Friday, July 29, 2011

The Importance Of 'Chi' & The Way To Cultivate It .

While exercise has a measurable effect on our physiology and improves our physical, mental and emotional health, there is another component necessary for true fitness. It’s known as “vital life force,” “qi,” “chi,” “prana,” “divine essence”— and it’s what animates all living things. Though it’s invisible, it's something we feel every day. Can't wait to do something? Your chi is probably strong. Can't get out of bed? It’s probably weak. Angry, frustrated or depressed? It’s probably stuck. Our attitudes, emotions and sense of well-being are all influenced by our chi. In Oriental medicine, strong chi is synonymous with excellent health, mental clarity and physical vitality. A weakened or blocked flow of this vital essence is considered the beginning of all disease. Acupuncture is effective because it acts at this “energetic” level.
While it’s thought that we’re born with a limited amount of genetic chi, we can cultivate “acquired” chi through our lifestyle choices. The idea is to balance active and receptive energies, which we can do by getting enough rest, eating well and balancing exercise and recreational activities with those that specifically enhance chi reserves and flow. Interestingly, this vital energy isn’t necessarily enhanced by exercise. Over-exercise or exercising with poor posture or muscular imbalances can actually weaken your life force.
In this blog, I will discuss this animating principle in more detail, then look at five different disciplines that can add the “chi factor” to your life. Yoga - an ancient practice, offers seemingly unlimited styles for any shape, size or personality type. Qigong, “the grandfather of martial arts,” can build strength from the inside out, while tai chi chuan (tai chi), known as “moving meditation,” is a gentle introduction to the martial arts, and a great way to build and balance chi. Aikido, “the way of harmonizing with the infinite,” shows that self-defense can be gentle and graceful as well as efficacious. Kung Fu, the most intense way to build chi, appeals to the athletically inclined and will challenge you at every level. Any of these arts will complement your exercise program to uplift your body, mind and spirit and nourish your chi.

Extraordinary Chi
The ability to focus and guide chi can lead to extraordinary power and an extremely high pain threshold. A parent lifting a car off a child in an emergency is an example of strong chi (and, of course an adrenaline rush!) in action. The “flying technique” portrayed in the film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon is an example of an extreme focus of such energy. This “chi power” is perhaps most dramatically illustrated by the strength of older, frail-looking martial arts masters calmly fending off two or more larger, younger opponents with barely the blink of an eye. Sometimes the force emitted from such a master is strong enough to physically knock the opponent down before he even reaches the master.

Yoga is offered in most gyms these days, and yoga studios are popping up everywhere, even in rural communities. This wonderful self-care system originated in India; the names of the postures are in Sanskrit, an ancient Indian language. “Ha” means sun; “tha” means moon. Together they express a wholeness of polarities, like the Oriental yin/yang balance.
Yoga postures can be used to strengthen and stretch muscles, joints and connective tissue. The emphasis on lengthening the spine in every pose—combined with twisting postures—irrigates vertebrae, keeping them youthful even into old age. The poses, (called “asanas”) promote the flow of energy through the nervous system and assist in the elimination of toxins. They exert a beneficial pressure on glands and internal organs, flushing and stimulating them.
Yoga prevents, relieves or eliminates many symptoms and conditions, including hypertension, arthritis, osteoporosis and diabetes. The discipline also affords mental and emotional fitness. Most people experience a deep sense of well being after the first class, departing with a sense of relaxation and clarity of mind. Others experience emotional “cleansing,” as deeply repressed feelings are released to the surface. On a psychological level, yoga can be a profound tool, gently uncovering negative patterns and offering more comfortable, spacious ways of being with yourself and others.
For those on a spiritual path, the discipline of a regular yoga practice provides a foundation for the trek. The word yoga means “union.”  For some, that means union with the divine; for others, it may be uniting hands to feet. But beyond stretching, beyond strengthening, yoga clears pathways within the body. Your natural chi energy can then flow straight through you, like a laser beam of light, illuminating the way.

