Victor’s Lab, Capoeira

*Victor’s Lab has now closed but Baris is still teaching Capoeria in other establishments!*

THE BASICS: Capoeira- a Brazilian form of fluid movement that blends martial arts, acrobatics and dance to the kind of rhythmic music that captures your soul. This class was taught by Baris. It was held at a the gorgeous Victor’s Lab. The studio is the kind of South East London warehouse space that leaves the first-time buyer generation salivating, and is a short 3 minute walk from Peckham Rye overground station (check the website for directions as it’s tricky to find first time).  Capoeira runs at 8.15pm on Wednesday evenings, £10.


THE CLASS: I’d heard promising things about the new Victor’s Lab space, so decided to combine my peek around the studio with a class that would plonk me firmly outside of my comfort zone. Capoeira was the class that seemed to fit that bill! The studio was indeed a little tricky to find without a knowledge of Peckham, but once I’d been shown the secret little pathways to find it, Victor’s Lab opened up in front of me and was quite astonishing- the space looked like a dream to work out in. Now to tackle the Capoeira!

I stepped into the warmly lit studio (this place had huge windows and would be an amazing place to do some sunrise yoga- WHY do I work so far away?!) Others in the class were a really welcoming bunch, telling me how much they were sure I would enjoy the class. I love rocking up to a welcoming class- There’s nothing worse than creeping into the back of a new class and feeling people look at you as if you don’t have a right to be there. Such an enthusiastic welcome was a lovely way to start a class I was relatively apprehensive about.

Baris our instructor was nimble, incredibly laid back, and seemed to love what he was teaching- it was a delight to learn under him. He put a chanting, rhythmic Latino-inspired beat on the stereo and got us all to face the mirror and loosen our bodies up. I moved quite stiffly to start, watching enviously as his languid shoulders seemed to float in time to the music. Mine on the other hand remained up by my ears after 5 years of typing at a desk. However, a few minutes of sweeping limbs and quick, fluid step sequences got us limber and stretching deeply. I was starting to move a bit less stiffly.

You could feel that the warm-up was geared towards preparing our bodies for the movements that Capoeira was going to introduce us to- we were using our wrists a lot, squatting and lunging, sweeping our arms and bobbing our shoulders- so much so that the warm up movements progressively became the class without us having a clear break between the two. I guess this shows that, from the very beginning, we were in the Capoeria groove. It probably also shows that Capoeria is a relaxed practice of inconnected movements, and not strict poses.

The class barely stopped for most of the hour after the warm-up. I was scared I wasn’t going to have the stamina to keep going after such an intense start! Despite this initial worry, after about 30 minutes, the movements and the music had completely captured my focus and I was lost in the class, feeling strong and pleased with my progress. Don’t expect time to be something you pay much attention to during your first few classes- you’ll be completely absorbed by the movement and the music.

The class was split into three main sections- we replicated simple movements that Baris talked us through whilst getting us to repeat them, and we then linked them together into a sequence which was surprisingly simple to achieve- it felt fantastic to have come so far so quickly. My form was probably all off and I am sure I wasn’t moving in time, but it looked awesome in the mirrors and I was pretty much ready to pack my bags and move to Brazil there and then!

We also lined up at one end of the studio and had to do a sequence of crawling bounces, eventually graduating into trying to walk on our hands. .It sounds ridiculous and is hard to explain, but it was almost like we were in downward facing dog yoga pose, and then scampering forward like a cat, keeping light on our feet and in time with the beat. It built the strength in our wrist balances which plays a big part in Capoeira, and also helped us to keep awareness of keeping control of our core; working on lightly landing on our feet rather than flumping down.

You would be correct in guessing that I could not walk on my hands! I definitely got better at controlling my landing though, and could feel that with more practice I might be able to manage a joyous few seconds of hand-walking.

The third and final distinctive part of the class were the strengthening poses, which reminded me a lot of yoga. Here, we worked on our core, wrist and arm strength to bring ourselves into bridge. I could only haul myself up for a few seconds, but Baris went round the class giving encouragement and little pointers to make things easier and more achievable.

Each of these three parts of the class flowed into one another and it didn’t feel stilted- the whole class was a like a big long dance with energy bubbling away under the surface. I loved the fact that it also incorporated yoga and balance- in fact, when we chatted to Baris after class, one of the girls described it as “hardcore yoga” and I could definitely see what she meant!

Special mention needs to go to Baris. You could tell how much he loved what he was teaching by what he was saying- it completely captured my imagination. “Just play with the movement… it’s not about doing it right, it’s about feeeeeling it, just feel the beat and don’t concentrate. Your body will move naturally once you stop concentrating. Just let it move”. Great stuff, and incredibly freeing. I will be returning!

THE VERDICT: An exceptional teacher and a completely unique class in a beautiful studio. This place is just starting out, and  the creative hub that owners Daniel and Radana are laying the foundations for is inspiring. The Capoeira class was challenging and rewarding- I’d encourage you to be brave and give it a try.

THE EXTRAS: Basically I was this good.

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