Quit and Unquit ‘Til You Find Something You Love (The Capoeira Story)

In med school I recall attending a cultural fair and from afar I saw a circle of people doing gymnastics, playing drums, and singing in a foreign language. I’m not sure any trifecta of things has ever been more in line w/ stuff I already loved, so I had to find out what it was. It was capoeira, and while I immediately looked into how I could learn it, I realized it was a little more intense than med school would have allowed, so I quit and let it go.

Fast forward four years and I’m at the University of Arizona for my sports medicine fellowship and they gave me an ID card that essentially let me do anything a student could do. So at 30, I decided to try to blend in with the college kids and I went to the student activities fair because I had heard they had a capoeira club and it was time to try this out.

I went to capoeira class there all of three times. There was no music, and no singing in foreign languages, but what there was was a lot of gymnastics on hard floors without mats and a ton of sit-ups on the same hard floor that my spine wasn’t having.

Let’s be honest, I was a very fragile, delicate, breakable flower who hadn’t done a sit-up in over a decade for fear of, and I’m not kidding, visible stomach muscles.

At the same time, I was working at the student sports med clinic and I’d see people from the class coming in with their capoeira-related injuries. I thought for sure this thing was gonna injure me in some fashion, and I was pretty fond of being uninjured.

So I quit capoeira.

With no regrets. Capoeira equaled pain and injury as far as I was concerned, and again, I had grown up as unathletic as you could imagine, so I ran far far away.

But then the next year I ended up playing in a Brazilian band called Group Liberdade, and during our shows, capoeiristas from Capoeira Brasil Arizona would play capoeira in front of us while we sang the capoeira music. And I looked around and realized that half of the people playing capoeira were women about my age and about my size.

What was wrong with me? Why was I such weak sauce?

Well not long after, fate stepped in. I moved to San Diego and my gym offered capoeira, so I decided to try again. And after a few months, someone suggested I check out Capoeira Brasil San Diego.

I did. On May 7, 2011.

Now the reason that’s my capoeira anniversary and not whenever I started back in Tucson is because like with any relationship, you don’t celebrate an anniversary from the day you met, but the day you made a commitment to each other. That’s the day I bought the uniform and made the commitment. I unquit capoeira.

Three months later, I was in the ER. I had taken an overly-aggressive cartwheel to the face.

Seven stitches, a chipped tooth and one sweet facial scar later and I had been more injured by capoeira than I could have imagined. Everyone was sure I would quit after that.

But I didn’t.

Two years later I landed a flying kick wrong and completely tore my ACL,requiring surgical reconstruction. Again, probably more injured than I had even feared I could be from capoeira.

But I didn’t quit then either.

A year after that I was told it was unsafe for me to continue training with the group I was with, thanks to some less than stable students (ok just one in particular). I had a choice: change groups (which is realllllly rare), or quit.

I changed groups and kept training.

Since that first capoeira quit I’ve tried more unsafe gymnastics on hard floors and done tens of thousands of sit-ups on concrete-ish surfaces. I’ve also gained more confidence than I could have ever imagined. The super fragile flower is now significantly less afraid of physically-demanding, super uncomfortable situations. And though it took about five of the seven years to get to this point, I actually enjoy playing in the capoeira games instead of just dreading it and hoping no one accidentally kills me.

Oh and there’s the music, which I live for…

Anyway, the point of this is that most quits aren’t fatal. Or permanent. So quit stuff if it feels wrong, because someday the right situation will come along and you’ll be ever so glad you’re not stuck in the old situation.

The other point is that I love capoeira. And my capoeira family.

And quitting.

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