Developing Chi Through Martial Arts
One of the best ways to develop chi is by practicing a martial art. There are literally hundreds to choose from; in fact, more than 300 different styles are practiced in China, where most of them originated. Interestingly, Chinese martial arts arose from the same roots as Chinese medicine. Martial artists were trained in medicine, while doctors were trained in martial arts. Priests and monks were both doctors and martial artists, and were practitioners of “energy medicine.”
Chinese martial arts are differentiated as being either external or internal. Named for their area of origin, the external arts use muscular force, speed and sheer strength to produce power. They emphasize linear movements, high impact contact, jumps, and kicks. Internal martial arts use what the Chinese call “wise force” to overcome opponents. They combine internal chi energy with muscle strength to produce power. Tai chi, Aikido and Kung Fu are internal arts. Along with fighting techniques, internal training often includes standing meditation and exercises to develop chi.

Qigong can be considered the root, or “grandfather” of not only all forms of martial arts, but also of Chinese healing systems. This ancient practice of healing, health maintenance and self-development dates back thousands of years; it involves posture, movement, self-massage, breathing techniques, and meditation. The specific practices are designed to cultivate, increase, and refine chi. Impure or stale energy is eliminated, while the flow of healthy, pure chi is enhanced. You don’t need a large space or special equipment, and it’s easy to learn. The ultimate goal is to fully develop your body, mind and spirit. With training and experience, you can use qigong for self-healing. When it’s used to heal others, the practice is known as medical qigong. There may be thousands of different “schools,” and the many styles are based on some common principles and practices. Qigong teachers often come from a long lineage of a particular style.

Tai Chi Chuan (Tai Chi)
If you’re looking for a non-impact workout, tai chi chuan (known also as tai chi) may be the perfect choice. Some say it’s the oldest of the martial arts; it’s been practiced in China for centuries and is popular in both rural and industrial areas there today. Originally, tai chi was a fighting form that emphasized strength, balance, flexibility, and speed. Adversarial energy was redirected back to the sender so that an opponent could experience his or her own negative intentions. Today, this art is almost exclusively practiced as therapeutic exercise and meditation, characterized by slow, gentle movements.
Based on the principle of yin and yang, in which opposing but complementary forces combine to create harmony, tai chi developed into a movement and breathing system that exercised all the joints and major muscle groups while circulating internal energy. It is this circulation of chi that prevents or mitigates disease and promotes health. Tai chi increases strength, stamina, and flexibility, and is easy on joints. It cultivates the link between mind and body, enhancing balance and coordination. It also reduces blood pressure, improves oxygen utilization and immune function, increases bone density, and reduces stress hormone levels. Many of these effects have been documented in elderly beginners practicing an abbreviated form for only a few months. If tai chi can have this effect on beginners, think of what it can do for someone who starts decades sooner!
As with other martial arts, there are many styles and forms. Fundamental to all forms, however, is finding our center, called the “tan tien,” or “reservoir.” We tap into this source of energy deep inside and practice moving it throughout our bodies to heal and nourish the internal organs, and to balance the immune and endocrine systems. When we consciously direct our movements, we can consciously direct our energy. Some people become so adept at this that they can consciously move chi through the subtle channels known as acupuncture meridians.
Tai chi emphasizes continuous, flowing movement. There's no over-extension or wasted effort—the whole body moves in unison, each part balanced by another-gently rotating and transforming into the next movement. Unlike other forms of exercise, Tai chi doesn’t cause panting or breathlessness; breathing deepens as tension is released.

