Capoeira fits my current feeling. I was trying to debate if I wanted to do capoeira or naginata, and my friend Scott said "So you can't do both?" Good point. And there is a super-traditional capoeira acadamy right down the street. I need traditional focus---I am not a fan of the Mac-Dojo phenomena.
For those who don't know, capoeira is the Brazilian slave martial art which has a heavy dance component to it. It was designed for not only disguising the fact that it was a fighting style, but for fighting in *chains.* It's presented playfully, here, but is probably the most intense martial art I've ever participated in. Total immersion from the very start, and incredibly demanding. The mindset seems to be very similar to that I've heard of for the Japanese drum group Kodo---where you drum for hours, run a marathon, then drum some more. And that's exactly what I need right now---the intensity, the demands. It's also so fast-paced I don't have *time* for my worst failing in these things: thinking too much. Very frankly, it's a different side of the brain, with no time to think at all. It's a trance kind of thing. Fall into the beat of the music, and you can do anything.
I used to dance with the voodoo drummers late at night at Aquatic Park in San Francisco, this crazy white chick dancing in the dark while the black guys drummed. They accepted me as a Sister. I got Rhythm. It's like that with capoeira.
Part of the art involves the ability to do springs off your hands. Not just cartwheels but handsprings, movements that use arms as another set of legs. Now, I was a dismal failure at gymnastics in high school, and that was 30 years ago or more. But I'm starting to remember when I could fly.
You see, it's all in belief. All you have to be able to do is jump, and believe that gravity decreases when you do. You let the air hold you up, and somehow you just hang up there. It's not really flying, but it's a weird form of jumping. Slow vaulting, they called it in the renaissance, and those who could do it were amazing to watch. "Nine days wonder" came from when Will Stukely, a friend of Shakespeare's, slow vaulted across England in nine days, and people turned out to watch him, the whole way. In the capoeira studio, I started to remember slow vaulting. I was good at it. I held the record for standing broad jump at my high school, and I could vault the horse without even running at it or using the springboard. I just visualized the air holding me up, and I'd jump and hang in the air over it. The PE teachers had many debates over how I could do it, deciding I must have "extra springy knees" or something.
I started to feel it again, that unseen force, as I made my first pathetic attempts at cartwheels in 30+ years. And suddenly something clicked. I could feel how it worked on an energy level. Now all I had to do was figure how to bring my body into harmony with it. I'd learned more about energy in those 30 years, and how it wasn't all mechanics---something wasted on my PE teachers. The capoeira master expressed encouraging belief, and told me how to start, and to *feel* how it worked. And I *could.* With increduous belief, I started to wonder if maybe they *would* have me doing cartwheels.
I don't think a lot of people last in this art. It requires more than most can give, on more levels than they're aware of. If I didn't have an upper-level belt in bok fu and a huge dance background, I would feel completely overwhelmed. And if I couldn't pull my mind into that other space, I would be doing it painfully and probably puking by the end of class, like Jack LaLane says happens to a lot of young guys who try to work out with this 80-year-old. It was the most intense 1 1/2 - 2 hours of exercise I've ever done, including when I was Chinese Boxing. (The first class ran way over, timewise.) I've done two classes, my body hurts in areas long forgotten, and I have a strange euphoria that won't quit. I needed this.