Pica Pau fell in love with the music and rhythm of capoeria when he was a boy living in Brazil and he has been moving to its rhythm ever since.
“I never stop it,” says Pau, of Cia do Axe studio in west Boca, where he teaches 12 capoeria classes per week.
At Cia do Axe, which means “company of good vibrations,” there are classes available for ages 4 to 8, 9 to 13, and those 14 and up take classes with adults.
“It’s a good workout, good cardio,” Pau, explains. “It’s Brazilian martial art. It’s art. It is music, fight, dance.”
And it has its roots in Africa.
“When most people see capoeira they recognize it came from Africa,” Pau says.
The African tribes used specific movements and when Africans came to Brazil and were missing Africa, they would gather in the “capoeira,” a Brazilian native word for“short grass” and train.
Pau first saw a capoeria being performed in a “roda” or circle when he was a 12-year-old boy living in Minas Gerais in southeastern Brazil.
He called them “games” and wanted to be part of it. “I fell in love with the music. When they started playing, I already felt part of it,” Pau says. The rhythm called to him. “Capoeria isn’t a religion but I feel it moves people’s hearts.”
A performer at this year’s Duende, Pau has been teaching capoeria for 15 years and has been living in South Florida for 11 years.
“I really like to teach kids, to help them,” Pau says. In addition to learning the movements of capoeria, he teaches them a little bit of Portuguese, they sing Portuguese together, and play drums together at the end of class.
As a teacher, he describes his students as “plants growing because I see the seed grow.”
Heidi Wallick of Boca Falls has been attending Pau’s women’s class on Tuesday and Thursday mornings for six months.
“It’s so much more than working out,” Wallick says. “You just want to keep doing it forever. I can’t wait to get here.” Wallick has taken martial arts classes before but
they weren’t as much fun as capoeira, she says. “They play music and he sings. They play instruments, you feel all the music going through your body.”
As a teacher, Wallick describes Pau as “amazing” and “so encouraging” and says the energetic 8 a.m. class that she attends “has changed my life. ”
In addition to teaching, Pau travels to perform capoeria around the United States, traveling to Boston, New York, Seattle. “It is like a community. We know each other from different states and we support each other in graduation festivals,” Pau says. “It’s festive. We have music, a lot of workshops on techniques.”
Beginners who are interested in capoeria should know that all it takes is one class session to feel part of it. That’s all it takes to learn “ginga” the basic movements of capoeria. “After one class, you can follow along,” Pau says.
And after three classes, you can follow the group and understand the whole sequence, “with music, kicks and escapes and good positive energy,” Pau says.
“The main thing about capoeria is the music,” Pau says. “We follow the beats. We follow the rhythm.”