Aikido is a relatively new self-defense art. It was founded in Japan by Professor Morihei Ueshiba (1883-1969). As a youth, Ueshiba spent years of intense training in budo, a Japanese martial arts. He was a master of Jiu-jitsu, and was considered unbeatable. As he learned some of the most sophisticated and devastating fighting techniques of Japan, he questioned their intense aggression and the need to defeat others. Inspired by Zen Buddhism and Shinto, an ancient Japanese religion based on love and harmony with nature, Ueshiba sought a more peaceful martial art. He realized that true self-defense was not winning over others, but winning over the discord within oneself. He developed Aikido, which means “the way of harmonizing with the spirit of the universe.” The study of Aikido involves positive character-building ideals along with self-defense techniques.
Although many Aikido moves resemble the techniques and throws of Jiu Jutsu and Judo, this art focuses on controlling the vital energy centered in the abdominal region in order to subdue an opponent. While Judo's main techniques are throwing, grappling, and attacking vital points, Aikido techniques deflect blows and check offensive attacks by meeting rather than blocking blows. Aikido emphasizes nerve points that, when pressed, can bring down an adversary without risk of maiming or killing. The focus is on freeing yourself from grips, throwing an opponent to the ground by exerting precise leverage maneuvers, then immobilizing the adversary by placing pressure on the joints. Students practice forms by alternatively taking the roles of attacker and defender. There is no competition in Aikido; however, ranks are attained in a process similar to judo, and are awarded at formal demonstrations. Some forms include a long staff (called a bo) or a rubber knife.
During practice, students match their movements to those of others, avoiding collisions and conflicts. They discover their own strengths and weaknesses, mastering themselves as they master the art. Aikido is more than a system of self-defense; it promotes peace and harmony among people. It is a spiritual as well as a physical discipline, and is extremely popular around the world, since it does not require great physical strength and can be practiced effectively by women and the elderly.

Kung Fu
Kung Fu (Chinese boxing) shares, along with Karate, the distinction of being one of the two most popular martial arts. It employs kicks, crouches, strikes, throws, body turns, dodges, holds, leaps and falls, handsprings and somersaults. This style of martial arts (especially Shaolin Kung Fu) is one of the fiercest and most revered. Advance practitioners can harness the focus and control to break a solid brick with a bare hand.
Whereas Karate moves are deliberate, forceful and distinct (punches are linear, kicks are in a straight line, and the body is held rigidly), Kung Fu is smooth and fluid—movements meld imperceptibly into one long, graceful action. Properly coordinated chi creates the fluidity associated with Kung Fu. This martial art requires a strict code of physical and mental discipline unparalleled in Western sports. Kung Fu priests of ancient times were adept in art, medicine, music, religions, animal husbandry, cartography, languages, history, the making of weapons and fighting techniques. The artist had to be more than a fighting machine—he had to know how, where and when to enter a fight, and more importantly, how to avoid conflict. Ironically, only with unbeatable ability was he secure enough not to need to fight.
The self mastery gained from the study and practice of Kung Fu can become an asset you can use in personal, professional, academic and social situations. The skills learned become part of you, a way of being in the world.

Developing Chi Is Worth The Effort
Though it takes patience and perseverance, cultivating chi energy will be an investment you’ll reap rewards from for the rest of your life. It is, after all, what animates all living things. From a single-celled amoeba to the farthest galaxy, chi is behind the scenes creating all the action. Enjoy your exploration of this mysterious, yet tangible force, and build your own personal power.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Combat Psychology - Confusing An Attacker ... .

Why You Never Have the Upper Hand in a Fight

Thugs in the street very rarely have any formal training in martial arts or self-defence and yet they still manage to get the best of most people (including those that do have training often) when it comes to brawling. In fact put a street fighter in the ring with most martial artists and it's still not even clear who'd come out on top. In part this is down to experience - thugs and street-fighters get into scraps on an almost daily basis and obviously pick up a few tricks. More though, it is down to the psychology; they have learned the art of intimidation, they have let go of their fear and they have that 'killer' instinct that most people are lacking. Furthermore the very nature of a street fight if you're the victim will put you at a disadvantage. You see if you're attacked they have the element of surprise, they have the experience, and they have chosen to initiate the fight (thereby being able to pick a time that suits them). You'll be shocked and upset while they'll be psyched and ready to go. Then you'll still have to wait until they actually throw a punch before you can defend yourself (otherwise it's not 'self defence'). This is why it's normally the psychology alone that makes a victim lose a fight to a thug - most of them are lanky, thick and badly coordinated.

