots’ or fibroses and these can lead to a restriction of mobility

Massage, foam rolling, and a lacrosse ball are all very useful techniques/tools in moving the soft tissue around to improve mobility and also in breaking down the bonds of the tough connective tissue in the fibrous knots. Sometimes, the more stubborn knots may require further input by a  physio or a massage therapist (insert plug for physio.co.uk here?).

Stretching – the good old stretch will increase muscle length required also for optimum mobility. Most efficient stretches to make changes to muscle length will be after the muscle tissue is warmed up, pliable and responsive to change. Hold stretches for at least 20-30 seconds after a training session or after bathing for optimum results.

If you want to keep the pain away, mobility is the way!

These key principles are often applied in physiotherapy to improve function as a form of recovery/rehab. If you have not been maintaining your mobility and you have picked up an injury, a physiotherapy assessment may be appropriate. We are available for appointments at physio.co.uk.

Pilates is a superb way to work on mobility and so if you want to prevent injury go to Physiolates.Capoeira

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