Person of Interest: Fabio Cosmo da Cunha

. August 1, 2017.
Contra Mestre of International Capoeira
Contra Mestre of International Capoeira

What is Capoeira? Capoeira is a Brazilian martial art that combines elements of fight, acrobatics, music, and dance. Practiced with a partner, it is often called a “game,” not a fight. Capoeira was created nearly 500 years ago in conjunction with the African slave trade in Brazil. The Africans invented fighting techniques for self-defense. To disguise their combat from slave-owners, they performed traditional music, singing and dancing. Thus, Capoeira developed into a symbol of not only self-defense, but rebellion.

How did you first get involved with capoeira? When I was 8 years old, I saw a movie about capoeira called “Only the Strong.” I asked my mom to sign me up for classes right away. After a few months of training, we didn’t have enough money and I had to stop attending class. When I explained to my teacher, Mestre (Master) Coruja that I could no longer afford class, he invited me to participate in a special program for underprivileged kids in São Paulo. We trained for free, received a free hot meal and got help with our school work. After one year of being in this special program, I could train at the adult school. Once I was out of the program, I decided to teach other kids in need. The area of São Paulo I am from is very dangerous. Capoeira provided healthy examples of how I wanted to lead my life. Capoeira kept me off the streets and protected me from getting involved in a gang or drugs.

What brought you to Ann Arbor? In April 2015, I was given an Artist Visa to share Capoeira with the USA. I chose Michigan because I met my wife there during an earlier trip when I was presenting Capoeira performances across the country. She was working in Ann Arbor at the time, and when I visited, I instantly fell in love with the city. I saw how friendly all the people were. I also noticed there were many nationalities in the area so everyone, no matter where you come from, is welcome. Everyone can feel free. This means so much to me, not to mention how safe I felt within the city. I was lucky enough to visit many of the major cities in the U.S. and Ann Arbor is where I want to be.

What about the martial art excites you the most? It is really flexible and open. The rules aren’t super strict and you can improvise almost the whole time. You can express yourself freely through this art and show your personality. Capoeira is for everyone.

Any performances or classes we can attend around the area? My organization, International Capoeira, has our annual belt ceremony, “Batizado” in November at the Michigan Union Ballroom. We hold free classes for kids and adults every month. Sometimes we even have performances! We are giving a free workshop for kids at the Ypsilanti Library this summer.

Find out more about International Capoeira and to see a full calendar of events at: www.internationalcdo.com