While that killer instinct isn't something that you can learn from an article (so I'm wasting my time writing this one theoretically...), and you're not going to go around starting fights so you have the upper hand, there are thankfully several ways you can use your own psychological techniques to get the best of your attacker and you can develop at least a more pragmatic attitude to confrontation.


Stop Pulling Punches

It's a fact that everyone naturally pulls there punches. Even when you think you are hitting someone with your full force there is a mental barrier that is preventing you from using 100%. This is actually the reason that insane people often seem inhumanly strong - because their mental barrier is missing. It's also the reason that you hear stories of children getting trapped underneath cars only for their mothers to find the strength to lift it off of them. In a fight this mental barrier becomes even more apparent. Most of us are averse to violence and will start to feel very uncomfortable when someone starts threatening us. A lot of things run through our minds - we don't want to hurt them more than necessary, we don't want to be 'unfair or unreasonable' and further more we don't want to get hurt ourselves. The attacker however has no such qualms. For this reason a lot of us don't only pull our punches - but become frozen and fail to punch at all - and it's because you're worried about them ridiculously enough.

First of all then, forget about fairness straight off. If they're threatening you then you are perfectly within your rights to spark them out. They deserve it. If you are in any way nervous about hitting them they will sense it and make their move more confidently. You must be willing to respond in kind if called for. The best and fairest thing to do in this situation would simply be to punch them straight in the face they minute they invade your personal space or do that swaggering walk. However most of us aren't willing to do that. Thus we need to be a little more tactical than our thug friends. Surely you can outthink a thug. More on that later, however if you can switch off your common decency a little it will help you out.

Next you need to try and eradicate any fears of getting hurt yourself as that can often cause you to hold back; if it's between getting stabbed and damaging your knuckles I know what I'd choose. One way I overcome this is to pretend I'm the Terminator. In my mind I just imagine being invincible, walking unstoppably towards my target and letting blows bounce off me like rubber. Another psychological technique that's actually used in sports as well is to imagine you have all of your strengths and all of the strengths of your opponent and it's amazing how effective this little bit of self talk can be. Similarly you can pretend you're fighting one of your friends (and practice doing so) so it won't seem like such a big deal. Right so so far we've got the following advice: get over your urge to not cause bleeding (yours or theirs) and use alternative attacks to just punching. Another great one is to grab the head and twist it to the left or right violently which forces anyone to drop to the ground.


Thugs Are Predictable

Unfortunately brave and unique though you now are, you're still essentially going to be waiting there to be hit at. The good news is though that this is easy to defend against as almost every thug has the exact same first move - the right hook. Thus you can be ready for the first attack the minute you're concerned you're heading for fight territory. If they do that swagger-y walk or enter your personal space or act 'too' friendly then the minute they flinch cover the right of your head or duck. This is what we were talking about early when we said 'outsmart' the attacking thug.


Using Weird Attacks

From here go for the head twist, a kick to the groin, a kick to the kneecap or something other than a straight punch. Even just slapping them hard across the ear can daze and confuse them so that you can make your get away or follow up with the face twist (another psychological element that's hard to cross is moving in to their personal space which can be intimidating to longer range attacks will work well). Anything where you push or pull the head works excellently to take someone down if you're quick and forceful as it's unexpected and far from their centre of balance. Alternatively cover then leap backwards to put space between you after you've been hit - these thugs tend to be fairly slow delivering punches and will pause between attacks, especially initially. This gives you time to plan your next move. Many of these simple but unusual attacks will work well even if you do get hit - as hook punches are fairly week and usually lack technique. Again from here you've got the green light to go in with one of these other attacks.


