Capoeira martial arts taking root in Arizona

Jose A. Cardenas: You are watching "Horizonte" on Arizona PBS. Coming up, we will take a look at a unique form of martial arts that combines dance and power.

Package: Cupala is a unique form of martial arts with a Brazilian twist. We go inside the Brazilian arts studio with producers.

Reporter: Music, cart wheels, and high kicks all makeup this martial art dance.

Angelique Starks: It was born in Brazil but created by the slaves from Africa. They had to disguise their fighting technique as a dance.

Reporter: a former dancer discovered it through her brother and was captivated by the culture and infused in the movement. She opened this when moving here. It is quick movements that rely on flexibility and a lot of strength.

Angelique Starks: You build these muscles you didn't know you had and use a lot of triceps and things you have to work on.

Reporter: Even if you are in good shape, it is still a challenge.

Angelique Starks: I have athletes that that have super in shape but are struggling and that is the case with any movement that is new.

Reporter: Most of the moves are taught in the native language in Brazil but knowing the language isn't a must. They find it for different reasons. The strength, the culture, or just think it is fun.

Angelique Starks: The majority of people in their 20s and 30s. I have a handful in the 60 area. Then I have children as young as four.

Reporter: The children's class has a strong cultural component.

Angelique Starks: We sing, play the instruments, so they learn so many different things. It is not just the movement. It is the whole tradition.

Reporter: There is also a big physical commitment and repetitive practice.

Step forward first.

Natalia: We have to make sure we are not doing the full move until we learned it. Just little drills.

Reporter: Those drills involve side-to-side movement and stretching. A lot of stretching.

And sit back.

Natalia: My favorite is mcacac. It is where you go on your feet and hands and you jump yourself over.

Reporter: She has been practicing for every a year and just like in other martial arts students earn cords.

Reporter: You earn a different cord each year. It is kind of an end of the your thing where we all perform what we have been practicing through the years. She practices it in a wheel. It is a circle where the dancers dual. Duals are not separated by gender.

Angelique Starks: It is really open to men and women. There is no difference in the opportunity for women. I even see that this is a 50/50 split down the middle.

Reporter: There is no contact but there is technique to help escape or distract from your partner.

Angelique Starks: A big part of this is trickery. You kind of put your partner where you want them to be. Like my body would show them hey, you should put your head here because i am moving that way and then I go to the other side and find their heads. It a lot of trickery.

Reporter: This isn't just a place to practice. It brings music, strength, and language to the class and the class brings a sense of community.

We take you into Capoeira Brasil, a Phoenix studio where Capoeira, a martial art created in Brazil by African slaves, is being taught and practiced.

Sponsor message:

In this segment:

Anqelique Starks: Teacher, Capoeira Brasil

Sponsor message:

Sign up to receive the Arizona PBS Insider

Get up-to-the-minute information about your favorite programs and learn more about Arizona PBS news and events.

Explore the lives of America's first inhabitants on 'Native America'

Weaving history and science with living Indigenous traditions, "Native America" is a four-part miniseries beginning Oct. 23.

'Frontline' examines more controversial newsmakers this fall

“Frontline” investigates the controversial stories shaping our times, from criminal justice to politics to global issues.

'Silent Witness' returns to Arizona PBS

The BBC drama "Silent Witness" comes to Arizona PBS with two-hour episodes airing Sunday nights at 10 p.m. this fall.