Psychological Games

There are other little tricks you can use to throw the balance and get the psychological element back on your side. For example, simply shouting out loudly before you punch someone can shock them enough that they will freeze - thugs just don't expect it so make it loud and sudden. Similarly yelling 'help' really loudly though a bit pussy-ish will draw attention to you all and put them on edge (shouting any noise continuously can work well and will put them out of sync). Another great one is to attack mid sentence. This can be your sentence or theirs but if you go: 'Look mate I don't want any trouble here, I'm willing to le-' and then punch them straight in the face they'll be completely unprepared to defend as it's human nature to wait until the end of a sentence. You can even just try charging at them as fast and brutally as possible which they won't know how to react to - then throw them down by hitting them on the top of their chest or neck as you barge into them. Another fantastic one is to throw your lose change hard at their face if you carry it in your back pocket. This will distract them and confuse them and hurt and you can follow up with a punch. They won't expect it - no one expects to have money thrown at them (and it's poetic and ironic if they were going to demand your cash...). Another option is to run and climb and throw other items thereby using your environment Jackie Chan - style. Again they don't expect it and get this - you jump over a railing and to follow you they have to jump or climb over it too. You just wait the other side and knock them off every time they try to.


Shock and Awe

Regardless of which of these defences you use take this message as the one you need to learn - the two things that make you vulnerable in a fight are the fear of hitting someone and having to wait for the first attack. If you can get over these things with a guaranteed counter that you're not afraid to use and some clever ways to unsettle the opponent and ruin their 'pattern' then you're in with a good chance. Similarly learn to control your fight or flight response. Furthermore think about the predictable pattern that a thug uses and expects - break out of this and take them out of their comfort zone. This is far more useful in a fight than learning and perfecting hundreds of moves and counters - most of which you'll be far to frozen to use otherwise.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Capoeira - Stealthiest Martial Art ................. .

Capoeira empowers people: from individuals to ethnic groups or strata of society. It is a synthesis of African traditions, customs and philosophies synthesized in and influenced by a Brazilian atmosphere. Capoeira is ritual and it is play. It is a meditation form, a dance, a fight and a form of entertainment, a way to pass the time. In the African tradition, it contains elements from all facets of life - it incorporates music, movement, spirituality, mysticism, magic, practicality and analysis. In Capoeira each of these concepts cannot exist without the others. Alone each is lacking and is meaningless. Capoeira is introverted and extroverted, rational and irrational, good and evil. It is an artistic expression of reality. To the Capoeirista, reality and capoeira intermingle and flow together, for they are each other. The Capoeirista learns about life through Capoeira and about Capoeira through life. Observation and awareness are crucial to learning. Nature and human spirit are the ultimate teachers. The good Capoeirista should know both like he knows himself, and he should know himself. Capoeira is a discipline packed with etiquette and rules yet it is never choreographed. The whole game is improvised through repetition of various movements and reactions to the movements of the other player as well as anything the player feels inclined to do. Capoeira is a frame of mind.

Capoeira is African. This is where it came from, enslaved Africans were brought to Brazil by the Portuguese from all over sub-saharan Africa: from the Congo, Angola, Namibia and perhaps even South Africa and Mozambique. The Africans from these countries are from hundreds of tribes and speak many languages however they have a common heritage.

Black slave culture in Brazil was a synthesis of the tribal cultures represented by the slaves. Of course there were many foreign influences to the culture as a result of the Portuguese slave owners and slavery in general. Portuguese language was imposed upon them, however it also provided a common language with which Africans from different tribes could communicate. This is also a manifestation of one of the basic ideals in Capoeira and that is to try to use every situation, even if it is forcibly imposed on you, to your best advantage. Direct confrontation is not a viable option for the underdog resisting a far stronger opponent. There is a proverb in Capoeira which says: Quem aguenta tempestade e rochedo. It means only the cliffs face the tempest. Fighting is reserved only for those times when you have no escape and no other option. Mestre Cobra Mansa once told a story of an excellent Capoeirista who was confronted by four good fighters who wanted to see for themselves how good this Capoeirista was. They followed him down an alley one night and challenged him. He did a back flip and was running in the other direction as fast as his legs could carry him before they knew what was going on. This is the Capoeirista's solution. Capoeira often provides a non-violent way out of a sticky situation like a cunning trick or a mental trap.

Some people say that Capoeira originated from African dances. There was no fighting aspect in the movements before they were modified by freedom seeking slaves in Brazil. Other people provide evidence of a ritual fight/dance called N'golo from Southern Angola as proof that it did exist in martial form before it reached Brazil. Many African dances are war dances and I have heard Capoeira be referred to as a war dance too. Slaves in Brazil definitely added to the martial qualities of the game for Capoeira to become a weapon but the dance qualities were never disregarded or lost. Dancing is a tribute to the joy of life. It was also used as a disguise when officials came upon capoeiristas practicing their art. This history/legend reveals some other basic ideals present in capoeira. Camouflage is a valuable weapon and if mastered, your actions are invisible to your enemy. It is also really fun. Retaining the dance aspect indicates Capoeira's dedication to tradition and the "go with the flow" attitude is once again expressed. Beauty is central to life and Capoeira, what is life without beauty?

The notion of "winning" in Capoeira is not based on suppression of your opponent/partner, though on rare occasions it is. In fact, there is no victor or loser in Capoeira. The one who plays a better game in the roda is the one who plays more gracefully, who shows his/her "malicia" through deception and trickery, who can perform more intricate ad complex movements (if they are in the right context) and who is able to remain fechado (defended) and not give the other person the opportunity to attack successfully. If there is a winner (which there isn't really), it is the one who wins the heart of the audience.

An integral part of Capoeira is the music. It dictates the pace and the mood of the game. It is used to signal or call players. History and philosophy are passed through the songs. Tunes reflect Malicia through variations and improvisation. Players of old are revered and remembered. Emotion is released and skill is displayed. The central instrument is the berimbau. The berimbau is the soul of Capoeira and it has powerful magic. The berimbau should be an extension of you used to express emotions which are otherwise impossible to express. Music and peace replaced violence and destruction. The berimbau is said to tame the soul and put one at peace. Ladainhas, the song sung at the beginning of the roda, is also a lament and often an expression of longing.

Capoeira and its music are one and the same thing, they cannot be seperated. Some more recent Capoeira styles that have deviated from the traditional Capoeira (Angola) place less emphasis on the music.

The music, as all aspects of Capoeira, reflects philosophy and meaning. Though the sounds that can be produced by a skillful berimbau player are very numerous and are constantly added to and improvised on, there are three basic sounds or notes. A high note, a low note and a buzz sound (which is not a note but its opposite). The high and the low notes are seen as direct opposites, analogous to attack and defense in the game. The buzz is seen as a neutral space, neither the high nor the low note but both follow from or are born of the buzz. It contains neither and both at the same time. This is analogous to the ginga, which is the source of attacking and defensive movements but is neutral simultaneously. This makes it dangerous and worthy of suspicion and never to be trusted.

Opposing forces are very important in Capoeira. The Capoeirista learns to play upside down and right way up because this versatility can be a great advantage. The Capoeirista can confuse and distract his opponent, creating opportunities for attack. The trick is to remain invulnerable to attack in a position that is not comfortable unless the Capoeirista trains the movements until his/her body and mind understands them. In many situations the Capoeirista will lure his opponent into attack by creating the illusion of being vulnerable. Such an ambush is not result of pre-meditation or fore thought but rather the product of a state of mind involving cockiness, playfulness, self-confidence and knowledge of human nature. Attack is always the time when one is most vulnerable and this is why the Capoeirista teases taunts and lures his opponent into a foolish attack that usually provides opportunity for counter attack. The Capoeirista is always very cautious and will rarely launch an attack with the intent of executing it or without an escape in mind.

We cannot have control of all that happens in the world, but we can have control of our own bodies and our own emotions. In Capoeira we learn to do this and this gives us strength and power. To have control of your body and to understand the forces that govern it, we have to practice and practice and practice. The movements of Capoeira become part of our consciousness and part of our lives. But to do the movements you have to understand them and feel them. Capoeira requires mental strength more than physical strength. When you play in the roda you have to be aware of every movement of your opponent. A game in the roda (especially on the street) can be very dangerous, anything is allowed. There is no violence in Capoeira but there is violence in some of the people who play Capoeira. As a Capoeirista you must always be very aware that anything is a possibility, never expect mercy, never trust anything that the other person does in the roda. For every move that your opponent makes you must be aware of every possible movement that your opponent could make next and every possible movement that you could make in response. You should know an escape from every move your opponent could make. Capoeira is full of questions and responses, challenges and replies, actions and reactions.

This dialogue is physical, mental and emotional. It is a physical game of balance and control. When you are as close to a person as you are in a Capoeira game, one does not have to move a long way or that quickly to effect the other person. Therefore you have to be able to move swiftly and with clear direction and purpose. You cannot be indecisive because there is no time for it. The game is like a game of chess because you are trying to outmaneuver your opponent or put him/her in position from which there is no escape. You are trying to prepare your opponent for a certain movement by distracting them or confusing them or deceiving them. Capoeira is also a battle of emotion. Your opponent will try to arouse emotions in you that put you off guard. He/she might smile or laugh and pretend that there is no ill intent while actually it is another camouflaged plot. He/she might try to instill fear by saying something or executing a very tough move. Fear will make you tense and rushed, which will impair your abilities and your awareness. The Capoeirista must control his/her emotions so as to keep calm and relaxed but also so he/she can use his/her outward display of emotion to his/her advantage. This is very valuable in life in general. The "chamada" is when one player calls the other with one of many set movements. The other player comes up to the caller and the two move together in close contact. The caller then breaks the chamada using some action with the intent of testing the awareness and the ability of the other. The one who was called is immediately expecting treachery. He/she also knows it is a test. This is when control of one's emotions is very important.

Playing in the roda is very similar to being in a trance. Time seems to be non-existent. You feel very closely connected to the person that you are playing, interacting with, deceiving and suspecting. You feel like a strong individual and a part of group, the group that is singing at you, watching you, encouraging you with their music and their "axe" (life force). Everyone is contributing to the energy and the experience. When you play you do not pay attention to anyone other than the other player, but you can feel and hear the rest of the group. You know they are there watching you and you know that you depend on them for life energy. It is very fulfilling and peaceful. You can feel your life force, your "axe" (pronounced: ashay), pulsing with your blood, with the beat of the music and the words of the songs and the movements of the other player.

Capoeira is not played to reach some end goal. There is no progression from level to level. There are no graduations, designed to put you on a scale and to make it seem official as if you were on some training course. We play Capoeira for ourselves so that we can learn about our bodies and our minds. We play so that we can be at peace with ourselves and so that we can be in a healthy mindframe to go out into the world and do whatever it is that we are going to do. It gives us the strength to do those things. That strength is a spirit and energy passed down to us by the mestres who teach us and whom we love and respect. These mestres each had their own mestre who had their own mestre. The Capoeiristas of this time are descendents of a long line of Capoeiristas. These are now our ancestors and we gain protection and guidance from them through Capoeira. We honor and remember them through Capoeira. We build a community around Capoeira that supports us, and which we support. This community extends outside of the Capoeira roda and into the society around us upon whom we rely for axe.